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'The Clown' reaches out

May 4, 2005 SEE PDF IMAGE of letter on ww.ipsn.org

BY CAROL MARIN, STEVE WARMBIR AND ROBERT C. HERGUTH Staff Reporters

 

Reputed mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, missing since a major federal indictment was unleashed last week, is believed to be the author of an impassioned letter that surfaced Tuesday declaring his innocence and stating: "I am not hiding to avoid the charges against me."

The letter -- hand-printed in capital letters and filled with grammatical and spelling errors -- arrived by mail at the Chicago office of Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin. Postmarked in Chicago, the letter was directed at U.S. District Court Judge James B. Zagel, who is handling the case targeting unsolved mob murders, gambling and extortion. It's signed "Joe Lombardo A Innocent Man."

"I am no part of a enterprise or racketering . . . have no part in the poker machines, extorcinate loans, gambling and what ever else the indictment says," the letter reads. "About the 18 murders in the indictment, I want you to know that I was not privy before the murders, during the murders, and after the murders, and to this present writing to you."

The author wrote, "I anticipate there will be no bond," but later demands a $50,000 recognizance bond -- as well as a separate trial from the dozen other defendants, including Frank Schweihs, also on the lam -- before he turns himself in to his attorney.

His rationale for the separate trial: "If I go to trial with them they do not have to take the stand." He said he wants to "suppeana them" to be witnesses.

'I am not a violent man'

The author told the judge, "I am not a violent man in anyway shape or form. I do not own or have any weapons of any kind. if the F.B.I. should find me I will come peacefully and no resistence at all."

The author says he is 76, with a bad heart.

Investigators believe the letter, which comes with an apology for the "mispelt words and also my grammar," is from Lombardo but need to do more work to authenticate it.

It could be the latest quirky move by Lombardo, who gets his nickname "The Clown" from his joking nature.

He once took out a newspaper ad proclaiming he was not a mobster, and another time cut out an eyehole in a Sun-Times newspaper and used it to cover his face while passing photographers. The image was immortalized in a famous photograph.

'Reach me by the media'

FBI agents are expected to process the letter for fingerprints and other evidence, while IRS agents are expected to compare the signature on the letter to ones they have for Lombardo.

Investigators also will try to determine whether Lombardo had the letter remailed. If Lombardo is outside the Chicago area, he could have mailed the letter to a friend or family member in the city and had that person remail it to Lombardo's attorney.

Some investigators, though, believe Lombardo still is in the Chicago area, and noted that the letter, and the subsequent media attention, will make it harder for him to flee.

Prosecutors were expected to ask for Lombardo to be detained even before they realized he had fled.

Now, with Lombardo on the lam, they will simply have another argument for his detention.

Law enforcement sources described as highly unlikely that Lombardo would ever get the conditions he requested from the judge, including a $50,000 bond.

Last week, Zagel decided to keep reputed Chicago mob chief James Marcello in prison, even though Marcello offered to post about $12.5 million in property as bond.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago had no comment on the letter.

Halprin opened the letter around noon and by about 3 p.m. was in court in front of Zagel, along with prosecutors and an FBI agent for a brief hearing.

Rips justice system

The letter asks Zagel for "any ideas or suggestion of what I should do," and said the judge can "notify my lawyer" who can "reach me by the media."

"P.SS Judge," the letter says later, "with the pre publicity I do not have a chance. The media made me a 10 headed monster. How does a innocent person defend himself?" the author asks.

He also railed against the justice system in one of his parting shots in the letter.

"P.SS. Like they say they could indict a hamburger for murder + get a conviction," the writer gripes.

 

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