Reputed Chicago Outfit enforcer Frank "the German" Schweihs apparently woke up on the wrong side of the jail bunk Tuesday.

Things had started well enough at his status hearing in federal court. As the 78-year-old cancer patient was pushed into the courtroom in a wheelchair, he greeted his lawyer with a friendly, "Hello, young lady."But it didn't last long. When Schweihs noticed Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk watching him as he spoke loudly with his attorney, Schweihs snapped.

"You makin' eyes at me?" the reputed hit man barked in Funk's direction. "Do I look like a [expletive] to you or something?"


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U.S. District Judge James Zagel appeared more annoyed than anything else but chose not to order the frail mob figure to quiet down. Instead, he went ahead with his hearing, confirming for the lawyers that Schweihs' trial in the landmark Family Secrets case would go as scheduled on Oct. 28.

Schweihs initially went on the lam after the sweeping indictment came down in 2005, but authorities tracked him down in Kentucky. He missed last year's trial for health reasons.

His upcoming trial had been threatened when Schweihs signed a do-not-resuscitate order that might have forced prisons officials to move him from the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center. But Schweihs has rescinded that order.

The white-haired Schweihs spent the brief hearing hunched over in his wheelchair , hardly the imposing figure portrayed at the Family Secrets trial that ended in convictions for five of his co-defendants. Witnesses had testified that Schweihs, described as a henchman for capo Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, was one of the most feared men in Chicago.

Michael Spilotro, who later was killed with his brother Anthony in a mob hit, once told his daughter that if she ever saw Schweihs around their home, she was to immediately call 911. Mob boss James Marcello and his brother, Mickey, also defendants in the case, had another nickname for him: "Hitler."

Jurors at the trial heard from Schweihs on an undercover recording made by an informant who was paying street taxes to the mob from his pornography shop. Schweihs became upset when the informant suggested someone else might be muscling in on his territory.

"I don't care who it is," Schweihs growled. "If it's Al Capone's brother and he comes back reincarnated. This is a declared [expletive] joint."

Prosecutors didn't react Tuesday to Schweihs' outbursts. He also had looked at Assistant U.S. Atty. Amarjeet Bhachu and wondered aloud if he was in another country, and called Funk another name on his way out of court.

Funk joked that Schweihs looked spirited and ready to stand trial on charges of racketeering and extortion.

After court, Schweihs' attorney, Ellen Domph, was asked whether Schweihs is always in such a foul mood.

"No," she said, "he's very polite."

jcoen@tribune.com