The Chicago Syndicate: Bust-out Loser Testifies Against Joey the Clown
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bust-out Loser Testifies Against Joey the Clown

Friends of ours: Marshall Caifano, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo
Friends of mine: Alva Johnson Rodgers, Anthony Pellicano

Alva Johnson Rodgers walked slowly into the Family Secrets trial Wednesday with a criminal record as long as his Texas drawl.

As Rodgers swore to tell the truth, he raised his left hand before quickly catching his mistake and thrusting his right hand into the air.

He's been in prison almost of third of his 78 years, Rodgers said with a hint of pride. There were auto thefts in Arkansas, Arizona and California; a bank robbery in New Jersey; the counterfeiting case in New Orleans; fake stock certificates in Florida; and a plan to bring "a boatload" of marijuana from South America. But he had never met a Chicago mobster until he helped free one from federal prison in Georgia. Rodgers, a jailhouse lawyer, said his legal research found a flaw in the sentence of his cellmate, reputed Outfit hit man Marshall Caifano.

"The Appellate Court believed us and turned him loose," Rodgers, testifying under immunity from prosecution, told a federal jury. Caifano didn't forget the favor, paying for the lawyer who was able to get Rodgers out too. It was 1973, and Rodgers was soon on his way to Chicago to start working for Caifano and his friends, including reputed mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, he said.

Lombardo and four others are on trial in an alleged conspiracy to carry out Outfit business that included 18 gangland slayings decades ago. Rodgers was called by the prosecution to tell what he knows about Lombardo's control over the mob.

Dressed in a dark suit, peach shirt and dark teal tie, the gray-haired Rodgers sometimes had to lean forward on the witness stand to hear questions. He was asked if he saw Lombardo in court Wednesday. "Yeah, I see him. He just stood up," Rodgers said. Lombardo then sat back down, leaned forward and rested his chin on one hand, appearing to pay close attention.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully, Rodgers said his first memory of Lombardo was when Lombardo was promoted within the Outfit ahead of his friend Caifano. Soon he and Caifano were taking orders from Lombardo, Rodgers said. Rodgers said he sometimes drove Lombardo around town when Lombardo had a police scanner in his car. Once, he said, they realized they were listening to their police tail. "Apparently, they considered him to be 'the Clown,' and me 'the Rabbit,' " Rodgers said. "We heard every word."

Within a year, Rodgers said, Lombardo allowed him and Caifano to try to take over the porn industry in Chicago. Rodgers said he opened a fictitious business to make peep-show booths and among the visitors were Lombardo and Lombardo's friend Anthony Pellicano, who went on to become a Hollywood private investigator who is awaiting trial in a highly publicized wiretapping case.

The peep-show business was located just a few blocks from a Catholic church, Rodgers said. "When Lombardo found out about it, he came around and told me not to put the store there," Rodgers told jurors. He said he eventually was sent to to take a cut of the profits from a business being opened on North Wells Street by William "Red" Wemette who also testified against Lombardo this week.

Rodgers said he went on to give Lombardo the idea of setting fire to a rival's giant warehouse of pornography as part of the bid to take over the distribution in Chicago. Rodgers also said he set a house fire for Pellicano and delivered cryptic messages to movie production companies to "join the association." A lawyer for Pellicano did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the allegations.

On cross-examination, Lombardo's lawyer, Rick Halprin, mocked Rodgers and his alleged connection to the reputed mob heavyweight. Rodgers again leaned forward to try to hear. "I know I'm not the government, so maybe you should lean back," said Halprin, who then asked whether Rodgers was involved only in minor crimes.

"You were just a bust-out loser?" asked Halprin, quickly saying he meant no insult.

"I did 11 years in prison for that bank robbery," Rodgers said.

"I'm glad you're not modest," the lawyer shot back.

Halprin asked Rodgers where he was planning to get $2 million to replace the pornography he planned to destroy in the warehouse.

"Your good credit?" said Halprin, who feigned a talk Rodgers might have with a loan officer. "Oh, 'And I met Joey Lombardo in a sandwich shop?' "

Halprin scoffed at Rodgers' claim that his dealings with Wemette were on behalf of the mob. He suggested the two were just close friends and noted that Rodgers had once driven Wemette's car to California. Even some jurors smiled as Rodgers said that had been a stolen car -- with Wemette's plates on it.

Also Wednesday, prosecutors played for jurors undercover audio recordings of Lombardo from a 1979 investigation into labor racketeer Allen Dorfman. Lombardo could be heard threatening the life of a casino owner who failed to repay a loan.

And defense lawyers cross-examined Wemette, who had testified about paying street tax to the Outfit from his adult bookstore. Halprin asked Wemette when he had given the FBI information on the sensational 1955 murders of young brothers John and Anton Schuessler and their friend Robert Peterson. In a bid to undercut Wemette's credibility, the defense brought out that Wemette claimed that Kenneth Hansen had confessed to the triple murder in 1968 and that he tipped off the FBI in 1971. Yet Hansen wasn't charged and convicted until the 1990s.

"The people I did speak to about it were really not interested in what I had to say." Wemette said.

Prosecutors repeatedly objected, and Halprin was forced to drop the matter.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

No comments:

Post a Comment


Affliction Sale

Flash Mafia Book Sales!