Showing posts with label Thomas Hunt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thomas Hunt. Show all posts

16 April 2019

Death of former Chicago gang chief goes unnoticed

Torrio founded Chicago Outfit
and mentored young Al Capone

On this date in 1957...

Chicago Tribune
May 8, 1957
Johnny Torrio, seventy-five-year-old former Chicago underworld boss, died April 16, 1957. His passing was virtually unnoticed. Newspapers were not alerted until about three weeks later, when his will was filed for probate.

Raised in the gangs of lower Manhattan's Five Points area, Torrio went west (along with longtime friend and fellow Five Points gangster Rocco "Roxie" Vanella) around 1909-1910. He became bodyguard, enforcer and business manager for Chicago vice lord "Big Jim" Colosimo - possibly a relative of Torrio's step-father Salvatore Caputo.

After a while, Torrio brought young Al Capone from Brooklyn to Chicago to assist him. Following Colosimo's 1920 murder, Torrio turned the Colosimo organization into a bootlegging operation and competed with other local gangs and the powerful Chicago Mafia for rackets territory.

A January 1925 assassination attempt convinced Torrio to retire as gang boss, and he turned his organization over to Capone. Following a jail term at Waukegan, Illinois, for Prohibition violations, Torrio returned to New York. He and his wife settled into a Brooklyn residence, spent winters in St. Petersburg and traveled abroad regularly. Torrio continued his involvement in underworld rackets, repeatedly running into trouble with the authorities.

The final decade of his life was spent out of the public eye. His last years were lived quietly in a recently constructed apartment building, 9902 Third Avenue in Brooklyn's Fort Hamilton section.

On April 16, 1957, he suffered a heart attack while in a barber's chair and was rushed to Cumberland Hospital (named for its first home on Cumberland Street but located on Auburn Place in 1957). He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery. Torrio was survived by his wife of forty years, Anna.

NY Times, May 8, 1957

15 April 2019

'Joe the Boss' murder befuddles press

On this date in 1931...

U.S. Mafia boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria was shot to death in a back room at Gerardo Scarpato's Villa Nuova Tammaro restaurant, 2715 West Fifteenth Street, Coney Island. The murder, arranged by Masseria lieutenants including Salvatore "Lucky Luciano" Lucania,  concluded the Mafia's Castellammarese War.

The killing of "Joe the Boss" Masseria was covered by newspapers across the country. But all struggled to make sense of it and many made incorrect assumptions. Lacking precise witness statements, the papers of the New York area presented starkly different accounts of the incident.

New York Daily News of April 16, 1931 ("Joe the Boss slain; Capone marks spot," by John Martin), attributed the killing to a rivalry between Masseria and Chicago gang boss Al Capone (Masseria and Capone actually were close allies during the Castellammarese War, with Capone serving as a Chicago-based capodecina in the Masseria organization):

    Joe the Boss, head of the Unione Siciliana and arch enemy of Scarface Al Capone, was put on the spot by the connivance of his own bodyguards as he dallied over a hand of pinochle in a Coney Island resort yesterday afternoon.

    Two bullets through the head and one through the heart toppled him lifeless beneath the table. Clutched in his hand, when treachery overtook him, was the ace of diamonds.

    In taking off Joe the Boss - Giuseppe Masseria on police records - the killers removed one of the most feared gang leaders in the east; a man who is said to have slain more than 100 persons with his own hand and to have dictated the killings of Frankie Marlow and other big shots of gangland.

    Defiance of Capone is believed to have accomplished Masseria's dethronement, as it has spelled death for countless other racketeers. Recently the Chicago underworld czar sent Joe the Boss warning to pull in his horns or they'd be amputated.

    The slaying took place in the Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant, at 2715 West 15th st., Coney Island, miles from the domain of Joe the Boss, which took in a large section of downtown New York and a slice of Brooklyn.

    Masseria in addition to controlling the Italian lotteries, was said to have dug in his tentacles so deeply that not a stick of spaghetti was sold in the city without paying him a tax.

    Masseria was in the place with two of his bodyguards - since the murder of Frankie Yale, one of his henchmen, he had never set foot out of doors without his gunmen - when two dapper young men alighted from a large blue sedan and walked in. They emptied their guns and fled.

    The bodyguards went, too. So did the proprietors. They went in such haste they left top coats and hats and $40 in bills scattered on the floor. Outside were found two .45 caliber automatics, tossed away by the killers or betrayers.

New York Times of April 16, 1931 ("Racket chief slain by gangster gunfire"), warned of a tremendous gangland conflict resulting from Masseria's murder:

    It took ten years and a lot of shooting to kill Giuseppe Masseria - he was Joe the Boss to the underworld - but this enemies found him with his back turned yesterday in Coney Island, and when they walked out into the bright sunshine Masseria's career was ended. There were five bullets in his body.

    To hear some of the detectives at Police Headquarters tell it, the killing of Joe the Boss is likely to cause an outbreak of gang warfare that will exceed anything this city ever has known. Some of the men who had kept tabs on the racketeer's long career insist that he was "the biggest of 'em all - bigger than Al Capone."

    It would be hard to tell why Masseria was "put on the spot," according to the police, for his name has been linked with numerous gang murders in the last ten years. And on the east side last night there was much furtive whispering and speculation as to what would follow. Even to his countrymen Joe the Boss was a mysterious power, greater in strength than many whose names appeared more often in the daily newspapers.

    At 1 P.M. yesterday Masseria drove is steel-armored sedan, a massive car with plate glass an inch thick in all its windows, to a garage near the Nuova Villa Tammaro at 2,715 West Fifteenth Street, Coney Island, and parked it. Then he went to the restaurant.

    What happened after that the police have been unable to learn definitely. Whether he met several men in the restaurant or whether he was alone when he went into the place, is uncertain. Gerardo Scarpato, the owner, said he was out for a walk at the time and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Anna Tammaro, said she was in the kitchen.

    At 2 o'clock the quiet of the little street near the bay was broken by the roar of gunfire and two or three men walked out of the restaurant to an automobile parked at the curb and drove away. When the police got there they found Mrs. Tammaro bending over the body of Joe the Boss. He lay on his back. In his left hand was clutched a brand new ace of diamonds.

    A few chairs were overturned in the restaurant and a deck of cards was strewn on the floor. There were several banknotes and a small amount of silver, about $35. Whether the ace of diamonds was put in Masseria's hand after he was shot, as some significant message for his friends, the police do not know. They are not inclined to believe that he was shot during a quarrel over a card game...

    Four hours after the shooting the automobile in which Masseria's murderers escaped was found abandoned at West First Street, near Kings Highway, Brooklyn, about two miles from the Nuova Villa Tammaro. On the back seat were three pistols. One lacked two cartridges; another had discharged one cartridge recently,a nd the third was fully loaded. Two other revolvers were found in the alley that runs along one side of the restaurant.

Paterson New Jersey Evening News of April 16, 1931 ("N.Y. fears gang war in slaying"), printed an INS wire story that echoed the incorrect gang war prediction of the Times but corrected the Capone relationship mistake of the Daily News:

    A violent gang war was predicted in New York as the aftermath of the killing of Guiseppe Masseria, known as "Joe the Boss." He was said by police to be an ally of Al Capone and worked with the Chicago gang leader in the liquor business, racketeering and gambling.

    Masseria was shot to death in a Coney Island cafe by two well-dressed young men who calmly walked into the restaurant and began shooting. They fired twenty shots and five struck Masseria - all in the back. He was found dead near an overturned card table.

    The killers walked leisurely out of the cafe and escaped in an automobile. Although fifty detectives surrounded the cafe shortly after the shooting, they uncovered no clews at the identity of the slayers.

    An armored steel car, equipped with bulletproof glass an inch thick, in which "Joe the Boss" was said to have traveled to protect him from many enemies, was found near the scene of the shooting. Police said they believed three of the Masseria gang, who had been with their chief in the cafe, might have hired the two young men to kill Masseria.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle of April 16, 1931 ("Suspect seized in murder of 'Joe the Boss'") noted the arrest of a murder suspect (the suspect turned out to be a Villa Nuova Tammaro restaurant waiter who had borrowed Scarpato's automobile) and further discussed the Capone angle:

    Brooklyn detectives were rushed to Jersey City shortly before noon, where a suspect had been taken into custody in connection with the slaying yesterday of Giuseppe (Joe the Boss) Masseria, big shot racketeer.

    According to information from the New Jersey authorities, they had seized Anthony Devers, 31, after he had given an erroneous Jersey City address.

    Devers was arrested on the State highway on suspicion. He was driving a car owned by Charles Starapata, of 2715 W. 15th St., Coney Island, the address of the Nuova Villa Tammara, where Masseria was slain.

    The slaying of Masseria led the police to take steps to prevent, if possible, the worst gang war in the city's history which they fear will follow the "rubbing out" of Masseria.

    When Police Commissioner Mulrooney was asked about the shooting he declined to admit that the dead man was an underworld big shot or that he ever had heard he was the arch enemy of Al Capone, Chicago's Public Enemy No. 1.

    The Commissioner was asked:

    "Did you know that several Chicago gunmen are known to be in Brooklyn and are supposed to have done the shooting?"

    "No, I do not," Mulrooney replied.

    "Have you learned any reason for the shooting?"

    "No. But we have detectives making an extensive investigation."

    Joe the Boss was far from his usual haunts when three slugs wrote finis to his 11 years of criminal activity.

    ...Masseria was playing cards in the back room of the Nuova Villa Tammara with three other men at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon when a blue sedan drove up to the door and two men leaped out.

    Walking directly through the restaurant, the men disappeard into the rear room. Instantly there came the sounds of several shots. Leaving by a side door and throwing their weapons away, the men entered their machine and disappeared.

    When the police of the Homicide Squad under Capt. Ray Honan arrived, no one was found who could give a clear description of the slayers or of the men playing cards with Masseria. Two bullets had struck Masseria in the head, another pierced his heart...

    One of the officers of the Union Siciliano, an organization of Sicilians, Masseria was the king of the wine, fish and beer rackets, his domain including a large portion of the east side of Manhattan and a part of Brooklyn.

    The reign of this underworld chieftain began in 1920, when he graduated from burglary and assault into the policy racket.

    In his day he had control of practically every purveyor of Italian food in the city, demanding and receiving tribute from wholesaler and shopkeeper alike.

Brooklyn Standard Union of April 17, 1931 ("Police follow scant clues to murder of 'Joe the Boss'"), discussed the murder investigation while dismissing boss of bosses Masseria as merely "a piker" (small-time operator):


    Forty detectives sought to-day, by clues and what little they could learn from the underworld, to untangle the murder of Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, without much hope of success, while sagas of racketeer power grew up about the Italian policy slip seller Commissioner Mulrooney has called a piker.

    Masseria's body still lay in Kings County Morgue, where it was identified yesterday by his son James, pending removal to the Masseria home at 15 West Eighty-first street, Manhattan, and the funeral accorded by henchmen to a gangster.

    The assassins who shot him from behind while he played cards Wednesday in a Coney Island restaurant were still unknown to police, and shielded by the frightened silence of all who might know anything about them.

    Acting Capt. John J. Lyons of Coney Island station questioned a half dozen local racketeers brought before him yesterday, without tangible results. Police Department fingerprint experts have gone over Masseria's armor plated car, which he parked near where he was killed.

    But hopes of police center now on three overcoats left in the Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant at 2715 West Fifteenth street where Masseria was killed. Two bear cleaners' marks, 6-504-28, and T-T 504. Detectives are checking these against the codes used in the city's dry cleaning establishments and tailor shops...

    The rumors about "Joe the Boss" continue to grow. Chicago gangsters of Capone ambushed him, one had it, because he was muscling into Brooklyn racket territory from his own bailiwick, the Bronx. Another had it he was taken by Al Wagner's gang on the East Side, over an insult from one of his followers to the wife of one of the Wagner gang. But "Joe the Boss" was, Commissioner Mulrooney insisted, a piker.

It is interesting that several accounts reported that Masseria's hand was holding a playing card when police reached the murder scene. The newspapers stated that the card was the Ace of Diamonds. A famous photograph of the scene, however, clearly showed an Ace of Spades card in Masseria's hand (at right). It has long been rumored that the photographer placed the legendary "death card" in Joe the Boss's hand before snapping the picture.

09 April 2019

Caught without his chain mail shirt

On this date in 1913:

Crime figure Amadeo Buonomo was buried April 9, 1913, in Queens, New York. He died of a gunshot wound on April 6, a casualty of the 1910s underworld warfare in East Harlem.

The conflict featured a number of New York gangland's more colorful figures:
- Pasquarella Musone Spinelli, owner of the "Murder Stable" and known as the wealthiest woman in the community at the time of her murder in spring 1912;
- Aniello "Zoppo" (the Gimp) Prisco, Black Hand racketeer hobbled after one of his legs was shot to pieces and later killed while in the act of extorting money;
- Giosue Gallucci, cafe owner and lottery racketeer, who was regarded as the "king" of Harlem's Little Italy until his reign was ended by bullets in May 1915.
(See: "Owner's killing is start of 'Murder Stable' legend" on Mafiahistory.us.)

Buonomo stood out from the group due to his unusual wardrobe. It was said that, after becoming involved in the gang war, about the time of Prisco's December 1912 death, he generally wore a chain mail hauberk beneath his clothes to protect against the blades of his enemies. As a Prisco disciple who swore to avenge the Neapolitan gang boss's killing, he had plenty of enemies.

A resident of 1758 Madison Avenue, between 115th and 116th Streets, Buonomo was proprietor of a restaurant at 331 East 114th Street. In addition to his business and the threats of rival gangsters, Buonomo also devoted much of his attention in the period to the plight of his younger brother, Joseph "Chicago Joe" Buonomo. Joseph had been convicted of first degree murder and was awaiting execution in Connecticut. (Joseph was part of a New York-Chicago human trafficking ring. His wife, known by the name Jennie Cavalieri, provided information on the ring to authorities and then ran off to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Joseph found her there and shot her to death on October 22, 1912. After Amadeo's death, Joseph won a new trial in Connecticut, but its result was the same. He was executed by hanging at Connecticut State Prison in Wethersfield just after midnight on June 30, 1914.)

According to published reports, the twenty-seven-year-old Buonomo was not wearing his protective chain mail one evening in early April (the reports suggest it was April 3), as he started down a stairway to a basement wine shop at 113th Street near First Avenue. But it probably would not have afforded him much protection on this occasion, as his attacker opted to use a handgun rather than a knife.

A bullet fired at close range entered his neck. Friends rushed Buonomo to Harlem Hospital, where he lingered for days before succumbing. There were a number of rumors relating to statements he made on his deathbed, but it is unlikely that Buonomo was able to say very much. According to the autopsy, the bullet wound caused internal bleeding into his throat, and Buonomo eventually asphyxiated, drowned by his own blood.

His April 9 funeral, directed by the Paladino and Pantozzi firm of East 115th Street, was an East Harlem spectacle. The hearse, drawn by six white horses, was followed by one hundred carriages of mourners and a forty-two-piece marching band. Buonomo was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

Sources:
  • "Buonomo pays for killing," Bridgeport CT Evening Farmer, June 30, 1914, p. 1.
  • "Coats of mail still in use," Buffalo Enquirer, Oct. 27, 1913, p. 4.
  • "East Side gunmen take second victim," New York Tribune, April 30, 1913, p. 5.
  • "Feudists' bullets avenge slaying of gunman in Harlem," New York Evening World, April 11, 1913, p. 10.
  • "Two more Italians shot," New York Sun, April 18, 1913, p. 5.
  • "White slave's' life here," New York Tribune, Oct. 29, 1912, p. 7.
  • Amadeo Buonomo Certificate of Death, registered no. 11224, Department of Health of the City of New York, date of death April 6, 1913.
  • Critchley, David, The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931, New York: Routledge, 2009, p. 110-111.
  • New York City Death Index, certificate no. 11224.
  • Thomas, Rowland, "The rise and fall of Little Italy's king," Pittsburgh Press, Dec. 12, 1915, Sunday Magazine p. 4.

04 April 2019

Deported to Guatemala due to fake birth record

On this date in 1961...

U.S. immigration officials arrested New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello on April 4, 1961, and immediately deported him to Guatemala.

Shreveport Times, April 5, 1961
Reporting for a quarterly alien registration at the Immigration and Naturalization Services office in New Orleans, Marcello was confronted with a government document that indicated he was born in Guatemala in 1910. He was then handcuffed, loaded into a law enforcement automobile and whisked, sirens blaring, to the airport.

He was not permitted to speak with family or to pack a bag. He was put on a U.S. government plane and transported to a military airport in Guatemala City. The trip was the culmination of a nearly decade-long government effort to deport the mob boss.

Marcello was known to have been born in an Italian colony in Tunis, North Africa, and to have been brought into the U.S. by his parents when he was a baby. Attempts to deport him were repeatedly blocked by legal maneuvers and international disagreements. Though he was an Italian national, Italy refused to accept him. Tunisia wanted nothing to do with him. France, which held Tunisia as a protectorate until the mid-1950s, also refused to take him.

The Kennedy Administration learned that Italy's refusal was linked with rumors of a Guatemalan birth record for Calogero Minacore, Marcello's birth name. Officials determined that Marcello had the fake birth record created to protect himself from deportation. The scheme backfired when the Administration obtained a copy of the birth record and used the document to justify shipping him to the Central American country.

While Marcello's U.S. attorneys worked frantically but unsuccessfully to have him returned, Guatemala quickly proved that the birth record was fraudulent and decided that Marcello had to go. As the Guatemalan government tried to set up its own deportation, Marcello disappeared. The crime boss resurfaced in Metairie, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, in June.

Sources:

  • "'They kidnaped me,' charges Marcello," Monroe LA News-Star, April 7, 1961, p. 1.
  •  "Bulletin," Alexandria LA Daily Town Talk, April 4, 1961, p. 1.
  •  "Government deports Marcello to Guatemala," Shreveport LA Times, April 5, 1961, p. 1.
  •  "Guatemala orders ouster of Marcello," Lafayette LA Daily Advertiser, April 27, 1961, p. 15.
  •  "Marcello faces deport orders in Guatemala," Lake Charles LA American Press, April 5, 1961, p. 1.
  •  "Marcello giving little assistance to lawyers," Lake Charles LA American Press, April 6, 1961, p. 1. 
  • "Marcello jailed in Orleans on charges of illegal entry," Shreveport LA Times, June 6, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Marcello returns to U.S.' believes in Shreveport area," Shreveport LA Times, June 2, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Police arrest N.O. racketeer in Guatemala," Shreveport LA Times, April 22, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Racketeer fights to void deporting," New York Times, April 5, 1961.
  • "Robert Kennedy promises action on Carlos Marcello," Lafayette LA Daily Advertiser, March 23, 1961, p. 13.
  • "Start move to deport Orleans crime figure," Shreveport LA Times, Dec. 31, 1952, p. 1.
  • "U.S. acts to end Marcello stay," New Orleans Times-Picayune, Dec. 31, 1952, p. 1. 
  • "U.S. is assailed on deportation," New York Times, April 6, 1961.
  • "U.S. upholds Marcello ouster; rejects plea to bring him back," New York Times, April 16, 1961.
  • Davis, John H., Mafia Kingfish, New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1989.
  • Kennedy, S.A. Regis L., "Carlos Marcello," FBI report, file no. 92-2713-272, NARA no. 124-10205-10439, Feb. 7, 1962.
  • Milliner, Louis, "Marcello family returns to U.S.," Alexandria LA Daily Town Talk, May 4, 1961, p. 21.
  • SAC Milwaukee, "Carlos Marcello AR," FBI Memorandum to Director, file no. 92-2713-299, NARA no. 124-10206-10310, March 24, 1962.
  • Wagner, Susan, "Lawyer charges 'Gestapo' tactics in Marcello ouster," Alexandria LA Daily Town Talk, April 5, 1961, p. 22.

02 April 2019

NOLA mayor to offer apology for 1891 lynchings

American Italian Center to host proclamation on April 12

Cantrell
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell will offer an "Official Proclamation of Apology" for the 1891 lynching of eleven Italian-American men, according to published reports. The apology is scheduled to be presented in a morning ceremony April 12, 2019, at the city's American Italian Cultural Center.

The proclamation reportedly was set in motion by the Commission for Social Justice, Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA). The commission approached the mayor's office with the idea and found Cantrell receptive. The mayor appointed Vincenzo Pasquantonio, head of the city's Human Relations Committee, to coordinate with OSDIA. Cantrell, the first woman to serve as mayor of the Crescent City, was inaugurated in May 2018, replacing term-limited Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Commission Special Counsel Michael A. Santo told reporters the lynchings were "a longstanding wound" for the Italian-American community. "This is something that has to be addressed," he told the Washington Post, praising Mayor Cantrell for her courage.

Some of the victims
The eleven victims included six men who were tried but not convicted for the 1890 murder of local Police Chief David Hennessy and five others charged but not yet tried for that crime. (The lynching, its causes and its aftermath were discussed in Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon.)

Chief Hennessy was murdered on his way to his Girod Street home late on the evening of October 15, 1890. He parted from his bodyguard, Captain William O'Connor, about one city square from his residence. A few steps later, gunmen firing from across the street knocked Hennessy down with shotgun loads of birdshot and then closed on their victim, firing high caliber slugs into his body. Hennessy drew his Colt revolver and shot in the direction of his attackers. As the gunmen ran off, O'Connor reached the fallen chief.

Hennessy
"They gave it to me, and I gave it back the best I could," Hennessy told O'Connor. The captain asked if Hennessy could identify his attackers. "Dagoes," Hennessy said.

The police chief died at Charity Hospital the next morning. Suspected members of the Mafia criminal society and their associates were arrested. Eighteen were charged with conspiring in the assassination. Louisiana-born businessman Joseph P. Macheca, Mafia chief Charles Matranga and seven others were the first to be brought to trial in early 1891.

On March 13, the jury acquitted six defendants and could not reach a verdict on the remaining three. The defendants all continued to be held at the Parish Prison - with the others charged in the assassination but not yet tried - pending the expected dismissal of related charges in another court on the Fourteenth.

There were widespread rumors of jury bribery. Civic leaders and a vigilante group known as the Regulators assembled on the night of March 13 and announced a public meeting at the Henry Clay statue (then in the middle of Canal Street at the intersection with Royal and St. Charles) for the next morning:

All good citizens are invited to attend a mass meeting on Saturday, March 14, at 10 o'clock a.m., at Clay Statue, to take steps to remedy the failure of justice in the Hennessy case. Come prepared for action.

 Sixty-one prominent citizens signed the meeting call that was published in the morning newspapers. More than half of the signers belonged to one or both of the Crescent City's exclusive social clubs, The Pickwick Club and The Boston Club.

Mass meeting at Clay statue
Many thousands filled the street for that meeting. After being fired up by Regulators leader William Stirling Parkerson and other speakers, the mob marched to the prison. Though the lynchings are generally blamed on the angry mob, evidence strongly suggests that only a carefully selected execution team participated in the killings inside the prison.

Battering down door
Learning of the approaching thousands, the prison warden opened the cells of his Italian prisoners and advised them to hide as best they could. Parkerson's men attempted to batter through the main gate but more quickly gained entry by breaking down a rear door to the warden's apartment.

The execution squad of about one dozen men moved quickly through the prison, dragged one prisoner outside for hanging, then trapped and shot three prisoners in an upstairs prison hall. Seven prisoners were cornered in the prison yard. As they begged for mercy, the execution squad opened fire with repeating rifles at close range. When one of the targets was found to have survived the shooting, he was dragged outside to be hanged. (Another prisoner, mortally wounded in the shooting in the upstairs hall, remained alive but unconscious for hours.)

Execution squad
As the execution squad exited the prison, Parkerson again addressed the people in the mob, assuring them that justice had been achieved and urging that they return quietly to their homes.

Mob swarms Parish Prison
Local newspapers were supportive of the vigilante action. The New Orleans Times-Democrat commented, "Desperate diseases require desperate remedies." The Daily Picayune blamed the incident on "corrupt ministers of justice." New Orleans businessman in the Cotton Exchange, the Sugar Exchange, the Produce Exchange, the Stock Exchange, the Lumbermen's Exchange and the Board of Trade passed resolutions declaring the murders of the prisoners to be justified.

Picayune
Early in April 1891, a New Orleans judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against the city by the widow of one of the lynching victims. She argued that the city failed in its responsibility to safeguard the lives in its care. The judge found that laws making a municipality liable for destruction of property did not extend to a liability for loss of life. In the same month, the city administration defended anti-Italian sentiment by compiling and publishing a list of ninety-four "assassinations, murders and affrays" vaguely attributed to Sicilians and Italians. A month later, a grand jury investigating the lynchings issued a lengthy report critical of the victims. No one was indicted for participating in the raid on the prison or the execution of the helpless prisoners.

Pittsburgh Dispatch
The incident triggered a year-long dispute between the United States and Italy. Though arguing that most of the victims were either U.S. citizens or had declared their intention to become U.S. citizens, President Benjamin Harrison's Administration agreed to an indemnity payment of about $24,000. Harrison publicly condemned the lynchings and criticized Louisiana authorities for their handling of the matter.



According to a press release from the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, the ceremony will begin Friday, April 12, 2019, at 11 a.m. at the American Italian Cultural Center, 537 South Peters Street, just north of Lafayette Street. The Commission for Social Justice is the anti-defamation arm of the OSDIA. The commission was formed in 1979. OSDIA's roots stretch back to 1905 in New York City. The American Italian Cultural Center was founded in New Orleans as the American Italian Renaissance Foundation Museum and Research Library by the late Joseph Maselli (1924-2009).

The website of the New Orleans mayor provides no information about the anticipated apology. The American Italian Cultural Center's website is promoting this special event. The center is also selling tickets to an Italian community dinner on the eve of the mayor's proclamation.



See also:




Sources:

  • "Mayor to apologize for 191 lynching of 11 Italian Americans," New York Times, nytimes.com, March 30, 2019.
  • "Official Proclamation of Apology by the Mayor of New Orleans to the Italian American Community for America's Largest Single Mass Lynching," PRWeb, prweb.com, April 2, 2019.
  • Daugherty, Owen, "New Orleans mayor to apologize to Italian-Americans for 1891 lynchings," The Hill, thehill.com, April 1, 2019.
  • Feldman, Kate, "New Orleans mayor to apologize to Italian-Americans for 1891 lynchings that killed 11 immigrants," New York Daily News, nydailynews.com, April 1, 2019.
  • Flynn, Meagan, "New Orleans to apologize for lynching of 11 Italians in 1891, among worst in American history," Washington Post, April 1, 2019.
  • McConnaughey, Janet, "New Orleans mayor plans apology for 'longstanding wound' of 1891 Italian immigrant lynchings," New Orleans Advocate, theadvocate.com, March 30, 2019.
  • Prior, Ryan, "128 years later, New Orleans is apologizing for lynching 11 Italians," CNN, cnn.com, April 1, 2019.
  • Santo, Michael A., Esq., "Presentation of an Official Proclamation of Apology by the Mayor of New Orleans to the Italian American Community," We the Italians, wetheitalians.com, March 25, 2019.

27 March 2019

Buffalo mobster Sam DiCarlo dies in Florida

On this date in 1987...

Sam DiCarlo
Retired Buffalo Mafia member Sam DiCarlo, brother of the notorious Joseph DiCarlo, died March 27, 1987, in Miami, Florida, at the age of 82. While often in the shadow of his better known brother, Sam DiCarlo was an influential underworld leader and participated in some of the more important Mafia events in U.S. history.

Born Salvatore DiCarlo on April 2, 1904, he was the fourth child (third son, after Francesco and Giuseppe/Joseph Jr.) of Giuseppe and Vincenza Grasso DiCarlo of Vallelunga, Sicily.

At the age of two, "Sam" crossed the Atlantic with his mother and siblings. Giuseppe DiCarlo had made the trip the previous September, settling in a New York City colony of Vallelunghesi that included the related Mistretta, Muscarella and Bonasera clans. Giuseppe was late meeting his family at Ellis Island, and the first meal eaten in America by Vincenza and her children was the boxed lunch provided by the immigration center.

The family lived briefly in Brooklyn and then moved in 1907 to Manhattan's East Harlem. Giuseppe DiCarlo commuted to work at a Manzella grocery business, 190 Elizabeth Street, between Spring and Prince Streets. Giuseppe was friendly with Pasquale Enea and Isidoro Crocevera, associates of local Mafia leader Giuseppe Morello. In summer 1908, apparently with the blessing of Morello, Giuseppe DiCarlo became boss of the Mafia organization in Buffalo, New York (he had been a regular visitor to the city since March 1907), and resettled his family there.

Giuseppe DiCarlo
The Buffalo area was home to large numbers of Sicilian immigrants from the inland Vallelunga-Valledolmo area (where the provinces of Palermo and Caltanissetta meet) and the coastal city of Castellammare del Golfo (province of Trapani). Castellammarese Mafioso Benedetto Angelo Palmeri, likely a Giuseppe DiCarlo acquaintance from their time in New York City, soon moved into Buffalo and became a key figure in the DiCarlo underworld administration. (Palmeri later married into the Mistretta family, relatives of Vincenza Grasso DiCarlo.)

Sam and the other DiCarlo children grew up in comfort, thanks to their father's position. But the family was not immune to tragedy. Francesco just reached the age of eighteen when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in January 1917. He died of the disease in March 1918. The following year, Vincenza, age forty-six, died following cancer surgery.

Sam was in his early teens when brother Joseph (four and a half years older than Sam) became an aide to their father in the early days of Prohibition. Joseph was involved in a shooting incident in August 1920 that left one man dead and one man wounded. The wounded man was Vincent Vaccaro, connected with local Black Hand extortion rackets. The dead man was eventually identified as Giuseppe DiCarlo's old friend Isidoro Crocevera. Police pieced together enough about the incident to decide that it was related to a squabble over bootlegging proceeds. Joseph DiCarlo was charged with first-degree assault in the shooting of Vaccaro. Vaccaro's brother Anthony was charged with Crocevera's murder. Witnesses refused to cooperate with authorities, and the charges were later dropped.

Sam got into trouble with the law at about the same time. At the age of sixteen, he and a nineteen-year-old friend were arrested for assaulting two young women. Charges were dismissed.

Joe DiCarlo
Giuseppe DiCarlo died July 9, 1922, at the age of forty-eight. The cause of death was reported as acute pulmonary edema. Ill (and likely depressed) for years, with diabetes and heart and kidney problems, he had recently pulled out of a number of legitimate businesses and spent his time at a "country home" in Bowmansville, New York. His death left the Mafia of western New York leaderless.

Sam was eighteen and Joseph was twenty-two. Buffalo Mafia leaders considered installing Joseph as the new boss, but decided he did not have the maturity for the position. Angelo Palmeri was given the nod instead, perhaps as a sort of regent for Joseph. Joseph's path toward the top spot in the organization set up by his father was blocked by the Buffalo arrival of Stefano Magaddino later in 1922. Palmeri turned power over to the more senior Castellammarese Mafioso.

Joseph viewed Magaddino as a rival and an obstacle and spent the rest of his life trying to build an underworld organization of his own. Sam DiCarlo, however, seemed to have an easier time finding his place in a crime family run by Magaddino. He became a Magaddino ambassador, representing his boss at national Mafia events.

During his underworld career, Sam DiCarlo was arrested twice at Mafia conventions. The arrests helped to reveal the interstate nature of organized crime many years before the famous gathering at Apalachin, New York.

Sam DiCarlo
Sam was arrested along with more than twenty other Mafiosi from around the country at the Cleveland Statler Hotel in December of 1928. That gathering, held following the New York murders of Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila and Brooklyn leader Frank "Yale" Ioele, was probably intended as a coronation of the Mafia's new supreme arbiter, Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. (Some disagree with this view, noting that Masseria and his known associates were not among those arrested at the Statler Hotel. But, with Masseria kin living in Cleveland, his presence among the out-of-town visitors at the hotel would have been odd.)

In the summer of 1932, Sam DiCarlo was found with gathered Mafiosi from around the country in New York City. At the time, Sam was free on bail pending his appeal of a year-and-a-day federal sentence for interstate transport and possession of a stolen automobile. He was taken into custody as New York police investigated the ice pick murder of visiting Pittsburgh crime boss John Bazzano. A loose-cannon in the Mafia, Bazzano had recently ordered the killing of several Neapolitan associates, apparently as a form of ethnic cleansing in his underworld organization. Bazzano was called to New York by Mafia higher-ups to answer charges. His answer was deemed insufficient, and he was executed.

Magaddino
Sam's appeals kept him out of federal prison long enough to attend the summer 1933 wedding of his sister Sarah to Cassandro "Tony the Chief" Bonasera. A member of the Brooklyn-based Profaci (later Colombo) Crime Family, Bonasera was one of the Mafiosi rounded up following the murder of Bazzano.

Frustrated by Magaddino's increasing power and influence in western New York, Joseph DiCarlo began to search for greener pastures. In the mid-1940s, he established himself as leader of gambling operations in the City of Youngstown, Ohio. He was assisted in that role by his brother Sam, two brothers-in-law of the Pieri family and John "Peanuts" Tronolone (later Mafia boss of Cleveland). The DiCarlo brothers within a few years also involved themselves in gambling rackets in Miami Beach, Florida.

These rackets were exposed through the Kefauver Committee hearings of the early 1950s. Sam DiCarlo and John Tronolone were arrested together at a Miami Beach barbecue restaurant on New Year's Eve, 1953. They were charged with running a gambling house, gambling and bookmaking. Joseph DiCarlo was arrested a few days later.

John "Peanuts" Tronolone and Joseph DiCarlo

The U.S. Senate's McClellan Committee opened hearings into organized crime in summer of 1958. As it did so, it published the names of 135 individuals who were found to be attendees or associates of attendees of the November 1957 Apalachin meeting. Joseph and Sam DiCarlo were included on that list.

Sam DiCarlo, in his mid-fifties, seems to have made it a point to avoid public scrutiny following the McClellan Committee revelations.

The underworld career of his big brother Joseph was far from over. In the late 1960s, Joseph DiCarlo returned to Buffalo to aid and advise the Pieri faction in a revolt. Under the leadership of Sam Pieri and Joseph DiCarlo, the Mafia organization within the City of Buffalo broke away from the regional Mafia of western New York commanded from the Niagara Falls area by Stefano Magaddino. Diminished in power and influence, Magaddino died after a heart attack in 1974.

Sam DiCarlo was the longest-lived of his siblings. Sarah DiCarlo Bonasera died October 19, 1975, in Brooklyn at the age of seventy-three. After more than a decade as consigliere of the Buffalo Crime Family he helped build, Joseph DiCarlo died Oct. 11, 1980, at the age of 80.

A resident patient of the Four Freedoms Manor facility in Miami, Sam DiCarlo died at the age of eighty-two following a stroke.

Read much more about the DiCarlos, 
Magaddino and the Mafia 
of western New York in:


DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime - Vol. 1, to 1937, by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.


DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime - Vol. 2, from 1938, by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

21 March 2019

'Sally Bugs' is killed to ensure his silence

On this date in 1978...

Briguglio
A Teamsters union official, suspected of involvement in James R. Hoffa's 1975 disappearance, was murdered March 21, 1978, on Mulberry Street in Manhattan's Little Italy.

Salvatore "Sally Bugs" Briguglio was observed standing in front of the Little Italy's Andrea Doria Social Club, 165 Mulberry Street, at about eleven o'clock that night. (The Andrea Doria club was a known hangout for members and associates of the Genovese Crime Family. It sat about a block from Umberto's Clam House, the location of the 1972 murder of renegade Colombo Family Mafioso "Crazy Joe" Gallo.)

Minutes later, two men, wearing jackets with hoods pulled over their heads, approached him from behind. There are different opinions about what happened next.

Some witnesses reported that the two men spoke with Briguglio, perhaps trying to convince him to come along with them. As conversation became argument, one of the men struck Briguglio. Other witnesses saw no such thing. They stated that no words were exchanged at all; the two hooded men merely went up to Briguglio and knocked him down.

At that point, witnesses agree that the two men with hooded jackets drew handguns and started firing. Four bullets entered Briguglio's head. One struck him in the chest. 

The gunmen ran a short distance north toward Broome Street, climbed into a light blue Mercury Monarch with New Jersey plates and drove off.

Briguglio was rushed to Bellevue Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Though the killing, which occurred just outside the front windows of the popular Benito II restaurant, 163 Mulberry Street, was seen by a number of people, all witnesses told police that they could not identify or even describe the gunmen.

Provenzano
Briguglio was secretary-treasurer of Union City, New Jersey, Local 560 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He was known to be a top aide to powerful New Jersey Teamsters official Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, a Genovese Crime Family mobster. Provenzano and Hoffa once had been friendly but had a serious falling out when they served time together in prison.

Federal investigators received information that Briguglio and his brother Gabriel participated in the abduction and murder of Hoffa. Salvatore Briguglio was brought twice before a Detroit federal grand jury investigationg the Hoffa disappearance. He reportedly refused to testify, citing his right against self-incrimination.

At the time he was killed, Briguglio was awaiting trial with Provenzano, New Jersey racketeer Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg and others for the 1961 killing of a previous Local 560 secretary-treasurer, Anthony Castellito, who dared to oppose "Tony Pro." Rumors suggested that Provenzano feared Briguglio was providing information to prosecutors and had him silenced.

Briguglio and Konigsberg may have been on thin ice for some time. FBI heard that there was a Mafia death sentence against both men just months after they worked together on the killing of Castellito.

A different Provenzano associate, Salvatore Sinno, was cooperating with law enforcement and provided all the information needed for a successful prosecution. Provenzano and his codefendants were convicted of the Castellito murder just a few months after Briguglio was slain.

Sources:

  • "Tony Pro convicted of murder," Passaic NJ Herald-News, June 15, 1978, p. 9.
  • Buder, Leonard, "Federal agents hope Teamster slaying in Little Italy will offer leads in the Hoffa-disappearance case," New York Times, March 23, 1978, p. B3.
  • Casey, Dave, "Hallandale men indicted, sought in pension fraud," Fort Lauderdale FL News, Nov. 29, 1978, p. 1B.
  • Doyle, Patrick, and Joan Shepard, "A Hoffa witness is slain by 2 in Little Italy street," New York Daily News, March 22, 1978, p. 3.
  • Edmonds, Richard, "Says Tony Pro paid for a hit," New York Daily News, June 2, 1978, p. 18.
  • Gage, Nicholas, "Provenzano indicted with Teamster aide in '61 union killing," New York Times, June 24, 1976, p. 69.
  • Kramer, Marcia, and Paul Meskil, "Cops read 'contract' in killing of Hoffa suspect," New York Daily News, March 23, 1978, p. 5.
  • Linker, Norbert R., "Criminal influence in International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 560, Union City, New Jersey," FBI report, file no. CR 92-5215-22, NARA no. 124-10300-10030, Jan. 15, 1962.
  • Social Security Death Index, 141-22-0294, March 1978.

14 March 2019

Gambino chief shot, killed at his home

Low-key boss linked New York, Sicily mobs

Cali
The reputed boss of New York's Gambino Crime Family was shot to death March 13, 2019, in the street outside his Staten Island home.

Shortly after 9 p.m. emergency dispatchers received a 9-1-1 call from 25 Hilltop Terrace in the Todt Hill section. Fire department medics and police responded. They found Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, 53, had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Cali was rushed to the North Campus of Staten Island University Hospital, about a mile and a half away at Seaview and Mason Avenues. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to published accounts, no one in the generally quiet residential neighborhood saw the shooting. Several residents reported hearing a series of six or seven gunshots just after nine o'clock. One resident said those were followed by a pause and then several more shots. According to the New York Daily News, a Cali family member stated that Cali was run over by a pickup truck before he was shot. (This incorrect report was likely the result of Cali being found behind and slightly under his SUV, parked at the road.) A blue pickup truck was observed leaving the area immediately after the shooting. Police are investigating.

Cali's wife and children were home at the time of the shooting. The home - a two-story red-brick Colonial-style structure - sits close to Hilltop Terrace. It is separated from the street by a small front yard consisting of several trees, a semicircle driveway of paving stones and a patch of shrubs. (Built in 1970, the home was last purchased in 2007 for $1.225 million. Extensive renovations were done to the home and the property at that time.) The residence is reportedly held in the name of Cali's wife, Rosaria Inzerillo.

Plastic cups cover shell casings found by
police following the Cali shooting
New York Daily News photo.


'He's everything'

Long suspected of underworld involvement, Cali's importance to Mafia organizations on both sides of the Atlantic first became apparent to authorities on October 21, 2005. On that date, electronic surveillance overheard Palermo, Sicily, Mafioso Gianni Nicchi talking to his district chief Antonino Rotolo about Cali in the U.S.: "He's our friend, and he is everything over there."

Authorities found that Cali had risen quickly in the Gambino Crime Family and was then a powerful capodecina based in Brooklyn. Under the reign of the Gottis, Cali had been used as an ambassador to the Mafia in Palermo. Cali became close to the Inzerillo clan of Palermo's Passo di Rigano district and was also known to have contacts within the 'Ndrangheta criminal society of Calabria, in the south of Italy's mainland.

Cefalu
The FBI learned more about Cali's underworld career from Frank Fappiano and Michael DiLeonardo (brothers-in-law and members of the Gambino Family). DiLeonardo recalled Cali from spring 1994, when DiLeonardo had recently been appointed capodecina and Cali was just a crime family associate.

During 2006 court testimony, DiLeonardo pointed out Cali in a surveillance video: "This is Frank Cali, associate at the time. He later on gets straightened out with Jackie D'Amico." DiLeonardo explained that being "straightened out" meant being formally inducted as a Mafia member. D'Amico handled crime family operations for the Gottis following the life imprisonment of boss John J. Gotti.

Cali paid a price for his new notoriety. Early in 2008, Cali and dozens of underworld figures were arrested as a result of the federal Operation Old Bridge. Cali pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy - relating to his attempt to force payments from a trucker working at a proposed NASCAR racetrack in Staten Island. He served sixteen months in prison and was released in 2009.

After the Gotti faction was removed from power, largely through a series of successful prosecutions aided by informants, the crime family was ruled for several years by a panel of bosses. In 2011, Sicilian native Domenico Cefalu was given the title of boss. His reign marked a return to power of the crime family's Sicilian faction (and relatives of former boss Carlo Gambino, for whom the organization was named.) Cali served in an underboss role for Cefalu.

Cali
Under Cefalu and Cali, the Gambino organization made increased use of Sicilian immigrant criminals and of its relationship with the Sicilian underworld. According to law enforcement sources, the organization became a major player in international heroin trafficking and traded also in prescription narcotics, such as oxycodone. (It continued to generate income through gambling, construction and labor rackets.)

Members of the Inzerillo clan, who earlier fled a Sicilian gang war, returned to Palermo and reclaimed their rackets territory. Cali, an Inzerillo in-law (Cali's wife also is niece to Giovanni Gambino, a relative of the late Carlo Gambino), benefited both from the increased power of the Inzerillos in Palermo and the resurrection of the Sicilian faction in the Gambino Family. There were rumors of Cali taking over for the retiring Cefalu in 2013 and again in 2015.


Factional conflict?

Some in the press are speculating that the killing of Francesco Cali is the result of a new phase of an old factional struggle within the large but deeply divided Gambino Crime Family. Through its history, the crime family has changed leaders as often through murder as through peaceful transfer of power.

The underworld organization's competing factions became evident a short time after the 1928 assassination of early boss Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila. Manfredi "Al" Mineo assumed control of the crime family with the blessings of then-boss of bosses Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. The combined Masseria-Mineo strength kept the organization's sub-leaders and members in line for a time. After the 1930 murder of Mineo, however, new conservative Sicilian leadership behind Frank "Ciccio" Scalise of the Bronx took power and pulled away from Masseria.

The old-line Sicilians retained control, but changed leadership to Vincent Mangano, when the Castellammarese War against Masseria concluded a year later. Mangano ruled for two decades but had trouble with a non-Sicilian faction led by Albert Anastasia, a native of Calabria. The regime of Mangano and his brother Philip was ended in 1951. Philip was found murdered. Vincent Mangano simply disappeared. Anastasia reportedly admitted to his colleagues that he was responsible for the deaths of the Manganos but claimed self defense, as they were planning to move against him.

Anastasia became boss. The Sicilian faction champion, Carlo Gambino, served as underboss. Anastasia's murder in fall of 1957, restored the Sicilians to power. Gambino stepped in as the new top man. He quickly suppressed a rebellion led by Anastasia loyalist Armand Rava and then made Rava ally Aniello Dellacroce his underboss. Gambino groomed his brother-in-law Paul Castellano as his successor, offending the out-of-power Dellacroce faction.

A crime family civil war could have been triggered by Castellano's move into the boss role in 1976, but Dellacroce restrained his followers. (Like Francesco Cali, Castellano was a resident of Todt Hill, Staten Island.) Upon Dellacroce's death late in 1985, the Castellano opposition united behind John J. Gotti. Gotti set up the assassination of the boss in Manhattan on Dec. 16, 1985, and secured for himself the leadership of the crime family.

Cali's murder may be a sign that the Sicilians, in power through the past eight years, may once again be forced out.



Old neighborhood


While some sources point to Sicily as Cali's birthplace, it appears that Cali was born Francesco Paolo Augusto Cali in New York City on March 16, 1965. He was raised in Brooklyn.

His father Augusto, recalled as proprietor of a video store on Eighteenth Avenue in Bensonhurst, reportedly maintained a clean record. He was questioned by the FBI in 1986 as part of the Pizza Connection investigation but faced no charges.

In addition to the home at Todt Hill, Francesco Cali was also associated with the 7306 Eighteen Avenue address in Bensonhurst. That address sits in an old Sicilian neighborhood, perhaps the same one where Augusto ran his business. Currently, a large number of business signs in the area feature Asian writing. But a Sicilian presence is still evident. Three private Sicilian social clubs sit on the same block with 7306 Eighteenth Avenue: Società figli di Ragusa (No. 7308), Sciacca Social Club (no. 7316) and U.S. Vizzinese Association (no. 7320).

See:

Sources:

  • "25 Hilltop Ter," Zillow, zillow.com.
  • "25 Hilltop Terrace," Realtor.com.
  • "Francesco Cali, a man with reported mob ties, shot and killed in New York City," USA Today, usatoday.com, March 14, 2019.
  • "Reputed Gambino crime boss Frank Cali shot dead in front of Staten Island home," CBS-2 New York, newyork.cbslocal.com, March 13, 2019. 
  • Bolzoni, Attilio, "Franky Boy, the invisible boss who wanted to have Palermo back," Rome La Repubblica, repubblica.it.
  • Burke, Kerry, and John Annese with Rocco Parascandola, "Gambino Crime Family boss Frank Cali shot and killed outside Staten Island home: sources," New York Daily News, nydailynews.com, March 13, 2019.
  • Celona, Larry, and Ben Feuerherd, "Gambino crime family boss Frank Cali shot dead outside Staten Island home," New York Post, nypost.com, March 13, 2019.
  • Celona, Larry, and Bruce Golding, "Gene Gotti's release from prison has mob on edge," New York Post, nypost.com, Sept. 17, 2018.
  • Cornell, Irene, "Report: Gambino Crime Family picks Domenico Cefalu as new boss," CBS-2 New York, newyork.cbslocal.com, July 29, 2011.
  • Dienst, Jonathan, Marc Santia and Michael George, "Gambino Crime Family leader shot dead outside home: sources," NBC-4 New York, nbcnewyork.com, March 13, 2019.
  • Egan-Chin, Debbie, "Frank Cali, 2008," New York Daily News, nydailynews.com.
  • Michael DiLeonardo Testimony, United States v. John A. Gotti, Jr., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Feb. 22, 2006, mafiahistory.us.
  • Murphy, Mary, "Gambino Crime Family boss fatally shot at Staten Island home," WPIX-11, pix11.com, March 13, 2019.
  • Weiss, Murray, "Mob pick for Gambino godfather turns down the job," DNAinfo New York, dnainfo.com, July 18, 2013.
  • Winston, Ali, Nate Schweber, Jacey Fortin and Liam Stack, "Man said to be Gambino boss is killed on Staten Island," New York Times, nytimes.com, March 14, 2019, p. 22. 

04 March 2019

Death chair takes Lepke, two aides

On this date in 1944...


Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, longtime New York City racketeer and reputed overseer of the underworld's Murder, Inc., enforcement arm, was electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison, March 4, 1944, along with two underlings.

Buchalter
Buchalter, Emanuel "Mendy" Weiss and Louis Capone were sentenced to death following their 1941 New York State conviction for the September 1936 murder of Joseph Rosen. Rosen was a former trucking contractor forced out of business by Buchalter-led rackets. At the time of his murder, Rosen, then proprietor of a candy store at 725 Sutter Avenue in Brooklyn, was reportedly threatening to assist Manhattan Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey in his investigation of rackets in the trucking industry.

Buchalter, believed to have ordered as many as eighty murders in his underworld career, insisted that he was completely innocent of the killing of Rosen. Weiss and Capone claimed that they had been framed. While their legal appeals of the state verdict were unsuccessful, some reviewing judges noted weakness in the state's evidence against the trio.

48 hours earlier

The executions of Buchalter, Weiss and Capone had been delayed repeatedly by legal maneuvers and by government stays. The most recent postponement occurred within an hour and a half of their scheduled appointment with the prison Death Chamber.

Weiss
At 9:35 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, Governor Thomas Dewey (Dewey won election to Manhattan district attorney in 1937 and to governor in 1942) ordered a forty-eight-hour stay in response to a last-ditch Buchalter appeal to federal courts. Buchalter's attorney argued that U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle improperly released Buchalter from federal prison, where he was serving a fourteen-year sentence for narcotics violations, to New York State authorities.

Dewey telephoned Sing Sing Warden William E. Snyder, who sent word of the postponement to the Death House prisoners through prison chaplain Father Bernard Martin. It was the sixth time their date of execution was moved. But it was the closest the prisoners had come to the electric chair. They accepted the news without visible emotion.

Capone
Buchalter, Weiss and Capone had already said their goodbyes to family members in the large pre-execution space known by inmates as "the dancehall." They had been clothed in the black pants and white shirts known as "death suits," and spots had been shaved on their heads to allow a clean connection to an electrode carrying a fatal dose of electrical current.

They already had eaten their "last meals": steak, french fried potatoes, lettuce and tomato salad, rolls, pie and coffee for lunch; roast chicken, mashed potatoes, lettuce and tomato salad, rolls and coffee for supper. (The selections were reportedly made by Buchalter, and Weiss and Capone ordered the same.)

Some newspapers reported that Dewey ordered the stay because Buchalter decided to cooperate. They wondered about the number of crimes that information from the longtime rackets boss could solve and the number of his old underworld associates that could be brought to justice.

March 4

Federal district and appeals courts were unwilling to involve themselves in the case. At one o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected without comment the Buchalter appeal.

The prisoners were already reliving the execution preparations when the final bit of bad news arrived.

They met with family in the same "dancehall" to say the same goodbyes. Buchalter spent the day with his wife Beatrice "Betty" and their son Harold. During the visit, Beatrice reportedly urged Buchalter to try to save himself by sending for U.S. Attorney James McNally and offering his cooperation. Her husband refused, saying, "The best I could get would be a delay of six or eight months or a year. If that's the way it's going to be, I'd rather go tonight."

Noting the press speculation following the March 2 stay of execution, Buchalter dictated a statement to his wife, who transcribed it on a piece of notepaper.

Superstition may have forced the selections for the prisoners' repeat "last meals." They ordered the same food they had eaten before the execution postponement on March 2.

Several things were different on the evening of March 4, however: Family members were permitted to stay about a half-hour past the usual parting time of nine o'clock; Buchalter was permitted to wear a pair of gray pants instead of the usual black; and there was no telephone call from the governor.

Beatrice Buchalter meets with reporters.

After leaving the prison, Beatrice Buchalter met with members of the press at a nearby restaurant and read her husband's statement:

I insist that I am not guilty of the Rosen murder, that the witnesses against me lied and that I did not receive a fair trial. Four out of seven judges in the Court of Appeals said that Weiss, Capone and I were not guilty. Judge [Harlan W.] Rippey said we were not given even a remote outside chance of any fair consideration of our defense by the jury and that the evidence wasn't enough to submit to a jury.
The one and only thing that I have asked for is to have a commission appointed to examine the facts in the Rosen case. If that examination does not show I am not guilty, I am willing to go to the chair regardless of what information I have given or can give.

Last moments

At eleven o'clock, Louis Capone, forty-seven, followed Father Martin into the Death Chamber. Twenty-four witnesses observed from a gallery.

Newspapers reported that Capone was selected to go to his death first because he was the weakest - emotionally and physically (he had recent heart problems) - of the three. He said nothing when he was strapped into the chair and the electrodes were attached to his body. His lips could be seen moving in silent prayer, as a helmet with a large electrode inside of it and a face-concealing mask on its front was placed on his head.


Executioner Joseph Francel was at the chair controls. At two minutes after eleven, he administered the first brain-killing shock. He followed it with several more jolts of current to burn the life out of Capone's organs. Three minutes later, a guard pulled open Capone's shirt, so Dr. Charles C. Sweet could check for life signs. "This man is dead," Sweet announced.

Capone's remains were removed from the chair, placed on a cart and wheeled next door to the autopsy room.

A minute later, Emanuel Weiss, thirty-seven, strode quickly into the Death Chamber with Rabbi Jacob Katz by his side. Weiss indicated to Principal Keeper Thomas J. Keeley that he wished to make a statement.

Weiss looked to the gallery and said, "I'm here on a framed case. I'm innocent and God and Gov. Dewey know it. I want to thank Judge Lehman [Appeals Court Judge Irving Lehman]. Give my love to my family and everyone. And - I'm innocent.

Weiss's turn in the chair began at seven minutes after eleven. His lifeless remains were removed from it four minutes later.

Buchalter's remains are
driven out of Sing Sing
Rabbi Katz stepped from the Death Chamber to join Buchalter and escort him in. As Buchalter, forty-seven, walked confidently and silently into the chamber, journalists struggled to find some sign of emotion in the racketeer's movements or expressions.

One reporter said he saw a lip quiver. Another noticed some redness and perspiration on Buchalter's face. A wire service reporter suggested that the prisoner was "so dazed that his attitude could have been interpreted as indifference" and then found a guard to support that view with the comment, "The other two were frightened, but Lepke was paralyzed."

Gilbert Millstein of the New York Daily News observed that Buchalter was not only calm but cooperative. He placed his own arms into position to be fastened to the chair, and he leaned his head forward into the death-delivering helmet.

Executioner Francel delivered the first shock into Buchalter at thirteen minutes past eleven. The fourth shock was completed three minutes later. "Lepke" Buchalter was dead.

Burials

Buchalter's family assembled for a brief service at Park West Memorial Chapel, 115 West Seventy-ninth Street in Manhattan, on Sunday, March 5. Prayers were chanted by Rabbi Morris Goldberg. Buchalter's remains, in a plain oaken casket, were buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, next to the gravesite of his mother.

Buchalter's burial
At almost the same moment, about fifty friends and family attended a ceremony for Weiss at the Midtown Funeral Home, 171 West Eighty-fifth Street in Manhattan. Rabbi Aaron Liss led those services. Weiss's widow Sophia, his mother and his four brothers attended. Weiss was also buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery, a short walk from the Buchalter gravesite.

On Thursday, March 9, the remains of Louis Capone were taken in an inexpensive metal casket from Andrew Torregrossa's funeral home, 1305 Seventy-ninth Street in Brooklyn, to the Church of Our Lady of Solace on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island. His funeral, in the neighborhood where he was a longtime resident, drew a far larger crowd than seen at the Buchalter and Weiss services.

After a brief Mass celebrated by Father Francis A. Froelich, a procession of forty cars of mourners and five cars of flowers wended through Brooklyn streets to Holy Cross Cemetery in Flatbush. With his widow Sophie, three children and two brothers at graveside, Capone was interred in the cemetery's St. Charles section.

Sources:

  • "Buchalter dies in electric chair," Burlington VT Free Press, March 6, 1944, p. 1.
  • "Crowds attend funeral of Lepke pal Capone," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 9, 1944, p. 3.
  • "Lepke denied deal, admitted 'talking,'" New York Daily News, March 5, 1944, p. 3.
  • "Lepke dies in chair," Poughkeepsie Sunday New Yorker, March 5, 1944, p. 1.
  • Feinberg, Alexander, "Lepke is put to death, denies guilt to last; makes no revelation," New York Times, March 5, 1944, p. 1.
  • Hailey, Foster, "Lepke a gang leader who liked his privacy," New York Times, Aug. 13, 1939, p. 61.
  • Millstein, Gilbert, "Lepke and 2 pals die in chair; mobster chief calm, last to go," New York Daily News, March 5, 1944, p. 3.
  • Millstein, Gilbert, "Louis (Lepke) Buchalter: His life and crimes," New York Daily News, March 3, 1944, p. 14.
  • O'Brien, Michael, and Gilbert Millstein, "Gangland shuns Capone funeral," New York Daily News, March 10, 1944, p. M20.
  • Smith, Art, "Dewey orders 48-hour delay in execution of Lepke, 2 pals," New York Daily News, March 3, 1944, p. 3.
  • Smith, Art, "Bury Lepke with only kin at bier," New York Daily News, March 6, 1944, p. 2.