The Chicago Syndicate: Initial Court Appearance for "The German"

Monday, January 09, 2006

Initial Court Appearance for "The German"

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

After eight months on the lam, reputed mob enforcer Frank "the German" Schweihs appeared in federal court in Chicago today to plead not guilty to federal racketeering charges. It was Schweihs' first court appearance since his Dec. 16 capture. The 75-year-old ex-fugitive pleaded not guilty to a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors allege was carried out through murder and extortion.

In all, 14 men are charged in the sweeping mob case that sprung from a federal investigation dubbed "Operation Family Secrets." The case links the men to 18 long-unsolved Outfit murders tied to loan sharking and illegal gambling.

Schweihs disappeared in the days before the federal grand jury indictment was unsealed. An FBI agent eventually tracked him to Berea, Ky., where Schweihs had been staying for about two months, and arrested him as he left his apartment.

Federal agents are still seeking Schweihs' co-defendant, purported mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, who went underground at the same time as Schweihs.

As part of the federal conspiracy charges, Lombardo and Schweihs are accused of the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman who had been scheduled to testify against Lombardo and others in a Teamsters pension fraud case.

Schweihs, walking with a wooden cane and dressed in a standard jail-issue orange jumpsuit, appeared animated if hard of hearing during today's court hearing. He asked his lawyer, Dennis Berkson, about U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys and inquired why so many reporters were in the gallery. When his lawyer told him it must be a slow news day, Schweihs offered a salty opinion of the press.

When the defendant stood up to answer the charges against him, Schweihs held his right hand to his ear. "I can't hear, judge," he said. Keys spoke up, telling Schweihs that he could choose to represent himself at trial if he was competent. Schweihs smiled and shook his head as if to say, no thanks, drawing laughs from the judge and gallery.

Outside court, Berkson said Schweihs is looking forward to trial. Questioned why a person eager to face the allegations would flee, Berkson said that Schweihs may not have been on the run at all. "I don't believe he was hiding," the defense counsel said. "We can't talk about that because at some point in time it could become an issue at trial."

Thanks to Rudolph Bush

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