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's usual wisecracking manner was absent.
He 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 data bases. Pellicano was originally from Chicago.
Zagel told Lombardo he was "not like the toxic creature I see before me as one of your co-defendants" but added that his crimes were bad enough.
Zagel didn't name the toxic creature. But last week he sent convicted loan shark-hit man Frank Calabrese to prison for life. Calabrese's own brother said he liked to strangle victims and then slash their throats to make sure they were dead.
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 widow and two sons were on hand for the sentencing and spoke 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.
"I don't hate you," he told Lombardo. "I don't even know you. I feel sorry for the life that you chose."
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.
After the Seiferts spoke, prosecutors showed a video the family made showing their life in happier times with the Beatles song "In My Life" as the soundtrack.
Lombardo watched without expression from a wheelchair. Halprin declined to say what health problems his client is suffering but said he needed to be sent to a federal 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 51/2 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.