Who Shot Godfather Colombo?
A Special Report On The 40th Anniversary Of An Historic Mafia Milestone
By J. R. de Szigethy
PROLOGUEOn a warm Summer day in 1971, Joe Colombo, the Godfather of one of New York City's 5 Mafia families, was at the height of his personal power and prestige. The American Mafia was highly structured at that time, with a set of unwritten rules that every member was expected to abide by. One such rule was that journalists and members of law enforcement were never to be harmed. This rule was for self-preservation; if a Mafia member hurt such a person, the resultant publicity would prompt those in those professions to redouble their efforts to bring about Justice for one of their own.
Godfathers themselves were expected to avoid publicity at all costs, as publicity was deemed bad for business. This Cardinal rule would be brazenly broken by Joe Colombo upon ascending to the crime family that would be known by his name in 1964. Godfather Colombo "went public," courting the Media spotlight like a rock star, a persona John Gotti would later emulate. Stealing a cue from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who for many years had implausibly claimed that organized crime did not exist in America, Colombo founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League, the purpose of which was to deny the Mafia existed, and brand anyone who claimed so as an anti-Italian racist. The movement caught on quickly; 50,000 people would jam into Manhattan's Columbus Circle on June 29, 1970, at the League's first public rally. In November of that year, Frank Sinatra was among many celebrities who appeared in a benefit for the League held at Madison Square Garden.
Not everyone, however, loved the Godfather in his new role. Members of "The Commission," the ruling body of the Mafia headed by the Godfathers of New York's 5 Families, became aghast at Colombo's public antics, most notably Carlo Gambino. Colombo's rule over his own Family was not secure, facing a long-standing threat from members within loyal to "Crazy Joe" Gallo and his brothers.
Then there was the FBI. Colombo and his inner circle had sponsored Demonstrations outside the FBI's New York office, attempting to portray themselves as victims of the FBI's racism. In taking on the FBI, the Godfather should have known better. Just a few years earlier, the FBI, on the orders of Hoover himself and for reasons never explained, had framed a member of the Colombo Family, "Sonny" Franzese, for a string of bank robberies he had no part in, the result being a 50-year prison sentence. This case alone proved that Hoover, usually content to ignore the American Mafia, could utilize the full resources of the Bureau, including the commissions of crimes, in order to bring down someone who for whatever reason had displeased him.
Thus, on June 29, 1971, as Godfather Colombo arrived at the Second annual Columbus Day event for his Civil Rights League, the Mob Boss knew that he had earned many enemies - on both sides of the law! An omen of trouble was the fact that the crowd that day was considerably smaller than the year previous. The low attendance was due to Godfather Gambino, who had sent his henchmen out to warn people not to show up, as had Crazy Joe Gallo, fresh out of prison. Still, Colombo was now a Media celebrity, and dozens of reporters were allowed access to the Godfather.
Among them was one Jerome A. Johnson, a young African-American from New Jersey. Adorned with his Press credentials, there was nothing out of the ordinary as Johnson followed Godfather Colombo around with a film camera, assisted by a young African-American woman. The woman called out a greeting to the Godfather, at which point Johnson, with a camera in one hand and a gun in the other, opened fire on Colombo at close rang. A mob of men then jumped upon Johnson, one of them pumping three bullets into the assassin's back. That person then ran away, as did Johnson's female accomplice. Despite the presence of dozens of cops, both Johnson's accomplice and the man who killed Johnson managed to get away.
Jerome Johnson died instantly, but Godfather Colombo survived. The Rally had already become a Media Circus, and that Media mob relocated at Roosevelt Hospital, to which Colombo was taken. The shooting of a Mafia Godfather in broad daylight in the heart of Manhattan would become an obsession with the Media - and their following - for many months. Caught in the middle was the New York City Police Department, under enormous public pressure to solve this crime. From the outset, the NYPD branded the shooting a "hit" orchestrated by the Mob. Carlo Gambino, Joey Gallo, and Carmine Persico, a rising star in the Colombo Family, were all taken in for questioning by the cops, as was a Mob-connected pornographer, Michael Umbers.
Press conferences were also called by members of Colombo's inner circle, encamped at the hospital where he lay in a vegetative state. At one such press conference, the Reverend Louis Gigante, whose brother Vincent would later rise to Godfather of the Genovese Family, offered his own explanation as to who was responsible for the shooting. Father Gigante suggested to those in the Media that they investigate the possibility that the FBI was involved. "The FBI has done this before!" Gigante was quoted as saying, with Colombo's son Anthony seconding the Reverend's challenge. (1)
4 decades have now passed since the Godfather was gunned down. During this time, there has been one constant claim by some close to the Godfather; their conviction that the FBI was in some way involved in Colombo's shooting. Most reporters, including this one, just laughed when this scenario was first presented to them. Still, the claims have been persistent, and have been voiced by Mafia turncoats who worked for the FBI. Joseph Cantalupo was an Associate of the Colombo Family who became a co-operating witness for the FBI in 1972. Cantalupo's credibility was established by his testimony in the landmark "Commission Trial" prosecuted by Rudolph Giuliani. In his autobiography BODY MIKE: THE DEADLY DOUBLE LIFE OF A MAFIA INFORMER, Cantalupo mentions the widespread belief among the Colombo Family that the FBI was involved in the shooting of Godfather Colombo. Sammy "The Bull" Gravano was another accomplished turncoat who also mentioned the same belief in his autobiography UNDERBOSS. Gravano originally was a member of the Colombo Family before becoming "Made" as a member of the Gambino Family.
It should be noted that none of these men offered any evidence as to the alleged involvement of the FBI in the shooting of Colombo. The patience of such men, however, would be rewarded in recent years when disturbing information would become public in regards to two of Joe Colombo's closest associates; Greg Scarpa, Sr., a prolific hitman and drug dealer, the right-hand man to Carmine Persico, who would eventually rise to become Godfather, and the Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the militant Jewish Defense League, an organization that worked closely with Colombo's own civil rights League. Both men have now been revealed to have lived a double life as FBI Informants. In Scarpa's case, the hitman committed crimes of violence on behalf of and with agents of the FBI, Scarpa's reward being protection from prosecution for most of his adult life. In Kahane's case, the FBI first recruited the Jewish activist to infiltrate a non-profit organization, the John Birch Society, which contained among it's members people who were vocally anti-Semitic. Later, while the Colombo Family provided weapons to Kahane's JDL, the FBI, according to FBI documents, utilized the JDL as a pawn in it's controversial - and illegal program that targeted African-American activists across America. That operation was code-named COINTELPRO.
Much of this evidence has emerged from FBI documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act in recent years, much to the delight of those associates of the Colombo Family who feel "vindicated" as to their original claims. However, evidence has also emerged which suggests Carlo Gambino and the Gallo brothers may have been involved in the Colombo hit as well.
Who then was responsible for the shooting of Godfather Colombo?
Herein is a compilation of the evidence known at this time, in regards to Godfathers Gambino, Colombo, and Persico, various FBI Informants, including Greg Scarpa and Meir Kahane, and various FBI officials and their operations, legal and otherwise.
PART ONE: FBI INFORMANT GREG SCARPA, SR.
In 1962, the New York office of the FBI forwarded to Headquarters in Washington documents relating to information provided by a new Informant, Greg Scarpa. At that time, Scarpa was, despite his youth, already a "Made" member of the Mafia, having already committed at least one murder on behalf of his Family. The FBI documents reveal that Scarpa was giving the Bureau information regarding a Mob War which had broken out, in which the leadership of the Profaci Family was being challenged by a faction led by a young punk, "Crazy Joe" Gallo. Scarpa also revealed information about a member of his Family, capo John "Sonny" Franzese, as well as Carlo Gambino, Godfather of the Family known by his name.
Scarpa also revealed information regarding Godfather Carlos Marcello. At the time of these documents, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was still trying to pretend that organized crime in America did not exist. However, Hoover's "Boss," the Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had become the nation's pre-eminent authority on organized crime, and the 2 crime bosses Kennedy most wanted to send to prison were Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa and Godfather Carlos Marcello. Marcello ran a crime family that controlled the rackets from New Orleans to Houston and Dallas, Texas.
The FBI files on Scarpa also reveals the blood ritual in which a person is accepted into membership of the American Mafia. In this ceremony, which invokes the Eternal flames of Hell, the Initiate is instructed that he must murder anyone he is ordered to by his superiors. If he agrees to this, his trigger finger is pricked. Blood from his hand is then smeared onto a piece of paper depicting a Christian Saint, which is then burned in his hands. The Initiate then says the following: "With this Oath I swear that if ever I violate this Oath may I burn as this paper!"
These documents were obtained by a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act by Forensic Intelligence Analyst Angela Clemente, who has posted some of these documents on the Internet for the use of investigators worldwide.
Prior to 1992, very little was known publicly regarding Greg Scarpa. This would change with the advent of yet another Mob War for control of the Colombo Family, which mirrored the attempts by the Gallo brothers a generation earlier. The exact dates as to the beginning and the end of this war are the matter of debate, the extended range being from 1989 to 1999. The bulk of the war - in regards to the murders - were committed between 1991 through 1992. At least a dozen men - including one innocent bystander, would be killed.
As in the previous war, this war was for control of the Colombo Family. Beginning in 1985, Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico was being prosecuted by Rudolph Giuliani in the "Commission" case. At trial, Persico took the unusual step of acting as his own attorney. This was a tactic which had proved successful 2 years earlier, when James Traficant, an Ohio Sheriff indicted for taking Mafia bribes, was acquitted in a sensational trial in which he acted as his own attorney. The publicity from this case propelled Traficant into a career in the U. S. Congress. Persico's stint as a lawyer was not successful, and the Godfather was sent away for Life.
A few years later, a Mob War broke out between those loyal to the imprisoned Persico and those aligned with Acting Boss Vic Orena. It would be in the Prosecution of the war's murders by the Feds in Brooklyn that the scandal of Greg Scarpa and the FBI would emerge.
The first troubled Colombo war trial began in June 1994. Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico was charged with instigating the war but his attorney Barry Levin told the jury his client was in prison during the war and suggested it was started by Scarpa, now revealed to have been working secretly for the FBI. Jurors were influenced by 2 sworn Affidavits Scarpa signed just 2 days before he died of AIDS, which stated that Persico was not involved in starting the war. The jury cleared Allie Boy of all charges and he walked out of Court a free man.
With Allie Boy's acquittal members of the Media began to take a look into the life of Greg Scarpa. The New York Daily News revealed that Scarpa had been involved in one of the most infamous criminal cases in our nation's history, when three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. Under pressure from Attorney General Kennedy to solve the case, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had the young and vigorous Scarpa flown to Mississippi. Scarpa and an FBI agent then kidnapped a local man, whereupon Scarpa placed the barrel of an FBI revolver into the man's mouth and threatened to blow his brains out unless he revealed the location of the bodies of the three missing men. This story was confirmed during testimony in 2007 in Brooklyn State Court.
After the Persico acquittal, more evidence of FBI misconduct would be revealed in the next trial, that of NYPD Detective Joe Simone. Big Sal Miciotta had claimed that Simone had accepted a bribe from him, despite the fact that Miciotta had turned off the FBI's tape recorder during their brief encounter, which was instigated by Miciotta upon an unsuspecting Simone. The Media would also make note of fabricated evidence and Perjured testimony in this case. One juror told the press their verdict was unanimous and immediate; Not Guilty on all charges. Ten of the twelve jurors stood outside the Courthouse in the cold Winter rain to meet with and console Joe Simone and his family.
Next up for the Federal Prosecutors was the racketeering murder trial of William "Wild Bill" Cutolo and 6 members of his crew. 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. However, the Defendants in the case claimed they were only acting in self-defense against a renegade FBI informant/Mafia hitman, Greg Scarpa. As in the Simone trial the jurors did not believe Miciotta and acquitted all defendants on murder and weapons charges.
The New York Times then joined the chorus of those questioning the relationship between hitman Greg Scarpa and the FBI. The Times noted that "from 1950 to1985 Scarpa was arrested 10 times on charges like carrying an unlicensed gun, assault, fencing hijacked liquor, heading bookmaking and loan sharking rings and trying to bribe police officers. His scrapes with the law included charges in 1974 that he was a major conspirator in the theft of $4 million in stocks and bonds and in 1985 that he was behind a plot to counterfeit credit cards." The result of all of this was that Scarpa spent a total of 30 days in jail.
Still another exposť appeared at this time, in which New York Post columnist Jack Newfield, published a lengthy, detailed, and scathing report on the various crimes committed by FBI agents years earlier in their set up of Colombo associate "Sonny" Franzese for bank robberies which the evidence convincingly showed he did not commit. One disturbing aspect of this case was revealed years later when Michael Gillen, the prosecutor made a startling confession to Sidney Zion, the New York Times reporter who covered the trial; "Gillen admitted to me that he intentionally went drinking with me one night in the hotel bar to keep me distracted while two FBI agents broke into my car and photographed my notes and files." (2)
4 decades after this event, similar illegal activities by the FBI against journalists, including those for the New York Times and the Washington Post, were revealed in a scathing report by the Justice Department's Inspector General, involving cases between the years 2004-2007. (3)
Next up for the Feds was the May, 1995 trial of Vic and John Orena, steel company executive Thomas Petrizzo, and four associates, on trial for murder conspiracy charges relating to the Colombo Family war. Missing from this trial was Big Sal Miciotta, who had been dumped by the Feds for the various crimes he committed while in the Witness Protection Program. In her opening arguments Assistant U. S. Attorney Ellen Corcella admitted to the jury that Greg Scarpa was an FBI Informant but insisted that the Defendants, like Scarpa, had committed murders during the Mob War. As in the previous 3 trials, the jurors acquitted all defendants on all charges. Juror #186 told the New York Daily News, "Something like this really knocks the credibility of the FBI!" Another juror stated: "If the FBI's like this, Society is really in trouble!" Yet another juror told Newsday that "It was (Scarpa) who made it seem a war was going on!"
Thus ended the Federal trials haunted by the ghost of Greg Scarpa. However, taking a cue from his late father, Scarpa's son Greg Scarpa Jr. would also become an FBI Informant. While awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges, Scarpa Jr. was housed next to Ramzi Yousef - the mastermind behind the first bombing of the World Trade Center. Scarpa Jr. then "befriended" Yousef and extracted from him valuable information about bombing tactics Yousef and other Islamic terrorists were developing, including the use of a bomb hidden inside a shoe by which a suicide bomber could bring down a jet airliner. The FBI, however, dismissed this information as being bogus, and Scarpa Jr. was prosecuted and given a lengthy prison sentence. However, the information Scarpa gave to the Feds was later corroborated. Scarpa Jr. had a brother, Joey, who was also a drug dealer, and who was murdered by rival drug dealers in 1995.
A few years later, two researchers, Angela Clemente and Dr. Stephen Dresch, would launch their own investigation into the cases of Greg Scarpa Sr. and Jr., turning their evidence over to the U. S. Congress. After the death of Dr. Dresch, Clemente discovered documents that revealed that Scarpa Sr. was providing information to the FBI about Godfather Carlos Marcello. Those documents had been Subpoenaed by the U. S. Congress back in the late 1970s and were never handed over.
Among those curious observers were G. Robert Blakey, a former Prosecutor who authored the RICO statutes that have made possible the aggressive prosecution of organized crime syndicates. As Chief Counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s, Blakey had demanded from the FBI any and all files relating to a target of his investigation, Godfather Marcello. The files discovered by Clemente proved that the FBI had illegally withheld documents from that committee, and prompted the question as to whether there were more such documents in existence.
The Congressional Committee was founded in response to polls which showed a substantial number of American citizens were not satisfied with the investigations into the assassinations of public figures during that era that shocked America, and indeed, the world; those of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy, activists Malcolm X and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For members of the Colombo Family, one more name was added to that list; that of Godfather Joe Colombo.
PART TWO: FBI INFORMANT MEIR KAHANE
In 1990 investigative reporter Robert I. Friedman published his book "The False Prophet: Rabbi Meir Kahane - From FBI Informant to Knesset Member." Based in part on the work he had done on Kahane and other like-minded individuals during his tenure as a Reporter and Editor for the Village Voice, the book solidified Friedman's renown as one of the most skilled - and courageous - reporters of his time. Friedman's classic "Red Mafiya," his exposť on the Russian Mob in America, had earned him death threats, but his life would ultimately be taken at the age of 51 by a rare blood disease he acquired while investigating organized crime syndicates in India. The book on Rabbi Kahane was a comprehensive study of the controversial figure, who gained prominence for his founding of the militant Jewish Defense League, an organization that sometimes resorted to violence in defense of Jewish people worldwide.
One of the surprises in the book was Kahane's claim that he was recruited by the FBI as an Informant from 1963 to 1965 to spy on the John Birch Society, a right-wing organization founded in 1958 to alert Americans to the various Communist plots within America which the members of the group were convinced existed. Specifically, Kahane claimed he joined the Birch Society under an assumed, Gentile identity and provided the FBI with the names of wealthy members who were providing substantial funds for the operating of this nationwide organization.
However, in Friedman's book, the author quoted an FBI Agent from the New York office who flatly denied Kahane's claims. A Justice Department Official gave Friedman a little more wiggle room by mincing words, acknowledging that the FBI did receive information about the John Birch Society from Kahane, but that he was not paid.
So; who was telling the truth; the FBI or the Rabbi?
The reason the answer to this question is important in regards to this narrative is because a few years after Kahane's alleged work for the FBI, the FBI would, according to the FBI's own documents, use Kahane's Jewish Defense League as a tool in it's highly controversial - and mostly illegal - operation code named COINTELPRO, an acronym for Counter-Intelligence Program. These events can only best be analyzed once a determination has been made as to whether or not Kahane in fact first worked as an FBI Informant from 1963 to 1965.
Two facts are in Kahane's favor in regards to his claims about the FBI and the John Birch Society. First, Kahane does not exaggerate his own importance in this story, making himself out to be some sort of heroic James Bond character. Kahane's story is a somewhat boring, matter of the fact recounting of joining the Birch Society, attending their meetings, and reporting back to the FBI basic names, places, and dates. Secondly, in 1999, the FBI was forced by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to release thousands of FBI documents that show that FBI Agents and Informants were spying on Robert Welch, the Founder and Director of the John Birch Society, and his two close associates, the Reverend Billy James Hargis, an Evangelical preacher, and Edwin Walker, a controversial General in the United States Army. These documents, revealed 8 years after Kahane's death, detail FBI surveillance on these men during the time period in which Kahane says he provided similar information to the FBI.
In an FBI Document released by the FBI dated 8-24-1956, the Reverend Billy James Hargis is brought to the attention of the FBI by someone who had tuned in to his anti-Communist tirade during one of his radio broadcasts. The report goes into a file on the Evangelist in the New Orleans office of the FBI. However, by this date, Hargis is no stranger to the FBI, nor it's Director, J. Edgar Hoover. For all of his adult life, J. Edgar Hoover had recruited into his intimate inner circle men who were bonded together by a paranoid delusion that Communists and Communists plots were widespread throughout the United States. These men also shared a racist hatred of African-Americans, many of whom they believed were associates of the Communists. And, it has been revealed in recent years, the public posturing of these men in regards to Communists acted as a smokescreen to conceal aspects of their private lives they desired to keep hidden from the American people.
In the early 1950s, Hoover was joined in his anti-Communist campaign by 4 such members of his coven; former Federal Prosecutor Roy Cohn, U. S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Reverend Hargis, and General Walker. Roy Cohn had achieved national prominence through his Prosecution of Julius Rosenberg and his wife Ethel, convicted and sentenced to death in the electric chair for smuggling information to the Soviet Union regarding America's nuclear weapons program. Although Roy Cohn was Jewish, he established during his lifetime strong relationships with Christian leaders who shared his politics and passions, most notably Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York, and Reverend Hargis, an enormously successful radio and television Evangelist, whose empire, Tulsa-based "Christian Crusade" raked in substantial amounts of income from across America. Hargis gained a following of Americans through his theatrical orations, and also provided his services as a speechwriter for Senator McCarthy. Hargis' organization published an enormous volume of anti-Communist publications, many of which were distributed by General Walker to the Army soldiers under his command. The common theme of such literature, which Senator McCarthy adopted as his Mantra, was that Communist plots existed throughout America, with avowed Communists having infiltrated various State, Local, and Federal institutions.
Some of these alleged plots, viewed decades later, seem absurd and improbable. One such was the practice of many municipalities throughout the United States to add fluoride, along with chlorine, to the local drinking water supply. Fluoride is a mineral found in most toothpastes today, which has the effect of hardening the enamel of teeth, and thus prevents cavities. As incredible as it may seem today, millions of Americans during that time truly believed that Fluoridation was a Communist plot.
Senator McCarthy first stirred up this mass hysteria during a speech in 1950 before a Republican Women's Club in Appalachia, in which he breathlessly informed those in attendance that he had a long list of the names of avowed Communists employed by the U. S. State Department. His allegations created a sensation, and as a United States Senator, McCarthy utilized his ability to conduct public hearings on suspected Communists within the government as a platform to instigate a national frenzy, much of which was televised nationwide. Much of the 'information' McCarthy leaked to the American people was fed to McCarthy from J. Edgar Hoover. For the next 3 years, McCarthy's allegations of Communist infiltration of the government made him, and everyone connected to him, a national figure, including a young staff attorney, Robert Kennedy. McCarthy's unsubstantiated allegations ruined the lives of many innocent Americans, and as that list grew in number, Bobby Kennedy wisely withdrew from the Committee upon realizing that the Communist plots these men were claiming to exist were in fact mostly the figments of the imaginations of some truly disturbed minds.
Having failed to prove that State Department employees were Communists, McCarthy, at Hoover's urging, then turned his sight on Officers of the CIA, but again the Inquisitors came up with nothing. McCarthy then turned his attention to the Voice of America, a government program administered by the State Department that provided radio broadcasts of uncensored news and information to the millions of people living behind the "Iron Curtain" imposed by the Soviets after World War II. McCarthy claimed - without proof - that Communists had infiltrated the Voice of America to sabotage that program. McCarthy's staff lawyer Roy Cohn then embarked on a 'tour' of Europe, the purpose of which was to expose what the McCarthy gang claimed was the presence of thousands of Communist books in foreign libraries funded by the United States government. The Reverend Billy James Hargis also toured Europe that Summer, gaining international press for releasing thousands of helium-inflated balloons containing Bible verses that were floated across the borders of countries behind the "Iron Curtain." While Reverend Hargis' campaign was well-received by the Media, Cohn's "tour" was derided by journalists from various nations. Accompanying Cohn on his junket was a young man he had fallen in love with, G. David Schine, the scion of a Mafia-compromised hotel magnate.
Once the two young men were back in America, Cohn became furious when the Army drafted Schine at the height of Cohn's public celebrity. McCarthy and Cohn responded to the situation by harassing top Army leaders to re-assign Private Schine so that he could continue his "work" with McCarthy's Committee. The Army refused to make special accommodations for Schine, and quietly floated to key members of the Media the perceived relationship between Cohn and Schine. The Las Vegas Sun newspaper went even further, running a story alleging that Senator McCarthy was a secret homosexual, the suggestion being that the Senator's witch-hunt was at least in part designed to deflect attention from himself. McCarthy did not sue the newspaper, and instead married his Secretary and then adopted a baby with the help of Roy Cohn's friend Francis Cardinal Spellman. (4)
Senator McCarthy then went off on another tangent, alleging in a hearing on national television that a young attorney who worked in the law firm of Joseph Welch, the Chief Counsel for the Army, was a Communist. Welch responded by taking in a deep breath, and then issued a statement that was one of the most riveting moments in American history. Welch admonished the Senator thus: "Senator - you've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"
Thus, Senator McCarthy's reign of terror came to an end. McCarthy drank him himself to death within 3 short years. However, Roy Cohn, J. Edgar Hoover, the Reverend Billy James Hargis, and General Edwin Walker, all managed to emerge from this national debacle with their reputations virtually intact. Each, in their own, more muted way, would continue their crusade against the domestic Communists plots that were the genesis of their public persona.
The Winds of Fortune changed for these men just a few years later, when the new President Kennedy took office and installed his brother Robert in charge of the Justice Department. While FBI Director Hoover was "safe," given his massive volume of intelligence he used to blackmail the leading political figures of the time, including the Kennedys, the Kennedy Administration would take various actions against General Walker, Reverend Hargis, and Roy Cohn.
The first attack regarded General Walker's distribution of propaganda materials to the men under his command furnished by the John Birch Society and the Christian Crusade. Both men, active in the Birch Society, were staunch racists, Hargis' publication "Unmasking Martin Luther King, the Deceiver," being just one example.(5) In 1961, after numerous warnings, President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara relieved General Walker of his Command, prompting the General to resign from the Army later that year. Months later, General Walker was back in the news when he ran for the Democratic Nomination for Governor of Texas, losing to John Connally, who went on to be elected Governor. In September of that year, General Walker joined with Governor Ross Barnett who literally stood in the door of the University of Mississippi to prevent African-American James Meredith from enrolling as a student. In the riots that followed, in which the General played a leadership role in instigating, 2 people were killed.
Bobby Kennedy responded to the riots by ordering General Walker arrested on 4 Federal counts, including advocating the violent overthrow of the government of the United States. Kennedy also ordered General Walker taken to a military hospital, where he was held for a week for psychiatric evaluations. Such actions by Kennedy, however, backfired, with Walker's supporters' Ironic yet plausible contention that Kennedy had violated General Walker's 'civil rights.' Kennedy was further rebuffed when the Grand Jury refused to indict Walker, despite the evidence of his public calls over public radio stations for citizens to resort to violence in order to keep the University of Mississippi Segregated.
This was one of Kennedy's few mis-steps as Attorney General, and Walker and his associates played up the resultant publicity for all it was worth. In February, 1963, General Walker and Reverend Hargis launched a nationwide anti-Communist, pro-Segregation tour called "Operation: Midnight Ride," a series of lectures that attracted many thousands of Americans. The name "Midnight Ride" was a play on the midnight ride of Paul Revere, who warned the first Americans that "the Redcoats (British) are coming!" In Walker's and Hargis's incarnation, it was "the Blacks and Communists are coming!"
At this point, General Walker's story took a bizarre turn when Hollywood, with the help of the Kennedy Administration, took an interest in bringing the exploits of the mad General to the silver screen. Family patriarch Joseph Kennedy had built his family's fortune on two fronts; his partnership with liquor magnate Lewis Rosenstiel during Prohibition, and as a movie mogul in Hollywood during the 1920s and 1930s.
Against this backdrop, the Kennedy brothers were able to encourage and co-operate with two motion pictures filmed in 1963 which featured main characters which satirized the crazed antics of General Walker. John Frankenheimer's SEVEN DAYS IN MAY depicted a mentally ill military leader, a composite character based upon General Walker and General Curtis LeMay, who leads a right-wing military coup against the President of the United States, prompted by the President's agreement with the Soviet Union to destroy their country's nuclear weapons arsenals. Coming just a year after the Cuban missile crisis, the film could not have been more timely. Although already dead several years by that time, Joseph McCarthy appeared to be the inspiration for the right-wing, alcoholic, and racist U. S. Senator who participated in the attempted coup. The Kennedy Administration co-operated with the filming of this movie, making the White House available for film sequences. Understandably, the Pentagon chose not to co-operate.(6)
The Pentagon also refused to co-operate with the filming of Director Stanley Kubrick's black comedy masterpiece DR. STRANGELOVE, in which World War III is brought about by the maniacal General Jack (D.) Ripper, a character based upon General Walker. In the film, General Ripper believes his sexual dysfunction is the result of the "Communist plot" to add fluoride to America's drinking water, thus sapping him of his "precious bodily fluids." The character of General Buck Turgidson, portrayed by George C. Scott, is a satirical portrait of another right-wing racist, General Curtis LeMay. Thus, while Attorney General Robert Kennedy failed in his attempt to send General Walker to prison, the Kennedy Administration was able to facilitate Walker's eternal enshrinement on celluloid as the mad - and dangerous - General that he was.
As a result of General Walker's and Reverend Hargis' Operation: Midnight Ride tour, the retired General returned to Dallas a national figure, albeit controversial. However, in a situation whereby one nutcase attracts the attention of another, Walker's notoriety earned him the wrath of an avowed Communist, Lee Harvey Oswald. On the evening of April 12, 1963, Oswald aimed his newly-purchased rifle and fired at Walker as he sat in the living room of his Dallas home. However, the bullet nicked the corner of the frame window of Walker's house, sending the bullet in a tumbling trajectory away from it's intended target. Although General Walker was wounded by collateral fragments projected by the bullet, his wounds were minor.
The attempt on General Walker's life, and the previous attempts to contain him by the Attorney General only served to strengthen the fervor of his supporters nationwide. Not surprisingly, according to FBI documents, the FBI had General Walker under surveillance a few months later, when he attended the 5th Annual Convention of the Reverend Hargis' Christian Crusade held in Denver, Colorado from August 2-4. Keynote Speaker was Robert Welch, Founder of the John Birch Society.
Also keeping tabs on the General was the man who had tried to kill him a few months earlier, Lee Oswald. In late October, 1963, Oswald wrote to Arnold Johnson of the Communist Party of America, informing him that he had just attended a public meeting held by Walker in Dallas. A month later, Oswald's name would be forever enshrined in Infamy. Ever the opportunist, Reverend Hargis responded by publishing a book in which he argued that Oswald's attempted murder of General Walker was evidence of yet another Communist plot.
General Walker's attempted victimization at the hands of an assassin did not result in his offering empathy to others less fortunate than himself. On the contrary, one year after he was shot, General Walker and former Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett attended the trial of Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith, to offer moral support to the man charged with the 1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. De La Beckwith's two trials resulted in hung juries, but he was convicted after a third trial 3 decades later.
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. Like Walker, 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.
In retrospect, some observers might wonder why J. Edgar Hoover would spy on people such as Walker, Hargis, and Welch, when these men shared common values with Hoover? The evidence convincingly shows that Hoover spied on friend and foe alike; one of Hoover's closest associates was Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy. Hoover proudly displayed in his office letters written by Kennedy praising Hoover for his "service" to the Nation. What was not displayed, but hidden in his private files, were the fruits of Hoover's having spied on the Ambassador's children going back decades, often capturing on tape their most private moments.
Revelations in recent years by the FBI that the FBI spied on such men only leads credence to the claims made over 20 years ago by Rabbi Kahane that he was recruited by the FBI in a similar manner against those Americans. And, it leads credence to the next chapter in Kahane's life, in which FBI documents detail his association with the leader of an organization long monitored by the FBI; Joseph Colombo, the Godfather of a Mafia Family.
In 1968, 3 years after his work for the FBI against the John Birch Society had ended, the Rabbi Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League. Internal FBI memos written in the following year detail a plan to incorporate the JDL into the FBI's illegal campaign, COINTELPRO, to combat those African-Americans who were now daring to demand the equal rights guaranteed them by the Constitution of the United States. This operation was the personal manifestation of the virulent racism of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. In the years since it was exposed in 1971, much has been documented as to the illegal activities of this program. One horrific example was the "poison-pen" letter typed at FBI Headquarters in Washington which was sent to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraging him to commit suicide.
The FBI Documents, revealed at length in THE FALSE PROPHET, detail the plan to utilize the Jewish Defense League against black activists in New York City. Among the methods to be used were the sending of poison-pen letters to instigate friction between the JDL and Black activists, with violence between the two one of the intended outcomes. The FBI Documents even go into the finer details such as acquiring the paper and envelopes for such poison-pen letters from retailers with a wide distribution of stock, so that the letters could not be traced back to the FBI.
On May 7, 1970, Rabbi Kahane led a group of over 30 young Jewish kids on an assault against the Black Panthers headquarters in Harlem. The New York Office of the FBI would then report in a memo back to FBI headquarters in Washington that the operation was succeeding as planned.
In May, 1971, Kahane and several of his closest associates faced charges for allegedly plotting to manufacture bombs. Because of the Soviet Union's treatment of Soviet Jews, the Rabbi Kahane was as virulently anti-Communist as J. Edgar Hoover was. Several Communist facilities in the United States had been bombed during that time, and the JDL was the prime suspect. Bomb making is a very serious offense, and most American citizens facing such charges would likely receive a prison sentence of several years in a Federal prison. However, Rabbi Kahane got off with a suspended sentence, which further suggests he was telling the truth when he claimed to have worked as an FBI Informant.
Nor did the Rabbi shy away from the publicity regarding his arrest; instead, Kahane announced publicly that his organization, the Jewish Defense League, was now joining forces with another "civil rights" organization; the Italian-American Civil Rights League, founded by none other than Joe Colombo, the Godfather of the American Mafia Family that bore his name.
Unbeknownst to Colombo, the Godfather now had TWO FBI Informants amongst his inner circle; the Rabbi Meir Kahane, and Greg Scarpa, Contract murderer. Both Kahane and Colombo were Fated to fall at the hands of an assassin.
Rabbi Kahane was executed in public on November 5, 1990 by an Islamic terrorist, El Sayyid Nosair, on orders of the Islamic Sheik Omar Abel-Rahman. On that evening, Rabbi Kahane was delivering a pro-Israel speech at the Marriott Hotel in mid-town Manhattan when he was approached by Nosair, who pulled out a gun. Nosair then fled outside the hotel and encountered an off-duty law enforcement officer, who engaged Nosair in a shoot-out. Both men were shot by each other, neither mortally wounded.
Peter Lance's best-seller TRIPLE-CROSS would later reveal that on the following day, the NYPD and FBI led a raid on Nosair's house in New Jersey, seizing dozens of boxes of documents. Some of the documents were related to the building of bombs, and some were government documents stolen from Fort Bragg by an Islamic Terrorist, Ali Mohamed. Mohamed worked secretly as an FBI Informant, but was loyal to Osama bin Laden. Incredibly, one week later the NYPD declared Nosair a "lone gunman" and the FBI closed the case.
It would later be revealed that Osama bin Laden would provide money for the legal defense of El Sayyid Nosair. At his trial, despite the numerous witnesses to the shooting of Rabbi Kahane and the law enforcement officer, Nosair was acquitted of the assassination of Rabbi Kahane, but convicted of weapons possession. El Sayyid Nosair was later convicted, along with Sheik Omar Abdel-Rachman and their accomplices, for the various conspiracies to bomb New York landmarks, including the World Trade Center. Nosair has now filed an Appeal for a new trial on his weapons conviction in the Kahane murder, claiming as a witness none other than FBI Informant Ali Mohamed.
Thus the stories of two FBI Informants closely associated with Godfather Colombo, Greg Scarpa, Sr. and the Rabbi Meir Kahane, are stories of which the final chapters have yet to be told.
And yet, there was another FBI Informant in this curious mix, a criminal who, like Scarpa and Kahane, would be protected because of his status as an employee of the United States Government. This man was a pedophile, who lived in the shadowy world of the man who would pull the trigger on Godfather Colombo.
His name was Edward "The Skull" Murphy.
PART THREE: FBI INFORMANT ED MURPHY
40 years after the fact, there is still not much known about Jerome A. Johnson, the man who shot Godfather Colombo. What intrigued the Detectives investigating Colombo's shooting was Johnson's connections to the shadowy world of gay pornography in New York as it existed at that time. It was an era in which gay sex was illegal, and even the hint of such activity could destroy a person's career. A retail establishment which gays could patronize openly existed in very few places across America. In New York City, however, the large numbers of gays presented a profit potential that the American Mafia simply could not afford to ignore.
Thus, virtually all of the bars, restaurants, bookstores, and sex clubs that catered to a gay clientele in the 1960s were Mob owned and operated. And that created another problem for gay men; the potential for blackmail. Certain men, in certain professions, possessed the ability to perform certain services which the Mafia could exploit. Doctors, for example, could provide medical services to a mob figure who had a bullet in his body but for obvious reasons did not want to check into a local hospital for it's removal. Undertakers could help mobsters when faced with the untidy problem of how to dispose of a dead body. Closeted traders on Wall Street could proffer invaluable assistance in "insider trading" and stolen securities scams. Compromised members of law enforcement could provide invaluable "insider information" about law enforcement scrutiny of the Mob.
Thus, those gay establishments run by the American Mafia were populated with Informants who could profile, identify, and compromise such men to be used as tools of organized crime. This was the world from which Jerome A. Johnson emerged to shoot a Mafia Godfather, and this world is best described by the life story of one man; Ed "Skull" Murphy, a gay man who preyed on his fellow gay men, and did so, protected just as Greg Scarpa was, by the fact that he secretly worked for the FBI.
Murphy had been born in Manhattan's Greenwich Village to Italian and Irish parents. Much of Murphy's youth was spent in the robbing of Dentist's offices for the bounty to be found in the gold that was used to make gold teeth. When Murphy was finally caught, he spent 10 years in prison. Once free, Murphy accelerated the body building habit he had acquired in prison by using anabolic steroids to bulk up. This allowed Murphy, still a young man, to enter the world of "professional wrestling." Such a "sport" existed on the fringes of the American Mafia. Although steroids were not illegal at that time, the drugs were an integral part of operations run by three syndicates in New York that would later be called the Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese families. These families would provide steroids to young body builders, and such men could then be exploited into a number of sidelines; work as bodyguards for mobsters, bouncers at bars, the world of professional wrestling, professional prostitution, both gay and straight, and the production of X-rated films. The Colombo Family were masters of these rackets, and would eventually change the adult entertainment business forever with their production of the movie "Deep Throat," which would rake in millions of dollars for the Family.
Such men also operated various establishments catering to a gay clientele. The October 8, 1967 edition of the New York Times noted that suburban Long Island was the area inhabited by many such mobsters, among them the Colombo's Sonny Franzese, who was reported to be among many such organized crime figures who ran gay bars throughout the New York area and that such operations included a lucrative side-line involving the blackmail of wealthy or prominent patrons. J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with framing Franzese for crimes he did not commit may have had it's genesis in the blackmail rings described by the Times.
By the time of the publication of that story, Ed Murphy had already been arrested as the ringleader of a Mafia-run gay blackmail ring broken up by prosecutors in Manhattan. Over a dozen such men had been indicted who were part of a nationwide blackmail syndicate that netted over a million dollars a year in illicit profits. This is how the scam worked; a man would travel to a large city, such as New York, where he would procure the services of a male prostitute. The prostitute could be solicited at a gay bar, a convention center, or in the bar of an airport. Another venue was through the auspices of a Concierge of certain hotels, those men having been compromised through the corrupt Union they belonged to that was controlled by the Mafia. Once the blackmail victim and his prostitute were alone in the hotel room, one of either two scenarios would be enacted; either the prostitute would steal the John's wallet and run out of the hotel, or the "Hotel Detective" would burst in and demand cash in exchange for not arresting the visiting victim. In the plan where the wallet would be stolen, the wallet would then be turned over to the Mob ring, who, with their corrupt co-horts in law enforcement, would compile information on their victim. If the "John" was rich or famous or from a prominent family, two "members of law enforcement" would then travel to that person's home and threaten that person with public exposure - even arrest - unless money was forked over to make the case "go away."
After the existence of the blackmail ring became public, the FBI moved in on the investigations, the predication being that many of those involved crossed State lines in order to commit their crimes. Almost all of the low-level members of the blackmail ring were thus convicted, such as John J. Pyne, a retired Chicago police officer, and John Fellenbaum, a bodybuilder from Pennsylvania. However, the FBI made ringleader Ed Murphy an offer which he could not refuse; report the names of all the gay men he encountered back to the FBI in order to obtain a 'get-out-of-jail-free card.'
Among the names Murphy gave up as victims of the extortion ring were that of a Congressman from New Jersey who paid $25,000 in hush money, and Admiral William Church, the head of the New York Naval Yards in Brooklyn. The Admiral's cousin Frank Church was a U. S. Senator from Idaho, who is best known for his "Church Committee" of the 1970s, which investigated crimes committed by the FBI. As a result of the Grand Jury convened to investigate the evidence Ed Murphy had turned over, Admiral Church was then subpoenaed to testify. At that point the Admiral drove to a motel in Maryland and shot a bullet into his head. (7)
In recent years, compelling evidence has emerged in regards to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. For many years, Hoover's closest associates were Clyde Tolson, his number 2 man, and William Sullivan, the number 3 man at the FBI. Sullivan, who would later be killed in a tragic hunting incident, would claim that his boss Hoover was "the greatest blackmailer of all Time!" (8) Thus, Hoover's recruitment of men such as Ed Murphy was not designed to put an end to his blackmail of gay men, but rather to provide information that Hoover might need to utilize for his own purposes.
Two sordid cases of blackmail by Hoover illustrate the horrific crimes committed by the FBI Director. One such was the case of U. S. Senator Lester C. Hunt. Through his network of Informants, Hoover had discovered that in October of 1953, Senator Hunt's 20-year-old son, a Seminary student, 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, by Statute the Vice-President, who happened to be Richard Nixon, a Republican. (At that time, Hawaii and Alaska had not yet become States, thus there were only 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, then at the height of his power, would no longer be Chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, from which he utilized his authority to conduct his 'witch-hunts' against alleged Communists within the government.
Thus, those who benefited the most from the hunt for Communists within America, J. Edgar Hoover, Roy Cohn, Vice-President Richard Nixon, and their allies, not the least of which were the Reverend Billy James Hargis and General Edwin Walker, had much to lose if Senator Hunt was re-elected - as expected - as a Democratic Senator from the State of Wyoming. 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. 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. (9,10)
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, which was later made into a motion picture. Senator Hunt was not the first politician to be blackmailed by Hoover, nor would he be the last.
In recent years evidence has emerged that J. Edgar Hoover blackmailed a United States Congressman into resigning from office, but that man fought back. That man was Cornelius "Neil" Gallagher, who represented the Mob-dominated area centered around Bayonne, New Jersey. Gallagher, a friend of Roy Cohn, was a rising star in the Democratic Party, who first grew into prominence through his close association with John F. Kennedy during the elections that made the Senator President. In the mid-1960s, 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 government agencies, the sort of practice that for decades allowed Hoover to assemble his arsenal of negative information with which he could blackmail politicians. The FBI then leaked to Life Magazine the story that the FBI had tapped the phone of a New Jersey Mob figure, Joseph Zicarelli, a capo in the Bonnano Mafia Family. On those tapes the FBI alleged to have captured phone conversations between Zicarelli and Congressman Gallagher, in which Zicarelli allegedly sought Gallagher's influence to coerce a local police department to cease their targeting of members of Zicarelli's gambling operations.
The story which ran in Life Magazine in August, 1968, 3 months before the election in which the Congressman hoped to win and retain his seat, also mentioned briefly a sub-plot that the Congressman had utilized the services of a Mafia hitman to remove the body of a dead mobster from the basement of his house in Bayonne. The story that Life Magazine told came from the FBI, and this is what was alleged: The FBI had offered a "get-out-of-jail-free card" to Mafia hitman Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg in exchange for Konigsberg becoming an FBI Informant and giving up information he had on Mafia murders. Among what Konigsberg allegedly told the FBI was that he 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 was a dead Mobster, Barney O'Brien, a member of Zicarelli's gambling operation. The Congressman asked Konigsberg to remove Barney's body and dispose of it in whatever manner he, as a Mafia hitman, was adept at. Konigsberg allegedly refused to help the Congressman unless such a plan was approved by Zicarelli, who supposedly gave such permission in a phone call from the Congressman's house. The Congressman categorically denied the story about the dead mobster in the basement of his house.
At that point Hoover and Roy Cohn came up with a "twist" to the story, which they used in an attempt to blackmail the Congressman. Gallagher was 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, and the Congressman, anxious to cover-up the affair, determined that the best way to get the body of the dead Mobster out of his basement was to turn to a Mafia hitman. The story would run, Gallagher was warned, unless he immediately resigned from Congress. (10)
Congressman Gallagher erupted into fury when faced with this blackmail threat, and there were several problems with this story. The house in which the alleged event took place was populated by the Congressman, his mother, his wife, and their 4 children. The house was located in a modest residential area populated by numerous families. No one saw - or indeed - smelled - anything that indicated there was a dead body in the Congressman's basement. 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, although his shoes were found there. Was this incredible story true, or just another example of a fabricated 'smear campaign' for which the FBI has become notorious, and, in this case, a story which conveniently targeted the one man in Congress who was investigating corrupt practices of Hoover and his men?
True or not, what is known is that Congressman Gallagher fought back. Hoover's men had raided an apartment 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, J. Edgar Hoover. 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 Clyde Tolson had been living together as "man and wife" for decades, enjoying an extravagant lifestyle at the expense of the U. S. taxpayer. Gallagher also threatened to introduce legislation to Impeach Hoover and remove him from office. 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. (10)
Congressman Gallagher did not enter such a speech into the Congressional Record, nor initiate Impeachment proceedings against Hoover, nor did Life Magazine publish the follow-up story claiming Barney the mobster had died in the arms of the Congressman's wife. The Congressman was re-elected, although Hoover, as he did against so many of those he hated, instigated income tax evasion charges against Congressman Gallagher which sent the politician to prison for 2 years.
Such was the man J. Edgar Hoover - and his FBI - that blackmailer Ed Murphy worked for. Evidence shows that Murphy continued in his blackmail schemes, and apparently enjoyed protection from prosecution from the FBI. Beginning in the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Ed Murphy and a Gambino Associate, Mike Umbers, ran a prostitution ring that pimped underage boys to wealthy pedophiles. Umbers would eventually receive notoriety for his minor role in the botched New York bank robbery that was told in the motion picture "Dog Day Afternoon." Umbers also ran a gay bar on Christopher Street in the Village, Christopher's End, whereas Murphy worked as a Bouncer at the neighboring bar Stonewall. (11) A December 23, 1971 follow-up story by the Village Voice revealed that Umbers and two men had been arrested on child pornography charges.
Investigations of child prostitution rings picked up in the mid 1970s in a probe by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the NYPD. At it's height, the task force numbered as many as 56 members of law enforcement. However, just as progress was being made, the task force was disbanded without explanation. Those who participated in the venture believe the Mafia was able to have the plug pulled on the investigation. (12) However, given disclosures in recent years, the possibility that the FBI was responsible for closing down this investigation cannot be dismissed.
Such a scenario, however, can work both ways; a few years later, the Feds in New York indicted Paul Castellano, the Godfather of the Gambino Family, on Federal child pornography charges. However, before the Godfather went to trial he was assassinated by the John Gotti crew outside Spark's Steak House in Manhattan.
Many who knew Ed Murphy well long suspected him of the murders of some of the young kids he recruited into his prostitution ring. However, once Murphy became an FBI Informant, he was never arrested again. (13)
The recruitment by the FBI of a pedophile as an FBI Informant such as Ed Murphy was not an isolated incident. A similar case arose in Boston. These men worked for the 'Winter Hill Gang,' an organized crime syndicate made up primarily of Italian and Irish criminals. Led by "Whitey" Bulger, many of the members, like Bulger, were pedophiles, preying mostly on teenage girls, although in some cases, such as Bulger, young boys as well. Bulger was an FBI Informant protected by FBI Agent John Connolly, whereas his chief hitman, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, was "controlled" by FBI agent Paul 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. (14, 15)
In December, 1994, retired FBI Agent John Connolly tipped off Whitey Bulger that he was about to be indicted on various charges, including 19 counts of murder, extortion, money laundering, and narcotics distribution. Bulger then went on the lam, and, like Osama bin Laden, was found to be "hiding in plain sight" once arrested in Santa Monica, California. $800,000 in cash was found inside Bulger's apartment, along with an arsenal of weapons. FBI Agent Connolly was convicted of murder for his role in one of the killings by the Winter Hill Gang. FBI Agent Paul Rico was also charged with a Mafia murder, but died before going to trial.
In 2001, Congress offered a public apology to Boston residents Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone, who spent 30 years in prison after having been framed by the FBI for a murder they had no part of. Agent Paul Rico was among those named as having perpetrated this crime. The men and the families of 2 co-Defendants also framed were awarded $102 million dollars in a lawsuit against the FBI, which was upheld by an Appeals Court. The story of the Winter Hill Gang was the basis for the motion picture "The Departed."
While Ed Murphy has yet to be immortalized in film, he did achieve some fame as a player in an event which marked the birth of the gay rights movement in America. Murphy was the Mob's overseer at a Mafia operation called the Stonewall Inn, from which he blackmailed patrons of that bar. On the evening of June 28, 1969, when the NYPD, as it had often done in the past, raided the bar, the patrons of the bar fought back, culminating in riots that lasted for several days. Chanting "Get the Cops and the Mafia Out of Gay Bars," the unrest marked the genesis of the gay rights movement in America, officially celebrated each year by New York City Hall and the NYPD during the Gay Pride Parade.
FBI Informant Edward "Skull" Murphy died in 1989 due to AIDS. However, it was his partner in crime, child pornographer Mike Umbers, an associate of the Gambino Family, that would become notorious for another serious crime; Mike Umbers would recruit into his sinister world a young man who was a film-maker, who would create porn movies for Umbers, and who would go on to create by his own two hands a film of a very different nature; the murder of a man, and not just any man; that of a Mafia Godfather, Joseph Colombo.
The film-maker's name was Jerome A. Johnson.
PART FOUR: THE SHOOTING OF A GODFATHER
50,000 cheering people had turned out on June 29, 1970, for the First Annual Italian-American Civil Rights League Rally, including 5 members of Congress. A year later, the crowds that began to gather that morning were significantly smaller. The day was not to belong to Godfather Colombo, but his intended assassin; Jerome A. Johnson's date with History had arrived. 8 short years earlier, Dallas area resident Abraham Zapruder had set out to capture on his 8mm camera a visit to his home town by the President of the United States. Instead, Zapruder unwittingly documented the Crime of the Century. Now, 8 tumultuous years later in American history, Jerome Johnson was to become both Zapruder and Oswald rolled into one; Documentary film maker by one hand, and Executioner by the other; the creator of a "snuff film" who would himself pay with his own life. Standing just a few feet away, Joe Colombo's most prolific hitman, Greg Scarpa, observed Mafia history unfold. None of Scarpa's 50-plus Contract murders would ever compare to this.
For many months to come, New York City newspapers would sell out daily editions, as the New York public eagerly devoured the latest information about this shocking public shooting. On July 3, 1971, Deputy Police Commissioner Robert Daley set the tone when, in a news conference, Daley announced that Colombo's rivals in the Mob had hired Johnson to kill Colombo as well as another person to then kill Johnson. The obvious suspect was Joey Gallo, who had displayed his hostility towards the event by sending his goons - including some black militants - out to small businesses demanding they take down from their shop's window posters in support of the Rally.
4 hours after the shooting, responsibility for the crime was claimed in a call to the Associated Press by BRAT, the Black Revolutionary Attack Team. Initially, the NYPD dismissed this organization and it's claim of responsibility. However, the NYPD would later identify a woman believed to have been Johnson's accomplice. The woman, who was associated with Black radicals in the New York City area, was placed under surveillance and tracked to a residence in the rural South.(16)
Much closer to home was an event that occurred in New Jersey not far from the family home of Jerome Johnson. On New Year's Eve, 1970, Colombo Associate Joseph Russo was hosting a party at his Wayne, New Jersey home for 30 of his partners-in-crime and their loved ones. Russo had hired for the evening a young black couple, Charles Shepard and his wife Shirley Green, to serve food and drinks. As the party progressed, Shepard began to dance with one of the white women in attendance. Russo was so infuriated that a black man would dare dance with a white woman at his own home that he pulled out a gun and shot Shepard 6 times. Two of Russo's associates then grabbed Shirley Green and held her down while Russo reloaded his gun, and then shot Ms. Green in the back as his guests looked on in horror. The bodies of the young black couple were then discarded on the side of a road.
At least one of Russo's 30 guests was horrified by this gruesome double-murder, and notified the police. Once charged with murder, Russo sought the help of his Boss, Carmine "The Snake" Persico, who assured him that the case could be "fixed" behind the scenes utilizing the Colombo family's corrupt influence with members of the law enforcement and Judicial community. (17) On two separate occasions, Russo was placed on trial in a Court of Law for the murders of Shepard and Green, and both prosecutions were dismissed as Mistrials by the Judge in the case, a ruling later determined to be improper conduct by a Judge in an Appeal's Court decision. Carmine Persico, who would later rise to Godfather of the Colombo Family, and Family member Joseph Yackovelli were later prosecuted by the Feds in Brooklyn for their alleged roles to use their corrupt influence on law enforcement officials to derail the prosecution against Russo. The Judge in that case, John Bartels, ordered the local Media not to report on the Mafia connections of the Defendants, and when the New York Daily News and New York Times did so, Judge Bartels dismissed the charges, claiming that the Media had denied the Mafia criminals their right to a fair trial. Thus, no one was brought to Justice for the murders of Charles Shepard and Shirley Green.
These murders took place just a few miles from the family home of Jerome Johnson. What the NYPD did not investigate at the time of the shooting of Joe Colombo was whether Johnson knew of these murders, and whether these racially-motivated crimes could have served as a motive for Johnson to murder the head of the crime family whose members committed these crimes, Godfather Colombo.
What the NYPD did discover, however, was that Jerome Johnson's last known address was 180 Christopher Street, above a gay bar called Christopher's End. The bar was managed by a friend of Johnson's, Michael Umbers, a known pornographer, and the building was owned by Paul DiBella, a member of the Gambino Family. Umbers, a partner in crime with FBI Informant Ed Murphy, had used Johnson's skill as a cameraman in the production of pornography. The Gambino Family, so the NYPD thought, could also make use of such a man. (18)
To complicate matters, to the delight of the Media, Joey Gallo then picked up the "superstar" mantle adopted by Colombo, by himself pursuing his own "cult of personality." Gallo soon became one of the most pursued "celebrities" in New York, the much sought after companion of "peers" such as Bob Dylan, actor Jerry Orbach, and comedian David Steinberg. (19)
The FBI was also interested in Gallo; at least one of their Informants had given information to the FBI implicating Gallo in the shooting, who was said to have canvassed the black radicals in his company looking for a triggerman for the hit on Colombo. At that point, another Informant came forward to the NYPD, alleging that Johnson and his female accomplice had been seen in Boston with members of the Patriarca Family in the days before the hit. It had been established that Johnson had indeed traveled to Boston during that time, where he rented the expensive camera he was shooting footage of Colombo with. (20)
That camera, and others at the event in one of the most open public spaces in Manhattan, however, failed to capture a single frame of the face of the woman who was with Jerome Johnson. Nor could Johnson's many friends in New York and New Jersey give any indication who that woman might have been. Jerome Johnson had a pattern to his private life, given that women in three different States claimed he had raped them. Like Greg Scarpa and Ed Murphy, Johnson somehow managed to escape prosecution in each of these serious cases. Johnson the alleged rapist nevertheless managed to leave behind numerous girlfriends who spoke positively about him as a person as well of his sexual prowess. When it came to his sexual partners, however, Johnson did not discriminate in regards to race nor gender, thus he easily assimilated in the world inhabited by men such as a successful Broadway playwright, one of several of Johnson's gay lovers.
While some members of the Colombo Family were convinced that the FBI was involved in the shooting of the Godfather, others were convinced that Joey Gallo was responsible. On the evening of April 7, 1972, Crazy Joey Gallo and his family and friends traveled to Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy to celebrate Joey's birthday. Gallo's lone bodyguard proved inept as bullets suddenly began flying into Gallo's body. It was yet another very public Mafia execution in a very public place, the sort the New York Mob had become known for.
No one would ever be prosecuted for the hit on Joe Colombo nor Joey Gallo, but the NYPD was not yet ready to close the books on either case. The NYPD would continue to pursue the ties of Johnson and his accomplice to black activists, for in fact the era of the Black Gangster had arrived. On May 21, 1971, 2 New York City Police Officers were executed by members of a group that called themselves the "Black Liberation Army," an offshoot of the Black Panthers. For the next 10 years, members of the BLA would commit crimes, including the murders of police officers, in several States across America.
Nicky Barnes was among those blacks that Joey Gallo cultivated while in prison. Barnes, who learned much about organized crime from Gallo, was released from prison after Gallo provided him with a lawyer who got his prior conviction overturned on a technicality. Barnes then returned to Harlem and took over much of the heroin trade that previously had been controlled by the Italian Mafia. The outright war between the new Black gangsters of Harlem and the established Italian gangsters that had previously called all the shots would be chronicled in popular cultural venues, including music, films, and even the clothing industry. The "Blaxploitation" films ACROSS 110TH STREET and GORDON'S WAR are examples of the change organized crime was undergoing in the 1970s. Barnes himself would later be chronicled in the motion picture AMERICAN GANGSTER.
Meanwhile, the FBI's illegal COINTELPRO operation was exposed in March, 1971 by a group of citizens who broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania and seized over 1,000 Classified documents relating to the crimes committed by FBI agents and Informants. One such case was that of Elmer Pratt, who was framed for 2 murders by the FBI. After spending 27 years in prison, Pratt was freed as information regarding COINTELPRO began to emerge. 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. Neither Julio Butler, an FBI Informant who committed Perjury in Pratt's trial, nor any Los Angeles city official, nor any FBI Agent was prosecuted for the framing of Elmer Pratt. (21)
As the years passed, and the reputation of the FBI grew more tarnished with each new revelation, so too grew the suspicion of those who, back in July of 1971, believed that the FBI was involved in the shooting of Godfather Colombo.
So; who shot Godfather Colombo?
The evidence in this case, some of which has been presented here for the first time, is incomplete, somewhat confusing, and contradictory.
There are some who believe that the Gallo Brothers were involved in this crime, and there is evidence they can point to in support of that;
There are also some who believe that Carlo Gambino was involved in this crime, and there is evidence they can point to in support of that;
There are also some who believe that the FBI was involved in this crime, and there is evidence they can point to in support of that;
Then, there are those who claim that this case was tainted by a fatal flaw, that being the notion developed by law enforcement from the beginning of this crime, in regards to the young Black woman who was observed working with Jerome Johnson. Because such a person was seen working in concert with Johnson, it was perceived that she was part of a plot to murder Colombo involving at least 2 people, perhaps more. However, some would argue that this line of reasoning is flawed; that the possibility has been overlooked that the young woman in question had no idea that her associate Johnson was planning to pull a gun and shoot the Godfather, and thus, when he did just that, she reacted as any ordinary person would; she fled, fearing for her own life.
Thus, there are some who believe that Jerome A. Johnson, the man who shot Godfather Colombo, was nothing more than a nut case, acting alone.
Related Features by this author:
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
Blackmail in America: A Dark History
CRIME SCENE: WORLD TRADE CENTER
Notes and sources
1. The New York Times, July 21, 1971.
2. "The Framing of an 'Innocent mobster,'" by Jack Newfield, New York Post, June 9, 1994.
3. "A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Use of Exigent Letters and Other Informal Requests for Telephone Records," U. S. Justice Department, Office of the Inspector General, January, 2010.
4. "Citizen Cohn" by Nicholas von Hoffman, Doubleday, 1988.
5. "Men of the Far Right," by Richard Dudman, Pyramid Books, 1962.
6. "Brothers," by David Talbot, Free Press, 2007.
7. The New York Post, February 11, 1993.
8. "Mafia Kingfish," by John H. Davis, Penguin, 1989
9. "The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians by the Federal Government," by Dr. David K. Johnson, University of Chicago Press, 2004.
10. "Citizen Cohn" by Nicholas von Hoffman, Doubleday, 1988.
11. The Village Voice, July 22, 1971.
12. "Newswalker: A Story for Sweeney," by R. Thomas Collins, Ravensyard Publishing, 2002.
13. "Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution," by David Carter, St. Martin's Press, 2004.
14. "Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob," by Dick Lehr & Gerard O'Neill, Public Affairs, 2002.
15. "The Brothers Bulger: How they Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century," by Howie Carr, Warner Books, 2006.
16. "Chief: Classic Cases from the Files of the Chief of Detectives," by Albert Seedman and Peter Hellman, Avon, 1975.
17. "Contract on America" by David Scheim, Argyle Press, 1983.
18. "Target Blue: An Insider's View of the NYPD," by Robert Daley, Delacorte Press, 1973.
19."The Mad Ones," by Tom Folsom, Mad Ones Corp., 2008
20. "Target Blue: An Insider's View of the NYPD," by Robert Daley, Delacorte Press, 1973.
21. "Last man standing," by Jack Olsen, Doubleday, 2000.
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