Showing posts with label January 11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label January 11. Show all posts

11 January 2019

He did it, but they couldn't prove it

Carmine Galante of Bonanno clan
is regarded as Tresca's killer


On this date in 1943...

Tresca
Carlo Tresca, sixty-three-year-old editor of the Italian-language newspaper Il Martello (The Hammer), sat alone in his third floor Manhattan office after the close of business on Monday, January 11, 1943. He was preparing to host an eight-thirty meeting of a committee of the anti-Fascist Italian-American Mazzini Society.

Tresca, who embraced an anarchist (anarcho-syndicalist) philosophy and was arrested dozens of times for pro-labor mischief and other offenses over the years, had actively opposed Fascism since early in the rise of Benito Mussolini. His views on the movement, once dismissed as radical rabble-rousing, gained popularity upon U.S. entry into the Second World War near the end of 1941.

Committee member Giuseppe Calabi, of 415 Central Park West, arrived about fifteen minutes late to the office, above the Crawford clothing store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Fifteenth Street. None of the four other committee members showed up at all.

Tresca and Calabi waited for other members until after nine-thirty and then gave up. Tresca asked Calabi to accompany him for dinner. The editor had a favorite bar and grill, located about half a block away, on the east side of Fifth Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets. He often stopped there in the evening as he made his way from work to his Greenwich Village home, 52 West Twelfth Street. Calabi accepted the invitation. The office lights were turned out and the men exited the building onto the Fifth Avenue sidewalk.



Galante
On that same night, thirty-five-year-old Carmine Galante, of 876 Lots Avenue in Brooklyn, had an appointment in downtown Manhattan. Galante had been paroled a few years earlier from Sing Sing Prison after serving two-thirds of sentence for shooting at a police officer during a payroll holdup. There were months left on his parole, and he had been called to a meeting with the State Parole Board at 80 Centre Street.

Sidney Gross, in charge of the parole office, noted that Galante seemed nervous during the meeting. He grew concerned that Galante was slipping back into the old criminal associations that had repeatedly landed him behind bars since he was a teenager. Gross secretly assigned investigators Fred Berson and George Talianoff to follow Galante when he left the office.

The investigators positioned themselves near the building exit and waited for Galante. At shortly after eight o'clock, they were surprised by the speed with which their target rushed out onto the sidewalk and jumped into a waiting automobile.

With wartime rationing of gasoline and rubber, automobiles were generally reserved for only the most important travel, and they were entirely unavailable to Berson and Talianoff. They reasonably expected Galante to walk to the nearest subway station. As the dark sedan drove away, the investigators did the only thing they could do. They wrote down the sedan's license plate number: 1C-9272.



Tresca and Calabi took just a few strides on the dimly lit sidewalk, passing a man who was impatiently pacing back and forth, when that man stepped up behind them and fired a handgun at Tresca's back. The two men instinctively turned toward the sound of the gunshot. Tresca got a second bullet in the face. The gunmen fired another wild shot or two before climbing into a dark sedan and heading off to the west on Fifteenth Street.

Police officers and an ambulance from St. Vincent's Hospital rushed to the scene. Tresca was dead before he reached the hospital. A postmortem examination found that either of the .32-caliber bullets that entered his body would have been sufficient to end his life - the first ripped through one of his lungs and the second lodged in his brain.
NY Daily News

Calabi could provide little identifying information about the gunman. He was about five-foot-five, wore dark clothes and had his hat pulled down low, leaving his face in shadow. Calabi estimated that the gunman was in his mid-thirties.

Investigators found no .32-caliber firearm at the scene. They did find a .38-caliber handgun, tucked behind an ash barrel around the corner near the Fifteenth Street exit of the office building. This suggested that preparations were in place to assassinate Tresca as he left the building, no matter which exit he chose. It also suggested that a second gunman may have been involved.

Some eyewitnesses told the police that, despite the darkness, they could tell that the gunman's vehicle was a 1938 or 1939 Ford. A matching car soon was found abandoned at a subway entrance one-half mile away at Seventh Avenue and West 18th Street. (Seventh Avenue was not yet a southbound one-way street in 1943, allowing the automobile to drive up northward from Fifteenth Street.) Its license plate number was 1C-9272.

Police learned that the vehicle was purchased as a used car from Confield Motors just eighteen days earlier. The purchaser paid for it with $300 in cash. It was registered to Charles Pappas, 82-07 Eighty-Second Street in Brooklyn. The authorities found that the name and address were fictional.

Detectives wondered about the Mazzini Society members who failed to show up for the meeting. Tracking down the members, they found that each had a different reason for failing to make it to Tresca's office that night. One recalled a prior engagement, one insisted he was never notified of the meeting, one knew about it but didn't feel it was important to attend and the last simply forgot about it.



The next day, parole board investigators heard of the Tresca murder and saw the familiar license plate number of the abandoned automobile. Sidney Gross called police with information about Galante. He then led officers through Galante's known hangouts and located him at a restaurant on Elizabeth Street. Police arrested Galante as he emerged from the restaurant.

Questioned about his movements after leaving the parole board office, Galante stated that he took a subway uptown, went to a movie theater and then spent time with a girlfriend. He knew little about the movie he supposedly watched, and he refused to divulge the name of the girlfriend.

Police had already caught the parolee in a lie. They revealed that witnesses saw Galante get into an automobile. Galante stubbornly stuck to his lie.

Two of the many mourners who paid respects to the
late Carlo Tresca at the Manhattan Center.
Library of Congress

Police and prosecutors were certain that Galante was involved in the killing of Tresca. However, they did not have enough evidence to build a murder case against him. The authorities had to be satisfied with returning him to prison on a parole violation.



Garofalo
Galante today is widely regarded as the gunman who took Tresca's life. But the precise reason he did so remains unclear. Law enforcement sources have indicated that Galante was ordered to perform the hit by Frank Garofalo, underboss of the Bonanno Crime Family in New York. Some say this resulted from a personal dispute between Tresca and Garofalo. Others say it was a favor done by Garofalo for New York mobster Vito Genovese, who returned to Italy in the late 1930s and sought to improve his standing with Mussolini. (The Genovese theory seems unreasonably tangled.)

Still others believe there was an arrangement between Garofalo and newspaper publisher Generoso Pope. Pope, whose original surname, "Papa," was very close to the name used to purchase the Ford sedan, faced intense criticism from Tresca for his prewar support of Mussolini and Fascism. Following U.S. entry into the war, Pope made every effort to portray himself as a Mussolini critic and a key political ally of the Democratic Administration in Washington. Pope was influential in the Italian-American community, was well regarded by anti-Communist U.S. political leaders and included not only Garofalo but also Frank Costello (and possibly Tommy Lucchese) among his underworld friends.

Pope
(The Pope-Costello relationship continued into the next Pope generation. Multiple sources indicate that Generoso Pope, Jr., used no-interest loans from Costello to purchase the New York Enquirer tabloid and build it into the National Enquirer. The May 1957 assassination attempt against Costello occurred when he was returning home from a dinner with Generoso Pope, Jr., and other friends.)

Sources:

  • "Carlo Tresca slain on 5th Ave.," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 1.
  • "Carlo Tresca shot dead," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 2.
  • "Carmine Galante," FBI report, file no. 92-3025-8, 1958, p. 1.
  • "Costello is shot entering home; gunman escapes," New York Times, May 3, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Enemies of Tresca sought by police," New York Times, Jan. 15, 1943.
  • "Ex-convict seized in Tresca murder; chance gives clue," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1943, p. 1.
  • "FBI fears reprisals over Tresca slaying," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan. 12, 1943, p. 3.
  • "Tresca biography," Anarchy Archives, dwardmac.pitzer.edu, accessed Jan. 10, 2019.
  • "VIII, Costello's influence in politics," Third Interim Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, 82nd Congress, 1st Session, Report no. 307, Washington D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1951.
  • Cummings, Judith, "Galante to give up to U.S. authorities," New York Times, Oct. 9, 1977.
  • FBI Director, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI Airtel to SAC New York, file no 92-6054-2176, NARA no. 124-10289-10184, Nov. 16, 1967.
  • Feather, Bill, "Bonanno Family membership chart 1930-50's," Mafia Membership Charts, mafiamembershipcharts.blogspot.com.
  • Frasca, Dom, King of Crime, New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1959, p. 67.
  • Gallagher, Dorothy, All the Right Enemies - The Life and Murder of Carlo Tresca, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988.
  • Horgan, Richard, "The dubious beginnings of The National Enquirer," Adweek, adweek.com, June 13, 2013.
  • Martin, John, and James Tierney, "Grill hoodlum, linked to Tresca murder car," New York Daily News, Jan. 14, 1943, p. 2.
  • New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 1306, Jan. 11, 1943.
  • SAC New York, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI Airtel, file no. 92-6054-2194, NARA no. 124-10289-10202, Nov. 20, 1967, p. 3.