18 December 2018

Legs Diamond's Last Dance



On this date in 1931, gangster Dutch Schultz finally got his wish. "Ain't there nobody that can shoot this guy so he don't bounce back?" Dutch once asked about his rival, Jack "Legs" Diamond. Old Legs, whose other nickname was "Clay Pigeon," had this annoying habit of surviving assassination attempts.

By 1931, Legs had moved to Upstate New York to start bootlegging and narcotics operations. He spent the night of December 17th partying in Albany after having just beaten the rap in a kidnapping trial. He left his girlfriend, showgirl Marion "Kiki" Roberts, around 11 PM, and went back to the boarding house on Dove Street where he had been staying. Around 5:30 AM, two men entered the boarding house, went to the second floor room where Diamond was sleeping it off, shot him in the head multiple times and fled the house.

The murder of Legs Diamond remains unsolved, but there were multiple theories about who was responsible. Dutch Schulz was an obvious choice. Lucky Luciano was another likely candidate. Some think it was local Albany thugs, or that the hit on Legs was ordered by Dan O'Connell, the head of the notorious Albany Democratic Machine. The Machine not only controlled politics in Albany, they also ran the local rackets. And they weren't open to the idea of competition. This being the case, the hit may have been carried out by members of the Albany Police Department. Double-crossed ex-partners are always a good bet too, and Legs had some of those out there gunning for him. The best theory I've seen so far can be found in Pat Downey's book, Legs Diamond: Gangster, available from Amazon in paperback and ebook editions.

The picture above, which I took nine years ago today, is of the house at 67 Dove Street in Albany, where Legs Diamond was killed. It now belongs to author William Kennedy.

Further reading:

Wikipedia - Jack Diamond (gangster)

Gangster City - Jack "Legs" Diamond

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - DIAMOND IS SLAIN AFTER ACQUITTAL

My 2012 interview with author Pat Downey

24 November 2018

Detroit gang feud claims Adamo brothers

On this date in 1913...

Detroit Free Press, Nov. 25, 1913.

Vito and Salvatore Adamo, leaders of a Sicilian underworld faction in Detroit, were murdered on their way home from work in the late afternoon of November 24, 1913.

The brothers worked as wine and liquor peddlers. At about five o'clock, they exited the saloon of their partner Peter Mirabella on Mullett Street (close to the current Nicolet Place) near Rivard Street. They walked along Mullett toward their residence, 486 Champlain Street (now East Lafayette). But they were ambushed.

Two men had been loitering on Mullett between Rivard and Russell Streets (Russell no longer reaches the area). As the Adamos approached, those men drew sawed-off shotguns from their coats, fired large slugs into the brothers and fled. Police arrived to find two dying men in the gutter in front of 170 Mullett Street.

Vito Adamo, thirty years old, died on the way to St. Mary's Hospital. Salvatore Adamo, twenty-one, died at the hospital about half an hour later. The Adamos were buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Thursday, November 27 - Thanksgiving.

Local authorities attributed the murders to an ongoing feud between Sicilian gangs in Detroit. Vito Adamo, with codefendant Phillip Buccellato, had recently been tried for and acquitted of the August 1913 murder of Carlo Caleca (also spelled Calego). Caleca was a Black Hand extortionist believed to be working with the Giannola Gang. The Adamo brothers were arrested following an early November attempt on the life of Italian banker and "padrone" Ferdinand Palma. They were released when they convinced authorities that they were close friends of Palma.

The Detroit underworld feud did not end with the deaths of the Adamos. Violence among local underworld factions continued through the Prohibition Era.

Sources:
  • Carlo Calego Death Certificate, State of Michigan Department of State Division of Vital Statistics, no. 6327, Aug. 8, 1913.
  • Salvatore Adamo Death Certificate, State of Michigan Department of State Division of Vital Statistics, no. 9030, Nov. 24, 1913.
  • Vito Adamo Death Certificate, State of Michigan Department of State Division of Vital Statistics, no. 9029, Nov. 24, 1913.
  • "Dying statement may convict two," Detroit Free Press, Oct. 10, 1913, p. 8.
  • "Two exonerated in murder case," Detroit Free Press, Oct. 14, 1913, p. 5.
  • "Ten killed, six wounded; Black Hand record in Detroit in eleven months," Detroit Free Press, Nov. 25, 1913, p. 1.
  • "Two Italians, brothers, are fiend victims," Port Huron MI Times-Herald, Nov. 25, 1913, p. 6.
  • "Two more slain in Detroit streets in bitter Italian feud," Lansing MI State Journal, Nov. 25, 1913, p. 14.
  • "Two Sicilians slain in Italian colony of Detroit; feud result," Detroit Free Press, Nov. 25, 1913, p. 1.
  • "Two more marked for death in blood-feud of Detroit Sicilians," Detroit Free Press, Nov. 26, 1913, p. 1.
  • "Widow's oath is blamed for bomb deaths," Detroit Free Press, April 13, 1914, p. 1.


13 November 2018

Bosses meet on eve of Apalachin convention

On this date in 1957...

Magaddino
On the eve of a scheduled Mafia convention at the Joseph Barbara estate in Apalachin, New York, underworld bosses and cousins Joseph Bonanno and Stefano Magaddino met November 13, 1957, at a private home nearby in Endicott, New York. The two men debated through the night.

The meeting and the content of the discussion were recalled by Bonanno in his autobiography, A Man of Honor.

Bonanno, boss of a Brooklyn-based Mafia family and the current chairman of the Mafia Commission, criticized the decision of western New York underworld boss Magaddino to set up the meeting while Bonanno was out of the country and unable to speak in opposition. Magaddino argued that Bonanno was upset over nothing. Magaddino reminded Bonanno that, when he left the U.S., he entrusted his underworld authority to Magaddino.

Bonanno noted that Joseph Barbara, called upon by Magaddino to host the large gathering, was in poor health and had misgivings about local police cooperation since he hosted a Commission meeting one year earlier.

Bonanno
Magaddino insisted that Barbara was just making excuses: "I never ask him for a favor. When I do, he tries to get out of it. Joe feels all right."

Bonanno also suggested that rival New York bosses Tommy Lucchese and Vito Genovese used appeals to Magaddino's vanity to manipulate him into quickly scheduling the convention. Bonanno reasoned that Lucchese and Genovese wanted national Mafia recognition of their ally, Carlo Gambino, who was just installed as a crime family boss following the assassination of Albert Anastasia. Recognition of Gambino undermined the leadership claims of rival factions in the former Anastasia organization.

Magaddino left Bonanno and headed to Apalachin around midday on November 14. (Bonanno claimed he did not go to the convention.) A police roadblock had already been set up around the Barbara estate and Mafiosi trying to leave the site were being stopped and taken to a New York State Police barracks in Vestal for identification.

See also:

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: