IN THIS ISSUE|
· Lessons for Today
· New Federal Strip Club
· Carmine Ready to Deal
· For Sopranos’ Fans
· This Week in Mob History
The recent racketeering trial of Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino proved that today’s criminals, prosecutors and judges could learn a lesson from the 1933 conviction of the legendary George "Machine Gun" Kelly.
It’s been nearly 70 years since Kelly, the infamous bank robber and kidnapper, left his mark during what became known as the Mid-West Crime Wave. On July 22, 1933 Kelly kidnapped prominent Oklahoma City oil millionaire Charles F. Urschel and held him at his father-in-law’s farm outside Paradise, Texas. After receiving a ransom of $200,000 Urschel was set free on July 31. Urschel’s attention to details in his surroundings while in captivity led lawmen to the farmhouse where he had been held twelve days later.
Kelly was on the run only to be captured by a police sergeant in a Memphis rooming house on September 26. Despite FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s version of the events, Kelly never uttered the famous line which has been attributed to him, "Don’t shoot, G-men." The nickname has been part of FBI lore for decades.
Kelly was sentenced to life in prison. He was sent to Leavenworth, before being transferred to Alcatraz where he was a model prisoner and liked by both the guards and fellow inmates. In 1951 Kelly was transferred back to Leavenworth, where he died on his 59th birthday, July 18, 1954.
Before he died, Kelly corresponded with Urschel and begged the oilman to intercede on his behalf. In one of his last letters Kelly wrote his now famous quote, "these five words seem written in fire on the walls of my cell: Nothing can be worth this!"
Despite the money he gained and the notoriety he received through the kidnapping, Kelly would have traded it all just so he wouldn’t have to die behind bars. While his message of life in prison has been around for decades, few criminals heed it and find themselves in the same dank cells from which Kelly once bared his soul.
Unlike Lesson #1, which is for all the would-be criminals in the country, Lesson #2 targets the prosecutors and judges across America. Why is it in this day of advanced law enforcement that it takes so long to bring criminals to trial and then, if found guilty, sentencing them? Information today is at one’s fingertips. Computer technology has revolutionized how the criminal justice process is handled in courtrooms.
So why is justice being dragged out? Take a look at the recent Merlino trial in Philadelphia. Merlino was arrested in June 1999. By the time the government put all of its indictments together and was ready to proceed to trial it was March 2001, nearly two years later.
Who was responsible for the delay, the prosecutors or the defense attorneys? Were the prosecutors taking their time putting together an airtight case, knowing that all but one defendant was already behind bars? If so, based on the verdict, what a waste of time and money that turned out to be. Was it the defense lawyers filing motions, and building up billable hours, that delayed the trial’s start? Who makes more money than a mob lawyer? During the depression years attorney Louis Piquette was asked why he wasted his time defending the likes of criminals such as John Dillinger. "Why?" Piquett responded, "They’re the only ones who have money these days."
Mob lawyers’ creed: A gangster and his money are soon parted – to supply a quality legal defense.
In the Merlino trial both prosecutors and lawyers claimed a win. Defense attorneys declared victory because their clients were acquitted of the most serious charges – murder, attempted murder, and drug dealing. Prosecutors praised their own efforts, stating that the defendants were looking at up to seven years in prison – well, five years after deducting time served. Even with the verdicts in there is still a lengthy time period before the convicted defendants are sentenced.
Despite being convicted of lesser crimes, the defendants won’t be sentenced until December – five months from now. What’s up with that? Federal sentencing guidelines were established in the 1980’s. Plug the crimes into the computer, crank out the sentence, and put the boys in the penitentiary where they belong and let them wonder, "What can be worth this?"
Kelly’s lesson for judges and prosecutors was this – After executing one of the most highly publicized kidnappings in United States history, Kelly was arrested in Memphis – extradited to Oklahoma City to stand trial – was tried, convicted, sentenced and walked into Leavenworth federal penitentiary to begin a life sentence – all in the span of 18 days.
Now that’s justice and a well-learned lesson for all.
On August 2 Steve Kaplan, owner of the now infamous Gold Club in Atlanta, pled guilty in the middle of a high-profile trial which was getting national media coverage due to the lurid sex acts taking place there with big name professional athletes. Kaplan, an alleged associate of the Gambino Crime Family, admitted that he paid his strippers to have sex with the athletes. Kaplan is facing a sentence of three years in prison and a $5.0 million fine.
A provision of the agreement is that the Gold Club becomes the property of the Federal government. Bill "I Did Not Have Sex With That Woman" Clinton must be pulling his hair out. Eight years in office and just six months after leaving the White House the government lands the hottest strip joint in the nation.
The 7,000-square foot club, furnished with mirrored walls and lots of gold rails, was turned over to its new landlord last week.
What a Christmas gift for Congress – this coming on last month’s revelation that approximately 80 members were involved in extra-marital affairs. Maybe Representative Gary Condit, who is likely to be searching for a new job, can manage it. Don’t be surprised to see Bill Clinton, who just settled into a Harlem office two weeks ago, establish an office in the south soon. Perhaps Bill can serve as director of lap dances, or in some similar capacity.
Now the slimier members of Congress can pay for their sexual delights instead of getting them for free from the taxpayer financed interns.
In an exclusive article in the New York Post, former AM.com writer Al Guart reported on Wednesday, August 8 that Carmine Agnello would plead guilty on Friday. It is believed the plea was prompted by Federal Judge Nina Gershon’s decision to allow tape recordings of Agnello instructing an informant on how to build a firebomb as evidence. Agnello, the son-in-law of John Gotti, then offered to pay him $2,000 to light up Stadium Scrap Company, which was really a New York Police Department sting operation the hapless Agnello stumbled into.
In accepting the plea Agnello could face up to nine years in prison and a fine of $11 million. Keeping an eye on Carmine’s assets – a net worth of $40 million – are lawyers for Victoria Gotti. Currently in divorce proceedings against Agnello, when Miss Gotti gets through with Carmine his net worth may only be $40 bucks. Earlier this year a judge ordered the philandering Carmine to pay his novel writing wife $17,500 in monthly support. In turn she was ordered to let the couple’s three sons visit daddy in jail.
Although the season ended a couple of month’s ago, Anthony Soprano, Jr. is leading a one-man crusade to keep the spirit of the show fresh in everyone’s mind. Robert Iler, the on screen son of Tony Soprano, was indicted in a mugging incident in New York in which two 16 year-old teenagers were relieved of $40.
The media is eating this up as well as the New York newspapers, which are printing everything they can get their hands on. The latest news is that Iler’s companion that night, 19year-old Michael Cournede, was charged last Wednesday with felony robbery in a separate incident that occurred this past April. Reports say Cournede could face up to 25 years in prison. Meanwhile, Iler is said to be looking at 15 years. Yeah, right! When is the last time a media personality was convicted and spent time behind bars. Perhaps Iler’s best bet is to get that "hanging judge" that sentenced Robert Downey, Jr.
This weekend HBO will replay the original Sopranos’ series beginning at 8:00pm EDST. This is the episode where Iler, in his Anthony Junior role, spits out his award winning line, "What, No fuckin’ ziti?" in front of mom, dad and grandma.
August 14, 1921 – In Chicago Joseph Sinacola was shot down by two gunmen in front of his house. His death was one of many that took place during what was called the "Bloody 19th Ward War." At the time Sinacola was recovering from wounds suffered in an attempt to murder him on July 7. Both shootings occurred in front of his young daughter. For more info see my AM.com column dated 10-2-00, "Chicago’s Unione Siciliano – 1920 – A Decade of Slaughter (Part Two).
August 14, 1946 – Race wire magnate James M. Ragen died in his hospital bed after being poisoned. The 65 year-old Ragen was recovering from an ambush on June 24 on State Street. Despite the hope that he would recover Ragen suddenly died. It was later reported that Ragen’s autopsy showed traces of mercury in his blood indicating that someone had entered his room and poisoned him. See my column dated 8-2-99, "The History of the Race Wire Service – Part Three."
August 15, 1930 – Pietro "Peter" Morello, a top lieutenant of Joe "the Boss" Masseria was murdered in his East Harlem office in the middle of the afternoon during the Castellammarese War. According to Joseph Valachi the murder was carried out by the infamous "Buster from Chicago." However, in Luciano’s quasi autobiography, "The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano," he claims he sent Frank Scalise and Albert Anastasia to murder "The Clutching Hand," as Morello was known. Killed with Morello was a collector named Giuseppe Pariano.
August 16, 1962 – In New Orleans Philip "Dandy Phil" Kastel, a longtime gambling associate of Frank Costello died form a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The 68 year-old Kastel, whose criminal career was advanced due to his association with the legendary Arnold Rothstein, was suffering from abdominal cancer. See my 3-1-99 column – "Perfecting the Number Two Spot" – for a short biography on Kastel.
August 16, 1991 – Howard J. Ferrini became one of the first victims of a mob war in Boston. Ferrini, a professional gambler, was beaten to death on August 16, 1991 in his Berkley home and tossed in the trunk of his 1988 Cadillac. Five days later, the car was found at Logan Airport dripping blood and emitting a foul odor. See my two articles covering the conflict in "Mob War in Beantown," 9-11 and 9-18-2000.
August 17, 1936 – John "Big Nose" Avena, the boss of the Philadelphia Family, was murdered on a street corner called the "Bloody Angle." Known as John Nazzone, Avena was cut down by members of the Lanzetti brothers’ gang while conversing with a friend. He was succeeded by John Bruno.
August 18, 1948 – Hooky Rothman was shotgunned to death during what was known as the "The Battle of Sunset Strip." Members of the Los Angeles Mafia were trying to eliminate Jewish mobster Mickey Cohen. Early that evening Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno used his wife and daughter to help set Cohen up at his haberdashery office. Fortunately for Cohen he was in the bathroom washing his hands, a bizarre fetish he had, after shaking hands with Fratianno. As the Weasel left he signaled gang members who closed in and rushed the office. Rothman was killed by a shotgun blast to the face fired by Frank Bompensiero. See my column 5-15-00 – "Frank Bompensiero: San Diego Hitman, Boss & FBI Informant" (Part One).
August 18, 1954 – Charles "Cherry Nose" Gioe was murdered after climbing behind the wheel of his car after a late night business meeting. The 53 year-old Gioe had been Capone’s man in Des Moines and one of the key figures in the Hollywood Extortion Case. He was trying to restore his position in the Chicago mob when he was killed. See my biography on Gioe dated 7-3-00.
August 19, 1991 – In "Crime Town USA," Joseph "Little Joey" Naples, Jr. was cut down by a sniper as he inspected a house he was having built in Beaver Township, a suburb south of Youngstown, Ohio. The 58 year-old Naples was the underboss of the Mahoning Valley rackets for the Pittsburgh Family. He was the last of three brothers who met their death at the hands of mob assassins.
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