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Rick Halprin, mob attorney, dies at 73

Rick HalprJoey 'The Clown' Lombardo's lawyer talks media. Sun-Times library

Rick Halprin, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo's lawyer, talks to the media. Sun-Times library

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Updated: July 6, 2013 6:42AM



From top Chicago mobster Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo to crooked Chicago cops who conspired to rob drug dealers of cash and drugs, Rick Halprin never took on a case that wasn’t a challenge, friends say.

The criminal defense attorney of more than 40 years was aggressive yet charming in court, and always well-dressed in designer pinstriped suits, fellow attorneys say.

He was a Vietnam War veteran, a father, a sailor and an avid hockey fan.

Halprin, 73, died Tuesday in an apparent suicide at his Hyde Park condominium, authorities said.

“I truly would put him in the category of the giants,” attorney Thomas A. Durkin said. “We lost one of the giants today.”

Durkin met Halprin in 1973, while clerking for federal Judge James B. Parsons. The judge told him to come to court for a day because famed trial lawyer Frank Oliver and his “dashing young protégé” Rick Halprin would be there.

“Him and Frank were a phenomenal pair, and Rick was certainly dashing,” Durkin said. “He was tremendously handsome and a fantastic courtroom lawyer. He was smooth. . . . He had that rare combination of smooth and street smart, and he could cross-examine as well as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Durkin and Halprin both trained under Oliver, learning the criminal defense world from one of the best.

“He was a tremendous trial lawyer, and I think he’d want to be remembered as just that, the tremendous trial lawyer,” Durkin said.

Joseph “The Shark” Lopez became friends with Halprin while the two represented clients in the same case, and later in 2007’s Operation Family Secrets trial as Lopez represented Chicago mob boss Frank “The Breeze” Calabrese Sr.

“He’s one of the few lawyers I’ve ever seen who didn’t use notes during cross-examination, which I thought was an indication that he must have had a photographic memory,” Lopez said. Even without notes, “he was very savvy, very prepared.”

He once got in front of the jury with a blank poster board, while representing a big time drug dealer and said, “‘This is what he owns,’” Lopez said. “It was a poster board with nothing on it.”

He loved a court challenge, Lopez said. “We took on a lot of impossible cases in the 90s.”

Attorney Bill Murphy met Halprin as he poured drinks at a Rush Street bar, just before he went off to war as a U.S. Marine. For more than 45 years, Murphy and Halprin were on-and-off law partners, most recently sharing office space at a Loop office.

One of Halprin’s favorite federal trials was the 1991 On Leong gambling enterprise trial, which lasted four months and ended in mostly deadlocked verdicts. From payoffs to the mob, a street gang, and Chicago Police, “we had a lot of fun on that case,” Murphy said. “. . . It was a great group of lawyers.”

Halprin was a devoted hockey fan, playing the sport until he was nearly 70. Born in Canada, he played professional minor league hockey “without a helmet,” Murphy said. He was so proud of those days he kept his jersey framed in his office.

Halprin’s sister, Judith Halprin, also an attorney, said the law was his life.

“For Rick, being a lawyer was not what you do, but what you are,” she said.

Halprin was married twice, first to Linda Marshall, a former television anchor. The two have a daughter, Eden. He later married Robyn Douglass, an actress and animal rights activist.

Friends said Halprin suffered from back pain, caused by shrapnel from the war. Over the last few years, the pain became excruciating.

On Tuesday, Cook County Sheriff’s police were sent to Halprin’s home to serve an eviction notice and found him inside with a single gunshot wound. Authorities believe he died of an apparent suicide.

Contributing: Carol Marin



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