04 November 2018

Update: 'Whitey' Bulger killing

Update - 4 November 2018

The high-security Federal Correctional Institution at Hazelton, West Virginia, site of the October 30 killing of former Boston gang boss James "Whitey" Bulger, has been closed to visitors.

The prison's website contains a brief and unexplained notice: "All visiting at this facility has been suspended until further notice."


The Federal Bureau of Prisons has not explained whether the visitation shutdown is related to Bulger's killing and has not indicated when the suspension will be lifted.

While media reports have indicated that Bulger was choked and beaten to death by at least two Mafia-connected inmates from Massachusetts (and have provided specific identifications of those inmates), there has been little in the way of official news on the subject.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts issued a brief "Tweet" on October 30:
We received word this morning about the death of James 'Whitey' Bulger. Our thoughts are with his victims and their families.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of West Virginia issued a two-sentence press release on October 31:
The United States Attorney's Office and the FBI are investigating the death of James Bulger as a homicide. To protect the integrity of the investigation, no further details will be released at this time.

Bulger was eighty-nine years old and serving two consecutive life sentences for murders, racketeering and other offenses.  He was found unresponsive in the penitentiary at eight-twenty, Tuesday morning, October 30. Prison staff attempted life-saving measures. Bulger was pronounced dead by the Preston County Medical Examiner. Bulger arrived at the prison following a transfer one day earlier.

He was sentenced five years ago after a summer 2013 trial in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a fugitive between 1995 and 2011. He was arrested in California in 2011. In the 1980s, while engaged in his own illegal activities, he secretly aided federal authorities in dismantling the Mafia organization in the Boston area.

The Hazelton facility houses 1,270 male inmates. It has experienced a string of violent attacks. Bulger's killing was reportedly the third homicide inside the facility in the past seven months.

An official of the guards union at the prison told the press that Hazelton is dangerously understaffed. He said the prison currently has seventy-seven job vacancies, with more than half of those for guard positions.

See earlier report:

30 October 2018

Boston's Bulger is killed in federal prison

James "Whitey" Bulger, longtime Boston underworld figure, was found dead Tuesday, October 30, within a high-security penitentiary in Hazelton, West Virginia.

Sources indicated that Bulger was "killed." Federal authorities are investigating the circumstances.  The New York Times, citing two unnamed Federal Bureau of Prisons employees, reported that at least two inmates beat Bulger to death. The Boston Globe reported that the prison in Hazelton has experienced a string of violent attacks. Two other inmates were killed in fights at the understaffed institution earlier this year, according to the Globe. Bulger was found unresponsive at 8:20 a.m. Efforts were made to revive him.

Eighty-nine-year-old Bulger, sentenced to two life prison terms after being convicted of involvement in eleven murders, had only arrived in Hazelton on Monday, October 29. He was transferred from a prison in Florida and held for a time at a transfer facility in Oklahoma City.



Bulger was part of South Boston's Winter Hill Gang. While engaged in his own illicit rackets, he fed information to the FBI about Mafia rivals and assisted in the dismantling of the Angiulo Mafia organization in Boston in the 1980s. His cooperation with federal agents provided him with protection from prosecution for more than a decade. When authorities finally were poised to arrest Bulger early in 1995, he was apparently tipped off and vanished. The indictment against him included charges that he participated in nineteen gangland killings.

FBI corruption was revealed in 2002, when Bulger's handler, John J. Connolly, Jr., was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Bulger quickly earned the top spot on the FBI's Most Wanted List. The government reward for information leading to his arrest reached $2 million in September 2008. A worldwide search (there were reports that Bulger might have fled to Sicily) ended on June 22, 2011, with Bulger's arrest in California. He had been living in Santa Monica with his longtime companion Catherine Greig. Agents found $800,000 in cash and more than thirty firearms hidden in their apartment.

Catherine Greig pleaded guilty to helping Bulger elude the police. She was sentenced in 2012 to eight years in prison. She remains behind bars in Minnesota.

Bulger came to trial at Boston's federal courthouse in June 2013. The jury concluded five days of deliberations on August 12, 2013, finding Bulger guilty of racketeering offenses and participation in eleven murders. On November 14, 2013, he was sentenced by federal Judge Denise J. Casper to two consecutive life sentences plus five years.


Born September 3, 1929, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Bulger grew up in a South Boston housing project. His criminal activity started at an early age. He was arrested in 1956 for bank robbery. Following conviction, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but served just nine years. When he emerged from prison, he became a key member of the Winter Hill Gang. A younger brother, William, went into politics and became a longtime leader in the Massachusetts State Legislature.

Sources:
See also:

24 October 2018

Eleven years and a fine for tax dodger Capone

On this date in 1931...

Federal Judge James H. Wilkerson on October 24, 1931, sentenced Chicago Outfit leader Al Capone to eleven years in prison and a $50,000 fine for evading income taxes. Capone also needed to pay $215,000 in back taxes plus interest.

Chicago Tribune

One week earlier, a jury convicted Capone on five tax counts. Capone was found guilty of the felonies of evading taxes for the years 1925, 1926 and 1927, and of the misdemeanors of failing to file income tax returns for 1928 and 1920. The jury did not convict on counts relating to tax evasion in the years 1924, 1928 and 1929.

At trial
Judge Wilkerson sentenced him to five years in federal prison on each of the felony convictions, with two of those sentences to run concurrently. He added a year in Cook County Jail for the two misdemeanors. Capone had already been locked up in county jail for contempt, after it was shown that he pretended to be ill in order to avoid appearing before a federal grand jury.

As he returned to county jail after sentencing, Capone was in an angry mood and threatened a reporter who tried to photograph him: "I'll knock your block off." Later he pleaded with newsmen to put their cameras away. "Think of my family," he said.

Capone was refused release on bail pending the legal appeals in his tax evasion case. He brought his request for bail to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but that was denied on October 27. When his appeals were exhausted, with the Circuit Court's affirmation of his sentence in February 1932 and the U.S. Supreme Court's early May 1932 refusal to review his case, Capone was moved from Cook County Jail to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. His ten-year federal prison sentence would allow his release on good behavior in seven and a half years.

Capone's term in Atlanta was relatively brief. In the summer of 1934, he was transfered to Alcatraz Prison on the West Coast. His health deterioriated at Alcatraz. When he was freed from custody in November 1939, he was immediately placed in a Baltimore hospital for treatment of paresis. His final years were spent in retirement at Palm Island, Miami Beach, Florida. He died January 25, 1947.

Sources:
  • "Capone gets writ; sent back to jail until appeal made," Bloomington IL Pantagraph, Oct. 27, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Capone in jail; prison next," Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 25, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Capone loses his last chance to keep out of pen," Ogden UT Standard Examiner, May 2, 1932, p. 1.
  • "FBI History: Famous Cases: Al Capone," Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed June 27, 2010. https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/al-capone (previously: http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/capone/capone.htm).
  • "Prison tonight for Capone," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 3, 1932, p. 1.
  • Certificate of Death, Florida State Board of Health.
  • Florida State Census of 1945.
  • Kinsley, Philip, "U.S. jury convicts Capone," Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 18, 1931, p. 1.
  • Pickard, Edward W., "Chronology of the year 1931," Woodstock IL Daily Sentinel, Dec. 30, 1931, p. 3, and DeKalb IL Daily Chronicle, Dec. 31, 1931, p. 6.
  • Prisoner Index, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.
  • United States Census of 1940, Florida, Dade County, Miami Beach, Enumeration District 12-42A.
See also:

17 October 2018

Charlie Lucky's painful visit to Staten Island

On this date in 1929...

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
Charles "Lucky" Lucania (later known as Charlie Luciano) was staggering along Hylan Boulevard at Prince's Bay just outside Tottenville, Staten Island, on the morning of October 17, 1929. Patrolman Blanke of the Tottenville Police Station took notice. Blanke saw that Lucania, a known Manhattan racketeer, had a badly bruised and swollen face and several knife wounds in his back.

Lucania told the police officer that he had been "taken for a ride" but provided no additional information. The wounded gangster was driven to Richmond Memorial Hospital for treatment.

While at the hospital, he was interrogated by Detective Gustave Schley. During the questioning, Lucania stated that he was standing at the corner of Fiftieth Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan the previous evening when several men forced him into an automobile and drove him away. According to Lucania's statement, his mouth was sealed with adhesive tape, his hands were cuffed together and he was forced to the floor of the vehicle. He was beaten and stabbed by his captors, and he eventually lost consciousness. When he regained his senses, he found himself on a roadside in Staten Island.

Lucania offered police no clue to the motivation of those who abducted and beat him.

NY Daily News

Later on October 17, Lucania was arraigned on a charge of grand larceny. He was released twelve days later, and the grand larceny charge was subsequently dropped. Lucania recovered from his wounds, but was left with visible damage to his face.

One of the persistent legends related to Lucania's "ride" states that his survival caused him to acquire his "Lucky" nickname. In fact, the press coverage of the incident proves that Lucania was already known by that nickname when the incident occurred.

The reason for Lucania's abduction remains a mystery.

The authorities and the press immediately speculated that underworld rivals intended to kill him and believed him to be mortally wounded when they tossed him from the automobile on Staten Island.

Burton Turkus, prosecutor of Murder Inc. cases, later asserted that Lucania was kidnaped and beaten by a rival gang trying to locate a cache of narcotics. Biographer Sid Feder also thought drugs were involved. He suggested that federal agents, trying to track a narcotics shipment from overseas, attempted to beat information out of Lucania. The authors of The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano dramatically but clumsily attributed the beating to a Mafia insurrection - an uprising that only began months after Lucania's beating.*

Sal Vizzini, a former undercover narcotics agent, said he was told by Lucania that New York police officers were responsible for his beating. Lucania told him the police were trying to locate Jack "Legs" Diamond and knew that Lucania at that time was part of Diamond's gang. Diamond went into hiding after being indicted in the summer of 1929 for murders at the Hotsy Totsy Club.


* It is generally accepted that the Castellammarese War erupted after Lucania's Mafia superior, Giuseppe Masseria, ordered the killings of underworld leaders Gaetano Reina and Gaspare Milazzo. Those killings occurred in February 1930 and May 1930. Salvatore Maranzano, leader of anti-Masseria forces in New York City during the Castellammarese War and the man Last Testament claims was responsible for Lucania's beating, was not in a position to command Masseria opponents until summer of 1930.

Sources:

  • "'Ride' victim wakes up on Staten Island," New York Times, Oct. 18, 1929.
  • "Charles Lucania told police how he lived up to his name 'Lucky,'" Lebanon PA Daily News, Oct. 17, 1929, p. 7.
  • "Charles Luciana, with aliases," FBI memorandum, file no. 39-2141-X, Aug. 28, 1935, p. 4.
  • "Chuck Lucania stabbed twice but survives," Miami FL News, Oct. 18, 1929, p. 22.
  • "Gangster 'taken for ride' lives to tell about it," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 17, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Gangster lives after 'taking ride,'" Syracuse Journal, Oct. 17, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Lucania is called shallow parasite," New York Times, June 19, 1936.
  • "Ride victim found with throat cut," New York Daily News, Oct. 17, 1929, p. 4.
  • "Ride victim who escaped locked up to save life," New York Daily News, Oct. 18, 1929, p. 4.
  • "Taken for ride and left 'dead,' gangster lives," Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle, Oct. 18, 1929, p. 9.
  • Feder, Sid, and Joachim Joesten, The Luciano Story, New York: Da Capo Press, 1994 (originally published in 1954), p. 66-72.
  • Gosch, Martin A., and Richard Hammer, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1975, p. 115-120.
  • Turkus, Burton B., and Sid Feder, Murder, Inc.: The Story of the Syndicate, New York: Da Capo Press, 1992 (originally published in 1951), p. 82.
  • Vizzini, Sal, with Oscar Fraley and Marshall Smith, Vizzini: The Story of America's No, 1 Undercover Narcotics Agent, New York: Pinnacle, 1972, p. 158-159.