Al Capone was the most powerful crime boss during his era in the Chicago outfit.
Early Life Edit
Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York on January 17th of 1899 to Gabriele and Teresina, Neapolitan immigrants of six years. He was the fifth out of nine children. Contrary to popular belief, Al Capone did not quit school in the 6th grade but his brother Raffaele did. Al Capone was the first child in his family to graduate from high school. He worked in a variety of street gangs, more importantly the teenage-run James Street Gang headed by Capone’s future mentor Johnny “Papa Johnny” Torrio. In school and in this gang, Capone met life long friend and future mafia boss Lucky Luciano who would later be responsible for organizing the Five Families of New York City.
Nickname and Namesake Edit
Torrio and partner/fellow mafioso Frankie Yale hired teenage Al Capone in 1917 to be a bouncer in their bar and brothel where he disrespected the sister of mobster Frank Galluccio. Galluccio handled the situation by slashing young Capone in the face with a knife, leaving a gash on Capones left cheek, earning him the nickname “Scarface (Al)”. Al Capone later told people he was wounded while serving in the Lost Battalion in the Great War of France, however Al Capone had never served in the military.
Capone’s Big Break Edit
In 1919 Capone’s mentor “Papa Johnny” Torrio had been summoned by uncle “Big Jim” Colosimo in Chicago to assist him in running prostitution rackets. Colosimo at the time had been the biggest pimp in Chicago. Meanwhile Capone had a run-in with the law for a murder. In avoidance of prosecution, Capone went to Chicago in place of Torrio. By time Al made it to Chicago, Big Jim and Papa Johnny had a big conflict over mob business in Chicago when Torrio saw the lucrative business opportunities prohibition had brought. Torrio wished for and expected Uncle Jim to begin running alcohol bootlegging operations. The wealthy Jim Colosimo had no interest in this idea for he was doing just fine in his prostitution businesses. Colosimo had no interest in Torrio having the bootlegging business either and ordered him not to get into it, which brought the realization to Torrio that his uncle was only in the way and had to be taken out. Johnny Torrio and his apprentice Al Capone organized Big Jim’s assassination and hired hitmen to carry it out while they went under the radar. The partners in crime soon started taking over criminal enterprises in Chicago with threats of war if the organizations failed to cooperate.
In January 1925, Capone was ambushed, leaving him shaken but unhurt. Twelve days later, Torrio was returning from a shopping trip when he was shot several times. After recovering, Torrio effectively resigned and handed control to Capone, age 26, who became the new boss of an organization that took in illegal breweries and a transportation network that reached to Canada, with political and law-enforcement protection. In turn, he was able to use more violence to increase revenue. Refusal by an establishment to purchase liquor from him often resulted in the premises being blown up. As many as 100 people were killed in such bombings during the 1920s. Rivals saw Capone as responsible for the proliferation of brothels in the city
Capone indulged in custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink (his preferred liquor was Templeton Rye from Iowa, and female companionship. He was particularly known for his flamboyant and costly jewelry. His favorite responses to questions about his activities were: "I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want"; and, "All I do is satisfy a public demand." Capone had become a national celebrity and talking point.
Capone based himself in Cicero after using bribery and widespread intimidation to take over during elections for the town council. This made it difficult for the North Siders to target him.Capone's driver was found tortured and murdered, and there was an attempt on Weiss's life in the Chicago Loop. On September 20, 1926, the North Side Gang used a ploy outside the Capone headquarters at the Hawthorne Inn, aimed at drawing him to the windows. Gunmen in several cars then opened fire with Thompson submachine guns and shotguns at the windows of the first-floor restaurant. Capone was unhurt and called for a truce, but the negotiations fell through. Three weeks later, Weiss was killed outside the former O'Banion flower shop North Side headquarters. In January 1927, the Hawthorne's restaurant owner, a friend of Capone's, was kidnapped and killed by Moran and Drucci.
Capone became increasingly security-minded and desirous of getting away from Chicago.As a precaution, he and his entourage would often show up suddenly at one of Chicago's train depots and buy up an entire Pullman sleeper car on a night train to a place like Cleveland, Omaha, Kansas City, Little Rock, or Hot Springs, where they would spend a week in luxury hotel suites under assumed names. In 1928, Capone paid $40,000 to beer magnate August Busch for a 14-room retreat at 93 Palm Avenue on Palm Island, Florida, in Biscayne Bay between Miami and Miami Beach.Capone never registered any property under his name. He did not even have a bank account, but always used Western Union for cash delivery, not more than $1,000.
Political alliances Edit
The protagonists of Chicago's politics had long been associated with questionable methods, and even newspaper circulation "wars", but the need for bootleggers to have protection in city hall introduced a far more serious level of violence and graft. Capone is generally seen as having an appreciable effect in bringing about the victories of Republican William Hale Thompson, especially in the 1927 mayoral race when Thompson campaigned for a wide open town, at one time hinting that he'd reopen illegal saloons. Such a proclamation helped his campaign gain the support of Capone, and he allegedly accepted a contribution of $250,000 from the gangster. In the 1927 mayoral race, Thompson beat William Emmett Dever by a relatively slim margin.Thompson's powerful Cook County political machine had drawn on the often-parochial Italian community, but this was in tension with his highly successful courting of African Americans
Capone continued to back Thompson. Voting booths were targeted by Capone's bomber James Belcastro in the wards where Thompson's opponents were thought to have support, on the polling day of April 10, 1928, in the so-called Pineapple Primary, causing the deaths of at least 15 people. Belcastro was also accused of the murder of lawyer Octavius Granady, an African American who challenged Thompson's candidate for the African American vote, and was chased through the streets on polling day by cars of gunmen before being shot dead. Four policemen were among those charged along with Belcastro, but all charges were dropped after key witnesses recanted their statements. An indication of the attitude of local law enforcement to Capone's organization came in 1931 when Belcastro was wounded in a shooting; police suggested to skeptical journalists that Belcastro was an independent operator. The 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre led to public disquiet about Thompson's alliance with Capone and was a factor in Anton J. Cermak winning the mayoral election on April 6, 1931
Saint Valentine's Day Massacre EditCapone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in an attempt to kill Bugs Moran, the head of the North Side Gang. Moran was the last survivor of the main North Side gunmen; his succession had come about because his similarly aggressive predecessors Vincent Drucci and Hymie Weiss had been killed in the violence that followed the murder of original leader Dean O'Banion.
To monitor their targets' habits and movements, Capone's men rented an apartment across from the trucking warehouse and garage at 2122 North Clark Street that served as Moran headquarters. On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, Capone's lookouts signaled gunmen disguised as police to start a "raid." The faux police lined the seven victims along a wall without a struggle, then signaled for accomplices with machine guns. The seven victims were machine-gunned and shot-gunned. Photos of the victims shocked the public and damaged Capone's reputation. Within days, Capone received a summons to testify before a Chicago grand jury on violations of the federal Prohibition Law, but he claimed to be too unwell to attend at that time.
Capone was arrested by FBI agents on March 27, 1929 as he left a Chicago courtroom after testifying to a grand jury investigating violations of federal prohibition laws, on charges of having committed contempt of court by feigning illness to avoid an earlier appearance. In May 1929, Capone was sentenced to a prison term in Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, having been convicted within 16 hours of being arrested for carrying a gun during a trip there. A week after he was released, in March 1930, Capone was listed as the number one "Public Enemy" on the unofficial Chicago Crime Commission's widely publicized list.
In April 1930, Capone was arrested on vagrancy charges when visiting Miami Beach, the governor having ordered sheriffs to run him out of the state. Capone claimed that Miami police had refused him food and water and threatened to arrest his family. He was charged with perjury for making these statements, but was acquitted after a three-day trial in July.In September, a Chicago judge issued a warrant for Capone on charges of vagrancy, and then used the publicity to run against Thompson in the Republican primary. In February 1931, Capone was tried on the contempt of court charge. In court, Judge James Herbert Wilkerson intervened to reinforce questioning of Capone's doctor by the prosecutor. Wilkerson sentenced Capone to six months, but he remained free while on appeal of the contempt conviction.
n 1927, the Supreme Court ruled that illegally earned income was subject to income tax; Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. rejected the argument that the Fifth Amendment protected criminals from reporting illegal income. The IRS special investigation unit chose Frank J. Wilson to investigate Capone, with the focus on his spending. The key to Capone's conviction on tax charges was proving his income, and the most valuable evidence in that regard originated in his offer to pay tax. Ralph, his brother and a gangster in his own right, was tried for tax evasion in 1930. Ralph spent the next three years in prison after being convicted in a two-week trial over which Wilkerson presided. Capone ordered his lawyer to regularize his tax position. Crucially, during the ultimately abortive negotiations that followed, his lawyer stated the income that Capone was willing to pay tax on for various years, admitting income of $100,000 for 1928 and 1929, for instance. Hence, without any investigation, the government had been given a letter from a lawyer acting for Capone conceding his large taxable income for certain years. In 1931, Capone was charged with income tax evasion, as well as with various violations of the Volstead Act (Prohibition) at the Chicago Federal Building in the courtroom of Judge James Herbert Wilkerson. U. S. Attorney George E. Q. Johnson agreed to a deal that he hoped might result in the judge giving Capone a couple of years, but Judge Wilkerson had been aware of the deal all along and refused to allow Capone to plead guilty for a reduced sentence. On the second day of the trial, Judge Wilkerson overruled objections that a lawyer could not confess for his client, saying that anyone making a statement to the government did so at his own risk. Wilkerson deemed that the 1930 letter to federal authorities could be admitted into evidence from a lawyer acting for Capone.
Much was later made of other evidence, such as witnesses and ledgers, but these strongly implied Capone's control rather than stating it. The ledgers were inadmissible on grounds of statute of limitations, but Capone's lawyers incompetently failed to make the necessary timely objection; they also ran a basically irrelevant defense of gambling losses. Judge Wilkerson allowed Capone's spending to be presented at very great length. There was no doubt that Capone spent vast sums but, legally speaking, the case against him centered on the size of his income. Capone was convicted and was sentenced to eleven years in federal prison in November 1931, fined $50,000 plus $7,692 for court costs, and was held liable for $215,000 plus interest due on his back taxes. The contempt of court sentence was served concurrently. New lawyers hired to represent Capone were Washington-based tax experts. They filed a writ of habeas corpus based on a Supreme Court ruling that tax evasion was not fraud, which apparently meant that Capone had been convicted on charges relating to years that were actually outside the time limit for prosecution. However, a judge interpreted the law so that the time that Capone had spent in Miami was subtracted from the age of the offenses, thereby denying the appeal of both Capone's conviction and sentence.
Capone was sent to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in May 1932, aged 33. Upon his arrival at Atlanta, the 250-pound (110 kg) Capone was officially diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea. He was also suffering from withdrawal symptoms from cocaine addiction, use of which had perforated his septum. Capone was competent at his prison job of stitching soles on shoes for eight hours a day, but his letters were barely coherent. He was seen as a weak personality, and so out of his depth dealing with bullying fellow inmates that his cellmate, seasoned convict Red Rudinsky, feared that Capone would have a breakdown. Rudinsky was formerly a small time criminal associated with the Capone gang, and found himself becoming a protector for Capone. The conspicuous protection of Rudinsky and other prisoners drew accusations from less friendly inmates, and fueled suspicion that Capone was receiving special treatment. No solid evidence ever emerged, but it formed part of the rationale for moving Capone to the recently opened Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary off the coast of San Francisco.
At Alcatraz, Capone's decline became increasingly evident as neurosyphilis progressively eroded his mental faculties. He spent the last year of his sentence in the prison hospital, confused and disoriented. Capone completed his term in Alcatraz on January 6, 1939, and was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in California to serve out his sentence for contempt of court. He was paroled on November 16, 1939.
Later years and death Edit
After Capone was released from prison, he was referred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for the treatment of paresis (caused by late-stage syphilis). Hopkins refused to admit him based solely on his reputation, but Union Memorial Hospital took him in. Capone was grateful for the compassionate care that he received and donated two Japanese weeping cherry trees to Union Memorial Hospital in 1939. A very sickly Capone left Baltimore on March 20, 1940, after a few weeks inpatient and a few weeks outpatient, for Palm Island, Florida.
In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist performed examinations and concluded that Capone had the mental capability of a 12-year-old child. Capone spent the last years of his life at his mansion in Palm Island, Florida. On January 21, 1947, Capone had astroke. He regained consciousness and started to improve but contracted pneumonia. He suffered a fatal cardiac arrest the next day. On January 25, 1947, Al Capone died in his home, surrounded by his family; he wаs buried аt Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.
Chicago aftermath Edit
The main effect of Capone's conviction was that he ceased to be boss immediately on his imprisonment, but those involved in the jailing of Capone portrayed it as considerably undermining the city's organized crime syndicate. Far from being smashed, the Chicago Outfit continued without being troubled by the Chicago police, but at a lower-level and without the open violence that had marked Capone's rule. Organized crime in the city had a lower profile once Prohibition was repealed, already wary of attention after seeing Capone's notoriety bring him down, to the extent that there is a lack of consensus among writers about who was actually in control and who was a figurehead 'front boss'. Prostitution, labor union racketeering, and gambling became moneymakers for organized crime in the city without incurring serious investigation. In the late 1950s, FBI agents discovered an organization led by Capone's former lieutenants reigning supreme over the Chicago underworld.
The Mafia Encyclopedia 3rd Edition by Carl Sifakis
True Crimes: Gangsters Outside the Law by Michael Newton