01/17/2006

Runaway mob boss lives up to his 'clown' nickname

By MIKE ROBINSON
Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO- The reputed mob boss known as "Joey the Clown" lived up to his nickname Tuesday, making wisecracks in court as he pleaded not guilty to conspiring in the slayings of 18 people.

"Joey," whose real name is Joseph Lombardo, had spent nine months on the lam from federal agents before the hearing. Federal Judge James B. Zagel asked if he had seen a doctor lately.

"I was supposed to see him nine months ago, but I was _ what do they call it? _ I was unavailable," rasped Lombardo, who appeared in an orange prison jumpsuit and leg irons.

Laughter erupted from the courtroom, which was crowded with reporters, law enforcement officers and others eager to get a glimpse of Lombardo.

He and 13 others were indicted in April with conspiring in at least 18 unsolved murders, including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, once known as the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, and his brother Michael.

The Spilotros were beaten to death and buried in a cornfield. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film "Casino."

Lombardo was captured Friday night when FBI agents swooped down on his car in an alley in suburban Elmwood Park. Agents said he was carrying a considerable amount of money.

But defense attorney Rick Halprin said Tuesday that his client is broke and urged the judge to appoint him to represent Lombardo at public expense.

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