By J. R. de Szigethy
In recent years, Americans have become aware of cases nationwide in which innocent people have been framed for crimes they did not commit. In some cases, the frame-up occurs on the part of the Prosecutor, who commits various crimes and improper conduct that fall under the umbrella term “Prosecutorial Misconduct.” One such case was that of three young Duke University students who were framed on charges of raping a young woman. Only because the case received national attention from the Media was “an investigation of the investigation” performed which proved that the Prosecutor in that case, Mike Nifong, had illegally withheld “Exculpatory Evidence” which proved their innocence. Nifong was convicted and Disbarred for his illegal actions and the woman who falsely accused the men of rape now faces murder charges in an unrelated case.
In other cases, a person is framed by actions unbeknownst to the Prosecutor, usually by corrupt cops, FBI agents, or FBI Informants. Horrific examples of this have also made headlines nationwide in recent years, which includes several sensational cases where a person has been framed for murder. Cases have also emerged where a person has been wrongly accused by a combination of corrupt investigators as well as corrupt Prosecutors.
This story is about three men falsely identified as criminals within the space of a few weeks in New York City in 1993. Several journalists have already written about the case of Thomas R. Stevens, a local political leader, who was falsely accused of trying to hire a Mafia hitman to murder a political rival. The same applies regarding the case of NYPD Detective Joe Simone, who was falsely accused of selling classified information to the Colombo Mafia Family. In both cases, the frame-up failed; Stevens was arrested by the Feds in Manhattan, but his case was thrown out before going to trial; Detective Simone was arrested by the Feds in Brooklyn, and he was Acquitted after a trial.
What has never been reported before, however, is that of a third case, in which a Manhattan resident was framed as a suspect in a gruesome murder case. This reporter was involved in all three cases, and now, at long last, I will tell my own personal account of how these three men were falsely accused, how they fought back, and how the attempts to frame them ultimately backfired, albeit with far-ranging consequences.
PART ONE: THE PHONE CALL
In early November, 1993, I received a phone call that would change my life, and that of several others. The call was from a middle-aged woman named Janet Sumner. At that time I wrote a Society Column for CAB Magazine, a small periodical which focused on New York’s Cabaret and nightlife scene, and that was how I made acquaintance with Janet, who frequented Cabaret bars in Manhattan. Janet’s phone call was to invite me to an exhibition of Art created by New York City Police Officers to be unveiled at a private club she was a member of. I instantly saw the potential for such a “fish-out-of-water” story; art produced by members of a professional not normally associated with being artistic. I eagerly accepted Janet’s invitation to be her guest at the Salmagundi Art Club, which for many decades had promoted art and artists at their headquarters in an historic Townhouse on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
Janet then segued into an invitation of a very different nature; a close friend of hers, she told me, had been murdered recently, a man who was a regular at a Cabaret bar called the Five Oaks in Greenwich Village. Her friend, Michael Sakara, had spent an evening at the bar drinking with an unknown man, with whom he departed at closing time. Two days later Sakara’s dismembered body was found in upstate New York. According to Janet, men who patronized Cabaret bars were periodically disappearing with their mutilated remains later discovered in various places. A serial killer was on the loose in Manhattan. Janet suggested that since my job at CAB Magazine took me to numerous bars most nights of the week that I utilize that unique opportunity to ask around town the various patrons of such places to see if any clues could be gathered as to the identity of the killer. I immediately agreed to help Janet, telling her that a murder investigation was far more interesting than my usual reporting of ‘who said and did what - where - and with whom’ that was the gist of my Column. Thus began my journey on a road I had never aspired to take, that of a crime reporter.
On Monday, November 22nd, 1993, I arrived at the Salmagundi Club to attend the opening of the “New York’s Finest Art Show.” Janet introduced me to the President of the Club, Bob Volpe, a retired Detective who had attained some fame as the “Art Cop," investigating the thefts of major works of art worldwide. Bob said he would grant me an interview as long as I did not refer to him as a “Hero Cop” in my story, which he said was a term that should only be applied to those cops who had died in the line of duty, some of whom he had known. With those few words I knew I had just met a man of exceptional decency and Integrity. I agreed to Bob’s conditions and Bob showed me around the Club. Among those Bob introduced me to was Roy Innis, the Director of the Congress of Racial Equality. This civil rights organization is perhaps best known for the fact that three of it’s members were murdered by Racists in Mississippi during a voter registration drive back in 1964. “Mississippi Burning” was the motion picture that told this story.
Bob also introduced me to a NYPD Sketch Artist whose many works of art were among those being honored that evening. In today’s post- 9/11 world, security cameras are just about everywhere in New York, and whenever a crime is committed, most often video of the perpetrators are captured by such devices. Back in 1993, however, few such cameras were in place, and thus the Sketch Artist was a valuable asset - someone who could sit down with a witness to a crime and coax from their memory the components of the perp’s face that would result in a sketch which would become a tool for law enforcement. Bob also introduced me to numerous other Police Officers in attendance, including his son Justin, a brooding and quiet young man who rarely spoke to anyone during the evening. It’s interesting how sometimes someone will reveal very personal information to someone they’ve just met, and that is what Bob offered up to me. As we walked away from Justin, Bob confided that he didn’t want Justin to become a cop, because so many bad things can happen to police officers, which I took as a reference to the cops Bob knew who had been killed on the job. Justin, Bob said, had insisted over his objections of following in his chosen profession.
Justin had some pretty big shoes to fill. During his career Bob had single-handedly rewritten the book on what sort of person could become a cop. Bob was basically a “Hippie Artist” and Biker with long hair who had the audacity back in the 1970s to become a cop - on his terms. Such people simply did not dare apply to police departments for consideration in those days, and Bob Volpe had to fight for acceptance in a profession that did not welcome him. Yet despite his “alternative lifestyle,” Bob Volpe, who began his career as one of the most hated members of the NYPD, ended his career as something of a legend. Volpe’s example helped open the door for Blacks and Hispanics as well as women to become Police Officers. It was no accident that there were several female cops in attendance at Bob’s event that night. Bob’s wife Grace was also an accomplished artist, a devoutly religious woman who was renown for her renderings of important figures in the history of Christianity. Bob and Grace were simply the most decent people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. The story I published in CAB Magazine on Bob was the first I had ever written dealing with police officers. I could never have imagined that the son of such parents would become one of the most infamous criminals in the history of American law enforcement, and that I myself would become the chronicler of that story.
PART TWO: THE TRIAL OF TOM STEVENS
Simultaneous with my interest in crime reporting came the arrest of an associate of mine, Tom Stevens, on a Federal murder-for-hire charge. I had met Tom, the leader of a local Young Republican club, through our mutual friend, Baird Jones, a legendary party promoter for nightclubs and art galleries. Tom was a ‘mover and shaker’ on the political scene, someone who seemed to know just about everybody in New York, and was frequently quoted in the Media, and also appeared on several television programs aired nationwide. However, the outspoken Tom Stevens was making some enemies as well back in 1993. Tom was a “Liberal Republican,” a political creature that could only - at that time - exist in the State of New York, harking upon a legacy of such individuals dating back to Teddy Roosevelt and Mayor John Lindsay. Among Tom’s agenda was the inclusion of gay men and women in the Republican Party, and Tom would frequently invite to Club meetings his friend Quentin Crisp, an early champion of gay rights who was a renown wit and social critic, best known for his book and movie “The Naked Civil Servant.” People such as Quentin, despite his unique British charm, did not sit well with some of the more Conservative members of the local Republican Party. Tom had also, in the Spring of 1993, gained other enemies when he spoke out critically against Billionaire Presidential candidate Ross Perot during an interview with Ted Koppel on NIGHTLINE.
Thus, some of Stevens’ enemies then sought to bring him down. One such effort was through a “smear campaign” which consisted of various false allegations of impropriety on his part. Then, one day in mid-1993 Tom was approached by a man whose initial conversation sounded like the plot of a very bad B Movie. The man said his name was “Louie,” and that he was sympathetic towards Tom in regards to the false stories being spread about him. “Louie” then proceeded by making to Stevens an offer he hoped he would not refuse; Louie breathlessly revealed to Tom that he was a hitman for the Luchese Mafia Family, and that he had Mafia drug money he needed to launder. A perfect vehicle in which to do this, which law enforcement would never suspect, Louie proffered, would be for Stevens to launder his drug money through the bank accounts of the Republican Club Stevens headed. In exchange, Louie said that he would murder one of the Republican insurgents involved in the “dirty tricks” campaign to bring him down. Stevens did not believe that “Louie” was a Mafia hitman, but was rather one of those rogue Republicans at war with him. Thus, Stevens played along with Louie, unaware that he was in fact an FBI Informant, tape recording their conversation.
The FBI had, 10 years earlier, pulled off a scam that was identical to this one. The year was 1983, and Edwin Wilson, a former member of the Intelligence community, was being held by the Federal authorities in Manhattan, awaiting extradition to Houston, where he faced charges of selling C-4 plastic explosives to a foreign government. Wilson met a fellow inmate who called himself “Tony DeAngelo,” who claimed to be a Mafia hitman. “Tony” was in fact an FBI Agent, Lyndley De Vecchio, who was able to successfully impersonate a Mafia hitman because he knew one very well; Greg Scarpa, a hitman for the Colombo Mafia Family whom De Vecchio ran as a secret FBI Informant. It was agreed that Tony would murder several people Wilson wanted killed, and Wilson then arranged for his son to make a substantial cash down payment toward’s these murders. All of this was caught on tape. (1) Thus, not only was Ed Wilson convicted on the arms smuggling charge in Houston Federal Court, he was also convicted of murder solicitation in Manhattan Federal Court. Wilson spent 25 years in prison before he was released because of alleged Prosecutorial Misconduct in his Houston arms trafficking trial.
There were two very big differences between these two cases, however. First, in the Stevens case, no money exchanged hands between Stevens and “Louie,” nor did the FBI even attempt to send Louie back to Stevens to offer him the money to be laundered. Also, there was not the right kind of evidence for the FBI to take the case to the U. S. Attorney’s Office, the same office that had previously prosecuted the Wilson murder solicitation case. Murder for hire is usually prosecuted in State Court; in the Wilson case, his intended targets for murder included Federal authorities; in the Stevens case, the alleged target was not. That “problem” was solved when Stevens was asked to call an associate’s Beeper number one night, with the promise that the person he would speak to would have information about those involved in the smear campaign against him. What Tom did not know was that the Beeper in question was located across the Hudson River in the State of New Jersey, and thus, Tom had allegedly used an Interstate telephonic device in the furtherance of an alleged conspiracy to commit murder for hire. This is a Federal crime, and thus, Tom Stevens was arrested in early October, 1993, NOT by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, but by the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
This strange story should have had all the makings for a “Media Circus.” In those days, the Media nationwide was at the height of an unprecedented interest in what is termed “tabloid journalism.” In New York, the two major tabloids, the Post and Daily News, were in fierce competition for such stories. At the entrance to their office, the Post proudly displayed their iconic example of the genre - a framed copy of their front-page headline of a gruesome murder case: “Headless Body in Topless Bar!” On television, this genre was explored on three top-rated programs, HARD COPY, A CURRENT AFFAIR, and INSIDE EDITION. Thus, at that time there was a huge audience in place for the sort of story that was revealed at Steven’s arraignment; the Prosecutors claiming a Young Republican tried to hire a Mafia hitman to murder a rival Young Republican, the Defendant claiming he had been framed, and the Judge, Naomi Reice Buchwald remarking: “It sounds like West Side Story!” (2)
Despite the obvious “entertainment value” of this case, the story of the arrest of Tom Stevens went virtually ignored by the Media. It was at this point that I was personally dragged into this case by two men who would later admit on tape to being FBI Informants, admissions later substantiated. Both men were close associates of the party promoter Baird Jones, and were fixtures at his events. When I first reported on this case 13 years ago, I revealed that one of these two was Jerry Surace, whose profession was selling caskets to funeral parlors; his partner I only referred to as “Jay,” in part because the job he held then for the FBI is currently held by others, and it’s a job that provides vital information that the FBI needs. Once Stevens was arrested, Jerry and Jay began to invite me out for drinks, which they paid for, and after a few such drinks they would urge me to testify against Tom Stevens. I did not know Tom that well, nor did I know the man he allegedly wanted murdered, nor the man who impersonated a Mafia hitman. Surace put me into contact with the Prosecutor in the case, but he said he couldn’t use me, because I had nothing to say relevant to his case.
At that point, Jerry and Jay enacted a role-playing scheme which I would later learn is called “Good Cop, Bad Cop,” with Surace the “Bad Cop.” This is actually a legitimate, effective law enforcement technique; the “Bad Cop” acts out aggression and hostility, sometimes including violence, towards the targeted individual, whereas the “Good Cop” is sympathetic towards the target. One consequence is that the targeted individual often forms a “bond” with the “Good Cop,” and will reveal things to them that they never would to the “Bad Cop.” But this bonding sometimes works both ways; in some cases, the “Good Cop” actually empathizes with the target, especially if the target is being treated badly, unfairly, and being falsely accused. Also, if the “Good Cop” detests the “Bad Cop,” this effect is intensified. Jay, who played the “Good Cop,” was not happy having been paired with Surace, and expressed such to me privately on several occasions. Critics could argue that Jay was just following the scenario as it was meant to be played out. Others might find it hard to believe that time and resources would be devoted - in this case wasted - in an exercise in futility, the ultimate goal being procuring “evidence” and testimony necessary to convict Tom Stevens of a crime. Other similar cases will be explored later in this narrative which shows that the Feds will expend any available resources in order to obtain a conviction of a targeted individual, regardless whether they are guilty or innocent.
The net result in this was that while I had no such “information” to impart to Jerry and Jay, they wound up revealing information to me. Only years later, after much research, would I better understand why each of them would be privy to such information, each respective to their own specific jobs at the time. These two Informants also engaged in an exercise I called the “Fishing Expedition.” Once the three of us had consumed several drinks, the two would engage in what sounded like rehearsed dialogues, often repeating themselves, in which they would bandy about the names of various people, most of whom I had never heard of, and gage my reaction. Some of the names of those men I would later find out were involved with the Colombo Mafia Family, so I suppose they were trying to suggest that Stevens was somehow involved with actual Mafia members, and thus he was comfortable in his hiring of a man whom he thought was a Mafia hitman.
As it would later turn out, the “Mafia hitman” Stevens had allegedly tried to hire was actually, like Jay, a former New York City Police Officer, with the “hitman” forced out of the NYPD for allegedly fabricating evidence and Jay leaving for reasons he never fully explained. It is not uncommon for the FBI to recruit as Informants those who have a background in the legal or law enforcement professions. In addition to speaking about members of the Colombo Family, Jay also spoke on occasion about a cop named Joe Simone who was involved somehow with the Colombos. At the time, most of this went right over my head; I had been raised in a part of the country in which organized crime did not exist.
As the date of the Stevens trial was approaching, Jerry and Jay then stepped up their pressure on me, demanding that I fabricate allegations against Stevens. I would later learn from the Joe Simone case and others that such fabricated testimony - so common it has a name in law enforcement circles, - “Testi-Lying,” - occurs frequently in Court cases, usually by Police Officers or FBI Agents, even though it’s a serious crime called Perjury. As the threats from these two Informants escalated, I resorted to something my work as a Columnist required me to do at times when interviewing someone; I began to tape record the threats of these two men. At one point I finally told the 2 Informants that I had taped recorded their threats and would make them public. Thus, just days before Jury Selection was to begin in the Stevens’ trial, I sent copies of the tapes to Tom Stevens, who turned them over to his attorney. That same day, I got a message on my answering machine from the Prosecutor in the case, who stated: "Uhmm, I understand there’s some sort of problem, and that if you have any tapes, you should turn them over to our investigator!" I then turned over the same copies of the tapes to the U. S. Attorney’s Office, and the Feds then asked for an Adjournment of the trial.
The tapes I turned over only related to the threats made against me by the two Informants in regards to the Tom Stevens case. There were many other tapes as well, and among those were tapes which revealed the following:
*Jerry and Jay held volunteer positions, providing security services for the 1993 Giuliani for Mayor campaign.
*Surace provided to the FBI the names and personal information about volunteers for the Giuliani campaign.
At that time, there were literally hundreds of people throughout the city working as volunteers to help elect Giuliani as Mayor. Nothing these two men said on the tapes indicated that they had ever met Giuliani, nor that he would be aware of their actions. Statements by two of Giuliani’s closest aides, which appeared in a subsequent Village Voice article about a similar FBI Informant, who provided to the FBI identical information regarding Giuliani’s prior Mayoral campaign in 1989, also suggested that that Informant’s actions were not known by Giuliani. More regarding that report appears later in this narrative.
In addition, the two men on my tapes never made mention of the man who headed Giuliani’s personal Security detail at that time, Police Officer Bernard Kerik. Speculation about the Stevens’ case resurfaced years later when Kerik, facing Federal charges of which he was later convicted, hired as his lawyer Barry Berke, the same attorney who Defended Stevens in his case. This reporter, unlike some, sees nothing nefarious regarding this.
I had thought, after I turned over my tapes, that the case against Stevens would be quickly dismissed. This didn’t happen. For weeks the case was in limbo. Finally, I contacted my counterpart at the New York Post, columnist Neal Travis. On April 20, 1994, Travis ran the story, "Nobody’s Talking About GOP Slay," in which he detailed the problems about this case. Neal also noted that it was very strange that this case received so little publicity. The very next day, Mary Jo White, the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, signed the papers that dropped the prosecution of Tom Stevens for the crime of murder solicitation. Still, the matter had to be brought before the Judge, who threw out the case "With Prejudice," stating that there was evidence he had been framed.
For my part, I was in shock; I had grown up in the 1960s the fan of a crime program, “THE FBI,” during which each week Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. detailed the heroic efforts of the men of the Bureau who risked their lives to protect America from the bad guys. While I deeply admired these men, I had never aspired to be one of them. But then, I never aspired to be a Whistleblower. I didn’t even know what that was back in the 1960s. All I knew was that there was something very wrong with the FBI in New York, but was it just an aberration or a symptom of a larger problem? I set out to find the answer to this question.
PART THREE: THE TRIAL OF JOE SIMONE
Once the charges against Tom Stevens were dropped, I decided to find the cop Jay had discussed, Joe Simone, who had been arrested by the FBI for something Mafia related. I didn’t want to contact his lawyer because I’ve never liked lawyers, so one night in 1994, I knocked on the door of Simone’s modest house over on Staten Island. I told Simone I was from Manhattan and had a friend falsely arrested by the FBI and that I was convinced there was some connection between that case and his, but I did not know what that was. Simone had years of experience dealing with criminals of the worst kind; drug dealers, murderers, and loan sharks, and his gut instinct told him I was nothing of the sort. So Detective Simone agreed to talk with me, but not in his home. Simone took me - of all places for a cop to go to - a local donut shop. First, I told him about what happened to me in the Stevens case. He had not heard of this, as it received little publicity, like his own, but my tale of FBI misconduct had the ring of truth. Then Detective Simone told me his story. He had been part of an elite group of NYPD Detectives, Federal Prosecutors, and FBI Agents on the Organized Crime Task Force, which targeted the 5 Mafia families of New York. Just days before his scheduled retirement, however, Simone had been arrested by the FBI, accused of selling confidential information to the Colombo Family.
The Task Force had spent the past several years investigating a “Mob War” which had raged within the Colombo Family. The war’s origin can be traced back to when Rudy Giuliani was U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and had prosecuted “The Commission Trial,” which targeted the Godfathers of the Mafia families that controlled at that time a huge market share of organized crime in New York. Among those convicted was Carmine “The Snake” Persico, the Godfather of the Colombo Family. With Carmine in prison for Life, his son Alphonse was designated to rule in his place. However, the Family soon split into two factions, those loyal to “Allie Boy” and those loyal to his rival Vic Orena. The two factions began to kill each other, with the final tally being at least 12 dead, including one innocent bystander. These murders must have made the newspapers at that time, but I did not notice. Also, in those days, the Media was focused on John Gotti and his Gambino Family, as well as Vinnie “Chin” Gigante, the Genovese Family Godfather, who would wander the streets of Little Italy in his bathrobe, mumbling to himself. Despite the murders in the Colombo War, Gotti and Gigante pretty much eclipsed the other Mob families in terms of Media coverage.
Thus, the world that Joe Simone had spent his long career investigating was completely foreign to me. But Joe Simone was also innocent of a lot that was going on in the Task Force. Neither Simone nor myself knew anything about the scandal that was about to emerge in Brooklyn Federal Court, a scandal only known to a very few people in the FBI and the Justice Department. Over a decade later, a Judge would issue a ruling that the arrest of Simone was part of a deliberate attempt to cover-up of the scandal that was to emerge, a scandal that would reveal serious crimes committed by employees of the FBI. The scandal would mirror a parallel scandal in the Boston office of the FBI which was also about to emerge, also involving crimes committed by employees of the FBI.
But on that dark night back in 1994, all Detective Simone knew was that he had been framed by an FBI Informant. “I never saw it coming!” he said. In parting, Detective Simone suggested that I speak to his lawyer, John Patten, which I reluctantly agreed to. Patten actually turned out to be something I did not believe existed; an honest lawyer. It would turn out that John Patten was one of the best lawyers in the country, and as such, he could have earned a fortune defending the rich and infamous. In the American criminal Justice system, I would soon learn, a certain career pattern was in place; first a person would get a law degree, preferably from a distinguished University. From there, the goal would be to get a first job as an assistant Prosecutor, and hope that you would be assigned to high-profile cases in which one could make a name for themselves. This meant Prosecuting the very worst of the worst, murderers, drug dealers, the younger - or more elderly - and more innocent their victims, the better. Then, having attained such notoriety and having learned the “rules” of the “Law Game,” these same Prosecutors then go into private practice, where they make a fortune defending the very sort of degenerate criminals that they themselves sent to prison as Prosecutors. Such ‘criminal lawyers’ make their professional cousins the ‘ambulance chasers’ look good by comparison. This game was not for John Patten. Patten only took clients who were innocent, which meant he didn’t take many Defendants, because most people who are Indicted are in fact guilty of something. But not all of them, and at the end of the day, Patten could look at himself in the mirror and not be ashamed. If ever there was a real-life version of “Atticus,” the inspirational hero of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” John Patten was that man.
As I revealed to John Patten what I had been through in the Tom Stevens case, Patten believed - and understood - every word I told him about what had happened. He said he had seen the same sort of conduct - and worse - before, and sadly, the Simone case would be very similar. All that I had to offer was not actionable, but Patten said that I could offer his client moral support, which he welcomed.
Just as the Simone case was slated to begin, in the Summer of 1994, the Feds asked for a postponement. Coincidentally, the first of many of the secrets of the Organized Crime Task Force began to be made public. In June, 1994, the New York Daily News revealed a stunning secret; J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI had hired a Mafia hitman, Greg Scarpa of the Colombo Family, back in the 1960s. Scarpa had been involved in one of the most infamous criminal cases in our nation’s history, when three civil rights workers for the Congress for Racial Equality were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. FBI Director Hoover had the young and vigorous Scarpa flown to Mississippi where Scarpa placed the barrel of an FBI Agent’s revolver into the mouth of a KKK member and threatened to blow his brains out unless he revealed the location of the bodies of the three missing men. The Klansman complied with Scarpa’s death threat, and the bodies were recovered.(3) Hoover, I would conclude later from my own investigation, was a Racist who could not have cared less about the 3 civil rights workers, and only took this extraordinary effort to solve the case in order to get the President and the Attorney General off his back.
The trial of Detective Simone finally began in the Fall of 1994. The star Prosecution Witness in Simone’s trial was “Big Sal” Miciotta, recruited as an FBI Informant in early 1993. Miciotta had confessed to his role in the murders of 5 people, including a retired Nun, Veronica Zuraw, who was killed in 1982 in the crossfire by Miciotta and his accomplice as they sought the public executions of Joseph Peraino and his son. The Perainos were ordered murdered as the Colombo Family fought over the enormous profits the Perainos had made from the porn film “Deep Throat” they had produced and distributed. Miciotta told the FBI that his shotgun blast killed Peraino Sr. while his accomplice Vincent Angelino’s shot missed the son and instead blasted through a house and killed the Nun. Angelino wasn’t around to dispute Miciotta’s blaming the murder of the Nun on him, having been previously murdered himself by Carmine Sessa. (4)
Miciotta’s “flipping” as a co-operating “Witness” came about because Task Force members were already certain that someone on the Task Force was leaking confidential information to someone in the Colombo Family, the likely consequence being some of the murders committed in the war. Thus, those FBI Agents involved with Miciotta were very receptive to Miciotta telling them what they already were anxious to hear; that he knew who that person was. Big Sal claimed that information from the Task Force made it’s way from Detective Simone to a friend of Simone’s who, like himself, coached a local sports program on which sons for both men participated. The fellow coach was the nephew of Armando “Chips” DeCostanza, a member of Miciotta’s crew.
What happened next defied both logic and procedure as defined by past practice. The Task Force Agents devised a plan where Miciotta would show up unannounced at the coach’s home when Simone was visiting, offer Simone a bribe, and capture the transaction on tape. However, instead of equipping Miciotta with a ‘Body Mike,’ or wire, the FBI sent Big Sal into the home equipped with a small tape recorder. Miciotta arrived first, and while awaiting the arrival of Simone, DeCostanza told Miciotta that Simone had refused a previous bribe attempt, and thus would not take the money Miciotta had planned to offer him. Believing the member of his crew, Miciotta then turned off the tape recorder, in violation of the instructions of the FBI agents handling him. Simone then showed up, and was surprised to find Miciotta there. Miciotta later claimed Simone took his money anyway, but could not prove it as he had chosen not to record what took place when Simone entered the room.
Did the FBI believe Big Sal’s claim that Simone took the money? It they did, logic would suggest that if Simone would take one bribe he would take another, and to conclusively prove Simone’s guilt all that would be necessary was for Miciotta to go back to Simone and offer another bribe, but this time wearing a transmitter that would not allow Big Sal the option of stopping the recording of their conversations. There was a big problem with this scenario, however; the FBI hoped to use Big Sal as a key prosecution witness in upcoming trials related to the Colombo Family War. If, on a second bribery attempt the tape showed Big Sal had lied about the first incident he had refused to record, then the Feds would lose the Simone case AND an important Witness in the other trials as well. The FBI chose not to take such a risk; just as the FBI did not send “Louie the Hitman” back to offer money to Tom Stevens, neither did the FBI send Miciotta back to document an exchange of money between himself and Simone.
What the FBI did instead was to go to Simone’s home before dawn on the morning of December 8, 1993, and take him to the FBI headquarters in Manhattan. For nearly 3 hours Simone answered their questions - questions designed to trip him up, the answers to which could be used against him at trial. Detective Simone did not demand a lawyer, but instead a polygraph administered by an FBI expert, a request the FBI refused.
Federal Prosecutors then charged Simone with crimes that could send him to prison for many years. Once the trial began, it featured the “Testi-Lying” of an FBI Agent, who claimed they overheard Simone in a phone conversation with a Mobster from an adjacent pay phone. That second phone actually did not exist. And, in a parallel to the Tom Stevens case, in which a call to a Beeper was instigated to seal Steven’s Indictment, a call was placed from Simone’s work phone to a Mobster, with the return number of Simone’s, despite the fact that Simone had left his workplace 3 hours earlier. (5)
Perhaps the most dramatic part of the trial came when John Patten, in a stroke of attention to detail worthy of Perry Mason, scrutinized the physical condition of documents the FBI submitted which they claimed supported their allegation that Joe Simone had taken bribe money. Patten noted that the holes left on the documents from a stapler did not match up – that one of the pages had been replaced with another page AFTER Detective Simone’s arrest. Another dramatic revelation came towards the end of the trial when it was revealed that Simone’s Supervisor on the Task Force, who handled Contract Killer Greg Scarpa as an employee of the FBI, was himself under investigation for allegedly leaking confidential information to the Colombo Family. Once the jury had the case, it only took them 2 hours to Acquit Detective Simone on all charges. Ten of the twelve jurors then stood outside the Courthouse in the cold October rain to meet with and console Joe Simone and his family. His wife in tears, Simone told the press: "I was always a good cop and did my job well." (6)
The New York Times would offer the next salvo in this emerging scandal, with the publication of a résumé of the criminal career of Mafia hitman and drug dealer Greg Scarpa, who, despite his commission of multiple, serious crimes, somehow managed to only spend 30 days in jail despite 10 arrests from the time of his recruitment by the FBI in the early 1960s until the mid-point of the Colombo Family War. (7)
More revelations regarding Scarpa would surface in the next Federal trial related to the murders of the Colombo Family War, that of William "Wild Bill" Cutolo and 6 members of his crew. The Defendants in this case claimed they were only acting in self-defense against a renegade FBI informant/Mafia hitman, Greg Scarpa. Big Sal Miciotta testified under cross examination that FBI agents gave him permission to continue his loan sharking and extortion rackets while he worked secretly for the FBI. Miciotta also admitted he assaulted a young man and loaned his brother $10,000 which he used to buy 150 pounds of marijuana, while on the payroll of the Federal government. The double-whammy of the revelations regarding Scarpa, combined with revelations by star witness Miciotta, produced the result that should have been predicted by Federal Prosecutors; all of the Defendants were Acquitted of all the charges against them.
The next trial came in May, 1995; Vic and John Orena and 5 associates went on trial on murder conspiracy charges relating to the Colombo Family war. The government’s strategy in this trial, however, was remarkably different. First, the Justice Department had gotten rid of Sal Miciotta, dumping him as a “Witness," ending his employ for which he had been paid $94,000 of taxpayer’s money. (8) Secondly, Federal Prosecutors decided to deal with the scandal of Greg Scarpa themselves upfront, rather than have Defense Attorneys introduce that into evidence. Thus, in her opening arguments, Federal Prosecutor Ellen Corcella admitted to the jury that FBI Informant/Mafia hitman Greg Scarpa had been leaked confidential information from the Organized Crime Task Force during the war, a claim that would be bolstered by 2 FBI Agents as well as Prosecution Witness Carmine Sessa, a Colombo capo. Nevertheless, the Prosecution sought convictions of the men on murder charges when even by the government’s own admission, the FBI was complicit in the commission of these murders. Despite this new approach, the outcome was the same; the jurors in the case Acquitted all Defendants of all charges. One Juror told the Daily News; “If the FBI’s like this, Society is really in trouble!” (9)
However, the cases of Detective Joe Simone, and the man who accused him of bribery, Big Sal Miciotta, were not yet concluded. In the case of the NYPD, a member can be put on Departmental Trial, charged with either crimes or violations of Department Policy, even if that person has been Acquitted of those crimes in a criminal court proceeding. The Departmental Trial is presided over by a Judge, who is Appointed, and the Judge also serves as the Jury. If the Judge/Jury finds the Defendant guilty of anything, the person can then be fired from the Police Department. Detective Simone’s Departmental trial was presided over by Judge Rae Downes Koshetz, who found Simone Guilty. Simone was then fired from the NYPD, losing the Pension he had earned.
Simone’s accuser would fare better, because the Feds had a new problem, a crazed murderer under their employ named Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso. Casso had been the Underboss of the Luchese Mafia Family, who went on the lam as he was about to be indicted on labor racketeering charges related to a public housing scam. In 1993, the Feds finally located and arrested Casso. Gaspipe had murdered over 30 people, some innocent of any ties to the Mafia, which secured his rank as one of the most dangerous Mafia hitmen of all time. But Greg Scarpa had murdered over 50 people, and if Scarpa was worthy to be on the Federal government’s payroll, then Gaspipe Casso certainly qualified to be offered his own “get-out-of-jail-Free - card.” Casso initially made some astonishing claims, some of which the FBI did not want to hear. One such was that he and Sammy Gravano had trafficked drugs, something Gravano had denied in his plea bargain for which he served 5 years for 19 murders, in exchange for testifying against John Gotti. During the Gotti trial, the Godfather’s Defense team attempted to introduce into evidence Gravano’s personal abuse of steroids. (10)
Gaspipe’s allegation suggested Sammy Gravano had committed Perjury in the Gotti trial, and that alone could be grounds for an Appeal of Gotti’s conviction. Gaspipe's allegation would be corroborated, years later, when Gravano was arrested in Arizona for having set up a drug trafficking ring, in which he included his own young son and daughter. Gravano was found, when arrested, to be in possession of anabolic steroids.
As it turned out, the one person who could discredit Gaspipe Casso was none other than “Big Sal” Miciotta. While Gaspipe and Miciotta had been housed together while both were ‘co-operating witnesses,’ Miciotta had observed Casso in the commission of crimes; specifically, the bribing of a prison employee to smuggle to him contraband, including drugs. (11) Using this as justification, Gaspipe was then removed from the Witness Protection Program, whereas Sal Miciotta was re-instated. Gaspipe was sent to “Supermax,” the most secure Federal prison in America. As for Big Sal, he had, in the “Monopoly Game of the Judicial System,” not only “Passed-Go” twice, but also been awarded a “Get-out-of-jail-free-card” twice.
Gaspipe would have probably lived out the rest of his life in the obscurity of his prison cell, had it not been for a retired cop who wasn’t quite ready to retire. His name was Tommy Dades, and in 2003 he took a phone call from a woman named Betty Hydell whose two sons had both been murdered. The first had been her oldest son Jimmy, who disappeared one day in 1986. Mrs. Hydell had approached two men, New York City Police Officers, who were staked out by her modest Staten Island home, looking for Jimmy on the day he vanished. Then, years later, she saw one of those cops on the Sally Jesse Raphael show, promoting his auto-biography, “Mafia Cop.” She instantly recognized him as one of the two cops. She would tell this story to the FBI, but they never got back to her. 5 years later, she told it to Detective Dades. Dades pursued her lead with Prosecutor Michael Vecchione of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. By then, Lou Eppolito and his partner in crime, Steven Caracappa, had long since left New York, taking their $70,000 Pension to set up a new life in Las Vegas. From there, Eppolito pursued a dream to make it big in Hollywood, but only secured small roles in movies such as “Switch,” “Goodfellas,” and “Lost Highway.” His screenplay “Turn of Faith” was filmed in Youngstown, Ohio, with Eppolito playing the role of a Mobbed-up Union official, but that film went straight to Video. Dades and Vecchione pursued Eppolito and Caracappa as suspects in the presumed kidnapping and murder of Jimmy Hydell, who had participated in an assassination attempt on Gaspipe Casso, which failed. An Associate of Casso, Burt Kaplan, doing time for drug trafficking, was approached, “flipped,” and a case was put together against the “Mafia Cops” for their roles in several Mafia murders, including that of Hydell. However, once the D. A.’s office had accumulated enough evidence to charge the Mafia Cops, the Federal Prosecutors in Brooklyn moved in to “steal” the case from them. (12) Critics would claim one reason this was done was in order to “contain” Casso and keep him away from the Witness Stand, where his previously discredited claims could now gain credibility.
But the Feds had a problem given that “Regular” murder, for which there is no Statute of Limitations, is a crime that can only be prosecuted in State Court. Murder as a predicate act of a “Racketeering Enterprise,” is a Federal crime, but there exists a 5-year Statute of Limitations between the various crimes committed by the RICO gang. The murders committed by Eppolito and Caracappa took place in the 1980s and early 1990s. To take over the case, the Feds needed a federal crime to occur with the two cops in Las Vegas in order to tie the case together, even if they, the Feds, had to create that crime. So, the Feds set-up the two cops in the commission of a small crime, and they took the bait. They did so by playing to Eppolito’s enormous ego, which was larger than his already substantial girth.
Eppolito was then introduced to a man who claimed to represent several Hollywood investors who could put up the money needed to produce a movie based on Eppolito’s screenplay “Murder at Youngstown.” The Mafia Cops’ new best friend was Stephen Corso, an Accountant who had been arrested previously for embezzling $5 million dollars from his clients. Now wired as an Informant, Corso explained that the investors coming to Las Vegas wanted to “party,” and needed some designer drugs such as crystal meth in order to have the good time he, and the Mafia Cops, wanted them to have. So Eppolito volunteered that he could have his young son Anthony provide the drugs.
Thus, that was all the Feds needed to indict the two cops on charges including drug trafficking, as well as the various murders going back decades that were part of their “racketeering enterprise.” Eppolito hired Bruce Cutler as his criminal lawyer, who had become famous, or infamous, if you will, for his prior defense of mobsters including John Gotti. Caracappa’s criminal lawyers were Ed Hayes, the real-life inspiration for the lawyer in the novel “Bonfire of the Vanities,” and Rae Downes Koshetz, who had convicted Joe Simone in his Departmental Trial.
At their trial in 2006 in Brooklyn Federal Court, Criminal Lawyer Koshetz argued in the Mafia Cops’ Defense in regards to the “Statute of Limitations.” According to Ms. Koshetz’ argument, even if it were true that the Mafia Cops were guilty as charged of murdering several men, including one young man targeted by them in a case of mistaken identity through their own incompetence, murdered in front of his family on Christmas Day, and including the Mafia Cops’ kidnapping and murder of diamond merchant Israel Greenwald, who was dumped in a shallow grave, his Yarmulke still intact, the two career criminals should nevertheless be set free because those crimes did not technically fall within the 5-year statute of limitations clause in regards to the Federal racketeering statutes. Federal Judge Jack Weinstein agreed with the basis of this argument, post-conviction, but an Appeals Court later upheld the Guilty Verdicts of the jury.
The trial of the “Mafia Cops” was unprecedented as this was the first Mafia trial in which the case was covered as a reporter by one of the sons of the Defendants; Lou Eppolito, Jr., who joined me in reporting in a series published at AmericanMafia entitled: “Partners in Crime; The Mafia Cops.” Lou Jr. was in Court on the day his father, Lou Sr. was testifying at his Sentencing Hearing. Suddenly, a man jumped up from the back of the Court and started screaming a tirade against the convicted Mafia Cop. The man received an ovation from spectators as he was escorted out of the Court.
That man was a Brooklyn resident named Barry Gibbs. When agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Detective Eppolito in March, 2005, a Search Warrant was obtained for his home in Las Vegas. Inside Eppolito’s basement Agents found the case file of a man convicted of murder in 1986, Barry Gibbs, of which Detective Eppolito had been an investigator. Gibbs had been convicted primarily on the testimony of one man, Peter Mitchell, who claimed he saw a man in a park dumping the slain body of a local young woman, Virginia Robertson. Mitchell had picked Gibbs out of a police line-up as that person and testified as to such at Gibbs’ trial. However, once confronted two decades later by Federal agents, Mitchell admitted he had been forced to frame Gibbs by Detective Eppolito, who warned that otherwise he would frame members of Mitchell’s family for crimes they did not commit. Barry Gibbs spent 19 years in prison for this murder. The NYPD later settled Barry Gibbs subsequent lawsuit for $9.9 million, exceeding the previous record payout to Abner Louima. (13)
While the Feds succeeded in stealing the Mafia Cops case from the Brooklyn D. A.’s office, another investigation resulted in the arrest of FBI Agent Lyndley DeVecchio, who had been Joe Simone’s Supervisor on the Organized Crime Task Force. De Vecchio had first been arrested back in the mid-1970s, on charges of selling guns without a license. However, an up-and-coming figure in the Justice Department, Rudolph Giuliani, came to De Vecchio’s rescue, convincing the Federal Prosecutors to drop the charges against him. (14) De Vecchio’s second arrest was much more serious; DeVecchio was charged in Brooklyn State Court for the murders of 4 people killed by his Informant Greg Scarpa, of which DeVecchio was accused of facilitating through the leaks of confidential information to Scarpa.
However, 7 months before the case went to trial, this reporter predicted the case would fall apart, in my AmericanMafia Feature “A Troubled Prosecution.” My analysis which led to this conclusion was based in part on a 1994 legal case in which extraordinary efforts were apparently taken to discredit the key Witness in a steroids trafficking trial. That Witness was Ms. Emily Feinberg, the former Secretary for Vince McMahon, the President of the World Wrestling Federation charged in Federal Court for allegedly providing steroids to his performers. As revealed in separate investigative reports by the New York Post and the Village Voice, an FBI Informant, Marty Bergman, was the subject of a Witness tampering probe led by Brooklyn Federal Prosecutor Valerie Caproni in 1995. At issue was a meeting Bergman had at Sparks Steak House in Manhattan with Ms. Feinberg in 1994. Bergman had approached Ms. Feinberg, prior to the start of the trial, claiming to be a TV Producer who could offer her upwards of $300,000 in exchange for her appearing on camera to talk about her knowledge of the McMahon case, this for what Bergman claimed would be a TV Special, with a proposed TV movie also in the works. The investigation led by the office of Prosecutor Caproni centered on the possibility that Bergman’s offer was intended to entice Feinberg to take actions that could be used to impeach her credibility at trial. However, Ms. Feinberg declined to accept Bergman’s offer, and at trial, Feinberg was asked if she was pursuing a book deal regarding the McMahon case. Had she stated that she was, that would have seriously impeached her credibility, as it could suggest she had a financial motive to testify against her former employer. Feinberg testified that she was not seeking a book deal, and thus survived cross-examination. Still, Vince McMahon was Acquitted. The office of Valerie Caproni did not publicly prosecute Marty Bergman. (15, 16)
In the DeVecchio case, the key prosecution Witness, Linda Schiro, had pursued a book deal on her life with Greg Scarpa on more than one occasion, with more than one author. Once De Vecchio was Indicted, his supporters claimed that Schiro’s story had changed significantly over the years. Thus, at the outset of this case, I predicted that Linda Schiro would not survive cross-examination on the Witness stand. That was exactly what happened in Brooklyn State Court when Schiro testified, and Tom Robbins of the Village Voice released his story on how Schiro’s allegations had in fact changed over time. (17) Vecchione then asked Judge Reichbach to dismiss all of the charges. The Judge did so, but also took the opportunity to blast the FBI in general for it’s long and disturbing association with Mafia murderers such as “The Grim Reaper” Greg Scarpa. Agent De Vecchio celebrated his Freedom by journeying into Manhattan for Dinner at Sparks Steak House. (18)
This case, however, was not quite finished; Judge Reichbach then ordered the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to determine if Ms. Schiro could be charged with Perjury. The Special Prosecutor, Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder, released her findings in this case on October 22, 2008. While Judge Snyder determined that Prosecution of Linda Schiro was not warranted, Judge Snyder also felt "compelled to raise some of the many issues which warrant further investigation by an appropriate agency or some other investigative body."
Among the Judge’s concerns from her report:
"Was Detective Joe Simone, of the New York Police Department, a scapegoat for the misconduct of others, as a number of people who came forward have suggested?"
"Was there an effort by the FBI to protect Scarpa and DeVecchio in order to protect/insulate/preserve numerous mob prosecutions relating to the Colombo Crime Family?"
Finally, Judge Snyder asked the following: "Have any of the witnesses, potential witnesses, or people who cooperated in the DeVecchio investigation and/or prosecution been harassed by various agencies because of their cooperation, as many of these individuals now claim?"
Thus, Judge Snyder joined the jurors in the trial of Detective Joe Simone, in giving him back his good name, if not his Pension.
PART FOUR: THE TRIAL OF QUBILAH SHABAZZ
Having personally experienced the actions of the FBI Informants who sought to destroy Tom Stevens, and also having examined the FBI’s behavior in the Simone case, I nevertheless still believed that the FBI was the same outfit I had grown up to believe in, and that these two cases were atypical of the service of the vast majority of employees of the FBI. Unfortunately, another troubling case soon emerged that paralleled the Stevens case, and this one was not in the New York office. In January, 1995 Qubilah Shabazz, the daughter of slain Black activist Malcolm X, was arrested in Minneapolis by the FBI for allegedly trying to hire a hit man to murder the man she believed murdered her father. Ms. Shabazz was charged in Federal Court, as opposed to State Court, because - as in the Stevens case - she had allegedly used an inter-state telephone device in the furtherance of the plot. The arrest of Ms. Shabazz was brought about by Michael Fitzpatrick, an FBI Informant since 1978, and a member of the ‘“Witness" Protection Program,’ with a rap sheet including the bombing of a bookstore and cocaine possession charges. The bookstore bombing occurred when Fitzpatrick was a member of the Jewish Defense League, a violent organization founded by the Rabbi Meier Kahane. (19) Kahane was himself an FBI Informant, and obtained bomb making materials from his friend Joe Colombo, Godfather of the Mafia Family that took his name. (20) Those who had known Fitzpatrick since his High School days were quick to denounce him in the Media. One called Fitzpatrick a “set-up artist,” with another stating: "Fitzpatrick would frame his mother if he had to!" (21) Qubilah’s mother Betty Shabazz spoke out, saying her daughter had been “framed!” (22)
The set-up of Shabazz galvanized the civil rights community nationwide. At a rally organized in New York City, Bernice King, the daughter of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also denounced the FBI, stating: “The Families of African-American leaders are often the target of tactics used to divide, conquer, separate, malign, discredit, and destroy!” Andrea Young, the daughter of former U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, also stated that the actions against Ms. Shabazz was the legacy of “the terrible hostility the FBI had for the black freedom struggle” that began in the 1960s. (23)
At another rally at the Riverside Church in Manhattan, Shabazz’ Attorney William Kunstler, stated: “It goes without saying that J. Edgar Hoover is still alive and well in the FBI!” Coretta Scott King, the Widow of the Reverend Dr. King, who had himself spoken many years earlier at that same Church, also spoke out, stating that the case: “has a regrettable but familiar ring to families of well-known African-American leaders throughout the Twentieth Century.” “We are here today,” she continued, “to say - this will not work!” (24)
Qubilah Shabazz was just 4 years old when she witnessed her father gunned down in front of her in the Audubon Ballroom in New York on February 21, 1965. Like many such children whose father’s were killed during the violence of the 1960s, Qubilah grew up knowing her father as a photograph hanging on the wall. Shy and reserved, Ms. Shabazz attended the United Nations High School in Manhattan; among her classmates was Michael Fitzpatrick, who would spend the next 3 decades as an FBI Informant, often encouraging targeted individuals to commit crimes they had no intentional of committing. In November, 1993, Fitzpatrick was arrested again, but this time the cocaine charges he was facing potentially could have sent him to prison for up to 5 years. Fitzpatrick then set out to find someone he could set-up, to the satisfaction of the FBI, which would once again keep him out of prison.
Fitzpatrick re-entered the life of Qubilah Shabazz, who soon moved to Minneapolis in order to be with Michael, telling her closest friends that marriage was a possible outcome. Instead of a marriage ceremony, Fitzpatrick brought about a Federal Indictment and arrest, based upon his secret tape recordings in which he encouraged Ms. Shabazz to bring about the murder of the man said responsible for her father’s murder. (25)
However, the indictment backfired, with civil rights activists nationwide erupting into fury over the FBI’s actions. As in the Stevens case, the murder for hire case against Qubilah Shabazz never went to trial. Once the charges were dismissed, civil rights activists from around America descended on the Apollo Theater in Harlem to celebrate on May 6, 1995. The theater was filled to capacity, but I had no problem gaining entry. Months earlier I had consulted with the attorneys for Ms. Shabazz regarding the parallel case regarding Dr. Stevens, and I was not about to miss this historic event. It was an evening that changed my life, because I realized that the fight for equal rights was not yet won, but rather an on-going battle, the Irony being that elements of the very Federal government that were charged to guarantee such rights were in fact those still, 2 decades after the death of J. Edgar Hoover, waging war against Americans of color.
To better understand this, I immersed myself in historical research on race relations in America, focusing on the history of the FBI. What I found was nothing like the “American History 101” I had been taught in High School and College. I started with the background of the FBI’s founding Director, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was for all of his life an avowed, unapologetic Racist, which was not uncommon for some men who grew up South of the Mason-Dixon line in the first few decades after the Civil War. One way or another, every American family had been impacted by the war, which had claimed the lives of over 600,000 American men from combat, starvation, and disease. (26)
Many Americans during that era harbored hostile attitudes towards the newly freed African-Americans, blaming them for the war, disregarding the fact that the Slaves brought to America did not come here voluntarily. In addition to Racism, mental illness also ran in Hoover’s family; Hoover’s father Dickerson was a weak and emotionally distant man, who was institutionalized for mental illness while Edgar was still a child. Hoover’s mother Annie was a domineering and controlling personality to whom Edgar was utterly devoted, living with her for more than half of his life, until her death in 1938 at age 77. As a child, Hoover was known as a “gossip;” whereas some boys might collect baseball cards, Hoover collected “information” on people. (27)
In those days, public libraries used a card-catalogue system of controlling the inventory of the books in a library’s collection. At an early age, Hoover used this model to begin collecting information on people on index cards. Thus, as a young man in his 20s working in the Justice Department in Washington, Hoover and his associates had amassed raw information on over 150,000 Americans who were deemed "undesirable." The year was 1919, and the vast majority of these citizens were harmless, but in the aftermath of World War I, the panic against “radicals” fed by those such as Hoover resulted in over 10,000 people nationwide being arrested. Some of these people were in fact criminals, but most were the victims of criminals, those criminals being members of law enforcement Acting in Concert with Hoover and his accomplices. The mass arrests were labeled by the Media as the "Palmer Raids," after Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer. Years later, Hoover’s methods would be denounced by Congressman Vito Marcantonio as “Terror by Index cards!” (28)
During the time of the "Palmer Raids," J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau of Investigation had launched what became a program of intimidation, harassment, surveillance, and criminal acts perpetrated against Black Americans. Hoover’s Agents were particularly focused on those Ministers of the Christian Faith who dared to advocate equal rights for Black Americans. (29) A standard tactic would emerge during this time, the ‘smear campaign,’ in which FBI Agents and Informants would resort to a variety of unethical or illegal acts against targeted individuals, many of whom had committed no crime. One tactic involved the "anonymous letter," in which the FBI would send what is also referred to as a ‘poison-pen’ letter, containing information, often false, in order to destroy or discredit that person. (30) The recipient of the letter might by the targeted individual themselves, a family member, a neighbor, a local Media outlet, a professional colleague, or the proprietor of a local business, grocery store, restaurant, or liquor store of which the target was a patron.
FBI Agents and Informants would also accuse men and women, often falsely, of sexual improprieties, often branding them as sexual deviates, sometimes as pedophiles. Many of the people fed such information believed what was told to them, given the fact that the FBI had an esteemed reputation for many years, until such abuses began to be made public beginning in the 1970s. Among those who revealed Hoover’s abuses was his own third in command at the FBI, William Sullivan, who denounced Hoover as "the greatest blackmailer of all Time!" (31)
Another tactic developed by Hoover was branding a target a “threat to national security.” An early example of this was Marcus Garvy, a Founder of one of the first national civil-rights organizations, the Universal Negro Improvement Association. In Garvey’s case, because he had been born in Jamaica, Hoover floated the notion that Garvey was working for British Intelligence, and thus was an enemy of the United States. Garvey would be prosecuted under very suspect charges of fraud which led to his Deportation as an “Undesirable Alien.” (32) Other African-American targets of Hoover were sports heroes Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, both eventually charged with income tax evasion under very specious circumstances. (33)
In late November, 1964, Hoover engaged in one of his most vile - and illegal - smear campaigns in FBI history; a “poison pen” anonymous letter composed at FBI headquarters in Washington, D. C. and sent to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. An FBI Agent then hopped on a plane to Florida to place it into the mail. On November 22, 1964, the letter was on it’s way to Dr. King, who had recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the letter, Dr. King was accused of marital infidelity, and urged to commit suicide, otherwise his alleged infidelities would be made public. The letter demanded that Reverend King kill himself 34 days from the postmark, on Christmas Day. That letter was opened, not by Dr. King, but rather his wife. (34) The FBI has yet to release all of it’s files relating to Dr. King, so determining why Hoover reacted in this bizarre and criminal manner regarding the “suicide letter” is an exercise based on incomplete data. What has emerged in recent years is the fact that when King was 12-years-old, he jumped from his second story window in a ‘suicide attempt,’ distraught over the death of his grandmother. (35) Much prior to the composition of the letter, Hoover had unleashed the considerable resources of the FBI - at the expense of the U. S. Taxpayer - to investigate Dr. King, all the way back to his childhood, to compile what today would be called a “Psychological Profile.” The discovery of the event regarding the death of King’s grandmother could thus be viewed by Hoover and his inner circle as “evidence” that King had ‘suicidal tendencies.’
No rational person would make such a leap to such a conclusion, but Hoover’s behavior, as evidenced by the suicide letter, and the numerous instances in which he led investigations of targeted individuals based on even less “evidence,” was not rational. Hoover’s blackmail and smear campaigns sometimes did in fact result in the object of Hoover’s wrath committing suicide. 10 years before the suicide letter, Hoover and his colleagues blackmailed U. S. Senator Lester Hunt over his son’s sex scandal, the end result being the Senator’s suicide inside his Senate Office. During the same time, Abe Feller, a United Nations attorney, and Raymond Kaplan, a Voice of America engineer, both caught up in Hoover’s witch hunt for suspected Communists, also committed suicide. (36) In 1960, Hoover’s former “favorite,” Melvin Purvis, was found dead, an alleged suicide. Purvis, the most successful FBI Agent in history in terms of bringing down wanted criminals, had been forced out of the FBI by Hoover, jealous of having been over-shadowed by his subordinate. (37) Two suicides to follow would be Admiral William Church, caught up in a gay-blackmail ring involving gay FBI Informant Ed Murphy, (38) and Actress Jean Seberg, the target of an FBI smear campaign planted in the Media which falsely claimed she was pregnant by a Black Activist. (39)
Dr. King and Jean Seberg were targets of an FBI operation Hoover had created called COINTELPRO, an acronym for “Counter-Intelligence Program.” The aim of the program was to neutralize those who dared to demand equal rights for Black Americans through any means available, most of which were illegal. One target of this program was Elmer Pratt, a New Orleans area native who served America with distinction during two combat tours in Vietnam. Once home, Pratt attended UCLA on the G.I. Bill. However, Pratt was also a Black activist, and the FBI office in Los Angeles sought for a way to neutralize Pratt. Eventually, an FBI Informant named Julius Butler claimed that Pratt told him he had committed the December, 1968 murder of an elementary school teacher, Caroline Olsen. Based on Butler’s testimony, Pratt was convicted and sentenced to prison. Pratt spent 8 years in Solitary Confinement, conditions so brutal that such prisoners deprived of human contact are often rendered insane. Pratt, however, held on to both his sanity and Dignity, over the course of incarceration for 27 years. As the years went by, evidence regarding the crimes committed by FBI agents assigned to COINTELPRO slowly emerged, much of it through the Federal Freedom of Information Act. As evidence became available that revealed Pratt had been framed, the slow progress of Appeal’s made it’s way through the legal system that led to Pratt’s vindication. In April, 2000, Pratt’s lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the FBI for their violation of Pratt’s civil rights was settled, with the City agreeing to pay the sum of $2.75 million, and the FBI, acknowledging guilt, paying $1.75 million. (40)
Another notorious FBI Informant from the 1960s was Greg Scarpa. Like Hoover, Scarpa was an unabashed racist; once, when he needed a blood transfusion, Scarpa refused to let the hospital give him their blood supply, which included donations from African-Americans. The hitman who seemed unafraid of a rival’s bullets penetrating his body was nevertheless afraid of the possibility of a black man’s blood coursing through his veins. Thus, Scarpa arranged for the members of his drug crew to donate blood, which included a body builder named Paul Mele, who would later die of AIDS, presumably from a tainted steroids needle. This, so the story goes, is how Scarpa contracted the AIDS virus that would later kill him. (41)
Although Scarpa’s crew sold drugs for decades, they were admonished by Scarpa to not use drugs themselves on penalty of death. According to Scarpa, drugs were meant to be sold to African-Americans in Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx. Scarpa would be protected from prosecution by the FBI for most of his adult life. Indeed, throughout much of the 20th Century, those who were the “wholesalers” of drugs in the United States tended to not be prosecuted, whereas the consumers of such drugs were much more likely to be sent to prison, particularly so if they were African-American or Hispanic. In New York State, such an arrangement was codified, known as the “Rockefeller Drug Laws.”
During Hoover’s reign over the FBI of several decades, he was adamant that no African-American serve as a full-fledged Agent of his private army. This began to change, ever so slowly, after Hoover’s death, but many of those Agents of color were not eagerly welcomed into the Bureau. Donald Rochon was an African-American FBI Agent who successfully proved in litigation during the 1980s and 1990s that he had been discriminated against by racist FBI Agents he worked with in the FBI. Rochon’s lawsuits were filed regarding his work in the FBI Field Office in Omaha, Nebraska, and later, his work in the Field Office in Chicago. Rochon found himself the target of a typical FBI “smear campaign,” which included the staple ‘anonymous’ telephone calls and ‘poison-pen’ letters. Rochon fought back by utilizing the legal means available; Rochon sued his employer, the FBI. In 1988, the New York Times detailed the settlements of Rochon’s then-claims, noting the confession of an FBI agent, who admitted forging Rochon’s signature on a life or dismemberment insurance policy which was forwarded to Rochon, with the clear implication that he could become the victim of death or dismemberment. In response to this, the FBI Suspended the guilty Agent Without Pay from the FBI for 2 weeks. Agent Rochon received over $1 million in compensation.
Bernardo Perez was the highest-ranking Hispanic within the FBI when he filed a lawsuit in conjunction with most of his fellow Latino FBI Agents in 1987, alleging discrimination in the workplace. In a Court ruling in 1988, Federal Judge Lucius D. Bunton ruled in the Hispanic Agents’ favor.
PART FIVE: THE FBI’S USE OF INFORMANTS
As I continued to try to make some sort of sense of the FBI’s use of Informants, I decided to perform some historical research. The very term, “FBI Informant,” needs some clarification. The term usually refers to a person, usually a criminal, who becomes a Registered Informant with the FBI, who provides information to the Bureau and in exchange receives compensation, either in the form of cash, or “protection” from Prosecution, or a reduced prison sentence. There are, however, people who Inform to the FBI but are not “Registered,” but do so on a de-facto basis. Mafia lawyer Roy Cohn is just one example; he does not appear to have been “Registered,” nor paid for his services, but the fact is clear that throughout his life he informed to the FBI, much of the time personally to J. Edgar Hoover. Here is my synopsis of my investigation, which reveals that the FBI targeted certain professions and individuals for recruitment as Informants: THE MEDIA
The obvious choice for collecting “Information” from Informants was that profession which does so as a vocation, the Media. Hoover’s approach was two-fold; first, Hoover had Agents scour the Media in search of information relating to potential targets of his investigations. Agents would make clippings of stories on targets which were then filed away for reference. If a particular Reporter or Editor caught the attention of Hoover, that person would be groomed for recruitment by the Bureau. These Informants entered into a relationship with the FBI in a quid-pro-quo arrangement. In the Information business, one has to give Information in order to receive Information. Those in the Media could give information to the FBI and in exchange could then count on receiving information on criminal cases that they could report on as an “Exclusive,” furthering their reputation and prestige. This arrangement with select members of the Media continues to this very day.
One of the earliest members of the Media to become a de-facto Informant for the FBI was Walter Winchell, who headed a gossip column for newspapers and the radio from the late 1920s into the early 1960s. Through his numerous sources, which included members of the American Mafia, as well as his close friend J. Edgar Hoover, Winchell became one of the most powerful - and feared - people in America. Among other things, Winchell served as a conduit of information between Mob Boss Frank Costello and Hoover. (42) After Winchell’s death, the FBI was forced through a Freedom of Information Act request to release 3,900 pages of files relating to Winchell.
One classic example of Hoover’s intercourse with the Media is to be found in Hoover’s on-going fight with a member of Congress, Cornelius “Neil” Gallagher, who in the 1960s represented his Congressional District centered in and around Bayonne, New Jersey. Congressman Gallagher earned the wrath of Hoover through his work as Chairman of the Privacy Sub-Committee of the Government Operations Committee. Gallagher’s hearings threatened to arouse public awareness of the widespread and illegal wiretapping by the FBI. Hoover retaliated by leaking to LIFE Magazine a negative story on the Congressman that would never be substantiated. LIFE reported that the FBI had tapped the phone of a New Jersey Mob figure, Joseph Zicarelli, a capo in the Bonnano Mafia Family, which discovered phone conversations between Zicarelli and Gallagher. The story, which ran in August, 1968, 3 months before the Congressman’s re-election bid, also claimed the following: Two FBI Agents interviewed Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg in prison, a Jewish-American gangster associated with Zicarelli. According to their report, hitman Konigsberg had received a call from Congressman Gallagher one evening in 1962 in which the Congressman asked him to immediately come to his house. There, in the basement, the Informant claimed, was a dead Mobster, Barney O’Brien, a member of Zicarelli’s gambling operation. The Congressman allegedly asked Konigsberg to remove Barney’s body and dispose of it in whatever manner he, as a hitman, was adept at.
Congressman Gallagher was then told that there would be a follow-up story in Life Magazine, in which the Congressman’s career would be destroyed by a sex scandal. The story would claim that Barney the gambler had died of a heart attack while making love to the Congressman’s wife. The story would run, Gallagher was warned, unless he immediately resigned from Congress. Hoover also had his Agents raid an apartment Congressman Gallagher’s daughter shared with some friends, and FBI agents falsely accused the friends of having sex with the Congressman. With that outrage, and the slur on Gallagher’s wife, the Congressman determined to do the unthinkable; he would counter-blackmail the Director of the FBI. As a member of Congress, Gallagher had the opportunity each day to make a ‘one-minute speech’ on the Floor, with such speech and extended remarks placed in the Congressional Record, the archives of business of the House of Representatives. Gallagher had in fact, at the urging of Roy Cohn, on several occasions made such speeches in which he praised the Director of the FBI over whatever was the issue of the day, to placate Cohn. Now, Gallagher told Cohn, he would place into the Congressional Record his claim that Hoover and his number 2 man Clyde Tolson had been living together as "man and wife" for decades, enjoying an extravagant lifestyle at the expense of the U. S. taxpayer. Neither Hoover nor Cohn had ever served in the military, thus they did not understand the determination and resolve a war hero such as Gallagher, who had been shot 3 times in combat, could muster. (43)
Congressman Gallagher did not enter such a speech into the Congressional Record, nor did Life Magazine publish the follow-up story claiming Barney the mobster had died in the arms of the Congressman’s wife. When the Mafia graveyard was dug up where Konigsberg was alleged to have deposited Barney’s body, several bodies were found, but not that of Barney. The disappearance of Barney O’Brien was never solved.
For decades, the FBI has recruited Informants in the Labor Union movement. One early example is to be found in Danny Greene, an Irish-American in Cleveland who began his ascent as a crime boss in the 1960s as the President of a Local of the Longshoremen’s Union. Greene’s improbable quest was to take over a large market share of the organized crime rackets in Ohio that had been exclusively the domain of the Italian-American Mafia. Greene had three things going for him; a certain charismatic charm, a belief system in which he viewed himself as a “Celtic Warrior,” protected from harm by his “Luck of the Irish;” and his owning of a “Trump Card” which he could play whenever needed; his protection as an FBI Informant. After being arrested on Labor Racketeering charges, which prompted his working for the FBI, Greene utilized those same tactics in his campaign to organize local garbage haulers. One of Greene’s Union Enforcers, Art Snepeger, made the mistake of confiding to the Cleveland Police Department that Danny was secretly informing for the FBI. A few weeks later, in October, 1971, Snepeger, was blown to pieces in a car bomb that was part of Greene’s arsenal. The case was never solved, but Cleveland was earning it’s dubious distinction as the "Bombing Capital of America!" Those who live by the bomb, however, can certainly die by the bomb. Greene’s partner in crime, Alex “Shondor” Birns, was a Jewish-American gangster who was put on trial in 1957 for bombing the house of Don King, who ran one of his gambling rackets. Birns was Acquitted and King, who testified against Birns and lived to tell about it, went on to become America's pre-eminent boxing promoter. Birns would also be tried for the car bombing of his gambling associate Joe Allen. Once again, Birns beat the rap. The next bombing target of Birns would be Danny Greene, marked for death because he did not repay a $70,000 loan from New York’s Gambino Family. The first attempt failed, when a bomb was improperly attached to Greene's car. Greene found the bomb and dismantled it himself, and found something rather surprising inside; the fuel for the bomb was not dynamite, as was the standard of the day, but rather C-4 plastic explosive, something only the military was supposed to have access to. On an evening in March, 1975, Shondor Birns stepped into his Cadillac, and when he turned on the ignition, a car bomb blew his body into pieces. The bomb was made with C-4 plastic explosive. In addition to the garbage hauling business, Danny Greene earned substantial income from a company he founded called Emerald Industrial Relations. The company's function was to provide "security" to the labor union industry. What this actually meant was that Greene would extort money from businesses and Unions in order that they would be "protected" from sabotage from Greene's own hired thugs. This scam brought in a lot of money, but it also brought in to Greene a lot of Information regarding the people in the businesses and Unions Greene extorted, Information the FBI wanted. Danny Greene was just about to be indicted on labor racketeering charges and other charges when the Judge assigned to the case dropped it completely. This, the Judge would claim, was done at the personal request of J. Edgar Hoover. (44)
The next bomb, in this “demolition derby,” would be for Danny. Asleep with his teenage mistress, two bombs obliterated his apartment building. Danny and his girlfriend somehow escaped unharmed, which just added to the Myth that Greene had created for himself. Greene would then murder Leo “Lips” Moceri, a cousin of Cleveland Godfather James Licavoli and an Underboss of the Family. Joining Greene in this plot was John Nardi, a high-ranking official of the Teamster’s Union. Moceri’s bloodstained car was found abandoned in Akron; his body was never found. The Italians got their revenge for Moceri’s murder in May, 1977, when John Nardi was blown to pieces by a car bomb. A private investigator was then hired to place a wiretap on Greene’s phone, which revealed he had an upcoming appointment with his dentist. Greene was followed to the Dentist’s office in Lyndhurst, Ohio, by Ronnie “Crab” Carabbia, a Youngstown gangster, and Ray Ferritto, a bombing expert. The two assassins parked next to Greene’s car a new twist on an old method of murder; a ‘bomb-car,’ an auto that itself was an enormous bomb, equipped to be detonated by a remote control device. When Greene later returned to his car, Ronnie “Crab” pushed the button of the remote control that blew the adjacent car - and Greene's body - into pieces. Ferritto and Carabbia sped away, but were seen by a young woman who just happened to be an artist. Her father just happened to be a cop, and the composite sketch by the witness clearly showed the faces of the murderers. Ray Ferritto was arrested and implicated Jimmy “The Weasel” Fratianno in the plot to murder Greene. What Ferritto did not know was that Fratianno, a journeyman Mobster who worked with the families in Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, and enjoyed close associations with members of the Teamsters and Longshoremen’s Unions, was also a secret FBI Informant. Fratianno then decided to “go public,” and become a co-operating Witness against the Mob. Joined by the defection of “Big Ange” Lonardo, the new Underboss of the Cleveland Family, this unprecedented “one-two” punch of the highest ranking Mafia turncoats up until that time led to the extinction of the Cleveland Mafia Family, the only such organized crime gang in America eradicated by law enforcement. Today’s Police Chief of Lyndhurst, Rick Porrello, would have the final word on Danny Greene, with the creation of AmericanMafia.com in 1998, and Porrello’s book “To Kill the Irishman,” published in the same year, which became the motion picture “Kill the Irishman” released in 2009. Jimmy Fratianno and Big Ange Lonardo would also become Witnesses in the “Commission Trial” prosecuted by Rudy Giuliani.
One of the criminals Fratianno was closely associated with was Jackie Presser of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The history of the Teamsters has, in effect, been a history of organized crime in America. The First President, Cornelius Shea, was an Irish Mobster who helped make the bomb a weapon of choice for organized crime. Shea’s criminal gang would later collide with Al Capone’s gang of Italian mobsters in what became known as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” Shea eventually went to prison on attempted murder charges and was succeeded by another Irish Mobster, Daniel Tobin, who somehow managed to avoid prosecution. Tobin’s successor, Dave Beck, was convicted on charges of labor racketeering, embezzlement, and income tax evasion. Beck would later receive a Pardon from President Gerald Ford, one of two Presidents known to have served as an FBI Informant. Beck was succeeded by Jimmy Hoffa, who was convicted on charges of bribery, jury tampering, and fraud in 1964. After Hoffa was Pardoned by President Richard Nixon, Hoffa vanished without a trace. Frank Fitzsimmons succeeded Hoffa and became an FBI Informant, while simultaneously continuing the involvement of the Mafia in the Teamsters Union. Roy Lee Williams succeeded Fitzsimmons, and his ties to the Mafia were revealed in a U. S. Senate hearing. Williams’ downfall was engineered by a rising star in the Teamsters who wanted his job, Jackie Presser, who, as an FBI Informant, supplied evidence against him which resulted in his conviction for attempting to bribe Nevada Senator Howard Cannon. Williams was Paroled in 1988 and died the following year. (45)
For years, Presser committed various crimes with seeming impunity. Then, on June 1, 1984, the Associated Press reported that the Justice Department was seeking to prosecute Presser on charges of labor racketeering. 5 days later, however, the Los Angeles Times reported that Presser had been an FBI Informant for approximately 10 years. This revelation caused a scandal in Washington that plagued the Reagan Administration for many years to come. Four years earlier, Ronald Reagan, during his Presidential campaign, had eagerly accepted Presser’s endorsement and named him to his transition team once he was elected. The Presser scandal was notable on various accounts. First, it revealed that the FBI, which is supposedly a subservient branch of the Justice Department, continued to keep secrets from the Justice Department in regards to it’s registered - and protected - Informants. That this happened over 10 years after the death of Hoover also revealed that little had changed in the FBI. Despite Congressional hearings and the outcry of critics on both sides of the law, Jackie Presser would not go to prison.
This story becomes more interesting, all these years later, in light of the fact that it has since been revealed that Ronald Reagan himself served as an FBI Informant during the years he was the President of his Actor’s Union. First recruited by FBI Agents in 1946, Reagan reported to the FBI on members of the Screen Actors Guild who were suspected of being Communists. The FBI would return the favor to Reagan, according to documents obtained under the Federal Freedom of Information Act. At the request of Reagan, and with Hoover’s direction and approval, the FBI spied on Reagan’s daughter Maureen, who was involved with a man her father did not approve of, and later, Reagan’s son Michael, who had become a close friend of Joseph Bonnano Jr., the son of the Godfather of the New York Mafia Family that bore his name. (46)
Reagan’s work as an FBI Informant was part of yet another “witch hunt” instigated by J. Edgar Hoover in the early days of the Cold War. Hoover was aided and abetted in this campaign by Mob lawyer Roy Cohn, and a demagogue in the U. S. Senate, Joseph McCarthy. While a very small number of Americans were in fact Communists involved in criminal activity, many of the thousands of U. S. citizens caught up in this national frenzy were not guilty of any crime, and many of those were not even Communists or “Leftists.” Still, careers and reputations were ruined across America until a U. S. Army lawyer, Joseph Welch, finally admonished Senator McCarthy on live television, stating: “Have you no sense of Decency, Sir, at long last? Have you no sense of Decency?”
Senator McCarthy drank himself to death shortly after his fall. Ronald Reagan remained a devoted friend to Roy Cohn until his death due to AIDS in 1986.
In addition to Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford also worked as an FBI Informant before he became President of the United States. Ford’s start on the road to achievement began as a football player for the University of Michigan, and he worked for some time as a male model of underwear. Success in football helped pave the way for a law degree, and eventually Ford was elected to Congress in 1949, a position he would retain until 1973. In 2008, an FBI document was revealed which showed Ford was an FBI Informant beginning in 1963, supplying information personally to J. Edgar Hoover in regards to the investigation of the Warren Commission, of which Congressman Ford was a member. (47) Ford cemented his close relationship with Hoover through the trading of negative stories regarding the CIA, most of which were not true.
In the ultimate Irony, many years later, when Ford unexpectedly found himself President of the United States, Ford was the target of an assassin, Sara Jane Moore, who at the time was on the payroll of the FBI as an Informant. Moore’s work for the FBI consisted of spying on suspected Leftists, but Moore turned out to be far more dangerous than those she informed on. 2 days before she attempted to murder the President, Moore called the San Francisco police and made a vague threat regarding the President’s upcoming visit. The SFPD paid a visit to Moore the next day, and confiscated her .44 caliber pistol, and over 100 bullets. The next morning, September 22, 1975, Moore then went out and quickly bought a new gun. This weapon was significantly different than the one she was used to, and thus when she aimed that gun at President Ford and pulled the trigger, her aim was off. That, and the quick action of a bystander, Marine Corps Veteran Oliver Sipple, likely saved the President’s life. (48) Moore’s case was one of the first examples made public of how the FBI hires as Informants those who are mentally unstable and dangerous. Sara Jane Moore received a sentence of Life in prison, but was Paroled in 2007.
THE FUNERAL INDUSTRY
The vocation involving death is a very big business in America, and that business has historical ties with both the American Mafia and the FBI. One FBI Informant, Anthony Rotondo, a turncoat member of New Jersey’s DeCavalcante Family, revealed such ties when he testified in Manhattan Federal Court in 2003. The testimony was given in the trial of Jimmy Palermo, a member of the Mafia Family upon which the television series THE SOPRANOS was based. Rotondo testified as to a common “problem” facing the Mob; how to dispose of dead bodies. One solution, according to Rotondo, long suspected by Mob investigators, was through collusion with corrupt undertakers in funeral homes. What these undertakers do is place a second body - that of a Mafia murder victim - into a casket just prior to burial. Because most caskets today tend to be very heavy, the pallbearers, if there are any in this case, tend not to notice the extra weight. (49)
In his autobiography published in 1988, Roy Cohn revealed that Mafia-controlled funeral homes in the New York area were involved in unspeakable acts of desecration of dead bodies, going back many decades. Many years later, Michael Vecchione of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office successfully prosecuted several men involved in related crimes, the dismemberment and sale of body parts and organs for profit. This case received widespread attention because one of the victims was an international celebrity, Alistair Cooke. Cooke, the popular host of the television series “Masterpiece Theater,” passed away in New York City in March, 2004. Cooke’s leg bones were then surgically removed and stolen by employees of a company called Biomedical Tissue Services, which secured organs and tissue through an association with corrupt funeral homes in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The stolen parts were not tested for cancer nor disease, and some of the estimated 10,000 transplant recipients became infected with HIV, Syphilis, and other communicable diseases. (50)
Among those Vecchione convicted were: Michael Mastromarino, who grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and attended the University of Pittsburgh on a Football scholarship. Mastromarino eventually became a successful Oral Surgeon, until his addiction to numerous drugs, including cocaine, ended that career, upon which he went into the human body parts for sale business; Lee Cruceta, a male nurse who utilized his medical skills to dissect dead bodies; Joseph Nicelli, an embalmer of cadavers who worked out of a funeral home in the Ironically-named area of Brooklyn called Gravesend; and, Chris Aldorasi, another butcher on the “Dis-assembly line” in the desecration of the dead.
For many years, the FBI did not recruit FBI Informants from the Mafia, nor prosecute the Mafia, because of J. Edgar Hoover’s public insistence that organized crime did not exist in America. Then came an event that forever changed the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies nationwide. On November 14, 1957, a “national convention” of members of the American Mafia was assembled in the small town of Apalachin, New York. In small towns, things out of the ordinary do not go unnoticed, and what the local cops couldn’t help but notice was a large number of expensive cars, adorned with license plates from around America, gathered around the country home of a known Mobster. Roadblocks were set up, the house was raided, and while some Mobsters ran through the woods and escaped, over 60 were caught and arrested. The story was a national sensation, and Hoover, and his FBI, could no longer pretend the Mafia did not exist.
Hoover eventually responded by instigating a program in which members of the Mafia were recruited as FBI Informants. The FBI would go to great lengths to protect such Informants from prosecution, and Hoover rarely used the information provided to prosecute other members of the Mob. The consensus today is that Hoover was being blackmailed by the Mob regarding his secret, gay lifestyle. For his part, Hoover would claim that the information provided to him by Informants couldn’t be used in a prosecution, otherwise that would risk exposing his Informants in the Mob. Thus, things had to stay the same as he and his Agents and Informants carried on their “On-Going Investigations.”
Examples of this are documented in cases where FBI Informants were used to commit crimes on behalf of the FBI, such as framing someone for a crime they did not commit. One such case involved the murder of Boston Mob figure Teddy Deegan. Deegan was a minor player in Boston organized crime circles, and after his murder in March, 1965, FBI Agent Paul Rico learned from an Informant that the murderers were Vincent Flemmi, Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, Wilfred French, and Romeo Martin. Rico’s report went up the chain of command all the way to the desk of Director Hoover. There was a problem with this, however; Vincent Flemmi was an FBI Informant, as was his brother Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, an up and coming hitman for the Mob recruited by Agent Rico. Thus, Vincent Flemmi had to be “protected,” so Joseph Barboza was offered freedom in exchange for framing others for the murder. Thus, based on the Perjured ‘Testi-lying’ of FBI Informant Joseph Barboza, 4 men, Peter Limone, Joseph Salvati, Louis Greco, and Henry Tameleo, were convicted for a murder they had no part of, with 3 of them receiving the Death Penalty. While working as an FBI Informant, Barboza committed several of the 26 murders he boasted of, until he himself was murdered in San Francisco in 1976 while a member of the “‘Witness’ Protection Program.” (51) (52)
Over the course of the next 4 decades, agents of the FBI, notably Paul Rico and John Morris, among others, covered-up the evidence that proved the 4 convicted men had been framed. These crimes were in furtherance of the ‘Winter Hill Gang,’ an organized crime syndicate that was protected for decades by the FBI because key criminals in this gang served as FBI Informants. Led by "Whitey" Bulger, many of the members were pedophiles. Bulger was an FBI Informant protected by FBI Agent John Connolly, whereas his chief hitman, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, was "controlled" by Agent Rico. Hitman "Cadillac Frank" Salemme was also among those protected as an FBI Informant. This syndicate generated millions of dollars annually through the trafficking of drugs, guns, and the production and distribution of child pornography. Flemmi’s sexual conquests included two teenagers he would eventually murder once they grew too "old" for him after leaving their teens; Deborah Davis and Deborah Hussey, who was Flemmi’s step-daughter when Flemmi first raped her. (53)
Once retired, Agent Rico joined Bulger and Flemmi in the murder of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler. "Whitey" Bulger went on the lam in 1994 after being tipped off as to his impending arrest for the murders of 18 people, including Flemmi’s step-daughter Deborah Hussey. Eventually, Stephen Flemmi pleaded guilty to his role in the murders of 12 people. John Connolly’s supervisor at the FBI, John Morris, was granted Immunity from Prosecution and testified in Court proceedings that he had run interference on behalf of Flemmi and Bulger in Federal probes of the two’s involvement in fixing horse races and gambling operations. Under Morris’ Immunity agreement, he could not be charged with any crimes, including murder. (54)
FBI Agent Paul Rico died while awaiting trial for his role in the murder of Roger Wheeler. FBI Agent John Connolly was convicted in 2008 for his role in the murder of John B. Callahan and was previously convicted on charges of racketeering and Obstruction of Justice. However, Agent Connolly insists that HE was framed by the FBI Informants/Mafia hitmen who testified against him, and among his numerous supporters are his wife, a Federal Judge, and dozens of current and former FBI Agents.
With the apprehension of Whitey Bulger last year, it was hoped by some that the Feds would offer Bulger a plea bargain in exchange for revealing all of the information he has about corrupt members of law enforcement. Supporters of Agent Connolly claim that Bulger could exonerate him in regards to the crimes he has been convicted of. However, the Feds are going forward with their prosecution of Bulger. Bulger’s lawyers now claim that Bulger had “permission” to continue his crime wave from the Federal government, in exchange for his work as an FBI Informant. Similar claims previously surfaced in the cases of “Big Sal” Miciotta, Jackie Presser, and other FBI Informants.
Regardless as to whether or not this ploy is successful, the families of those men and women murdered by FBI Informant Whitey Bulger can now sue the FBI in Federal Court. In 2007, U. S. District Judge Nancy Gertner adjudicated in a Federal lawsuit that the FBI was "responsible for the framing of four innocent men" and ordered the payment of $101 million dollars in damages to Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone, as well as the surviving family members of Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo, who both died in prison. Previously, in 2001, members of Congress had offered a public apology to those men framed by the FBI for murder.
Members of the Colombo Family in New York have similarly claimed that they were framed for murders by FBI Informants such as Greg Scarpa. Some of these claims were made prior to the public identification of Scarpa as an FBI employee. One case involves the 1992 murders of pastry shop owner John Minerva and his associate Michael Imbergamo. Three members of the Colombo Family, Joseph P. Russo; Anthony Russo; and Joseph Monteleone, Sr., would eventually be convicted of these murders. However, in recent years, evidence has emerged to suggest that Greg Scarpa was responsible for the murders and framed the three men as part of his plot to become Acting Underboss of the Colombo Family. Evidence has also emerged that Scarpa framed Vic Orena and Pasquale Amato for the 1989 murder of Colombo associate Thomas Ocera.
Researcher Angela Clemente has, in recent years, compiled evidence regarding several more Mafia hitmen who secretly worked as FBI Informants. Among them are: Phillip Paradiso, Frankie “Blue Eyes” Sparaco, and Dino Calabra, members of the Colombo Family who participated in the internal Mob War. Calabra has claimed he was a participant in the murder of Police Officer Ralph Dols, as well as John Minerva and Michael Imbergamo. Calabra testified for the Prosecution in the trial of Thomas Gioeli and Dino Saracino earlier this year, although the jury failed to convict the two for the murder of Dols or any of the other murders they were charged with.
Court proceedings and Media reports in the past few decades have revealed how the FBI often recruits members of oppressed minority communities to spy on their very own. At the same time, the FBI has built up a reputation for, and is frequently asked for assistance by other law enforcement entities, in regards to their Behavioral Analysis Unit. This operation employs professionals to develop “psychological profiles” of criminals, such as a serial killer, in order to understand and predict the behavior of such criminals, to facilitate their capture. Television programs and movies such as “Silence of the Lambs” have done much to create in the minds of the average American that the FBI is competent and successful in this line of work.
What has received far less attention is what criteria the FBI uses in the recruitment of Informants, especially those who spy upon their own minority group. If there is a legitimate, law enforcement purpose for the work of that individual - say, a recent immigrant from a foreign country is asked to provide information about a gang of criminals preying on that community, - then the work the Information is providing is in the best interest of that community. However, in recent decades numerous incidents have been made public, some of which are detailed in this narrative, in which the FBI recruited Informants for reasons that were not for legitimate, law enforcement purposes. The illegal operations of COINTELPRO offer numerous examples of this. Almost by definition, that person recruited for these purposes would be someone who is conflicted with their own self-identity and that group of which they are a member, whether it be a certain race, religion, ethnic group, political affiliation, gender, or sexual orientation.
Integral to this discussion is the term psychologists call ‘Self-Hatred,’ or ‘Self-Loathing.’ The debate regarding this has raged in various minority communities for over 100 years, a by-product of the psychoanalysis profession founded by Sigmund Freud. Thus, whenever a member of a minority group is exposed as an FBI Informant, members of that group often denounce such a person as someone who has betrayed that group, and labeled as such. Since this evaluation is subjective, such a phenomenon does not lend itself to scientific study.
That being said, I have known numerous FBI Informants during the past 20 years and almost without exception each of them have been involved in unethical and/or criminal activity. The objectives of most of these individuals have not been in the interest of any legitimate law enforcement investigative purpose. To more than one of these individuals, I have, on more than one occasion, admonished them thus: “Self-hatred does not become you!”
The FBI has a history of recruiting as Informants practitioners of the Ethics-challenged profession of “Private Investigators.” An early example is to be found in Frank Chin, a Chinese national who immigrated to New York City in the 1960s. Chin was among the "Flower Children" who would ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out’ as part of the drug counter-culture of that era. Once busted on heroin charges, Chin opted, instead of prison, to become an Informant for the FBI. Chin then began to traffick electronic eavesdropping devices to criminals, while reporting this back to the FBI. One of Chin’s first customers was a prostitute, Xavier Hollander, who had Chin install bugs in her bordello in Manhattan in order to document the comings and goings of her clientele, some of whom were important men in New York. This information Hollander used to write her 1972 best-seller "The Happy Hooker." (55)
The notoriety of Chin’s involvement in the Hollander affair spread quickly throughout New York and Chin developed a clientele that included members of law enforcement as well as members of the American Mafia. It was Chin’s association with a crooked New Jersey cop, George Weingartner, and Weingartner’s Mafia associates, including John DiGilio, an Associate of the Genovese Mafia Family, that would lead to his downfall. DiGilio, Weingartner, and their associates concocted a scheme by which they would purchase ‘bugs’ from Chin and have them planted inside their business locations. Crooked private investigators, working for the Mob, would then ‘sweep’ the businesses, detect the bugs, and then claim that law enforcement had illegally wiretapped their businesses. This scheme was the beginning of a trend of organized crime figures, usually those involved in the drug business, in which fabricated allegations against law enforcement are made in order to stymie State and Federal prosecutions. Criminal lawyers would then demand in the Media an "investigation of the investigation," which on the Federal level would be carried out as mandated by law by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. In other words, the widespread incidences of “Prosecutorial Mis-Conduct” by members of law enforcement inevitably resulted in criminals turning that into their favor by falsely accusing members of law enforcement of “Prosecutorial Mis-Conduct.” (56)
In this case, however, the plot failed and DiGilio would eventually be found floating in the Hackensack River. George Weingartner would later be indicted for DiGilio’s murder but chose to commit suicide during his trial. In a nod to the growing technology that Weingartner’s associates had utilized, the crooked cop left behind a video-taped suicide note. At the beginning of the tape, Weingartner advised the cops to eat doughnuts as they watched him kill himself. (57)
Frank Chin’s work with the Mafia while secretly working as an FBI Informant led to corrupt FBI employees, working with the Mafia, revealing Chin’s status with the FBI. This was detailed when mobster Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno ‘flipped’ and wore a wire on James Licavoli, then the Godfather of the Cleveland Mafia Family. On the tapes, Licavoli bragged that the Family had a mole in the Cleveland office of the FBI who had provided information leading to the names of two FBI Informants, Tony Hughes and Curly Montana. Licavoli was trying to find out the names of two other FBI Informants in Cleveland, not knowing at that time that Fratianno was one of them. Licavoli then mentioned on the tape that John DiGilio had a similar mole in the FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, who had smuggled information identifying two FBI Informants for that office. Both men were murdered, one of whom was Frank Chin, shot dead in a parking lot in Manhattan in 1977. (58)
In 1995, the Village Voice published an in-depth story on FBI Informant Martin Bergman, who wore many hats, including that of a private investigator, journalist, and television Producer. Bergman had once been caught on a law enforcement wire bragging thus: “You know, I know how to destroy people!” As examples of this, the Voice article revealed several instances of Bergman’s ability to plant negative stories in the Media regarding public figures. Bergman also was able to secure an interview in 1993 by CBS with Mafia hitman and drug dealer Greg Scarpa. The interview came just before the public revelations that Scarpa was a protected FBI Informant, handled exclusively by FBI Agent Lyndley De Vecchio. Bergman’s handlers at the FBI have not yet been disclosed.
In regards to my own investigation, what I found the most disturbing revelation in the Voice article was that Bergman had performed “background checks” for the 1989 Giuliani Mayoral campaign. This story was published in 1995; it had been disclosed to me 2 years earlier that Jerry Surace was performing background checks on those involved in Giuliani’s 1993 campaign. The Village Voice article suggested that Giuliani was unaware that Bergman was doing this, so the question in my mind became thus: “What were two FBI Informants doing inside the campaign of a candidate for Mayor of a large, American city?”
To understand this better, I decided to investigate the FBI and it’s role in political campaigns throughout it’s history.
PART SIX: THE FBI AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS
My investigation revealed that the FBI has spied on politicians and their political campaigns from it’s inception; sometimes the information was filed away and never used, sometimes the information was used years, even decades later, and in some cases, the FBI took an active role, either for or against a politician. Members of all political parties were scrutinized. Some cases involved major political figures while others concerned candidates who had no real chance of winning the office they aspired to. Herein is a sample of such cases throughout the decades.
A: THE RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN OF U. S. SENATOR LESTER HUNT
Lester Hunt was a Democratic Senator from the State of Wyoming, first elected in 1948. Senator Hunt quickly earned as his enemy J. Edgar Hoover; first, through his aggressive stance against the American Mafia through his work on the Kefauver Committee, which held televised hearings exposing the spread of organized crime throughout America, a syndicate which FBI Director Hoover still claimed did not exist; and, secondly, through his vocal opposition to a “witch hunt” for alleged Communists in the government. This search for domestic Communists, most of whom did not exist, would become an obsession for a large segment of the American society throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The principle players were FBI Director Hoover, Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Senate Committee legal counsel Roy Cohn, and two emerging leaders on the far-right, the Reverend Billy James Hargis, an Evangelical Preacher, and a General in the U. S. Army, Edwin Walker. The crusade these men led would victimize numerous innocent Americans, from the public service sector in Washington, the financial services industry on Wall Street in New York, men and women in the Armed Services, and players big and small inside the entertainment industry of Hollywood. In addition to destroying the reputations of numerous people nationwide, all 5 men would leave behind a Legacy of being accomplished Hypocrites.
This story begins with the art and science of blackmail. Hoover had discovered that in October of 1953, Senator Hunt’s 20-year-old son had been arrested for soliciting sex from a man in a park near the White House, that man being a plain-clothes D. C. policeman. As Hoover had done before and would do again in later years, the FBI Director had managed to keep this arrest secret for his own blackmail purposes. Months later, Senator Hunt was particularly vulnerable, given the politics of the Senate during that time. Hunt was among 48 Democrats in the U. S. Senate, whereas the Republicans held 47 seats. An additional seat was held by a registered Independent from Oregon, Wayne Morse, who usually voted with the Republicans, thus creating a tie, which, under the rules of government, then as now, sent the tie-breaking vote to the President of the Senate, the U. S. Vice-President, who happened to be Richard Nixon, a Republican. (At that time, Hawaii and Alaska had not yet become States, thus there were 96 U. S. Senators.) However, Senator Morse had publicly indicated that he intended to switch to the Democratic Party after the elections of the Fall of 1954, and thus the Democrats would have 49 votes to the Republicans 47, thus reverting the control of the Majority of the Senate to the Democrats and also negating the ability of Vice-President Nixon to cast a tie-breaking vote, should such circumstances require. Among the consequences of such a scenario, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy would no longer be Chairman of the Senate Committee from which he utilized his authority to conduct his celebrated “witch-hunt.”
The Evil that would then be perpetrated upon Senator Hunt and his children, it should be noted, was bi-partisan. Hoover leaked the information about the arrest of Senator Hunt’s son to Roy Cohn, a lifelong Democrat. Cohn then convinced his close associate Styles Bridges, a Republican Senator from New Hampshire, to blackmail Senator Hunt into withdrawing his candidacy for re-election, otherwise Hoover would utilize his many contacts in the Media to reveal the arrest of the Senator’s son. It was also demanded that Hunt resign immediately, so that the Governor of Wyoming, a Republican, could appoint an Interim replacement who could thus run as an Incumbent in the election of the Fall. On June 8th, 1954, Senator Hunt stunned his supporters when, without explanation, he announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate. 11 days later, Senator Hunt secreted a hunting rifle into his Senate office on Capital Hill and shot himself to death. (59, 60)
As Fate would have it, Senator Hunt’s successor for the Democratic Nomination from the State of Wyoming was elected in his place, and the Democrats picked up a net gain of 1 in the elections of 1954, and thus, the machinations and blackmail of J. Edgar Hoover and his associates to maintain control over the U. S. Senate failed. The story of Senator Hunt’s blackmail and suicide was turned by writer Allen Drury into his 1959 Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, ADVISE AND CONSENT.
Shortly after their deaths, the Media exposed the secret gay lifestyles of J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn, practices they had publicly condemned during their lifetime. General Walker was exposed as a closeted gay and accomplished Hypocrite when he was arrested in 1976 for soliciting sex from another man in a men's room in Dallas, Texas, and again in 1977 under similar charges, for which he was convicted. As for the Reverend Billy James Hargis, his secret personal failings were exposed in a 1976 issue of Time Magazine. The Time article noted how two of his students at his Bible College, who had been married in a ceremony officiated by the Reverend, confessed to each other on their Wedding night that neither were a Virgin; both the groom and his wife had lost their Virginity to Reverend Hargis. Several other young men, part of Hargis' "All-American Kids" youth choir also came forward to allege that Hargis had engaged in sex with them. Hargis has attained a place in popular culture as the inspiration of the lead character in radio personality Don Imus' satirical novel GOD'S OTHER SON.
B: THE 1964 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF LYNDON JOHNSON
While FBI Director Hoover used the gay sex scandal of Senator Hunt’s son to his political and blackmail advantage, a few years later Hoover found himself in the reverse situation. The year was 1964, and Hoover’s close friend and colleague President Lyndon Johnson was running for re-election. However, just weeks before election day, President Johnson’s Chief Aide Walter Jenkins was arrested in the men’s room of a YMCA just a few blocks from the White House for engaging in a sex act with another man. Jenkins had, in fact, been arrested 5 years earlier for doing the same at that same location, but Hoover, who had employed Jenkins’ own brother as an FBI Agent, had managed to cover up that arrest. But that earlier arrest occurred when Johnson was “just” the Speaker of the House; now, as President, the consequences of such a scandal were much higher, for Johnson AND Hoover.
Hoover and Johnson exerted their considerable influence and control of the Media to keep this story from being made public, but they also knew that it was just a matter of time before the story somehow would be leaked out. At that time, a similar sex scandal in England, involving the Secretary of War, John Profumo, and a female prostitute, who was also intimate with a Russian spy, had resulted in the resignation of the country’s equivalent to President, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Thus, a sex scandal story regarding President Johnson’s most trusted confidante would not be just a story of national interest, but international as well. President Johnson well knew that there would very quickly be demands that the FBI launch an investigation into the possibility that Jenkins could have been blackmailed over his private life, and thus secrets relating to “national security” that Jenkins had access to may have been compromised.
Long before Richard Nixon, as President, had installed a system in the White House to tape-record Presidential conversations, so had previously Lyndon Johnson installed a similar system. Many of those tapes have now been released, and some relate to Johnson’s handling of the Walter Jenkins scandal. Those tapes reveal that Johnson’s over-riding concern was not “national security” but rather removing from Jenkins’ office evidence of illegal campaign fund raising on his part which would inadvertently be discovered by the FBI, once that Bureau launched their investigation. In his book “All the Way with LBJ,” Presidential Historian Robert David Johnson reveals the President’s actions in this regards, and the actual tapes can be heard by audio links on his website. In one phone call to his lawyer Abe Fortas, Johnson orders Fortas to remove from Jenkins’ office any evidence relating to fund raising efforts by his campaign. In another call to Texas Governor John Connally, the Governor assesses the political fallout from this scandal, and tells the President this is serious, given that “the only place you’re vulnerable (politically) at all is on the morals thing, the character thing!” President Johnson at that point does not challenge Connally’s assertion that he is a public figure of dubious character and morality. On this very point, Governor Connally then advises Johnson to end the campaign events in which his wife, “Lady Bird” Johnson, and his two daughters, do not appear with him. Instead, Connally advises the President to appear in public with his entire family, in order to project an image that “you’re a family. You’re a husband, and a wife, and two daughters. You are an AMERICAN family!” In a later conversation with Hoover, President Johnson asks Hoover to educate him on the art of determining if a man is secretly gay, and Hoover wonders aloud who the next government official will be to be exposed as a closeted gay. The tapes also reveal conversations between the President and his wife, who takes the rare step of interjecting herself into political affairs, demanding that compassion be extended to Jenkins and his family, regardless of the political consequences. (61)
Meanwhile, with the President’s full backing, lawyers Abe Fortas and Clark Clifford, and FBI Director Hoover engaged in every conceivable attempt to “contain” this scandal. First, Walter Jenkins was convinced to check himself into a hospital, alleging a "nervous breakdown" brought on by his onerous government responsibilities. Hoover then visited Jenkins in the hospital, bringing him a bouquet of flowers. (62) Hoover did this openly and publicly, as part of a strategy to convince the public that Jenkins was not gay, but rather the victim of illness and/or disease. Attempts were then made to find a doctor who would be willing to falsely claim that Jenkins had a brain tumor. (63) Having failed in this quest, various efforts were made to find “evidence” that Jenkins had been set-up by Republican operatives. Johnson would tell various people throughout the rest of his life that he was convinced that Jenkins was set up. (64)
Johnson’s Republican opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater, however, did not make an issue of this affair. In the end, Hoover’s exhaustive ‘investigation’ concluded that national security had not been compromised in any way by Jenkins. Johnson was elected by a landslide, which, among other things, ensured that his close associate J. Edgar Hoover would continue as Director of the FBI, despite his advanced age.
C: THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN OF RICHARD NIXON
In 1968, Richard Nixon defeated his rival Hubert Humphrey for the office of President of the United States. Nixon’s campaign manager had been lawyer John Mitchell, whom Nixon wanted to appoint as Attorney General, the Chief law enforcement officer of the nation. That office has enormous power, as it determines who would be Prosecuted on Federal Charges across America, and, sometimes more importantly, who would NOT be prosecuted. The Attorney General is, on paper, the “Boss” of the Director of the FBI. The Nomination process, then as now, is that the President submits his Nominee to the Senate, which conducts Hearings on the Nominee’s qualifications, before making a recommendation to the full Senate, up or down, at which point the Senate takes a vote. The Senate is aided by a complete background check conducted by the FBI. In the case of the Attorney General, any hint of impropriety can result in disqualification. Bill Clinton, for example, would see his first two choices for Attorney General shot down after it was revealed that each candidate had not paid taxes on a Nanny hired for their children. Clinton’s third choice, Janet Reno, did not have such a problem and thus it was she who became his Attorney General.
In his autobiography, William Sullivan, who at the time of Nixon’s election was Hoover’s number 3 man at the FBI, revealed that Nixon made a private, and unusual request of J. Edgar Hoover, regarding his nomination of Mitchell; Nixon asked Hoover not to perform the usual FBI background investigation of Mitchell, as required by law. (65) Nixon’s request shows that he knew Mitchell had some sort of skeletons in his closet that, if exposed, would preclude Senate Confirmation. Also, that Nixon himself had to ask this favor of Hoover suggest that Hoover’s Agents had not already uncovered Mitchell’s skeletons, otherwise Hoover, as he had in the past, would blackmail Nixon with that negative information. Hoover, years past the mandatory age for retirement, was more than happy to accommodate Nixon’s request - for a price. For one, Hoover had for many years sought to expand the reach of the FBI by opening offices in foreign countries, where he could then spy on people outside the United States. By law, such a mandate is the jurisdiction of the CIA. President Nixon agreed to this expansion, the repercussions of which negatively impact national security operations to this day.
Mitchell and Nixon, like Hoover, were criminals, and while Hoover would die before his life of crime was exposed, Mitchell and Nixon, along with many others, would see their downfall in the Watergate affair. Those crimes centered around illegal breaking-and-entering and the placement of illegal wiretaps - the very techniques that Hoover had committed for decades - and the attempts to cover-up such crimes. Nixon’s own secretly-recorded White House tapes would lead to his downfall, but also contained evidence of the machinations behind the naming of Hoover’s successor. In a May, 1973 phone conversation between top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman and Nixon lawyer John Dean, the two men discussed the plight of L. Patrick Gray, nominated by Nixon to head the FBI upon the death of Hoover. That Nomination became doomed once the Senate learned that Gray had destroyed files relating to the Watergate scandal. Thus, Ehrlichman coldly wrote Gray’s political epitaph, stating to Dean: "Well, I think we ought to let him hang there; let him twist slowly, slowly in the wind!"
D: JESSE JACKSON’S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS
At the Democratic Party’s National Convention in 1984, Jesse Jackson’s name was placed into Nomination as a candidate for President. Initially disregarded by the political mainstream, by the end of his campaign Jackson had received a respectable 18 percent of the vote during the Primaries and Caucuses. In 1988, Jackson ran again, and was better funded. One fundraiser for Jackson was held at the New York home of Marty Bergman. In the following year, Bergman hosted a fundraiser at his home for Republican Mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani. Presumably, neither the candidates nor their financial supporters were aware that Bergman worked secretly for the FBI. Bergman, who was once captured on an undercover wire boasting: “I know how to destroy people!,” would attempt to do just that to a member of the United States Senate. (66)
E: THE CAMPAIGNS OF U. S. SENATOR AL D’AMATO
In 1986, New York Senator Al D’Amato received widespread attention when he and Prosecutor Rudy Giuliani dressed up as bikers, mugged for the cameras, and purchased crack cocaine in Northern Manhattan as a demonstration as to how brazen the drug cartels had become. By 1989, however, Giuliani and D’Amato had had a falling out and it was in that year that FBI Informant Marty Bergman launched one of his multi-faceted campaigns against a public figure. First, Bergman phoned an IRS Detective, alleging corruption on the part of several public officials, the central person being Senator D’Amato. After the IRS met with Bergman and investigated his allegations, it was determined that his claims were unsubstantiated. Undaunted, Bergman took his allegations to 60 Minutes, which eventually ran a story in 1991critical of Senator D’Amato. The story, produced by Bergman, utilized FBI Informant Henry Hill, the former drug dealer whose life story was the basis for the motion picture “Goodfellas.” The 60 Minutes piece was widely criticized and had no impact on D’Amato’s reputation; D’Amato was re-elected the following year. (67)
F: THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF ROSS PEROT
In 1992, Texas billionaire Ross Perot launched a Presidential campaign as the nominee of his third-party organization “United We Stand.” By May of that year, Perot was leading in national polls against the incumbent George Bush and challenger Bill Clinton, until one of the most bizarre episodes in American political history occurred. Perot’s downfall was brought about due to his association with a man named Scott Barnes, a former police officer and private investigator. Barnes had, in 1982, claimed that the CIA had hired him and sent him to Laos to find POWS from the Vietnam War allegedly left behind. Barnes would later tell ABC News and the Los Angeles Times that he found 2 Americans being held there, but the CIA ordered him to kill the 2 men. Barnes claimed he refused to do so. Neither ABC nor the Times could corroborate Barnes’ allegations. 2 years later, Barnes claimed the CIA had once again hired him to kill an investment banker in Hawaii, despite his having allegedly refused the previous demand of the CIA to murder the 2 men in Laos. Once again, Barnes claimed he refused to commit murder on orders of the CIA. It was during that time that Barnes bonded with Ross Perot over the POW issue. Perot had for many years championed the claim that POW’s were left behind in Vietnam, and that the CIA was aware of this. Perot even claimed during his Presidential campaign ads that he had been the target of an assassination attempt by 5 North Vietnamese terrorists who had traveled to Dallas to kill him in order to stop his investigation into alleged POWs still being held. According to Perot, his life was saved because of a single guard dog on his property, who’s barking scared off the 5 assassins. No arrests were made in this case. Now, after many years of contact with Scott Barnes, Ross Perot found himself seeking to defeat George Bush in his bid for re-election as President, the same man who, from 1976 to 1977, was Director of the CIA at the very time there was an alleged CIA cover-up regarding the POWs allegedly still being held. Thus, Perot was responsive to Scott Barnes when he resurfaced during the campaign of 1992, claiming that high-ranking officials of the Bush re-election campaign had entered into a conspiracy to blackmail him into quitting the race, otherwise altered “compromising photographs” of his daughter and another woman would be released as her Wedding date was approaching. Perot then stunned his supporters nationwide when he suddenly withdrew from the race. Scott Barnes, however, was not finished with Perot. Next, Barnes told Perot that there was a conspiracy to tap his telephones, and Perot reported this to the local office of the FBI. Long the arch-enemy of the CIA, the FBI entered into the investigation of the alleged plot against Perot. The timing of this was unfortunate given that the Bush Administration’s Office of Professional Responsibility was investigating FBI Director William Sessions on Ethics violations, which would later result in his Termination. At any rate, the FBI had Ross Perot make some tapes of some conversations on his phone, which were then given to an FBI Agent. The Agent, dressed as a Cowboy, then approached James Oberwetter, the State Chairman of the Bush re-election campaign, offering the illegally taped phone conversations of Ross Perot - for the bargain price of $2,500. Oberwetter refused the offer, and sent the Cowboy on his way. (68)
Although the FBI came up with no evidence to support Perot’s claim of a conspiracy against him, he nevertheless went on the CBS Magazine 60 MINUTES a few weeks later in which he revealed his allegations of the alleged plot. Perot came off as irrational and paranoid and lost his credibility with the American people. He would never get it back. In March, 1997, Scott Barnes told the Dallas Morning News that he had become a Born-Again Christian and was thus compelled to clear his conscience regarding the Perot debacle; Barnes claimed that the entire affair was a hoax, invented by himself and a foreign correspondent, who believed that a Republican “scandal” would enhance Perot’s chances of winning the election. As is often the case in matters of hoax and fabrication, the plot backfired.
G: THE 1993 NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CAMPAIGN
In 1993, New York City Mayor David Dinkins ran for re-election. The 4 years of Dinkins’ Administration had seen unprecedented crime in the city. One single event galvanized the city’s law enforcement community, that being the incident in 1992 in which a convicted drug dealer and illegal alien, Kiko Garcia, attempted to murder Police Officer Michael O’Keefe, during a struggle between the two in Upper Manhattan. Garcia was killed and Mayor Dinkins responded by demanding a Grand Jury investigation of Officer O’Keefe. (The Grand Jury cleared Officer O’Keefe of any wrongdoing.) Mayor Dinkins went even further, inviting Garcia’s family to Gracie Mansion, the Mayor’s official residence, and using taxpayer funds to pay for the funeral of the drug dealer back in his native country. New York’s law enforcement community was outraged, and rallied behind the “law and order” candidate for Mayor, former Mafia Prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani.
Four years earlier, Giuliani had narrowly lost the election to Dinkins, and many Giuliani supporters believed that illegal aliens had voted en masse during the election, with some of them voting more than once. Thus, police officers throughout the city volunteered to monitor the polling locations in areas of the city where the voting fraud was believed to be prevalelant. On the day of the election, posters were placed in areas of the city which housed a large percentage of illegal aliens, which warned that law enforcement officials would be monitoring those locations, with an arrest a potential consequence of illegal voting. Mayor Dinkins responded by demanding, as he had in the past, a Justice Department investigation, and, as in the past, he got what he asked for. The Justice Department unleashed FBI Agents to determine who was responsible for the production and distribution of the posters. (69)
A later report in the New York Times quoted Al Gordon, the New York State Democratic Chairman, who claimed that Republican poll watchers had created a “systematic program of intimidation tactics as part of a cynical attempt to deny certain New Yorkers their right to vote." Gordon produced as evidence Affidavits filed by Democratic poll watchers who documented such tactics at 75 polling places on Election Day. The tactics including the hiring of homeless men who engaged in various acts of intimidation and threats against voters in minority neighborhoods. One Affidavit noted that 10 unkempt men who appeared to be homeless entered a polling place in a Brooklyn Elementary School and continuously demanded voting counts of Elections officials. The result of this was that the voting process was delayed, creating long lines of people waiting to vote, some of whom allegedly left the polling places without casting their ballots. However, Gordon did not blame the Giuliani campaign but rather the State Republican Party. Gordon’s Republican counter-part denied all of the allegations. (70)
Giuliani won the election, and proceeded in his Agenda to bring law and order to a city that had descended into unprecedented lawlessness. Giuliani’s first Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton, enacted innovative policies that, within just a few years, transformed New York City in terms of violent crime. Giuliani’s second Police Commissioner, Howard Safir, continued with these and related policies, but was mired in numerous scandals, including the Firing of Detective Joe Simone, the police torture of handcuffed prisoner Abner Louima, and the police shootings of unarmed Blacks Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, and 16-year-old Dante Johnson. The lawsuits from just these cases alone cost New York City - and it’s taxpayers - over $14 million.
Rudy Giuliani’s third Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik, is currently serving time in a Federal Penitentiary.
H. THE 1995 DISTRICT ATTORNEY CAMPAIGN OF GUY MOLINARI
Guy Molinari served as a U. S. Congressman from Staten Island from 1981 to 1989 and as Borough President from 1990 to 2001. Physically and culturally separated from the rest of New York City, which to this day enjoys large expanses of rural, undeveloped land, Staten Island managed to avoid the problems associated with congested urban areas in the 1960s and 1970s. This began to change, however, with the drug epidemics of the 1980s.
In late 1987, the Feds were on the verge of indicting a crew of drug dealers in the Colombo Family operating on Staten Island. Greg Scarpa, Sr. got the list of those about to be indicted because he had been “protected” for decades as an FBI Informant, and thus had access to the secret information known only to a select few of those in the Justice Department and the Organized Crime Task Force. Scarpa’s son, Greg Scarpa, Jr., then went on the lam. (71)
On February 28, 1989, a relative of the Scarpa family, Gus Farace, Jr., an avowed racist and drug dealer, had a scheduled meeting with a potential buyer in a lonely stretch of Staten Island. Farace had previously served a prison sentence for kidnapping a young black man in Greenwich Village, taking him to Staten Island where he was forced to commit a sex act, and then shot. This was before Hate Crime legislation passed in New York State, so Farace only spent 7 years in prison. In prison, Farace bulked up with anabolic steroids, developing violent outbursts which are termed “roid rage.” Once out of prison, Farace became a lucrative drug dealer, but an African-American Agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Everett Hatcher, was already on Farace’s tail. Hatcher, under an assumed name, had purchased small amounts of drugs from Farace prior to the evening of February 28 without incident. A backup team was in place in case there was any trouble that night, but the radio failed and the surveillance team lost track of Hatcher and Farace and his accomplice. When they found Agent Hatcher, Farace had shot him three times. (72)
The murder of Agent Hatcher stunned Staten Island. More such crimes would follow. In February, 1993, Chris Paciello, a habitant of New York’s nightclub scene and a lover of pop star Madonna, engineered a robbery attempt at the home of a successful Staten Island businessman. While Paciello awaited in the getaway car, his three accomplices, low-level thugs with ties to the Bonnano Mafia Family, burst in, with one of them shooting the businessman’s wife, Judith Shemtov, to death. (73) Later that year, Staten Island resident Detective Joe Simone of the Organized Crime Task Force was framed as a mole for the Colombo Family. During the course of Simone’s trial, the information regarding Greg Scarpa’s protection from prosecution as an FBI Informant began to emerge.
In December, 1994, Staten Island Borough President Molinari responded to this growing lawlessness by staging a public rally, attended by over 700 people, many of them members of the law enforcement community. A hand-written sign held by one participant summed up the purpose of the rally: “America, 1994: Held Hostage by Drug Dealers.” (74)
Molinari would then himself become the target of a sting operation by the FBI. The FBI’s plan was to send a wired FBI Informant to Molinari, offering evidence relating to his investigation of the local drug trade, in exchange for the promise of employment in his office. The Informant, however, refused and reported the FBI’s actions to the Borough President. In April, 1995, Molinari went public, publishing the details of this in a Media report entitled: “Guy Molinari Fumes: FBI Tried to Set Me Up!” "It’s outrageous!" Molinari said. "If they will do this to me, an elected official, I hate to think what they might do to a member of the general public!"
Critics could argue that Molinari, as a former member of Congress, should not have been surprised by the FBI’s tactics; such actions had been applied to members of Congress, and even U. S. Presidents, going back decades. Molinari, however, was aware enough to know that only by “going public” could he best protect himself. The Feds backed down, issuing a public statement by the Justice Department, which put the blame on the FBI. (75) That wasn’t good enough for Molinari; the Borough President then decided to seek for himself the very power the Feds had sought to abuse against him; despite having never worked as a Prosecutor, he announced to his constituents that he would run for District Attorney of Staten Island. He would then use his powers as a State Prosecutor to bring to Justice those whom the Feds would not prosecute.
However, polls indicated the majority of voters on Staten Island were very satisfied with his performance as Borough President. Molinari’s bid to be District Attorney would be his only political defeat. His constituents re-elected him as Borough President again in 1997.
I: THE 2008 CAMPAIGN OF U. S. SENATOR TED STEVENS
During the 2008 election cycle, the U. S. Senate was evenly divided; 49 Republicans , 49 Democrats, and 2 Independents. 54 years earlier, the U. S. Senate was also evenly divided: 48 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and 1 Independent, who voted with the Democrats to make the U. S. Senate evenly deadlocked. As detailed at the beginning of this narrative, back in 1954, the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, and his fellow accomplices, acted in concert to alter the balance of the U. S. Senate, for their own political purposes, the end result being the suicide of Senator Lester Hunt. Over half a Century later, a similar event occurred, when the FBI instigated an investigation of Senator Ted Stevens. Senator Stevens was falsely indicted on charges relating to renovations made on his home, for which the Feds claimed he had received a price reduction as a political favor. Such a charge could certainly sound plausible to the average person, and thus Stevens was convicted on those charges just days before the Election. Once convicted, calls for his Resignation from the U. S. Senate were bi-partisan; among those demanding such were Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain, and his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
However, Stevens, a former Federal Prosecutor himself, refused to step down, stating at a public event that he was the innocent victim of “probably the worst case of prosecutorial misconduct by the prosecutors that is known!" Stevens lost his re-election bid by the narrowest of margins, but he would be vindicated as to his wrongful conviction by none other than an honest FBI Agent, Chad Joy. In February, 2009, Agent Joy became a “Whistleblower,” filing a Sworn Affidavit in which Agent Joy revealed Prosecutorial Misconduct on the part of Federal Prosecutors and FBI Agents in the Stevens case. A legal inquiry by both a Federal Judge and the Justice Department found that Senator Stevens had in fact been the victim of misconduct. The Federal Judge in this case, Emmett G. Sullivan, held the Prosecutors In Contempt of Court for their failure to produce documents relevant to Stevens’ Defense, calling their actions “outrageous!” Those documents revealed that Prosecutors knew or should have known that the key prosecution witness had committed Perjury on the Witness stand in regards to the actual value of the renovations made on Stevens’ home. The Justice Department then promised an OPR investigation, but Judge Sullivan derided such 'an investigation of the investigation,’ calling the Prosecutor’s actions “shocking and disturbing!” Judge Sullivan further stated: "In nearly 25 years on the bench, I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I've seen in this case!"
Sadly, the end to this saga came too late for Senator Stevens. Unlike the 48 lower States, Alaska is still much of a wilderness, accessible primarily through the use of small aircraft. Such can be deadly, and among those who have lost their lives in Alaska through such transportation were humorist Will Rogers, Congressmen Nick Begich, and U. S. House Speaker Hale Boggs. In 1978, Senator Stevens and his wife of 26 years, Ann, were aboard a small plane that crashed at Anchorage International Airport. Stevens survived but his wife did not. In August, 2010, Senator Stevens and 7 others died in a plane crash in his native Alaska.
Ted Stevens began his career as a young man flying combat missions behind enemy lines against the Japanese during World War II, for which he was honored with numerous medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. Thus, as a war hero, Ted Stevens’ final resting place is in Arlington National Cemetery.
PART SEVEN: THE PETER GATIEN AND JUSTIN VOLPE TRIALS
My investigation into the murder of Michael Sakara didn’t really achieve much; rather than focus on the Five Oaks Cabaret bar, where Sakara had last been seen, I focused on the Townhouse, a similar establishment just blocks from my neighborhood where two men believed to have been butchered by the serial killer were last seen alive. One of Sakara’s counter-parts at the Townhouse was a piano player named Rick Page. When I interviewed him he was visibly frightened and uncomfortable talking about the serial killer, who had struck twice in his workplace. He and other patrons of the club I spoke to echoed a similar theme as to what they believed pertained to the killer; that the killer was normal in appearance, and was perhaps a doctor or nurse or someone in the Undertaker profession; that the killer might be someone prominent, or somehow protected by law enforcement. Another key theme was the notion within the gay community that the law enforcement authorities were not doing enough to identify and apprehend the killer.
Eventually, another murder investigation would attain my interest, and this one, as well as the Sakara killing, would involved my friend Baird Jones. By the time I moved to Manhattan in 1989, Baird was already a legendary Party Promoter for Art Galleries and Nightclubs. The product of a privileged Upper-East-Side upbringing, Baird had been a perennial student at Ivy League Universities, earning several Degrees, including one in Law, which he never practiced. Baird was not a heavy drug user, but he was a habitual drug user, partaking in marijuana and alcohol on a daily basis most of his adult life. As it would turn out, Baird would be on the wrong side of the law in two murder cases I investigated, as well as the case of Tom Stevens, and another case involving drug dealers, and that would ultimately cost us our friendship.
For several years prior, however, Baird and I had a good run. What Baird would do is convince a nightclub owner to allow him to promote parties at their clubs. These weren’t just any clubs, but the very best - and notorious - in Manhattan; Studio 54, the Limelight, the Tunnel, Club USA, and the Palladium, among others. Baird would then print invitations to his events on small cards, which included the names of the co-hosts of the events. In many cases, I was a co-host and I was expected to hand out those invitations to people both young and old that I knew. It was at such events I eventually met those who wanted to start the Magazine CAB, and once I began writing for the magazine, I met scores of people who enjoyed the New York nightlife scene, many of whom were celebrities of varying degrees. The process became self-perpetuating; up-and-coming artists would seek out those such as myself, who could generate publicity for themselves, as well as the Art galleries and nightclubs that featured their work. The owners of such establishments would give those such as myself the royal treatment; the velvet rope would be pulled aside, the best tables with complimentary food and drink made available.
But there were troubling questions I and others had about this arrangement; “Was all of this cost-effective for the Owners?” Even though Baird sometimes succeeded in generating publicity for a club - and he had some classic stories that appeared in the Media - more often than not a Baird Jones event lost income for the owner of the establishment and Baird as well. Baird would even admit to the New York Times that he lost money on his parties. Thus, the “math” simply did not add up. Baird may have lost money, but one thing he gained from his parties was Information; his party passes stated that “over one million persons have gone free to Baird Jones parties!” Baird did this over the course of 3 decades and at some point that claim was no longer an exaggeration. Long before the days of Facebook and the Internet, Baird Jones had accumulated more raw intelligence on more people in the New York City area than any other person. Baird’s party passes would allow the holder and up to 4 guests free admittance to the nightclubs and art galleries, which also included free drinks and sometimes free food as well. All that Baird asked was that he record the names and “mailing addresses” of those to whom he gave the invitations. In the days before computers, Baird would record such information, in addition to personal information about the person he was giving his invitation to, in an archaic, hand-written system that at the time was identical to the “card-catalog” system used by public libraries. That same system had been the model that Hoover adapted for his FBI. Baird meticulously filed away his cards, on parties, - and people, - under multiple categories, including numerically by date, location, theme, people of interest, and the owners of the nightclubs and art galleries that were the venue for his events. Many of these owners, Peter Gatien, Steve Rubell, Ian Schrager, among others, would be indicted by law enforcement on various charges.
The net result of all of this was that it led to speculation amongst his closest friends, which increased as the years went by, that Baird Jones was himself, like so many of his associates, an FBI Informant. When one of Baird’s closest friends, Tom Stevens, was arrested based on the actions of an FBI Informant, Baird was one of the few who refused to publicly support Stevens. At the same time, Baird continued to publicly embrace those Informants who were fixtures at his events. A year after the charges against Stevens were dropped, Baird decided to throw a party to mark the Anniversary of the dismissal of the charges, and, of course, I was among the co-hosts listed on the invitations. However, Baird put out a press release regarding the party which stunned those privy to the machinations of this case. Baird claimed that the U. S. Attorney’s Office had been responsible for the dropping of the charges, blaming young men who allegedly made false statements to them, whom the Feds declined to prosecute. Baird left the FBI off the hook.
Something else unusual on Baird’s part would occur; prior to printing up his invitations to his parties, Baird always asked consent from those he listed as co-hosts, because they were expected to show up at the event and promote it with their friends, thus Baird would not put their name on the invitations if they were not going to be able to attend. One day, an envelope arrived in my mailbox; it was a packet of invitations to a Baird Jones party at the Five Oaks Bar in Greenwich Village, with my name listed as the co-host. This was odd, for Baird had not asked me in advance if I could attend on the night in question and agree to promote the party. However, I was happy that Baird had done so, because I had been meaning to pay a visit to that bar in question, as it was the last place Michael Sakara, Janet Sumner’s friend, had been seen alive.
On the night in question, I walked into the bar, and was surprised at how small it was. There awaiting my arrival was Baird, along with Janet Sumner, and a man she introduced as either the Owner or the Manager, I forget which. Also in their presence were two large men whose appearance was consistent with being members of law enforcement. I did not stay long, and never had I been to a Baird Jones event so poorly attended.
I would have more success in the next murder case I investigated, that of a drug dealer named Angel Cruz. “Angel,” his real name was Andre Melendez, was part of the “Club Kid” phenomenon. The Club Kids had been born back in March, 1998 at a now-legendary party at the Manhattan nightclub The Tunnel. Some of the founding members, such as “Supermodel” RuPaul, would become famous. Soon emerging as the "King of the Club Kids" was Michael Alig, a young gay from the Heartland of America who was attaining the ultimate revenge against those schoolyard bullies who had taunted him in his youth for being ‘different.’ The Club Kids wanted everything ‘new’ and they got it; their costumes were futuristic, as were many of their names, they danced to futuristic music, notably Techno, a computer-driven version of House Music, which they danced to under the influence of a new ‘designer drug’ called Ecstasy. On one segment of the Geraldo Rivera Show Michael Alig actually bragged of having turned his own mother on to the new ‘feel good’ drug of the 1990s.
While Michael Alig was “The King of the Club Kids,” his employer, Peter Gatien, was the “King of Clubs.” A native of Canada, Gatien had first made a name for himself by opening successful nightclubs in Florida and Georgia. In late 1983 Gatien opened The Limelight in New York City in an abandoned Episcopal Church. Everyone from celebrities to the scum of the earth were attracted to Gatien nightclubs, which in many ways recalled the glory years of Studio 54, which had been at its peak just a few years earlier. Employees of Peter Gatien would themselves become celebrities; Fred Rothbell-Mista, who handled celebrities at The Limelight, became popular for creating his character “Rocco Primavera," a Satirical take on Lounge singers. Limelight Doorman Chazz Palminteri would become a star after Gatien put up the money to produce Palminteri’s anti-Mafia motion picture "A Bronx Tale," starring Robert DeNiro and a young kid destined for stardom, Lillo Brancato, Jr. A Bouncer at the Tunnel, Mark Vincent, would later become film action star Vin Diesel. Cameron Douglas, the son of Hollywood icon Michael Douglas, would also be hired by Gatien.
But all was not well in the New York nightlife scene; Gatien’s nightclubs had become virtual drug Supermarkets. Young people were buying drugs with impunity at Gatien nightclubs, some were overdosing, and some were dying. Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration launched their investigation, utilizing their own Informants, some of whom were later identified by the Media as well as in Court proceedings. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office had their own Informants in the clubs, seeking indictments relating to income tax evasion, just as that office had successfully done previously to the owners of Studio 54. Simultaneously, the FBI had it’s own Informants in the clubs, always collecting information, the vast majority of which was never used in a prosecution. In an ideal world, these three agencies should have co-operated with each other, sharing information when appropriate. But the relationships between these three agencies was not only non-co-operative, but downright hostile.
An unforeseen event would soon change the course of the investigations of each of these three agencies. That event was the brutal murder of a drug dealer, Angel Cruz. Angel had been given that name by the man who would later murder him, Michael Alig, who took his inspiration from one of his favorite Occult Thrillers, “Angel Heart.” Melendez took the moniker literally, wearing two giant feathered wings on his back as he plowed through the back rooms of the Limelight, selling drugs. To some, Cruz was known as the “Angel of Death.” On a night early in 1996, Michael Alig, his friend “Freeze,” and the son of a celebrity welcomed Angel into Alig’s Manhattan apartment. Angel had the heroin they wanted, but Michael did not have the money owed to Angel from previous deliveries of drugs. According to the confession of Freeze, aka Robert Riggs, obtained by Detectives for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Alig and Freeze got into an altercation, during which Angel was clubbed on the head with a hammer, administered drain cleaner, and bound across his mouth with duct tape. Angel did not die quickly, nor painlessly. Angel’s body decomposed in the apartment for a week while Alig , Freeze, and the son of a celebrity used the heroin they took from the dead drug dealer. When the stench from the rotting corpse became too unbearable for their own drug-impaired senses of smell, Freeze then used cutlery to hack Angel into pieces. Alig and Freeze then hailed a cab, into which they loaded the remains of Angel. The cab driver, without questions, dropped the two off - along with their cargo - at the edge of the Hudson River in Manhattan. There, Alig and Freeze dumped Angel’s remains. Angel’s legs sank, but the box containing his torso floated because in reinforcing the box with duct tape in order to make it strong enough to hold that part of his body, the tape effectively formed a water-proof seal, setting Angel’s torso on a final journey to be determined by the currents of the Hudson River.
Michael Alig would next show up at the Chicago home of a friend of his, Rachael Cain, the “Queen of House Music.” There, the “King of the Club Kids” confessed to the “Queen of House Music” his murder of the “Angel of Death.” Shortly thereafter, Rachael flew into New York, and the two of us caught up with each other’s life over drinks at a Baird Jones event. At that point, Rachael asked for my help regarding her missing friend Angel, whom her friend Michael had confessed to murdering. I told Rachael I would utilize my Media contacts to help in this investigation. Thus, the next day I phoned a reporter named Al Guart. I had met Al because we both were contributors to the crime magazine WANTED!, the true-crime magazine I began reporting for once CAB Magazine had folded. Al’s main job was at the New York Post. I also phoned Baird Jones, who had a part-time job as a reporter for the New York Daily News, and told him the same story. That was a mistake on my part; Baird was also an employee of Peter Gatien as a party promoter, and Baird then began to run interference, trying to convince everyone investigating the murder of Angel that he had not in fact been murdered, and that the story was a hoax I had concocted. Al, at the Post, however, did not buy this, nor did the Village Voice, and both publications pursued their own rival, yet friendly, investigations.
Then, on May 15th, 1996, Peter Gatien and over 20 of his employees were arrested by the Feds on charges they trafficked drugs in Gatien’s nightclubs the Limelight and the Tunnel. Bail for Peter Gatien was set at $1 million. Gatien was represented in Court by criminal attorney Benjamin Brafman, Sammy “The Bull" Gravano’s former criminal lawyer. On May 17th Al Guart ran a story that gave a chilling look inside Peter Gatien’s empire; the previous September, authorities had shown up one night at the Limelight to arrest 30 people for drug trafficking, but only 4 were in residence. The Feds became convinced that a crooked cop had obtained the list of those expected to be arrested and that the list was circulated at the Limelight the night before. Guart noted that because of the information compromise agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration later refused to co-operate with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the NYPD. (76)
By mid-July, the Federal Prosecutors in Brooklyn who had indicted Peter Gatien and his employees on drug trafficking charges were reported to also be investigating the disappearance of Angel. (77) Speculation spread through the city that the Feds could charge those involved in the cover-up of the murder of Angel as crimes furthering the interests of a racketeering enterprise, in this case, the alleged Gatien drug trafficking ring. In other words, the Feds could use the RICO statutes normally reserved for Mafia prosecutions to add racketeering charges against Gatien and his employees that would significantly increase the jail time such alleged criminals would receive if they were convicted. While the actions that several Gatien associates had taken were unmistakable evidence of an attempt to cover-up the murder of Angel, and that included Gatien’s employee Baird Jones, the Feds were left with one minor little problem; they had yet to come up with a body – or body part – that would prove Angel had been murdered.
A few months later, the Feds thought they got a break in the case when a body part wrapped in duct tape was pulled from the East River by a hapless angler. That body turned out not to be the missing Angel. However, two NYPD Detectives who read the story in the New York Post decided to take a second look at a body part they had found months earlier washed up on Staten Island. That body part turned out to be the torso of Angel Cruz, proving at last that the drug dealer had in fact been murdered. Angel’s body showed evidence of more than just murder; his corpse had been sexually mutilated, suggesting that what happened in Michael Alig’s apartment involved more than just a drug deal gone bad.
Once Michael Alig and Freeze had confessed to this murder, rumors circulated Manhattan that Baird Jones could also be implicated in the cover-up. But by this time, I, along with others who knew Baird well, had determined that Baird’s status as a government Informant would protect him from prosecution. The Feds then, as predicted, filed additional charges against Gatien and his co-Defendants, alleging Racketeering. This charge, however, did not pertain to the cover-up of the murder of Angel, but rather the “sex and drug parties” hosted by Gatien at the Four Seasons Hotel which the Prosecutors argued were ‘company bonuses’ to reward those in the alleged drug trafficking racketeering enterprise.
This prosecution by the DEA was enormously successful, with convictions obtained against over 20 people, and at least two murders solved as a result of this investigation. As a result of this case, drug dealers throughout New York City began to operate less openly, more cautiously. As the drug dealers began to avoid Manhattan altogether, so did their customer base that pursued their commodity disappear. However, 2 of those originally accused were Acquitted. One was the alleged ring leader of the drug trafficking gang, Peter Gatien. Before his trial even began, the Judge in his case expressed his misgivings concerning the RICO charges relating to the “sex and drugs” parties at the Four Seasons Hotel hosted by Gatien. At Gatien’s trial one Club Kid who had been granted Immunity suddenly developed amnesia on the witness stand in regards to what they had testified about before the Grand Jury. The jury Acquitted Gatien, and the one juror who chose to speak to the Media outside the Courthouse indicated that the jury was so shocked by the crimes committed by the Prosecution Witnesses that they could not believe a word that they said against Gatien. (78)
Although Peter Gatien faced up to 25 years in prison for income tax evasion, his criminal lawyer Benjamin Brafman, who had early in his career worked as a Prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, was able to secure a plea bargain that put Gatien in jail for just a few weeks. In September 2002 agents of the INS threw Gatien into solitary confinement in a Pennsylvania prison while processing deportation proceedings. (79) Gatien was then Deported to his native Canada.
This story and related stories weaved in and out of the public domain over the course of several years to come. Village Voice reporter Frank Owen’s book “Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture” was well-received and the definitive work on this subject. A motion picture was also made on this subject, “Party Monster,” which starred Macauley Culkin as Michael Alig. Lillo Brancato Jr., who got his start in Gatien’s movie “A Bronx Tale,” went on to star in the cast of THE SOPRANOS. However, Brancato would later be sent to prison for his role in the murder of a NYPD Detective that was the result of Brancato’s and an accomplice’s burglary in search of heroin. Heroin addiction also brought down Cameron Douglas, who is serving out a lengthy sentence for drug trafficking in a Federal prison.
One day, as I was in Brooklyn Federal Court attending the final trial in this case, I stepped into an elevator and there was Bob Volpe, the “Art Cop.” Bob greeted me warmly, although he was very disturbed because he had been Subpoenaed by a Federal Grand Jury investigating the brutal assault of a Haitian Immigrant, Abner Louima. Bob’s son Justin had been arrested for this horrific crime, but Bob insisted his son was innocent. I pointed out to Bob that the photographs of Justin in the newspapers portrayed a young man significantly larger than the one he had introduced me to just 2 years earlier. I asked Bob if it was possible Justin was using steroids to bulk up and he didn’t get angry, he just categorically denied it, saying that Justin was always naturally big.
This case would become one of the most horrific incidents of police brutality in American history. The case began in the early morning hours of August 9th, 1997, when a phone call was placed to the 70th Precinct Stationhouse in Brooklyn. A brawl had broken out inside a nightclub frequented by Haitian immigrants called the Rendez-Vous, and it had spilled out onto Flatbush Avenue, where two women were fighting, one of whom was naked. By the time the officers arrived a near-riot was underway and the burly cops began the task of dispersing the crowd. Suddenly, a man in the crowd ran up from behind Officer Justin Volpe and sucker-punched him in the ear, knocking him to the ground. The assailant then ran off, with cops in pursuit. Volpe would later be informed that cops had in custody a man named Abner Louima they believed to be the one who assaulted him, although Louima denied it was him. Once at the station house, Louima was escorted into the bathroom, his hands cuffed behind his back. There, Officer Volpe was waiting for his revenge. Louima’s oversized pants, then the fashion, had fallen to his ankles when his belt was removed at the processing desk and his naked buttocks were exposed.
Volpe began beating Louima, who fell to the floor, at which point Volpe violently rammed the broken-off handle of a broom up into Louima’s rectum, puncturing a hole in Louima’s colon and bladder. While at least one other cop looked on, Volpe then shoved the stick in Louima’s face, covered with Louima’s feces and blood, and yelled: "Look what you made me do!" Minutes later, Louima was taken to a holding cell, his hands still cuffed behind him. "Get on your knees!" Volpe demanded. The terrified immigrant complied, after which Officer Volpe leaned into his face and warned: "If ever you tell anyone about this, I’ll kill you!" Justin Volpe and Abner Louima would both journey to the hospital that night for treatment of the severe wounds both received; Volpe to his head; Louima to his colon and bladder.
Mike McAlary of the New York Daily News would eventually be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting of this story. McAlary would first interview Louima from his hospital bed, and then Susan, the African-American fiancée of Justin Volpe. The Feds in Brooklyn then decided to take over the prosecution on the grounds that Volpe’s assault was a civil-rights case. Once before the Grand Jury, Volpe’s fiancée was aggressively questioned regarding her private life, going all the way back to her days in High School.
An investigation of potential Witness tampering was instigated by law enforcement personnel involved in this case, with the actions of several investigators scrutinized. Cathy Palmer, the lead Prosecutor, then resigned her position with the U. S. Attorney’s Office, although her boss, U. S. Attorney Zachary Carter, claimed it had nothing to do with the investigation being led by the FBI. (80)
17 days after the assault on Louima, the case took an unexpected turn with the murder of a Police Officer in Brooklyn, Ralph Dols, who was shot by two thugs outside his home in Sheepshead Bay. Officer Dols died hours later in the same operating room of Coney Island Hospital where 17 days earlier doctors had saved Abner Louima’s life. Some members of law enforcement investigating Dols’ murder pursued allegations that Dols sold steroids to cops in the 70th Precinct, and that Justin Volpe may have been one of them. (81) Other investigators, finding no hard evidence that Dols sold steroids, focused instead on his wife, Kim Kennaugh, and her friends and relatives in the Colombo Mafia Family. In 1995 Officer Dols married Ms. Kennaugh, whose brother, a member of the Colombo Mafia Family, was convicted in 1981 for the murder of a New York restaurant owner. Kennaugh’s first husband, Enrico Carini, was also a member of the Colombo Family, until he was murdered in 1987 in Brooklyn. (82) In 2012, two members of the Colombo Family were tried - but Acquitted - for the murder of Officer Dols. Ms. Kennaugh’s former lover, Joel "Joe Waverly" Cacace, who as Underboss of the Colombo Family played a central role in the Mob war that was waged in that Family, has also been charged with ordering Dols’ murder.
By the time the trial of Justin Volpe and 4 alleged accomplices began in Brooklyn Federal Court in May, 1999, the case had been turned into a Media circus. Every reporter in the country wanted to get inside that Courtroom, but only a few were allowed inside. I got in because I sat with Bob Volpe in the seats set aside for the families of the Defendants. Justin had told his father that he did not commit this violent crime, and Bob believed him, despite the evidence and the witnesses that testified one after the other. Finally, at one point I pulled Bob aside and told him that the evidence against his son was overwhelming, and that unless he intervened, as only he could, his son would be convicted and receive a prison term of Life Without Parole. There was a chance, I told Bob, that if Justin confessed and threw himself on the Mercy of the Court, that he might someday come home to his family and loved ones.
Peter Noel, a reporter for the Village Voice who specialized in cases of police brutality, published the story, “The Making of a Guilty Plea,” on May 25, 1999, about my role in securing Justin’s confession. However, for legal reasons, the lawyers in the case, as well as the Judge, would not allow Justin to identify the other cop who was in the bathroom with him during the assault. The trial of the 4 alleged accomplices was still on-going, with Officer Charles Schwarz on trial as Volpe’s alleged accomplice.
Despite Justin’s confession, I continued on with my own investigation of this case. By this time, I had evolved into what most people would term an “investigative reporter,” although I would have preferred the term “crime analyst.” What this meant was that I was more comfortable with analyzing crime data and evidence as opposed to conducting interviews with people. People, I had found, could often lie, if not “spin,” whereas evidence and facts, while sometimes misleading, were more reliable. I would have immediate success as such with the Volpe case after Justin’s guilty plea. Based on my analysis of the available evidence, I concluded that at one point there were THREE cops in the bathroom during the assault on Louima. On June 1, 1999, I published these findings at American Mafia Magazine.
23 days later, a letter from the Prosecutors in this case was published in the New York Post, which revealed that they also had concluded that there were 3 cops in the bathroom at one point during the assault. Whether my prior, published conclusion influenced their finding, I cannot say, as I was not in communication with them. Reaction by the criminal lawyers in this case was immediate, and, some would say, predictable. Justin Volpe’s attorney Marvyn Kornberg told the New York Post that the three-cop theory was a "hoax." Joseph Tacopina, the attorney for Thomas Wiese, said the theory has "no basis in reality." Steven Worth, the attorney for Charles Schwarz, who by that time had been convicted as Volpe’s accomplice, stated, "It is astounding that at this late date that the government for the first time takes the position that there was a third person in the bathroom.” (83)
It must have appeared curious, if not suspicious to some, when, at a subsequent trial in February, 2000, Louima stated on the Witness stand that the bathroom door opened and closed during Volpe’s assault against him, thus there were at one point 3 cops in the bathroom. Defense attorneys attempted to discredit Louima, who had never mentioned this during his previous testimony in Federal Court, nor before a State and Federal Grand Jury.
After the publication of my analysis regarding the presence of a third cop, my full report on this case appeared in August, 1999. The American Mafia Feature was called “17 Days in August: A Tale of Cops, Steroids, and the Mob!” My story was based upon my attendance at the trial of Justin Volpe, my analysis of the available and emerging evidence, my role in Volpe’s guilty plea, and the case I made as to whether one or more of the police officers in this case were under the influence of anabolic steroids. This story did not damage my friendship with Justin’s father Bob Volpe, which I believe speaks volumes as to this man’s character.
The central aim of my story was that the abuse of steroids was a problem in law enforcement nationwide, with “roid rage,” in which the abuser succumbs to acts of intense violence and bizarre behavior, a known side effect of such powerful drugs. Justin Volpe’s possible use of such drugs was not offered as an excuse of his horrific crime, but rather as a possible explanation. Incredibly, at that time, the NYPD did not test for steroids use in their random drug tests police officers were submitted to. As the years went by, I continued to publish others stories about steroids, law enforcement, and the traffic of such drugs by members of the American Mafia.
Following a steroids scandal in the 1988 Olympics, steroids trafficking became a Federal crime after the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1990. In recent years, the dangers of steroids abuse have been revealed through several tragic cases nationwide, one of which was that of wrestling performer Chris Benoit, who killed his wife, son, and then himself in 2007 as a result of “roid rage.” Finally, a decade after the Abner Louima case, the NYPD at last tests for steroids in their random tests of their police officers. Similar law enforcement agencies nationwide have been slow to follow suit.
On November 28, 2006, Bob Volpe died of a heart attack in the arms of the love of his life, his wife Grace. The Church during his funeral was packed to capacity with people of various ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles; fellow cops dressed in their finest, fellow artists, more casually dressed, and fellow bikers, dressed in their boots and leather. Also attending was longtime friend the Reverend Betty Neal, the Director of Ministers of Harlem, attired in her Clergy collar, and myself, her friend who accompanied her to the funeral. As an African-American, the Reverend had been subjected to some criticism for her support of the Volpe family, a member of which had committed an unspeakable act of violence against a man of color.
At one point some time later, I learned that the family and friends of Justin Volpe were circulating a Petition seeking a Presidential Commutation of Justin’s 30-year sentence. I would not sign such a request for the following reasons; since the early 1990s, when I first began to write as a journalist, my writings have had one consistent theme; that the use of drugs, whether legal or otherwise, present short-term and long-term side effects, that are both harmful to those who abuse them, as well as the Society those abusers are a part of. I have seen the effects that drug dealers have on corrupt members of law enforcement, and those who are not corrupt, who are often falsely accused of crimes. I myself have paid the consequences of taking a stand against drugs and those who peddle them. Justin Volpe has not yet addressed the issue of steroids abuse in the 70th Precinct during the time he worked there. If he has no knowledge of such activity, then he should come out and say so. If he does, he should tell all he knows, and he should name names. To do so would send a warning signal to the Youth of America that nothing good can come from the use of steroids. It would also serve as a warning to those in law enforcement nationwide that there is a reason that steroids are illegal; because they are very dangerous.
It was the abuse of illegal drugs, their dealers, and the consequences therein, which ended my friendship with Baird Jones. Baird was basically a good and decent man, but his habitual use of drugs impaired his judgment, made him vulnerable to those who sought the information he could provide to them, and ultimately cost him his life. In February, 2008, Baird, at age 53, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment. The New York Daily News, for which he worked for a time, reported the findings from the Coroner’s office. Baird was never a bodybuilder, nor one for exercise. Still, the Coroners office found in his bloodstream substantial amounts of marijuana, and steroids. (84)
PART EIGHT: “LAST CALL”
One night in May, 2000, I found a report on-line originally published in the Staten Island Advance, stating that authorities were close to arresting the “Last Call Killer,” the serial killer who had murdered several men in the New York area, including Michael Sakara. The identification had come from a Wanted poster distributed in Staten Island showing three composite drawings made by police sketch artists. The next day I called Janet Sumner to tell her there had been a break in the case of her murdered friend, leaving that message on her answering machine. Later that night, I went on-line to find more information about the killer. What I found was one of the Wanted posters being distributed, which offered a $45,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderer.
There, on that poster, I saw a face I knew as well as my own - because it was my own! Needless to say, I was stunned. I immediately knew that this could be no accident, no coincidence, that my face was associated with a murder I myself had been lured into investigating by a friend of the murder victim. As I stared at the image on my screen, it slowly dawned on me the only logical conclusion as to why my face was there; I had been framed - framed as a suspect in a murder case. My work investigating crimes had begun 7 years earlier, instigated by a single phone call from Janet Sumner, and now I would have to utilize the experience I had gained in an investigation of crimes of which I was one of the victims.
I began by scrutinizing the Wanted poster, examining whatever evidence I could find as to it’s genesis. The poster was being distributed by members of the law enforcement community, as well as various organizations that offer support services for the gay community, among them the Anti-Violence Project, a New York City non-profit, and a magazine now called Gay City News, among others. The poster showed three faces drawn by police sketch artists based upon interviews with three people who claimed to have witnessed the man last seen with Michael Sakara on the night he was murdered. Those three were a Waitress at the 5 Oaks bar, who served the two men drinks over the course of several hours, a Cab driver who picked up an employee of the bar after the bar had closed, and a person who claimed to be a homeless man who said he saw Sakara and the man with him as he begged for spare change at 4:30 in the morning on the sidewalk outside the bar.
The first composite drawing was my face, in stark contrast to the second and third drawings, which were clearly NOT me, but of the same, very different person. The shape of his head, his mouth, lips, and eyes, were remarkably different from my own. Thus, either 1of the 3 “witnesses” was very confused about what they claimed they saw, or they were lying. I immediately eliminated the Waitress as being the one responsible for providing the wrong description, as that person observed the suspect for the longest amount of time. I found suspect that the authorities utilized the Cab driver as a witness, given that the Cab driver only got a fleeting glimpse of the murder suspect, whereas the Cab driver’s passenger, who was an employee of the 5 Oaks bar had, along with many others inside that small bar, observed the murder suspect over a much longer period of time.
Then there was the matter of the man who said he was homeless, and the time frame during which he made his allegations. The description of my face given to the authorities occurred back in 1993, within a few weeks of the arrests of Detective Joe Simone and Republican leader Tom Stevens. Two Judges would determine that both men had been framed. Thus, my initial reaction was that I must consider the possibility that I was framed as a murder suspect by some of the same people involved in the framing of Stevens and Simone. One scenario would be for a criminal to dress in rags and pose as a homeless person to Homicide Detectives to whom my description would be given as a suspect in the Sakara murder. Evidence was emerging during that time of FBI Informants nationwide committing similar crimes, as noted earlier in this narrative. However, further research on my part uncovered the New York Times reports of homeless men having been hired by Republican ‘dirty tricks’ operatives to disrupt polling places on Election day, 1993. Thus, the possibility had to be pursued that an actual homeless man had been paid to falsely implicate me in the Sakara murder. That person, having not actually seen me, would have had to be given a photograph of myself, but finding such would not have been difficult; my photograph was taken frequently at the various public events I attended several nights a week as required for my Magazine column. Also, during that time, my photograph was on file with the NYPD, because my photo had to be published each year on my official NYPD Press Identification card.
A key piece of information was the homeless man’s claim that the killer drove a “white or light blue compact car” with New York license plates. (85) That claim became very significant 8 years after it was given to the authorities when the killer was apprehended, and was found to own a blue, compact car, a 1991 Toyota Corolla. (86) This showed that the witness who provided this clue was accurate as to his description of the killer’s car. If, however, that same “witness” provided the description of the killer and it was the wrong description, that being of my face, then that would present a major discrepancy; Why was his description of the killer’s car accurate, whereas his description of the killer inaccurate?
With the arrest of the murderer, authorities sought to locate the original witnesses who gave descriptions to police sketch artists. Members of law enforcement easily located the Waitress who worked at the bar on the night of the murder of Michael Sakara, and she identified the murderer at his trial. To track down the Cab driver would also not be difficult, because the City of New York maintains records on those individuals. Finding the homeless man, however, could be more challenging, given that he was “homeless.”
One of the first conclusions I reached in my investigation of the Wanted poster was that this entire scenario could be put into motion by just a single person - the person who falsely gave my description to the cops regarding the murder of Sakara; everyone else who followed was just an innocent member of law enforcement doing their job. I would later find another example of such a case during my coverage of the “Mafia Cops” trial in Brooklyn. Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration found evidence revealing that “Mafia Cop" Lou Eppolito had framed an innocent man, Barry Gibbs, for the 1988 murder of Virginia Robertson, by coercing a man into falsely testifying that he saw Gibbs dispose of Robertson’s body. That was all it took; one false identification, for Barry Gibbs to serve 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
Why Detective Eppolito targeted Barry Gibbs to frame for the murder of Robertson has not been uncovered, nor will it likely ever be. What is known is that Gibbs lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Robertson, and thus Eppolito knew it could seem plausible that the 2 could have crossed paths. In my case, of the nearly 2,000 murders that occurred in New York City in 1993, one of those, the murder of Michael Sakara, had it’s origin in a Cabaret bar, which was the “beat” of the periodical I wrote for, CAB Magazine, and thus it could be plausibly suggested that he and I had crossed paths.
What made matters worse was the fact that several people put me into situations that made my behavior appear suspicious to those in law enforcement. First, there was Janet Sumner. It was she who called me 2 months after her friend Michael Sakara had been murdered, and asked me to help her in the search for his killer. In that same conversation Janet invited me to an event celebrating the works of art created by police officers, which was attended by dozens of police officers, some of whom were Homicide Detectives, and at least one of which was a police sketch artist. I had no idea the description of my face had been given to a police sketch artist. Looking back, I had to consider the possibility that Janet had been approached by Homicide Detectives, who told her they had a suspect in the murder of her friend - someone she knew, that person being me. Thus, she could have been asked to call me, mention the murder of Sakara, and see what was my reaction.
Contrarily, it should be noted that when Janet asked me for help in investigating this murder, she told me she did not believe the authorities were doing enough to solve this murder because the victim happened to be gay. The father and brother of Angel Melendez would later tell me exactly the same thing in regards to the murder of Angel.
Also, had I known about the composite drawing I certainly would not have visited the Townhouse, where I interviewed patrons and employees alike as to their thoughts in regards to the killer preying on the gay community. It did not escape my notice that my questions appeared to frighten those such as Rick Page, the Townhouse piano player whose counter-part at the 5 Oaks bar had been murdered. Had Detectives canvassed the Townhouse subsequent to my visit, and asked patrons if they had seen the man in the sketch they had in their possession, some such patrons could have pointed to the sketch and told the cops that they in fact had seen such a person, who had been in the Townhouse one night asking questions about the murders.
Someone else I knew would lure me into a situation that I innocently walked into. Baird Jones, without my knowledge or consent, put my name on an invitation as a host at one of his events at the 5 Oaks bar in Greenwich Village. This was the only time Baird did this without my prior approval - it was expected that I attend an event at which I was a co-host, thus he always asked consent prior to printing up the invitations. The invitations to that event with my name on them showed up one day in my mailbox, and while I was puzzled that Baird had deviated from his usual protocol, I was nevertheless happy to attend such an event. As I entered that night I was greeted not by Baird but by Janet, who introduced me to a bar employee, and we immediately discussed the case of the murder of her friend Michael Sakara. Not introduced to me but adjacent were two large “law enforcement” types. Looking back they were probably NYPD, and for them, they must have regarded my presence at that bar as a case of the “perp” ‘returning to the scene of his crime!’
Something more needs to be said about Baird Jones. Baird had over the years built up an extensive collection of art. His collection included works by celebrated artists such as Andy Warhol and Mark Kostabi, as well as art created by celebrities. Baird also had a macabre collection of art created by criminals; serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy and very disturbing artwork by the “suicide doctor,” Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Given his unusual fascination with such people, Baird would have jumped at the chance to assist cops in an investigation of a potential serial killer, and I’m convinced he did just that.
The investigation of the murder of Michael Sakara also had other unusual aspects, one of which involved politics. During the Dinkins Administration, (1990-1994), Mayor Dinkins responded to cries for help from the gay community, who voiced their conviction that a serial killer was preying on men in the city. Dinkins ordered that the NYPD join a task force involving authorities in 7 agencies in 3 States - New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, to combine resources to find the killer. Four members of Congress also called on the FBI to join in the investigation. Then, in early 1994, shortly after Rudolph Giuliani was sworn in as Mayor, something very odd happened; Mayor Giuliani ordered the NYPD to stop co-operating with the Multi-State task force searching for the murderer. A similar task force was re-formed in 2000, but the NYPD refused again to join it. (87)
With the withdrawal of the NYPD from the Task Force searching for the killer, I became the “person of interest” of investigations by both the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. To their credit, most of this investigation of myself was not detected by me during that time, and was only corroborated years later. It would later turn out that I was one of two men investigated in this case based on faulty identification. This should never have been the case for me, given that the evidence available in the public domain indicated that the person who killed Sakara had also killed other men, and that physical evidence in those killings suggested that the murderer lived and/or worked on Staten Island, prior to the year in which I moved to New York. It may never be accurately estimated as to the financial cost in resources devoted to the investigation of myself and the other suspect in the murder of Michael Sakara. This was not only a total waste of personnel and the various methods of surveillance in the NYPD’s arsenal, but also allowed the actual killer to roam the city in search of new victims with impunity.
In my case, all of this could have been avoided, had those investigators interviewed me. When I first learned I was a suspect, I consulted a lawyer, whom I told I wanted to approach the authorities investigating, and offer my DNA, fingerprints, and any other evidence, including my dental records. I also told the lawyer I wanted to go to the Media. I was advised against this, and was told that once my name became publicly associated with this case, it would not be uncommon for people to crawl out from under the wood-works to falsely implicate me, in the hopes of claiming the $45,000 reward.
I protested thus to my lawyer: “Well what then can I do? I can’t go out to gay bars and hold up a Wanted poster and ask someone: ‘Have you seen this man?’ because they will then say, “Yes, I have; he’s standing right in front of me, holding up a ‘Wanted poster’ with his face on it!”
It was such dark humor that helped me get through this crisis. For the time being, I had to work quietly, behind the scenes, gathering and analyzing whatever information I could. Simultaneously, various law enforcement agencies were continuing their investigations. This case would not be solved by me, nor by those New York City investigators, but those in Upstate New York and New Jersey. In 2000, the wife of one of the murder victims, Mrs. Thomas Mulcahy, made one more plea with Detective Matthew Kuehn of the New Jersey State Police to re-open the investigation. The multi-agency Task Force was then reconstituted, again without the full involvement of the NYPD.
Thomas Mulcahy was a Boston businessman who had a devoted wife of several decades and 4 children. In 1992, Mulcahy took a business trip to Manhattan, which was not uncommon for his job. Mulcahy’s dismembered body parts were then found in Burlington County, New Jersey. Among the evidence was a bite mark on Mulcahy’s neck, left there by his murderer. (88) Bite marks are as individual as fingerprints. What I would later discover is that one of the investigative agencies involved in this case had obtained my dental records, which eliminated me as a suspect in their investigation. The authorities in New Jersey also had the fingerprints of the murderer on some of the garbage bags into which he deposited body parts, but those fingerprints were faint and smudged and could not be lifted using conventional laboratory techniques available at that time.
Investigators had concluded it was likely that Mulcahy led a secret gay life, and that was how he met the man who murdered him. It was known that Mulcahy had visited the Townhouse on the night before he was murdered and presumed he had returned there the night he disappeared. However, the family and business associates of Mulcahy have been quite vocal as to their conviction that this man did not lead a double life. Once I began to put together this narrative I took a closer look at the evidence regarding Mulcahy and the man who murdered him and concluded that the cops got it wrong. First, while the Townhouse can be considered “gay-friendly” many of it’s devoted clientele are straight, thus the term “gay-bar” may not be the best assignation. And, according to several patrons of the Townhouse interviewed by this reporter, the Townhouse is by no means a location where anyone, gay or straight, goes to pick up someone for casual sex. Only with the arrest of the murderer and the public disclosure of facts about him, including his “method of operation,” was I able to arrive at the conclusion as to what I believe happened to Thomas Mulcahy on the night he met his murderer.
The killer was in fact a male nurse living on Staten Island, just as all of the evidence had pointed to from the beginning. His name was Richard Rogers, Jr., and like most serial killers, he got started at an early age. In 1973, Rogers was arrested for the murder of Frederic Spencer, a 22-year-old University of Maine student. At his trial, Rogers adopted the “blame the victim” strategy popularized by sleazy criminal lawyers in cases of rape, torture, and murder. Rogers told the jury that he came home one day to find Spencer in the act of burglary, who then tried to assault him with a hammer. In the ensuing struggle, Rogers claimed, he grabbed the hammer away from his assailant and clubbed him in self-defense. “Self-defense,” by Rogers’ definition, also meant wrapping a plastic bag around his victim’s head in order to suffocate him to death. As he would many times later, Rogers dumped his victim’s body in a public area. The jury bought Rogers’ explanation and Acquitted him. (89)
6 years later, Rogers was in the nursing profession and had moved to Staten Island, New York. Simultaneous to his move to Staten Island was the beginning of crimes against men committed there, at least one of which involved murder. (90) Rogers worked the “Graveyard shift” after Midnight as a nurse in the Pediatric section of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, the “guardian” of sleeping children under his Watch. Officials there suspected that Rogers was the one who was stealing quantities of a drug called Versed, which would be confirmed once his residence was searched by the authorities. (91)
In recent years, this drug has been stolen from hospitals and sold as a “date-rape” drug. The rapist will slip the drug into the drink of his victim, who quickly becomes confused, dizzy, nauseous, sleepy, and has trouble walking. This incapacitation makes the victim all the more vulnerable to the rapist; they suddenly feel terrible and just want to get into a bed. The perpetrator is only too willing to oblige. Another side effect is amnesia; thus, when the person regains consciousness, they will have no memory of what has happened to them.
Rogers’ possession of Versed helps explain his “method of operation.” In July, 1988, Rogers brought a Manhattan resident named Fred Lero to his Staten Island home. The two men were drinking, when Lero lost consciousness. When he awoke, he found he was tied to Rogers’ bed, and Rogers was pummeling with his fists. Lero struggled, fought back, and somehow managed to free himself and escape Rogers’ House of Horrors. Richard Rogers Jr. was arrested - AGAIN - for crimes against another person that could send him to prison for many years. But Rogers was as clever as he was Evil. Staten Island is known for being very Conservative, and not particularly friendly towards gays. Rogers must have known that the local jury pool of Staten Island residents would probably not have been sympathetic towards a Defendant accused of drugging, tying up, and assaulting a man in his home. Thus, Rogers demanded and received a “Bench Trial,” in which the Defendant waives his right to a trial by jury and instead the Judge acts as both Judge and Jury. Rogers was Acquitted and the Judge “Sealed” the case, which effectively erases the case from public scrutiny. (92) One such consequence is that the person’s fingerprints are removed from the criminal records of the State in which the person was arrested. The net result of this would be that Richard Rogers Jr. would be allowed to continue his murder spree once his fingerprints were obtained by those authorities following his trail of death.
5 years later, Richard Rogers shared drinks with Michael Sakara in the 5 Oaks bar, where Sakara habitually entertained bar patrons with his singing of Cabaret songs to a piano accompaniment. At the “Last Call” at 4 a.m., Sakara apologized to his audience, saying he was too drunk to sing his signature closing number, “I’ll be Seeing You.” (93) Sakara was too drunk to sing, and, presumably, to have sex. Richard Rogers, however, was not too drunk to drive - nor to commit murder. Sakara could have accepted Rogers’ invitation to come back to his apartment - a 30 minute drive from Manhattan, or Rogers could have offered to drop Sakara off at his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Rogers was a nurse, who had extensive experience administering drugs to patients, and observing the effects such drugs had. With Sakara too impaired to sing, but Rogers not too impaired to drive, the possibility must be considered that Sakara was under the influence of the drug Versed. Sakara probably lost consciousness once he was inside Rogers’ car, regardless of what he thought was his destination.
A year earlier, Thomas Mulcahy had his encounter with Rogers. It is presumed Mulcahy met Rogers at the Townhouse, where Mulcahy had been known to have been the night before. If Mulcahy had wanted to engage in sex with Rogers, the most convenient method would be for the two of them to take the 10 minute walk to the hotel where Mulcahy was staying, rather than take the 30 minute drive to Staten Island. But there is another possibility; that Mulcahy had no intention of having sex with Rogers, but only wanted to share drinks and conversation with someone in a safe bar in the safest neighborhood of Manhattan. This makes more sense to this reporter, given the nature and reputation of the Townhouse, and what is known about Mulcahy. (94) Rogers’ could thus have surreptitiously secreted Versed into Mulcahy’s drink, and then carefully observe his victim as the drug quickly took it’s effect. As Mulcahy became further incapacitated, his only desire would to get back to his hotel room - alone. Rogers, the ‘caring Nurse’ that he was, would offer to help Mulcahy out of the bar, and then instead suggest he drop Mulcahy off at his hotel with his car. Mulcahy never made it back to his hotel room, nor his family.
It would be the computer industry that was Mulcahy’s vocation which would ultimately bring his killer to Justice. Over the years, a computerized crime database called the Automated Fingerprint Identification System began to compile fingerprints from arrest records. The Task Force centered in New Jersey finally obtained the fingerprints of the serial killer when garbage bags used in the disposal of Thomas Mulcahy’s body were sent to a laboratory in Canada, where a new technique had been perfected which allowed the lifting of fingerprints from plastic surfaces. Soon, the Task Force had the killer’s fingerprints and entered them into the AFIS computer. No match came up, because the killer’s fingerprints from his arrest in New York had been “Sealed” by the Judge in the case of the assault against Fred Lero. The State of Maine had not yet entered into the AFIS computer fingerprints from their records, which included the 1973 arrest of Richard Rogers for the killing of Frederic Spencer.
After my elimination as a suspect, authorities began to distribute the Wanted poster on Staten Island, which should have been done 7 years earlier. St. Vincent’s Hospital was targeted, given that the evidence suggested that the killer was probably a male Nurse who worked and/or lived on Staten Island. Then, in a real-life plot twist worthy of Hitchcock, a woman who saw the flier recognized one of the composite drawings as the face of a man she knew, a male Nurse who had worked at St. Vincent’s and only recently had moved to New Jersey. Local Media buzzed with the report that an arrest was imminent in the case of the “Last-Call Killer.” (95)
However, once again, the wrong man had been targeted. Weeks, then months, would go by with no arrest in the case. Finally, in May, 2001, the State of Maine entered their fingerprint records into the AFIS computer system, and the killer had a name; Richard Rogers, Jr. At first, Homicide Detectives of the Task Force did not want to arrest Rogers, but rather put him under surveillance. While Rogers was described by a Task Force member as a “loner,” unable to make meaningful, close relationships with people, (96) he also traveled frequently, and members of the Task Force wanted to follow him in the hope of gaining intelligence on other crimes. At first, the NYPD agreed to this scenario, but later reversed course; the Department had just been embarrassed when they let a person go who had been caught dumping a dead body, who then murdered and dismembered someone else. Also, Mayor Giuliani’s mother was at the time a patient at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where the serial killer worked. Thus, the NYPD made the decision to arrest Rogers. Members of the Task Force were furious, but there had always been “bad blood” between the Task Force and the NYPD, going all the way back to the original decision in the early days of the Giuliani Administration to withdraw the NYPD from the Task Force. (97)
On the morning of May 30, 2001, the arrest of Richard Rogers, Jr. appeared in the Media. The photograph of Richard Rogers looked nothing like the composite drawing from the Wanted poster that was my face, but was a dead ringer for the other two. This strange case was far from over, and would get even stranger. First, the Media response to Rogers’ arrest was somewhat underwhelming. Only the Philadelphia Enquirer reported the sensational news that Rogers, like many serial killers, had kept what are called “trophies,” in Rogers’ case mummified body parts of some of his victims. (98) Other Media reports said no body parts were found. The American public is usually fascinated by serial killers, and Rogers’ was a real-life combination of Hannibal Lechter and Norman Bates.
Despite all of this, there was little public attention to this case. Rogers was held without Bail for a year and a half until he was finally indicted for the murders of 2 men. Two more years would pass by before Rogers was finally taken to trial. Although Rogers was never charged for the murder of Michael Sakara, the Judge in the case allowed 5 Oaks bartender Lisa Hall to testify that he was the man she served drinks to, along with Michael Sakara, on the last night of Sakara’s life. (99) Richard Rogers Jr. was convicted on two counts of murder and was given 2 Life Sentences.
With the conviction of Richard Rogers I was confronted with what I should do about this story. When I first learned I had been framed as a suspect in the Sakara murder, I told a few people, mostly those in law enforcement, and they believed me, having seen things like this before. But I did not believe that the average American citizen would believe such a story, so I kept quiet. That was 11 years ago. As the years went by, however, I grew increasingly anxious to tell this story.
I started writing this story in 2008, but once again decided the average person would not believe such a story, one reason being that I was never charged. However, as I investigated further, I found similar cases where someone was framed as a suspect in a crime for which they had no part. The intention was not to see that person charged in that crime, but instigate investigations of that person by law enforcement, with the hopes that such investigation would actually detect that person in the commission of some other crime, for which they could then be arrested. Also, with each passing year, more and more stories nationwide have attracted attention as to how innocent people have been wrongly accused, and often convicted, of crimes they did not commit. Two non-profit organizations have led the way in sounding the alarm in regards to this situation. One is the National Whistleblowers Center, which champions those who have the courage to take a stand against Injustice, often at great risk to their careers and even their very lives. What is particularly encouraging is the fact that among the more important whistleblowers in recent years have been Agents of the FBI - the very agency tarred by scandals of murder, cover-up, tampered evidence, and the framing of innocent people.
The other organization is the Innocence Project, which deploys lawyers and investigators to reverse the convictions of those wrongly convicted of crimes. To date, over 300 people, 17 of whom had been on Death Row, have been vindicated as a result of the work of this organization. Both of these organizations, despite their obvious good work, are nevertheless met with disdain and hostility from some officials in Local, State, and Federal positions of power and influence.
So; that’s my story. The story of three men, falsely accused, and how easy it was for each to be so accused. I apologize for the length of this story, but not for the message. That message, quite simply, is this; whenever a person holds Power, that person can abuse such Power. What happened to me, to Joe Simone, to Tom Stevens, and all the others mentioned in this narrative, could just as easily happen to you.
J. R. de Szigethy can be contacted at: email@example.com
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65. “The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI,” by William C. Sullivan with Bill Brown, Norton & Company, 1979.
66. “The Fixer,” by William Bastone, The Village Voice, December 19, 1995.
68. “Perot-Noia!” by Laurence I. Barrett, Richard Woodbury, and Jay Peterzell, and “Sting the President: How the FBI tired to Ensnare a Bush Campaign Official on a Tip from Ross Perot,” by Richard Behar and Elaine Shannon. Time Magazine, November 9, 1992.
69. “Voting Complaints Lead to Investigation,” the New York Times, November 12, 1993.
70. “G.O.P. Accused of Disrupting Minority Voting in New York,” by James C. McKinley, Jr. The New York Times, December 1, 1993.
71. “Mafia Son: The Scarpa Mob Family, the FBI, and a Story of Betrayal,” by Sandra Harmon, St. Martin’s Press, 2009.
72. “Death of a Hood,” by Eric Pooley, New York Magazine, January 29, 1990.
73. “Fool’s Paradise: Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach,” by Steven Gaines. Random House, 2009)
74. “BP Leads 700 at Rally for ‘Good Cops,” the Staten Island Advance, December 4, 1994.
75. “Guy Molinari Fumes: FBI Tried to Set Me Up,” the New York Post, April 26, 1995.
76. “Cop Tipped Off Drug Raids,” by Al Guart and Linda Massarella, the New York Post, May 17, 1996.
77. “Feds Probe Clubbie’s Vanishing Act,” by Richard Johnson, the New York Post, July 16, 1996.
78. “King of Clubs gets Dealt an Acquittal,” by Helen Peterson, The New York Daily News, February 12, 1998.
79. “Ex-Club King Faces INS Boot,” by Al Guart and Eric Lenkowitz, The New York Post, September 8, 2002.
80. “Louima Case Prosecutor Takes New Job,” by Helen Peterson and Leo Standora, The New York Daily News, June 10, 1998.
81. “Report: Volpe May have Bought Steroids from Murdered Cop,” the Staten Island Advance, August 13, 1999.
82. “NYC Police Probe Mob Role in Officer’s Execution,” by David Kocieniewski, The New York Times, August 27, 1997.
83. “Prosecutors Unveil Third-Cop Theory in New Louima Shocker,” by Murray Weiss, The New York Post, June 24, 1999.
84. “Side Dish: Steroids, Pot in Gossiper’s Death,” The New York Daily News, March 11, 2008.
85. “New Jersey Reopens the case of the ‘Last Call Killer,’” by Judy Peet, The Star Ledger, April 16, 2000.
86. “Hunt is on for More Victims,” by Ryan Lillis and John O’Brien, The Staten Island Advance, June 1, 2001.
88. “New Jersey Reopens the case of the ‘Last Call Killer,’” by Judy Peet, The Star Ledger, April 16, 2000.
89. “Arrest of Rogers Reopens Decades of Mother’s Grief,” The Staten Island Advance, May 31, 2001.
90. “Hunt is on for More Victims,” by Ryan Lillis and John O’Brien, The Staten Island Advance, June 1, 2001.
91. “Gay-Slay Search Nets Sedatives,” by Larry Celona, The New York Post, June 3, 2001.
92. “Did an Acquittal her Spring ‘Last Call Killer?,’” by John O’Brien, The Staten Island Advance, June 2, 2001.
93. “New Jersey Reopens the case of the ‘Last Call Killer,’” by Judy Peet, The Star Ledger, April 16, 2000
94. “Sudbury Victim’s Friend Says he Gave No Hint of Being Gay,” by Laurel J. Sweet, The Boston Herald, June 1, 2001.
95. “Police Close in on ‘Last-Call Killer,” The Staten Island Advance, May 17, 2000.
96. “Links Sought to Other Grisly Murders,” by John Ellement, The Boston Globe, May 31, 2001.
97. “Cops Slam Gay-Slay Arrest,” by John Marzulli, The New York Daily News, June 6, 2001.
98. “Link to 1991 Murder of Philadelphia Man Sought,” by Marc Schogol, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 2001.
99. “Richard W. Rogers,” by Katherine Ramsland, TruTV Crime Library.
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