The Chicago Syndicate: Rent-a-Mobster

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Reputed top Chicago mobster Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo was "not truthful" at times in his testimony in the Family Secrets trial and was made to look like "a ridiculous old fool" under cross-examination -- but he was nothing more than a "rent-a-mobster," Lombardo's own attorney told jurors in his closing argument Tuesday.

Lombardo's lawyer, Rick Halprin, said Lombardo was never a made member of the mob but hung out and hustled with businessmen with deep mob ties. At times, Lombardo hustled himself into prison, Halprin said.

Lombardo has long retired from any Outfit connections, Halprin said, invoking the so-called withdrawal defense that's unique to Lombardo's case. "We are not talking about redemption here," Halprin intoned toward the end of his argument. "We are talking about a decided change in lifestyle."

"Redemption, I dare say, for Mr. Lombardo is in the not-too-distant future," Halprin said. Lombardo, at 78, is the oldest of five defendants on trial.

Prosecutors have tried to tie Lombardo to more recent Outfit activity by the testimony of Pat Spilotro, who was Lombardo's dentist and the brother of slain mobsters Anthony and Michael Spilotro. Pat Spilotro turned Lombardo in to the FBI when he was on the lam last year.

In court, Spilotro testified that his longtime patient mentioned his troubles, including that the New York mob was trying to muscle into Chicago. Halprin called Spilotro's testimony "not credible."

Outside the courtroom, Spilotro said he was telling the truth. "They're doing what they have to do up there," Spilotro said of the defense attorneys. "But the truth and justice will prevail."

Lombardo didn't always tell the truth on the witness stand, Halprin acknowledged. "He's frightened to death of you," Halprin told the jury. Lombardo didn't tell the truth when he pretended not to know what certain mobsters were the area bosses of. He is afraid jurors will judge him for his past. "He truly believes, no matter what his lawyers tell him, that you're going to punish him for that," Halprin said.

Another defense attorney, Marc Martin, gave the first closing statement, for reputed Outfit boss James Marcello, and focused on savaging the credibility of the government's star witness, Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese.

Calabrese testified that Marcello took part in three murders and one attempted murder, but Martin argued Calabrese lied to save himself from the death penalty. "Do you think he would lie?" Martin asked of Calabrese. "Do you think he would lie to save his life?"

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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