The Chicago Syndicate: Lombardo Might Argue He Dropped Out of Conspiracy

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lombardo Might Argue He Dropped Out of Conspiracy

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo

When Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo was out of prison in the early 1990s, he felt his parole officer was hassling him over his alleged leadership of the Chicago Outfit.

So Lombardo told the parole officer that he would make him the head of the Chicago Outfit, a source familiar with the matter said. Of course, Lombardo did nothing of the sort, but that didn't stop Lombardo from aggravating his parole officer when the man came by on surprise visits to check up on him.

Had the parole officer called any mob meetings? Lombardo would ask.

More important, was the parole officer getting his take?

Lombardo even took out a newspaper ad saying he wasn't a "made" member and telling anyone who heard his name used in connection with crimes to call his parole officer. Beneath the clownery of more than a decade ago lie the seeds of a possible defense today.

Lombardo, 77, is charged along with other reputed top Chicago mobsters in one of the most significant cases ever against the Outfit. Prosecutors place responsibility for 18 mob hits on the organization Lombardo was allegedly a part of for decades.
The feds have charged Lombardo with only one of the murders specifically, that of Daniel Seifert, who was shotgunned in front of his family in 1974 before he could testify against Lombardo in a criminal case. Lombardo will argue he has an alibi for the time the murder happened.

Lombardo was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1983 for conspiring to bribe Sen. Howard Cannon to kill or at least delay legislation deregulating the trucking industry. In 1986, he was sentenced to 16 years -- later reduced to 14 -- for his role in maintaining hidden interests in several Las Vegas casinos and skimming their proceeds. He got out in 1992.

In the current case against him, Lombardo is expected to deny ever being a "made" member of the mob. But if the jury doesn't buy that, then Lombardo could argue he clearly dropped out of any criminal conspiracy more than five years ago -- given the ad he took out in 1992.

By law, withdrawing from a conspiracy more than five years before an indictment is brought is a valid defense to not being part of any ongoing conspiracy. The feds charged the case last year.

Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, declined to comment on the defense but when pressed did not deny that Lombardo's defense team is considering a so-called withdrawal defense, among its options.

It's a defense that's rarely used, because the standard for withdrawing from a criminal conspiracy is high -- for instance, calling the cops and telling them you're no longer part of a criminal conspiracy. It would likely be up to a jury to decide whether Lombardo's actions, such as taking out the ad, met the standard, and whether he truly did drop out -- a claim federal officials are expected to contest vigorously. The possible defense was suggested in a recent court filing by Lombardo's defense team that sought copies of all his parole and probation material.

Lombardo reportedly has an unblemished record since his release from prison, and that information could be used to buttress his claim that he had nothing to do with organized crime after his release.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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