In the world of Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo presented at the Family Secrets trial Wednesday, he isn't a Chicago Outfit captain.
He's a mob gofer.
When he threatens a man with tough mob talk, he isn't a gangster. He is just acting like one.
When he says in a secretly recorded conversation about a massage parlor, "we'll flatten the joint," the word "we" doesn't really mean "we."
Lombardo gave those explanations Wednesday as he defended himself from the witness stand and took a verbal beating as a federal prosecutor grilled him over his account of his life, from his finances to his criminal career to the murder he is accused of committing in 1974.
Lombardo and members of his crew allegedly were trying to handcuff Bensenville businessman Daniel Seifert and take him away when Seifert got free and ran off.
"Then you had your crew chase him down and shoot him down, isn't that true, sir?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Mars, his voice rising. "That's not true, sir," Lombardo said.
The 78-year-old reputed top mobster denied knowing that Seifert was going to be a witness against him in a federal criminal trial involving allegations Lombardo and others embezzled from a Teamsters pension fund.
Mars suggested that if Seifert had testified, and Lombardo and a co-defendant, businessman Allen Dorfman, were convicted, it would have meant the end of "the golden goose" of access to those funds.
Dorfman provided profitable real estate deals for Lombardo, Lombardo acknowledged, including one in which his family invested $43,000 that turned into more than $2 million. Mars suggested a mob flunky wouldn't be handed such a sweetheart deal.
To show Lombardo collected street tax and extorted people, Mars referred to two secretly recorded conversations, both from 1979.
In one, Lombardo appears to be threatening a St. Louis lawyer with death unless he pays what he owes the mob.
Lombardo contended he was only acting like a mobster to get the attorney to pay up.
"That was a good role for you, wasn't it Mr. Lombardo?" Mars asked.
"Yeah, like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson . . ." Lombardo said.
"And Joe Lombardo," Mars cut in.
"Member of the Outfit," Mars added.
"No," Lombardo said.
"Capo of the Grand Avenue crew," Mars said.
"No," Lombardo said.
In another conversation, Lombardo and an alleged crew member, Louis "The Mooch" Eboli, allegedly discuss taking retribution against a massage parlor that's not paying a street tax. Lombardo acknowledged using the word "we" in the conversation but said he misspoke and didn't mean he was involved in the matter, only Eboli.
"Just like the president said, he doesn't always choose the right words," Lombardo explained.
"Well, the president didn't have a crew, did he?" Mars replied.
At times, Lombardo needled the prosecutor.
"No, no, can't you read?" Lombardo said, when questioned about one transcript.
And later, Lombardo added: "Sir, sir, sir. Let's read it together."
"Sir," Lombardo asked the prosecutor, "are you having trouble understanding me?"
"At times, I am, Mr. Lombardo, I must admit," Mars said.
Thanks to Steve Warmbir
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