The Chicago Syndicate: Feds, family come out to see 'The German'

Monday, January 09, 2006

Feds, family come out to see 'The German'

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, James Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

Aging reputed Outfit hitman Frank "The German" Schweihs could once inspire shudders of fear by entering a room. On Friday, as he hobbled with a cane into a federal courtroom in Chicago after eight months on the lam, he was more of a curiosity. A row of FBI agents observed him from the back row. His daughter, Barbara, gave him an anxious smile from her courtroom seat. And sitting beside her were two men who eyed him with disgust. The men were family members of a man Schweihs is accused of killing more than three decades ago - government witness Daniel Seifert, who was shotgunned to death in front of his family. The family members declined to comment later, not wanting to jeopardize the case.

Schweihs, who turns 76 next month, was arrested last month, found living with his girlfriend in a small town outside Lexington, Ky. He had been in hiding since April, when federal prosecutors charged him and other alleged mobsters, including the reputed head of the Chicago Outfit, James Marcello, in a racketeering conspiracy involving 18 mob hits. Still at large is Joey "The Clown" Lombardo.

Schweihs, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, sat down and wisecracked to his attorney, feigning puzzlement over how many reporters were packed into the courtroom. "Slow day for news," quipped his prominent Loop attorney, Dennis Berkson.

Schweihs pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He is being held without bond and faces life in prison if convicted. "First I'm seeing this judge," Schweihs said as he looked over the indictment against him. "I've never seen this before."

The man once considered an alleged rising star in the Outfit cupped his hand to his ear at times to hear the judge better. Besides bad hearing, Schweihs has skin cancer, a bad heart and diabetes, his attorney said. But his mind is still sharp. "There are a lot of things said about him," Berkson said outside the courtroom. "There's a lot of rumor and innuendo which are absolutely ridiculous. He believes when all the evidence comes in, he'll be acquitted."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir and Natasha Korecki

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