Wisecracking mobster Joey the Clown gets life term

CHICAGO – Reputed mob boss Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo was sentenced Monday to life in federal prison for serving as a leader of Chicago’s organized crime family and the murder of a government witness in a union pension fraud case.

Lombardo, 80, was among three reputed mob bosses and two alleged henchmen convicted in September 2007 at the landmark Operation Family Secrets trial which lifted the curtain of secrecy from the seamy operations of Chicago’s underworld.

“The worst things you have done are terrible and I see no regret in them,” U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel said in imposing sentence. He also sentenced Lombardo separately to 168 months for going on the lam for eight months after he was charged.

Lombardo grumbled that he had been eating breakfast in a pancake house on Sept. 27, 1974, when ski-masked men beat federal witness Daniel Seifert in front of his wife and 4-year-old son and then shot him to death at point-blank range.

“Now I suppose the court is going to send me to a life in prison for something I did not do,” Lombardo said. He said he was sorry for the suffering of the Seifert family but added: “I did not kill Danny Seifert.”

In a last-minute effort to bolster his alibi, he read from two documents signed by Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano, now serving a 15-year sentence for wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone and bribing police to run names through law enforcement databases. Pellicano was originally from Chicago.

Lombardo was one of the best-known figures in the Chicago underworld. His lawyer, Rick Halprin, told jurors during the trial that he merely “ran the oldest and most reliable floating craps game on Grand Avenue” but was not a killer.

Witnesses said he was the boss of the mob’s Grand Avenue street crew — which extorted “street tax” from local businesses and engaged in other illegal activities.

He was sent to federal prison along with International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams and union pension manager Allen Dorfman after they were convicted of plotting to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev., to help defeat a trucking deregulation bill. Cannon was charged with no wrongdoing in the case.

Lombardo was later convicted in a Las Vegas casino skimming case.

Seifert was gunned down two days before he was due to testify before a federal grand jury. His two sons spoke at the sentencing about the pain of losing their father when they were still children.

Joseph Seifert recalled how he saw mobsters “chase my father like a pack of hungry animals” before shooting him.

Nicholas Seifert said that he succumbed to depression over the killing.

“I felt like a coward for many years for not seeking revenge for what those men did to my father,” he said.

Lombardo used a wheelchair in court. Halprin declined to say what health problems his client has but said he needed to be sent to a prison where he would get adequate medical care.

Zagel acknowledged that he thought carefully about Lombardo’s age in deciding on a sentence. But he said he wanted one that would not “deprecate the seriousness of the crime.”

Zagel has already sentenced Calabrese to life and reputed mobster Paul Schiro to 20 years. Schiro was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison seven years ago after pleading guilty to being part of a gang of jewel thieves run by the Chicago police department’s former chief of detectives.

Still to be sentenced are James Marcello, reputedly one of the top leaders of the mob, and Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer who became an enforcer for Frank Calabrese. Also still to be sentenced is Nicholas Calabrese, Frank’s brother and an admitted hit man who became the government’s star witness.

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