Showing posts with label New York City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York City. Show all posts

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.

18 July 2018

Mafia infiltrates Federal Bureau of Investigation

On this date in 1975...

Camden Courier-Post
Former FBI office clerk Irene Kuczynski on July 18, 1975, admitted in federal court to photocopying secret Bureau investigation files and providing the copies to New Jersey underworld figure John DiGilio.

Mrs. Kuczynski, twenty-two, and her husband George, twenty-four, testified as the first prosecution witnesses in the Newark, New Jersey, federal trial of DiGilio and three other men. (The case initially involved several other co-defendants.)

DiGilio
Mr. Kuczynski testified that he was approached in 1971 by defendant Peter Szwandrak of Bayonne, New Jersey, who worked with him at Western Electric in the Newark suburb of Kearny. Szwandrak knew that Mrs. Kuczynski, then eighteen, was a member of the stenographic pool at the FBI's Newark offices and asked if she could obtain copies of information the FBI had assembled on DiGilio's criminal activities. Szwandrak promised "there'd be money in it" for the young married couple if they assisted DiGilio.

Refusing at first to take part in the plot, Mrs. Kuczynski only agreed after suffering several beatings at the hands of her husband. She then made photocopies of parts of DiGilio's file several times between fall of 1971 and spring of 1972. She hid the copies and smuggled them out of the office.

"I would put them in my purse and sometimes I would put them in a knitting bad and other times I would put them in my girdle to take them out," she stated.

Asked her reason for participating in the scheme, Mrs. Kuczynski first responded, "Because I loved my husband very much and I didn't want to lose him in any way." She then recalled her initial hesitation and revealed, "George beat me up black and blue numerous times."

After receiving the copied pages, Mr. Kuczynski delivered them to DiGilio or to DiGilio's co-defendants. He stated that he met with DiGilio in a back room of the Italian American Civil Rights Club in Bayonne. DiGilio provided payments between $20 and $200 for the papers. "Some of them were good, and some of them he didn't like and he wanted better stuff," Mr. Kuczynski explained when questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Robertson.

Mr. Kuczynski found it profitable to turn the documents over a few pages at a time. He told the court that DiGilio provided him "an extra $200 as a Christmas bonus."

At the time the reports were stolen, the FBI was investigating DiGilio's role in loan sharking and extortion rackets in New Jersey and New York City. Federal authorities identified DiGilio as an important member of the Genovese Crime Family. Some of the stolen documents were transcriptions from FBI electronic surveillance. In addition, documents included the names of four underworld informants.

The Kuczynskis were charged for their part in the document theft in 1974, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against DiGilio. The government held them in protective custody.

DiGilio, a forty-two-year-old resident of Paramus, was brought to trial for aiding and abetting the document theft. His co-defendants were Bayonne residents Szwandrak, Harry Lupo and John Grillo.

Before the trial began, the defense team argued that DiGilio was not mentally competent to stand trial due to brain damage suffered during a twelve-year boxing career. After hearing competing testimony from expert witnesses, federal Judge H. Curtis Meanor pronounced DiGilio competent in June. Just as trial was scheduled to open, DiGilio won a short postponement because of injuries he claimed he suffered in an automobile accident. The only witnesses to the accident were three DiGilio associates who had only hazy recollections of it. (DiGilio had a history of conveniently timed but unverifiable health problems. Once he collapsed during a trial and claimed to be suffering from a heart ailment. Doctors found his heart to be healthy. For an earlier trial, DiGilio appeared at the defense table in a wheelchair.)

A few days after the Kuczynskis testified, DiGilio defense counsel called witnesses who stated that George Kuczynski came up with the document theft plan on his own as a money-making scheme and offered documents to a number of Bayonne-area individuals investigated by the FBI.

During the trial, a large number of "burly supporters of DiGilio" took seats in the courtroom gallery. During recesses, these spectators lined up in the hallway to give DiGilio a friendly slap on the back and wish him luck. One of the well-wishers, according to New Jersey press reports, was former Middleweight boxing champion Rocky Graziano. (Graziano and other boxers attended a DiGilio trial in 1987 as well.)

Asbury Park Press
A number of DiGilio's boxing pals came out to show 

support during a 1987 trial. They included Rocco 
Graziano, Joe Frazier and Jake LaMotta.


The trial jury deliberated for nine hours on July 30 before finding DiGilio, Lupo and Szwandrak guilty. Defendant Grillo was acquitted.

In September, Judge Meanor sentenced DiGilio to nine years in prison (one year less than the maximum sentence) and a $10,000 fine. Szwandrak and Lupo were sentenced to six months behind bars.

For their part in the document theft, the Kuczynskis were given five-year suspended sentences in mid-February of 1976. They were assigned new identities and relocated through the witness protection program.

DiGilio remained free pending his appeal. A federal appeals court in Philadelphia the following summer trimmed about eight years from his sentence.

DiGilio's troubles with the law continued for about another decade. Through that time, he became a liability to Mafia higher-ups. In late May of 1988, his lifeless body was found floating in the Hackensack River near Carlstadt, New Jersey.

The final years of John DiGilio's life are discussed in "Death of 'Benny Eggs' severs link to Genovese Family's foundation," on The American Mafia history website.

Sources:
  • "DiGilio is ruled sane after secret hearing," New York Daily News, June 20, 1975, p. 82.
  • "DiGilio too hurt to stand trial?" Camden NJ Courier-Post, July 15, 1975, p. 24.
  • "Ex-FBI typist sold data to an alleged mobster," Camden NJ Courier-Post, July 19, 1975, p. 30.
  • "Typist admits copying FBI data on DiGilio," Asbury Park NJ Press, July 19, 1975, p. 3.
  • Wechsler, Philip, "Ex-FBI clerk tells of smuggling out reports for Mob," New York Daily News, July 19, 1975, p. 5.
  • "DiGilio lawyers vilify accuser," Asbury Park NJ Press, July 25, 1975, p. 2.
  • Wechsler, Philip, "Witness is called 'liar all his life' in FBI file trial," New York Daily News, New Jersey Edition, July 25, 1975, p. 7
  • "Rival lawyers assail DiGilio defendants, witnesses," Asbury Park NJ Press, July 30, 1975, p. 13.
  • "DiGilio, 2 men guilty," Asbury Park NJ Press, July 31, 1975, p. 3.
  • "Mobster convicted in FBI case," Camden NJ Courier-Post, July 31, 1975, p. 31.
  • "DiGilio out on bail during his appeal," Camden NJ Courier-Post, Sept. 13, 1975, p. 3.
  • "Secrecy protects thieves," Asbury Park NJ Press, Feb. 24, 1976, p. 24.
  • "Sentence sliced," Elmira NY Star-Gazette, June 12, 1976, p. 7.
  • "Body of a reputed mobster is found in a bag in river," New York Times, May 27, 1988, p. 19.

02 July 2018

July 1958: Profaci infuriates McClellan Committee

On this date in 1958...

Profaci
New York City-based Mafia boss Joseph Profaci, accompanied by attorney Samuel Paige, appeared July 2, 1958, before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field (McClellan Committee). Conflict between the committee and the underworld-boss witness was evident from the opening seconds of the testimony.
Chairman John L. McClellan:   State your name, your place of residence, and your business or occupation.
Joseph Profaci:   Joseph Profaci, 8863 Fifteenth Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.
Chairman:   What is your business or occupation, please?
Profaci:   I refuse to answer on the ground it might be incriminating me.
Chairman:   You what?
Profaci:   I refuse to answer on the ground...
Chairman:   I don't think you better use the word "refuse." I think that shows disrespect for your government. Do you want to place yourself in that attitude?
Profaci:   I am sorry.
Chairman:   I would use the word "decline." [1]
Senator Irving McNeil Ives, committee vice chairman, got involved in this conversation, and it was established that Profaci was reading his refusal to answer from a piece of paper provided by his attorney. Profaci said he misread the paper, on which was written, "I respectfully refuse..." Following that explanation, Ives suggested to Profaci and attorney Paige that "decline" would be a more appropriate term than "refuse."

The committee then attempted to move back to the issue of Profaci's business but instantly found itself back where it started.
Chairman: Do I understand that you are stating to this committee that if you answered the question as to what is your business or occupation, that a truthful answer to that question might tend to incriminate you?
Profaci: I refuse to answer...
Senator Ives: I wish you would stop using that word "refuse."
Profaci: I decline to answer. I am sorry.

Senator McClellan ordered Profaci to answer whether a truthful explanation of his line of work could be incriminating to Profaci. Profaci attempted to decline again. The chairman pointed out that it could not possibly be incriminating to answer whether he believed another answer would be incriminating. Profaci yielded to that logic and answered, "Yes, I believe" that stating his business would be incriminating. [2]

Though committee members made an issue of Profaci's refusal to answer this rather superficial question, it was hardly surprising. The previous day, reputed Mafiosi James V. LaDuca, Rosario Mancuso and Louis A. Larasso cited the Fifth Amendment in their refusals to answer all manner of questions.[3]

Robert Kennedy
The committee already had an idea of Profaci's business. A summary provided by Chief Counsel Robert Kennedy's investigative staff as the Mafia hearings opened described Profaci: "At Apalachin meeting. Owner of Carmela Mia Packing Co. Number of arrests in Italy and United States. An old-time, well established gangster." [4]

McClellan conferred with counsel Kennedy about whether Profaci was under indictment. "I don't believe he is," Kennedy responded. McClellan attempted to find out by asking Profaci, but received only "I decline to answer on the ground it may be incriminating to me" from the witness.

The chairman turned questioning over to the chief counsel. Kennedy attempted to open things up on a friendly basis. That didn't last long.
Chief Counsel Robert Kennedy: Mr. Profaci, we had a talk yesterday, a nice conversation; did we not? Didn't we have a little talk in the office?
Profaci: I decline to answer.
Kennedy: Mr. Profaci, your English was so much better yesterday. What has happened in the last twenty-four hours?
Profaci: I don't catch your words right.
Kennedy: You don't?
Profaci: I don't catch you.
Kennedy: You caught it awfully well yesterday, Mr. Profaci. You spoke very good and you understood everything I said.
Profaci: If you will be patient, I will catch it.
Kennedy: I don't have to be. Yesterday you spoke very freely and easily. Your accent has gotten so bad today. What happened overnight, Mr. Profaci? You understood and answered all the questions I asked you yesterday, and you spoke very easily, with very little accent. What has happened since?
Profaci: I don't catch the words right when you use big words.[5]

Profaci subsequently revealed that he was born in Palermo and became an American citizen. He hesitated to discuss his birth date, his arrival in the U.S. and his naturalization. He declined to answer questions about his early days in Chicago, visit to Joseph Barbara's home at Apalachin, family connections to the Toccos and Zerillis of Detroit, links to union officials and other associates, import/export businesses and investments in clothing manufacturing firms. When Detective Thomas O'Brien came forward to outline Profaci's arrest record in Italy and the United States, Profaci refused to confirm any aspect of the record. [6]

O'Brien and Kennedy stated that Profaci had been arrested at an apparent Mafia convention in Cleveland on December 5, 1928. Profaci would not discuss it. Vice Chairman Ives took the opportunity to ask a direct question.
Ives: May I interrupt? I would like to ask him: Are you a member of the Mafia?
Profaci: I decline to answer on the ground it might be incriminating.
Ives: ...Are you a member or aren't you?
Profaci: No; I decline to answer. No, sir.
Ives: You are not?
Profaci: No, sir.
Ives: You are under oath, you know?
Profaci: I decline to answer on the ground it may tend to incriminate me.[7]

Senator McClellan (left), Robert Kennedy (right).
Senator Mundt drew the committee's attention to correspondence from Attorney General William P. Rogers that indicated Profaci might be subject to deportation proceedings. That was generally acknowledged as a possible motivation for Profaci's refusal to answer the questions put to him. [8] Chairman McClellan attempted to resolve the issue, but probably should have known better.
Chairman: Would you like to advise us whether deportation proceedings are now pending against you or not?
Profaci: (Conferred for a time with his attorney.) I don't get you, Senator, excuse me. I am sorry.
Chairman: Let me see if I can get it to you so you will get it. Has any action been started to deport you? You know what "deport" means, don't you?
Profaci: Yes, sir.
Chairman: You know what that means?
Profaci: Yes.
Chairman: Is the government now attempting to deport you from this country?
Profaci: I decline to answer on the ground it may incriminate me.[9]

That was all McClellan could take. In halting the questioning of Profaci, he called for a transcript of the testimony to be sent to the Department of Justice to aid in the denaturalization and deportation of Profaci: 
We should rid the country of characters who come here from other lands and take advantage of the great freedom and opportunity our country affords, who come here to exploit these advantages with criminal activities. They do not belong to our land, and they ought to be sent somewhere else. In my book, they are human parasites on society, and they violate every law of decency and humanity.... [10]
When he opened the committee's Mafia-related hearings on June 30, Chairman McClellan stated, "There exists in America today what appears to be a close-knit, clandestine, criminal syndicate. This group has made fortunes in the illegal liquor traffic during Prohibition, and later in narcotics, vice and gambling. These illicit profits present the syndicate with a financial problem, which they solve through investment in legitimate business. These legitimate businesses also provide convenient cover for their continued illegal activities...

"In these hearings, and the ones to follow, we are going to call in some of the leading figures in the national criminal hierarchy. These people are all involved in legitimate enterprises, management and labor... As a starting point for our hearings, we intend to focus on the criminal group which held a meeting at the home of Joseph Mario Barbara, Sr., in Apalachin, N.Y., on November 14, 1957. The discovery of this meeting by the New York State Police had the effect of revealing the scope of the interrelationships of some of the leaders of the national crime syndicate..."[11]

Notes:
  1.  Hearings before the Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field (McClellan Committee), Part 32 - "Mafia," 85th Congress, 2nd Session, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1958, p. 12337-12338.
  2.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12338.
  3.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12231-12321.
  4.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12199.
  5.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12339
  6.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12339-12349, 12351-12353.
  7.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12346.
  8.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12353-12357.
  9.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12357.
  10.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12357.
  11.  Hearings, Part 32, p. 12192-12193.

22 June 2018

Iamascia funeral is 'glittering pageant'

On this date in 1931...

Donato "Daniel" J. Iamascia's gangland funeral on June 22, 1931, became a "glittering pageant" through the Italian neighborhood of Belmont in the Bronx. Though just 29 years old at the time of his death, Iamascia had already put together a lengthy criminal résumé, was well known in the area and well connected politically.

Iamascia
An estimated 20,000 people gathered around the Iamascia home at 2313 Belmont Avenue, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Belmont Avenue and East 187th Street and along the few city blocks between to observe the spectacle.

Iamascia, an important member of both Arthur "Dutch Schultz" Flegenheimer's Bronx bootlegging and gambling gang and Ciro "Artichoke King" Terranova's Mafia organization, was killed as the indirect result of a Prohibition Era gangland conflict in New York City. He had been assisting Schultz in battling an insurrection by Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, and he, Schultz and some other gang members had holed up in a ninth floor apartment at 1212 Fifth Avenue, just east of Central Park at 102nd Street. The four-room apartment had been rented by Schultz under the name of Russell Jones.

In the early morning hours of June 18, Schultz and Iamascia stepped out of the apartment building and spotted two suspicious-looking men across the street at the park. Assuming they were Coll gangsters, Schultz and Iamascia drew pistols and charged at the men. Their targets turned out to be New York City Police Detectives Julius Salke and Stephen DiRosa. Seeing their approach, Salke shouted, "We are the law!" Schultz responded by spinning about, tossing his weapon in the street and attempting to escape. Salke fired a shot into the air, convincing Schultz to surrender. Iamascia was slower to respond, and it cost him his life. As he continued to advance, Detective DiRosa fired a shot into his midsection.

Iamascia was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital nearby, while Schultz was brought to the East 104th Street Police Station for questioning and then locked up in the West Side Jail. Police found that the gang boss was in possession of more than $18,600 in cash at the time of his arrest. Three hours after the encounter with detectives, Iamascia died from his wound.

Schultz (left), Detective DiRosa (right)
After news of his death was released, numerous and massive floral displays began showing up at the Iamascia residence, a two-story, two-family brick building that was home to Iamascia, his wife, his widowed mother, three sisters, an older brother and his family and a younger brother. (Another brother of Daniel lived with his wife nearby at 2319 Belmont Avenue.) By the night before the funeral, the house could not accommodate the flowers. Additional offerings filled a two-car garage behind the building and spilled out into the driveway.

Iamascia's underworld bosses sent impressive tributes. Terranova provided a "gates ajar" flower-covered display that was twelve feet high and bore the simple message, "Sympathy." Schultz sent a diamond-shaped wreath of flowers, eight feet long and five feet tall.

A display said to have been furnished by Iamascia's mother featured a clock of flowers within a six-foot heart. The hands of the clock showed ten minutes past six, the moment that Iamascia passed away. "The Boys" sent a broken-column display eight feet in height. And "A Pal" sent a six-foot heart of roses.

On the morning of June 22, Iamascia's remains were taken from the family home in a "German silver" coffin reportedly valued at $20,000 (probably a vastly inflated figure). A procession of nearly one hundred and fifty automobiles followed the hearse to the church. Thirty-five of the cars carried the flowers. According to one report, it took the procession thirty minutes to pass any given spot on the short route.

Iamascia's coffin is taken from the family home.

Seats within the church were reserved for the Iamascia family. About three hundred and fifty people were seated, all said to be related to the deceased. About three thousand curious neighborhood residents clustered around the building.

Neither Terranova nor Schultz appeared at the funeral. Schultz remained in custody, facing charges including felonious assault and Sullivan Law violation. A government lien was placed against the cash found on him, as it was suspected that he had been evading his taxes.

After a Requiem Mass celebrated by the Rev. John Southwick of Dobbs Ferry, New York, a family friend, the cortège proceeded to St. Raymond's Cemetery. Iamascia's coffin was placed temporarily in a receiving vault. It was reported that Iamascia had recently contracted for the construction of a $25,000 family vault  - his father had died a year earlier - that was not yet completed.

The Iamascia family announced that it was pursuing a civil lawsuit against Detective DiRosa for his conduct during the incident. The NYPD found no reason to criticize either of the involved detectives. In fact, on the morning after Daniel Iamascia's funeral, both were promoted from third grade to second grade detective.

15 June 2018

Attorney cannot free himself from murder case

[Following is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution.]

Leibowitz
The first-degree murder trial of Charles Sberna and Salvatore Gati was set to begin before Manhattan General Sessions Judge James G. Wallace on the morning of Wednesday, June 15, 1938. They were charged with causing the death of Police Officer John H.A. Wilson during an attempted robbery of a precious metals refining business in September 1937. A key component of the case was missing, however. Gati’s defense attorney, the celebrated Samuel Leibowitz who had never lost a client to the electric chair, was not in court.

Leibowitz was, in fact, in a different court in a different New York borough, representing a Brooklyn client accused of extortion. A clerk from Leibowitz’s office appeared before Judge Wallace to apologize and to explain that Leibowitz's partner Vincent Impellitteri would handle the Gati defense as soon as he was finished with the racketeering trial of Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro in federal court.

Assistant District Attorney Jacob Rosenblum, lead prosecutor in the Sberna-Gati case, protested that the involved attorneys were given plenty of notice of the trial date and that Leibowitz had only two days earlier committed himself to the Brooklyn extortion case.

Rosenblum
Judge Wallace understood that Leibowitz was trying to wriggle free of his obligation to represent Gati. When assured by the clerk that Impellitteri should be available by early July, if not sooner, Wallace responded, “As I understand, [Leibowitz] was the one that was retained... He cannot divorce himself of responsibility by assigning somebody else.”

“I would like to see Mr. Leibowitz when he concludes his case this afternoon,” Wallace told the clerk. “You will instruct him to come here. I would like to talk to him about his case.”

At twenty-five minutes after four that afternoon, Leibowitz showed up in Wallace’s courtroom. The defendants and the prosecutor also were present. Assistant District Attorney Rosenblum kicked off the discussion by saying he had received word that both prosecution and defense in the Brooklyn extortion case had delivered their summations, and a jury verdict could be expected the next day. Rosenblum saw no reason that the Sberna-Gati trial could not begin on the seventeenth.

Wallace turned to the truant defense attorney: “What about that, Mr. Leibowitz?”

Leibowitz attempted to sidestep the question. He spoke of Impellitteri’s work on trial preparation and asked that the case be put over at least until the middle of the following week. Rosenblum countered that Impellitteri was not the attorney of record for Gati and was not even associated with Leibowitz’s office at the time Gati acquired his defense counsel.


(Rosenblum’s own interest in the matter is uncertain. There was no obvious benefit to tangling with the far more experienced Leibowitz rather than Impellitteri. Rosenblum may have looked forward to the new challenge. Leibowitz had not defended a first-degree murder case in New York since District Attorney Thomas Dewey appointed Rosenblum to lead the Homicide Bureau. In recent months, Rosenblum had compiled a perfect record of convictions in eight first-degree murder trials. Or, possibly, Rosenblum knew his case against Gati was airtight and would surely ruin Leibowitz’s spotless trial record.)

Salvatore Gati

Judge Wallace asked Gati who was hired as his defense attorney. Gati said Leibowitz was hired and was paid a retainer for his services. That resolved the matter as far as the judge was concerned, but not Leibowitz. The defense attorney produced the written agreement signed by Gati and showed it to the judge. Leibowitz composed the agreement when he first heard rumors that Gati's fingerprint was perfectly preserved in molten wax that had fallen onto Officer Wilson's handgun at the time of his murder. The document granted Leibowitz the permission to withdraw from the case if the rumors turned out to be true.

“Those papers are just for the eyes of the Court,” Leibowitz said. “I do not want to have them made public in the newspapers.”

Wallace looked over the document and told the defense attorney, “I direct the trial to proceed on Friday and that you represent this defendant.”

For Leibowitz, the matter still was not closed. He requested a conference with the judge and the assistant district attorney, out of the hearing of the press. He then explained his concerns:


I told Mr. Rosenblum two months ago that if [Gati’s] fingerprints were on the gun I will absolutely not try the case, and under no circumstances did I want to defend him... I will under no circumstances defend a man, with his fingerprints on the gun, who is guilty of murder. Mr. Rosenblum said that two days before trial, he would make an appointment, so that we could have an inspection of the gun and our expert could look at it and examine whether it has his fingerprint. Now, we have been trying to get a look at this gun for a long while. On Monday of this week, Mr. Rosenblum made an arrangement with Mr. Impellitteri to have the gun examined, and why that was not done I don’t know. ... Now, Your Honor, if this man’s fingerprint is on this gun, I have not got the kind of energy, or the kind of interest in the man’s case. I am willing to return the fee...

The judge noted that Leibowitz was retained before the fingerprint became an issue. “[Gati] has been locked up for ten months charged with a serious offense. The case ought to be tried… I think you have a moral and a legal obligation to defend this man.”

Fingerprint just forward of cylinder

Rosenblum acknowledged that his office had conversations with defense counsel about viewing Police Officer Wilson’s handgun and the fingerprint on it. He noted that, while he was not required to do so (under the "discovery" rules of that era), he would make the “voluntary contribution” of allowing defense access to that evidence once the trial date was established.

Leibowitz, apparently already convinced that the fingerprint was genuine, abandoned discussion of evidence accessibility but continued to protest: “I do not find that I can give this man the kind of zeal, the kind of energy, the kind of devotion that a lawyer should give to a man who is on trial for murder.”

Gati fingerprint

“Is it your theory that you never represented anybody except a man who was innocent?” Wallace asked.

“I have never had a case yet where it was claimed by the prosecution that the fingerprint of my client was on the incriminating instrument… Witnesses may be mistaken. But I don’t know of a case yet where there has been a mistake on the part of fingerprints…,” Leibowitz argued. “I do not feel that the Court should ask a lawyer to represent a man, especially where his life is at stake, where the lawyer’s heart is not in the case… If convicted, he is going to the electric chair, and I do not think he should be represented by counsel who at least has not got the interest of the client at heart.”

Wallace would not budge:

You are an able and experienced trial counsel having defended a great number of persons for murder in the first degree. Moreover, I do not think that in all of the cases in which you went to the jury that your defendant was innocent, but that you felt merely that he was entitled to a trial to the best of your ability, and I feel that you can give this man an adequate and proper defense. Therefore, I direct, inasmuch as he has expressed an opinion that you were to try the case, that you proceed with this trial on Friday.

The conversation was over, but Leibowitz’s frustrations related to this trial were just beginning.

Read more:

Wrongly Executed?


19 February 2018

NYPD head exposes Petrosino secret mission

Petrosino
Bingham
On this date (February 19) in 1909, New York City Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham spoke with news reporters about the absence of Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino from police headquarters. The conversation may have led to Petrosino's assassination.

NY Evening World
19 February 1909
Bingham initially claimed not to know Petrosino's precise whereabouts and then suggested that the Italian-born detective and longtime leader of the NYPD's "Italian Squad" might be on his way across the Atlantic to meet with Italian police officials. The commissioner announced that he appointed Petrosino to the leadership of a privately funded "Secret Service" designed to enable the deportation of many Black Hand criminals, Mafiosi and Camorristi operating in New York's Little Italy communities. (Lieutenant Arthur Gloster took over temporarily as administrator of the Italian Squad.)

The information was widely published, exposing what was supposed to be a secret mission by Petrosino before that mission had even begun.

Less than a month later, on the evening of March 12, 1909, Petrosino was shot to death by Mafiosi in Palermo, becoming the only NYPD officer to be killed in the line of duty on foreign soil. Petrosino was unarmed. Evidence indicated that he was going to meet someone he believed to be an underworld informant when he was killed just outside the Garibaldi Gardens at Palermo's Piazza Marina.

Almost immediately, Petrosino's assassination was used by politicians to score points in a local government struggle in New York.

Commissioner Bingham blamed city alderman for Petrosino's death, charging that their lack of financial support for his Secret Service plan left Petrosino vulnerable. City officials, particularly those backed by the Tammany Hall Democratic machine, placed the blame on Bingham. Alderman Reginald S. "Reggie" Doull stated, "The blame for Petrosino's death attaches directly to Police Headquarters. It was from the Police Department that the news of Petrosino's departure to Italy leaked."

Doull labeled Bingham "the most profane incompetent that holds office in this city today."

Political pressure mounted for Bingham's dismissal. On July 1, Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr., succumbed and replaced Bingham with First Deputy Commissioner William Frazer Baker. At that moment, Detectives Antonio Vachris and John Crowley were in Italy, attempting to complete Petrosino's secret mission.

The change in police leadership resulted in Vachris and Crowley being called home. They reportedly returned with Italian police records that could be used to deport hundreds of Italian-born criminals who had settled illegally in New York. The records were shelved and the deportation effort initiated by Bingham and Petrosino was abandoned. 


Sources:
  • Barzini, Luigi, The Italians, New York: Atheneum, 1964.
  • Critchley, David, The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931, New York: Routledge, 2009.
  • Flynn, William J., The Barrel Mystery, James A. McCann Company, 1919.
  • Lardner, James and Thomas Reppetto. NYPD: A City and its Police, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000.
  • Petacco, Arrigo, translated by Charles Lam Markmann. Joe Petrosino. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974.
  • Peterson, Virgil W. The Mob: 200 Years of Organized Crime in New York, Ottawa Illinois: Green Hill Publishers, 1983.
  • Pitkin, Thomas Monroe and Francesco Cordasco. The Black Hand: A Chapter in Ethnic Crime, Totowa NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Co., 1977.
  • Smith, Denis Mack, A History of Sicily: Modern Sicily After 1713, New York: Dorset Press, 1968.
  • White, Frank Marshal, "Italians seek protection against Black Hand," New York Times, Sept. 4, 1910, p. Mag 5.
  • "Secret service formed to hunt the Black Hand," New York Evening World, Feb. 19, 1909, p. 6.
  • "Bingham gets his fund," New York Sun, Feb. 20, 1909, p. 3.
  • "New secret service to fight Black Hand," New York Times, Feb. 20, 1909, p. 2.
  • "Secret police fund," New York Tribune, Feb. 20, 1909, p. 5.
  • "Il delitto di Palermo," Corriere della Sera, March 14, 1909, p. 4.
  • "Petrosino shot dead in Italy," New York Sun, March 14, 1909, p. 1.
  • "Petrosino slain assassins gone," New York Times, March 14, 1909, p. 1.
  • "Police seek plotters," New York Times, March 14, 1909, p. 2.
  • "Detective Petrosino Black Hand victim," New York Tribune, March 14, 1909, p. 1.
  • "Vachris would go to Sicily," New York Times, March 14, 1909, p. 2.
  • "Il delitto di Palermo," Corriere della Sera, March 15, 1909, p. 4.
  • "Arrests in Petrosino case," New York Sun, March 15, 1909, p. 1.
  • "L'uccisione di Petrosino a Palermo," Corriere della Sera, March 16, 1909, p. 4.
  • "Vote against Bingham," New York Tribune, March 24, 1909, p. 5.
  • "Mayor removes Gen. Bingham from office," New York Tribune, July 2, 1909, p. 1.
  • “Vachris coming back," New York Times, Wed. July 21, 1909, p. 1.

26 December 2017

Survived enemies, killed by friend

NY Evening World
In the early morning of December 26, 1920, gangland legend "Monk" Eastman was shot to death near Union Square in Manhattan. It was an abrupt end to a day of holiday merry-making as well as to a decades-long criminal career.

"Monk" Eastman had spent Christmas evening celebrating with some friends at the Court Cafe at Driggs Avenue and Broadway at the Brooklyn end of the Williamsburg Bridge. Though Prohibition was in effect, bootleg booze was readily available, and the forty-seven-year-old gangster and his associates drank large quantities of the stuff.

Around midnight, the Court Cafe quieted down, and the Eastman party decided to move on into Manhattan to continue the jolly time. The group piled into a car, and Monk directed the driver, twenty-six-year-old William J. Simermeyer, to the Blue Bird Cabaret, 62 East Fourteenth Street. Eastman was a frequent visitor at the Blue Bird and was friendly with its management and staff.

After several hours of singing and heavy drinking, Eastman and friends left the Blue Bird at about four o'clock in the morning and walked a short distance east on Fourteenth Street to the corner of Fourth Avenue. Several gunshots were fired. The group quickly disbanded, leaving a collapsed Eastman dying on the curb.

Sidney Levine, master of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit subway station at Fourteenth Street, heard the gunshots and rushed upstairs to the street. He saw a body by the roadside and found a still-hot .32-caliber revolver on the station stairs.


NY Tribune
Patrons and employees from cafes in the neighborhood and taxidrivers who were parked nearby all rushed to the shooting victim. None apparently recognized him. When the sound of a heartbeat was noted, driver Peter Bailey  loaded the victim into his taxi and sped off to St. Vincent's Hospital. Eastman did not survive the trip.

Still unrecognized, his "gorilla-like" remains were moved to the morgue of the Mercer Street Police Station. Lieutenant William Funston, serving as acting captain in command of the district's detectives, took personal charge of the investigation. Detectives John Bottie and Joseph Gilinson were assigned to the case.

It was about six o'clock when the two veteran detectives had a look at the victim and instantly identified him as former Lower East Side crime czar Monk Eastman. Their identification was confirmed through police fingerprint records.

Evidence indicated that Eastman had extended his arms and hands in a vain effort to shield himself from the gunshots that took his life. There were wounds to both his forearms and to his left hand. Shots were fired at close range, as powder burns were evident on his overcoat. One slug entered at the left center of Eastman's chest. Chief Medical Examiner Charles Norris confirmed on December 27 that it was the cause of death, having pierced Monk's heart. Norris also noted that Eastman was very drunk at the moment his life ended.

No weapons were found on Eastman. Investigators did find $144, a heavy watch and chain and two pairs of gold eyeglasses, indicating that Monk's killer did not intend to rob him.


NY Evening World

Press speculation

Assistant District Attorney John R. Hennis, chief of the D.A.'s homicide bureau, became the public spokesman for the investigation. It was a challenging role, as there seemed no limit to speculation by the New York press. In just the first two days following Eastman's murder, newspapers had suggested that it was the result of a disagreement with a bootlegging or narcotics trafficking partner, that it was related to a love affair, that it was an act of vengeance by an old rival and that it was an underworld penalty for cooperating with authorities.

There was some support for each of those possibilities. Investigators in Brooklyn were certain that Eastman was engaged in bootlegging and narcotics distribution, though he had sworn off such activities following his heroic return from service in the Great War. For a time, he made an effort to stay away from gangs and rackets. He worked in an automobile accessories store and tried managing his own pet shop (he had great affection for birds and other pets and had run a pet store many years earlier). But the old life drew him back in. In recent months, police had been following him into Manhattan in the hope of identifying a narcotics supplier.

The romantic angle related to the discovery of a Christmas card signed "Lottie" that was found in Eastman's pockets. Some Eastman friends reported that he had been married years earlier. His wife had not been seen for some time, and one report explained that she died. Authorities doubted that Monk would have jeopardized his life for love, as he seemed never to place a great deal of value in the company of a woman.

NY Herald
As far as enemies and rivals were concerned, Eastman had made plenty since his days as street gang warrior, strike-breaker and Tammany Hall-hired political "slugger," but he outlived many of them. "Eat-'em-up Jack" McManus had his skull crushed back in 1905. Bullets took out Max "Kid Twist" Zwerbach in 1908, "Big Jack" Zelig in 1912, Jack Pioggi in 1914 and "Johnny Spanish" Weyler in 1919. A number of the old brawlers were still around but were giving way to a new generation of Prohibition Era gangsters.

The notion that a lifelong underworld figure like Monk Eastman might be cooperating with police seemed outrageous. However, on the day after Eastman's murder, authorities revealed that Eastman had been holding meetings with narcotics investigators. Acting Captain Daniel Carey, commander of detectives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, went to Eastman's room, 801 Driggs Avenue, in the middle of December and again just before Christmas to discuss an investigation of a drug ring. Dr. Carleton Simon, deputy police commissioner in charge of the narcotics squad, and squad Detective Barney Boylan had also met with Eastman during the month of December. When questioned about the meetings, the police did not deny that Eastman helped to expose an opium ring.

Killed by a friend

Speaking with reporters on December 28, Hennis refused to address the press assumptions. He revealed a belief that Eastman was killed not by an old enemy but by a longtime friend. He refused to identify the suspect, who was not yet in custody.

Hennis explained that, after Eastman and a half dozen partiers left the Blue Bird, they met an old acquaintance. Eastman spoke to the man briefly before the man fired the shots that took Eastman's life. After that, the remaining partiers all scattered.

"We cannot tell whether Monk was double-crossed [by the friends he was with]," Hennis explained, "but we do know that the man who shot him was known to all the rest. He is a well known character, although not so famous as Monk."

A later announcement described the suspect as "not a gangster" but a man who was on intimate terms with criminals in the Union Square area.

On December 30, news reports indicated that the identity of Eastman's killer was learned through the questioning of driver William J. Simermeyer and Eastman friend Sylvester Hamilton, both of Brooklyn. The men were each held in $10,000 bail as material witnesses.

Wikimedia

Burial with military honors

Monk Eastman was buried with military honors on December 30, 1920. The funeral was arranged and financed by friends who had served with Eastman in the World War I American Expeditionary Force and could not bear to see him interred in a potter's field.

Infamous for his brutality on the streets of New York City, Eastman earned the respect of his fellow servicemen during the war. He volunteered for military service in October 1917, after emerging from a term in Sing Sing Prison. He enlisted in the 47th Regiment, New York National Guard, under the name of William Delaney. A short time later, part of the 47th, including Eastman/Delaney, was joined with the 106th United States Infantry and sent overseas to fight in France.

Eastman and the 106th participated in the advance along Vierstraat Ridge in Belgium in the late summer of 1918. During that battle, Eastman rescued a fallen comrade, braving enemy fire and suffering two bullet wounds. Following that act of heroism, he was sent to the hospital to recover.

Just three days later, he reportedly left the hospital, without orders and without his uniform, to rejoin his old unit at the front. Wearing hospital pajamas, it is said that Eastman single-handedly slithered through mud to a German machine gun nest and succeeded in taking the position from the enemy.

Eastman's courageous service so rehabilitated his image that Colonel Franklin W. Ward, commander of the 106th Infantry, and First Lieutenant Joseph A. Kerrigan went to New York State Governor Alfred E. Smith to plead that the former gangster's state citizenship, lost due to his felony convictions, be fully reinstated. Governor Smith agreed to the request on May 8, 1919.

On the day of Eastman's funeral, thousands came out to Mrs. Samuel Yannaco's small undertaking establishment, 348 Metropolitan Avenue, to pay their respects. Eastman's body was was dressed in his military uniform, adorned with the American Legion wounded men's button. On his left shoulder was an insignia for his military unit. His sleeves showed three service stripes and two wound stripes.

A silver plate on the coffin was inscribed, "Edward Eastman. Our lost pal. Gone but not forgotten."

At a funeral service, Rev. James H. Lockwood expressed regret at never having gotten to know Eastman: "It is not my province to judge this man's life. His Creator will pass judgment; He possesses all the particulars and is competent to judge any soul. It may startle you to hear me say I wish I had known this man in life. We may have been reciprocally helpful. It has been said there is so much bad in the best of us, so much good in the worst of us, that it does not become any of us to think harshly of the rest of us. That is one way of saying 'let him that is without sin cast the first stone.'"

The American Legion provided a military escort for the coffin to its gravesite in Cypress Hills Cemetery. Taps was played, and a final military salute was fired.



NY Evening World

Drunken quarrel with a Prohibition agent

The press learned the identity of the murder suspect and published it on the final day of 1920.

Jeremiah Bohan, a Brooklyn businessman and longtime pal of Eastman, was believed to have been part of the group of holiday revelers who accompanied Eastman from the Court Cafe to the Blue Bird Cabaret on Christmas night. Police had not found Bohan at his home or his work or any of his usual haunts since Monk was shot to death.

An interesting wrinkle in the story was provided by Bohan's appointment several months earlier as a local inspector working under State Prohibition Director Charles R. O'Connor. With Bohan's job responsibilities - ensuring compliance with the national law against the production, transportation and sale of alcohol - came a license to carry a firearm.

Authorities revealed that Bohan had a police record. He had been arrested several years earlier in connection with the killing of "Joe the Bear" Faulkner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was exonerated by a coroner's jury.

Bohan had worked as a stevedore and as a retail liquor merchant before being assigned to Prohibition enforcement duties. (The assignment was the result of a recommendation by a Brooklyn political leader unnamed in the newspaper reports.)

On January 3, 1921, Bohan surrendered to Acting Captain Daniel Carey in Williamsburg and confessed to shooting Monk Eastman. According to Bohan's statement, he shot Eastman in self-defense during a drunken quarrel.

Investigators found Bohan's description of the quarrel less than believable. He said that the two men argued about whether to leave an especially large Christmas tip for Blue Bird waiter John Bradley. Eastman wanted all in his party to contribute to the tip for Bradley, who was his personal friend. Bohan claimed that Eastman became upset when Bohan objected to contributing. According to Bohan, the idea was objectionable because Bradley wasn't even waiting on the Eastman party's table.

Bohan said he left the establishment with Eastman and the rest of the group following closely behind. At the corner of Fourth Avenue and Fourteenth Street, Eastman grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and snarled, "Jerry, you've become a rat since you got that Prohibition job." Bohan said he saw Eastman reach for his overcoat pocket and feared he was getting a handgun. Bohan drew his own revolver, fired several times and fled, tossing the revolver into the subway entrance as he left.



Despite their years of friendship, Bohan said he felt certain that Monk was about to kill him. "I knew what his methods were," he said, "and he had his friends with him, and I thought he was going to start something which would end in my being killed. So I drew my revolver and shot him and made my getaway."

As incredible as it was, Bohan stuck to his story. When the matter came up for trial about a year later, on December 22, 1921, he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Judge Thomas Crain of General Sessions Court sentenced him to between three and ten years in Sing Sing Prison. He served just seventeen months in prison before he was paroled.

Sources:
  • Asbury, Herbert, The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, Garden City NY: Garden City Publishers, 1928.
  • Hanson, Neil, Monk Eastman: The Gangster Who Became A War Hero, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
  • "'Monk' Eastman rewarded," New York Times, May 9, 1919, p. 24.
  • "Monk Eastman, noted gangster, slain in street," New York Herald, Dec. 26, 1920, p. 1.
  • "Eastman slain in feud over bootleg," New York Evening World, Dec. 27, 1920, p. 1.
  • "'Monk' Eastman, gang leader and war hero, slain by rival gunmen," New York Tribune, Dec. 27, 1920, p. 1.
  • "Monk Eastman's murder is laid to squealing on ring," New York Herald, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Eastman's slayer sought in his gang," New York Times, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Expect to arrest 'Monk' Eastman's murderer to-day," New York Evening World, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Eastman met death as drug ring squealer," New York Tribune, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 1.
  • "Eastman's slayer sought in his gang," New York Times, Dec. 28, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Monk Eastman's slayer identified as one of his gang," New York Herald, Dec. 29, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Military funeral for Eastman as police seek nine," New York Evening World, Dec. 29, 1920, p. 12.
  • "'Monk' Eastman buried as hero beside his mother," New York Tribune, Dec. 31, 1920, p. 6.
  • "Chauffeurs name Eastman's slayer," New York Herald, Dec. 31, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Search in vain for 'Monk' Eastman's slayer," New York Evening World, Dec. 31, 1920, p. 2.
  • "Seek dry agent as missing link in Eastman case," New York Tribune, Jan. 1, 1920, p. 3.
  • "Dry agent sought to clear murder of Monk Eastman," New York Herald, Jan. 1, 1921, p. 16.
  • "Prohibition agent admits killing Monk Eastman after row, police say," New York Evening World, Jan. 3, 1921, p. 1.
  • "Dry agent admits he slew Eastman in drunken fight," New York Herald, Jan. 4, 1921, p. 20.
  • "Monk Eastman slayer gets 3 to 10 years," New York Herald, Dec. 23, 1921, p. 3.

06 November 2017

Jealousy nearly kills a Gopher

On this date...

Madden
In the early morning hours of November 6, 1912, twenty-year-old Owen "Owney the Killer" Madden, leader of New York City's Gophers gang, was shot in the abdomen while attending a dance at the Arbor Cafe, Fifty-Second Street and Seventh Avenue. 

The gunshot perforated Madden's intestines and left him near death. Doctors gave him no more than a one-in-ten chance of surviving, but Madden managed to pull through. In later years, he rose to the leadership of bootlegging and gambling rackets and developed alliances with some of the top organized criminals in Prohibition Era New York City. In addition to his underworld endeavors, Madden became involved in managing boxers, entertainers, hotels and nightclubs. For a time, he held a financial interest in Harlem's Cotton Club. He is said to have aided the careers of actors George Raft and Mae West.

But back in the 1910s, Madden and his Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea-based branch of the old Gopher's gang, was fighting for survival against its rivals, particularly the Hudson Dusters and the Buck O'Brien Gophers of the Upper West Side. Due to a prolonged squabble with his young wife, Madden let his guard down just a bit in early November of 1912.

NY Sun, Nov. 7, 1912
On Election Night, November 5, Mrs. Madden antagonized her jealous husband with an announcement: she would be attending the David Hyson Association Dance at the Arbor Cafe (formerly known as the El Dorado) and would feel at liberty to dance with any of the men attending. Owney followed her there - many blocks north of the territory controlled by his gang. Mrs. Madden was aware of his presence but refused to acknowledge him. Madden took a balcony seat to watch her activities and probably to take note of her dancing partners. It appears he was not taking much note of those who were moving into the seats near him on the balcony.

The dance continued past midnight. At two in the morning, November 6, a friend told Mrs. Madden that someone wanted to see her outside. As she reached the door, a muffled gunshot was heard. Word that Owney had been shot circulated quickly through the crowd.

Madden gave different accounts of the shooting, but reportedly did not reveal the identity of the gunman. Initially, he insisted, "I done it myself." When his wife reached him, he responded to her questions about the gunman with, "How'd I know?"

At Flower Hospital (where he told a surgeon, "Git busy with that knife thing, doc"), he stated to police that he had been surrounded on the balcony by eleven members of the Hudson Dusters gang. As they closed around him, he became aware of the threat and responded with bravado, telling the gangsters they didn't have the nerve to shoot him. But one of them, according to Madden's story, had just enough nerve. He pressed a handgun to Madden's side and fired.

Madden (back row, center) and some of his Gophers gang.
The press speculated that the shooting was payback for Madden's recent killing of a young man named William Henshaw, but noted that Madden had no shortage of enemies in Manhattan.

As doctors were tending to the five holes the bullet created in Madden's intestines, police determined that John McCauley of 440 Tenth Avenue was the shooter. They arrested him on Nov. 7. McCauley admitted being at the dance and being near Madden at the time of the shooting. His account of the incident sounded ridiculous, but it was in agreement with Madden's odd first remark.

According to McCauley, as Madden saw his rivals around him, he handed his own handgun to McCauley and said, "You'll get me someday and it might as well be now." McCauley insisted that he handed the weapon back to its owner, took no further action and merely watched as Madden then shot himself.

Sources:

  • "Chase for a slayer," New York Times, Feb. 13, 1912, p. 1.
  • "Held on charge of murder," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb. 13, 1912, p. 3.
  • "Oweny Madden, 'Killer' shot, sneers at sleuth," New York Sun, Nov. 7, 1912, p. 9. 
  • "Prisoner says Gopher leader shot himself," New York Evening World, Nov. 7, 1912, p. 2.
  • "Dry padlocks snapped on nine wet doors; 'Owney' Madden's 'Club' is one of them," New York Times, June 23, 1925, p. 23.
  • Waggoner, Walter H., "Herman stark dies; owned Cotton Club from 1929 to 1940," New York Times, July 9, 1981.
  • "Owney Madden, 73, ex-gangster, dead," New York Times, April 24, 1965, p. 1.



11 August 2017

Live by the sword...

Mafia assassin Umberto Valente
killed in East Village shooting

On this date in 1922: Mafia assassin Umberto Valente was gunned down in a bold daylight shooting on a busy Manhattan street corner.

Valente was seen with a group of men at the intersection of East 12th Street and Second Avenue at about noon, when he suddenly darted into the intersection toward a taxicab. Two other men also moved into the intersection, drew handguns and opened fire on the fleeing man.

Valente reached the runningboard of the taxi and tried to return fire before collapsing unconscious to the street. His attackers fired a few shots toward a gathering crowd and made their escape through the basement of an apartment building at 233 East 12th Street.

Stray slugs wounded a New York street cleaner and an eleven-year-old girl from New Haven, Connecticut, who was in New York City visiting her grandfather.

NYPD Detective Sgt. Kirk witnessed the end of the gunfight from a streetcar. He rushed to the fallen Valente and commandeered an automobile to take Valente to St. Mark's Hospital. Valente never regained consciousness. He died of his wounds about an hour later.

According to an often repeated underworld legend (told and likely created by the notoriously inventive David Leon Chandler), the gunman who fired the fatal shots into Valenti was Salvatore Lucania (later known as Charlie Luciano), at that time an underling of Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. Evidence in support of the tale is lacking. Lucania's only documented brush with the law in August of 1922 occurred near the end of the month when his car was pulled over for a traffic violation.


Investigators determined that Valente had been responsible for the attempted murder of Giuseppe Masseria a few days earlier on August 8. Masseria surprisingly escaped unharmed - except for a couple of bullet holes through his straw hat - after being cornered by a gunman near his home, 80 Second Avenue (less than half a mile from the spot where Valente was killed). On the afternoon of the eleventh, police found Masseria at his home, insisting that he had not been out of the building and knew nothing of the attack on Valente. His denials were unconvincing. It was assumed that Masseria either directly participated in or ordered the shooting of Valente.

Already awaiting a murder trial for the shooting death of Silvio Tagliagambe two months earlier, Masseria was charged also with the murder of Valente.

Police hypothesized that Masseria and Valente, both known to be involved in Manhattan bootlegging and gambling rackets, had become underworld rivals. Much later, authorities learned that Masseria and allies were engaged in a gangland war with reigning Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila. Valente had been assigned by D'Aquila to eliminate Joe the Boss.

Sources:
  • "Eight men shot in mysterious battle on street," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Gunmen shoot six in East Side swarm," New York Times, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Cloakmaker, victim of gunman, dies; 3 more in hospital," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 20.
  • "Gunman's volley fatal to striker," New York Times, Aug. 10, 1922, p. 13
  • "Car used in street battle traced here," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 10, 1922, p. 18.
  • "1 dead, 2 shot, as bootleggers again fight on East Side," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "One killed, two shot in pistol battle," Brooklyn Standard Union, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "One man killed, two wounded, in gang war," New York Call, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 4.
  • "Mystery in rum street battle near solution," New York Tribune, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
  • "East Side bad man killed as shots fly," New York Herald, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
  • "Gang kills gunman; 2 bystanders hit," New York Times, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 20.
  • "Valente's arrest balked by murder," New York Evening World, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 3.
  • "New Haven girl wounded in New York bootleggers' feud," Bridgeport CT Telegram, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Bootleggers at war," Philadelphia Inquirer (Associated Press), Aug. 12, 1922, p. 2.
  • Chandler, David Leon, Brothers in Blood: The Rise of the Criminal Brotherhoods, New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1975.
  • Gentile, Nick, with Felice Chilanti, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Crescenzi Allendorf, 1993.

05 July 2017

Hennessys capture Sicilian brigand in New Orleans

On this date in 1881: Cousins David and Michael Hennessy, members of the New Orleans detective (or "aides") force, capture fugitive Sicilian brigand Giuseppe Esposito near the St. Louis Cathedral in the Crescent City.

Esposito
Esposito, also known as Giuseppe Randazzo and as Vincenzo Rebello, had escaped Italian authorities while headed to trial for homicide and other crimes. In the 1870s, he crossed the Atlantic and settled briefly in New York City before moving on to New Orleans. Police and press believed the Mafia of Palermo assisted in his escape and flight from Sicily. Esposito became the recognized leader of the Sicilian underworld in New Orleans, settled down and started a family.

He was betrayed to Italian authorities by some of his New Orleans associates. A U.S. private detective firm was hired to locate him and bring him to justice. Private detectives of the Mooney and Boland Agency worked through the New Orleans Chief of Aides Thomas Boylan to arrange the capture.

Esposito's arrest was conducted very much like a kidnapping. The Hennessys caught him alone, grabbed him and threw him into a carriage, taking him off to a secret location. He was prevented from seeing any of his New Orleans family or friends. The following day, he was smuggled aboard a steamship that was already underway for New York City.

The circumstances of his arrest and his New York City efforts to avoid deportation to Italy became international news and the subjects of Congressional inquiries.

NY Evening Telegram
In a series of hearings before U.S. Commissioner Osborn in New York, the prisoner contested his identification as the brigand Esposito and claimed to have been a good citizen in New Orleans at the time that Esposito was committing crimes in Sicily. Witnesses - some of whom were later linked with the Mafia - came from New Orleans to support his story. The prisoner had difficulty in explaining his documented use of aliases. His alibi failed when Italy sent police officials to New York to identify the fugitive brigand.

Esposito's deportation was handled as suddenly as his arrest. Once the U.S. Commissioner was satisfied of his identity and before any legal appeals could be considered, Esposito was turned over to Italian authorities and placed on a ship for Europe. His wife and child were left behind in the U.S. (Esposito trusted New Orleans allies to care for his family. They failed to do so and took Esposito resources for their own benefit. Esposito later tried without luck to sue them from his Italian prison cell. His wife gave birth to a second child after his deportation. Both children were later placed in New Orleans orphanages.)

In his absence, the Crescent City's Sicilian underworld broke apart into warring factions - the competing Provenzano and Matranga organizations.

The Hennessys became instantly famous following the Esposito arrest (though the local police superintendent accused them of insubordination for acting without his approval). Their fame came at a terrible price. Within ten years of Esposito's capture, both of them were murdered. In each case, the killings remained officially unsolved but were widely believed performed by Sicilian gangsters.

David Hennessy
Mike Hennessy, who relocated to the Houston-Galveston area and started a private detective business there, was shot to death a short distance from his Houston home on Sept. 29, 1886. He was shot repeatedly from behind. One suspect, D.H. Melton, was arrested but later released for lack of evidence.

David Hennessy became police superintendent in New Orleans and actively fought the local Mafia. As he returned home from work on the evening of Oct. 15, 1890, he was attacked by a group of gunmen. He was knocked down from a distance by a shotgun blast of bird shot and then mortally wounded by higher-caliber slugs fired into his body at closer range. He died the next day. The assassination of the police superintendent resulted in the imprisonment of members and associates of the local Matranga Mafia and later to the Crescent City lynchings.

Read more about this subject in:
Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia
by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon