Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why Jack Ruby Killed Lee Harvey Oswald

Friends of ours: Sam Giancana, Joe Civello, Joe Campisi

In March of 1964, 52-year-old Jack Ruby was found guilty of the murder of John F. Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and sentenced to die.

For 32 months, since the time he shot Oswald, Ruby had been locked in a windowless cell on the Dallas County Jail's corridor 6-M. A ''suicide watch'' guard looked in on him around the clock – a single exposed light bulb glared over his bed. Several times Ruby would make attempts on his own life.

Ruby could not tell night from day. He read every newspaper he could lay his hands on, eagerly sifting them for his name. He read dozens of books, including Perry Mason novels and the Warren Report, played cards with his guards, did physical exercises – and seemed out of his mind most of the time, according to jail staff.

Ruby was clearly tipping over the edge in his psychosis and paranoia. He rammed his head against the plaster walls and raved over and over about the suffering Jews who were being killed as revenge for his crime. Near the end, Ruby screamed that his prison guards were piping mustard gas into his cell. Later, when his doctors discovered that he was suffering from brain tumors and adenocarcinoma – a cancer that had spread swiftly through most of the cavities, ducts and glands of his body, Ruby accused them of injecting him with the disease – a medical impossibility.

On Oct. 5, 1966 the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals granted Ruby a new trial on the grounds that his statements to Dallas policemen immediately after the shooting should not have been allowed as evidence against him and that the original court should have granted a change of venue to another jurisdiction because a fair trial was all but impossible in Dallas.

By Dec. 5, 1966 Wichita Falls was selected as the new venue for the trial. When the sheriff of Wichita Falls arrived a couple of days later to transfer Ruby to Wichita Falls he noticed that Ruby was ill and refused to take him away. The Dallas jail had been treating him with Pepto-Bismol for a stomach problem. He was taken to Parkland Hospital on Dec. 9, 1966 and the doctors treated him for pneumonia – a day later they realised he had cancer in his liver, brain and lungs, and had probably been suffering from it for 15 months.

Almost from the time he arrived at the hospital, Ruby's condition was considered hopeless. He died on Jan. 3, 1967.

Who Was Jack Ruby?

According to the Warren Commission Report, Ruby was born in 1912 to a Russian immigrant, a quiet, gentle woman who was intimidated by her husband and who spent some months in her later years in an Illinois mental home as a result of her alcoholism. His mother died in an insane asylum in Chicago. His father was a drunk and was treated for psychiatric disorders. A brother and a sister had psychiatric treatment. Ruby and his brothers and sisters spent much of their childhood in a series of foster homes while their parents were separated. By the time Ruby was 8 or 9 years old, he was making money selling shopping bags in the Chicago streets at Christmas time. In his teens he started selling pennants and earned money by parking cars. At age 23 he went to California to sell tip sheets at a racecourse. When that didn't work he sold subscriptions for Hearst newspapers.

Until he was drafted into military service in 1943, he continued with these types of petty jobs. He worked as a union organizer, travelled through the Eastern states selling punchboards, then opened what he called a legitimate mail-order business.

Ruby was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Force on May 21, 1943. He spent most of his service at military bases in the South. Two people who recalled Ruby's military service said he was extremely sensitive to insulting remarks about Jews. Ruby attacked a sergeant who had called him a ''Jew bastard.'' He expressed to some soldiers his high regard for Franklin D. Roosevelt and cried when he was informed of Roosevelt's death in April 1945. Ruby attained the rank of private first class and received the good conduct medal. His character and efficiency ratings were classed as excellent. Following his honorable discharge from the Army Air Force he returned to Chicago. With his sister Eva now residing in Dallas, Ruby moved there, and through her, got involved in the nightclub business there.

In 1952 a Dallas club he ran failed badly and, depressed about it, he went to a Dallas hotel and considered suicide. He changed his mind and decided to re-enter the club business. ''I was doing some things on the side,'' Ruby explained. ''I made a trip to New York to promote a little colored boy who could sing and dance. Then I became a distributor for pizza pie and for some medicine. I built some log cabins for a man named Gimble, but we didn't do well. I took over a private club in 1960 but I didn't make a go of it with all the credits involved so I changed it to the Carousel Club in 1961.'' The Carousel was a sleazy striptease nightclub near the Adolphus and Baker hotels in Dallas.

Ruby's medical history gives some insight into the origins of his mental instability and his impulsive and aggressive behaviour throughout his adult life. The records show a series of head injuries. In 1928 when he was selling tickets outside Soldiers Field in Chicago, two plainclothes policemen beat him on the head with their pistols. In 1941, in some sort of brawl, he suffered a concussion. In 1955, while he was running the Silver Spur nightclub in Dallas, he got in a fight with three customers and a woman ended it by hitting him over the head with a half-gallon jug of wine.

He had a long history of violent, antisocial behavior, and when it was over he wouldn't remember what he had done. A stripper named Penny Dollar, who once worked at Ruby's Carousel Club, testified at Ruby's trial in 1964. She told the jury that she had seen Ruby throw a man downstairs and beat his head repeatedly on the pavement, then rise in bewilderment and say, ''Did I do this? Did I do this''? Ruby's autopsy revealed ''15 brain tumors,'' according to Ruby's lawyer, Joe Tonahill.

Ruby had a habit of carrying a gun and assaulting patrons who wouldn't pay or who bothered women at his clubs. He acquired the nickname ''Sparky'' because of his quick temper. And he loved to play the big shot, bragging of his friends in the Mafia, cultivating friends among the Dallas police, and pestering reporters for publicity. Friends and acquaintances have testified that Ruby wanted to appear as a big shot by dropping names and appearing to be an insider with the Dallas Police.

Many friends spoke of Ruby's yearning for class. He wanted a clean image for his clubs and always thought he would eventually own a ''high class joint.'' Ruby's efforts to attain class were frequently humorous. He was a Mr. Malaprop in his use of language, once telling one of his girlfriends ''You make me feel very irascible,'' or ''It's been a lovely precarious evening.''

Conspiracy advocates have often alleged that Ruby may have been homosexual but there is no evidence to support their claims. The rumors may have started because Ruby was a bachelor and he shared an apartment with his friend, George Senator.

Ruby had a long-standing relationship with Alice Reaves Nichols, who helped him manage his club. When asked why they hadn't married Ruby told a friend she had too much ''class'' for him. Nichols said she never seriously considered marrying Ruby because he had a gambling habit. Ruby also had intimate relationships with a number of women who worked for him but they were only fleeting affairs as he was enamoured with Alice.

Ruby's nightclub dancers spoke of his frequent acts of kindness, giving them money when they got into debt and paying their children's medical bills. Many of his staff thought Ruby was a kind and generous person but he was also a man who displayed frequent outbursts of anger towards his staff. Afterwards, he was invariably remorseful but instead of apologizing he would leave the club and return with food snacks as a way of saying sorry. He had a hands-on approach to the running of his clubs and whenever a dispute with patrons arose he would angrily confront whoever had been responsible, sometimes beating up a customer who got out of hand. Yet he had strong feelings for the underdog, frequently buying a meal for people who were down on their luck. And he was also an emotional man often reacting violently to any slights about the Jewish faith.

Rabbi Silverman, who had known Ruby for 10 years, said that one day in 1963 Ruby suddenly appeared on his doorstep with half a dozen dogs. Ruby was crying and said that he was unmarried but, pointing to one dog, described it as ''his wife.'' He then pointed to the other dogs and described them as ''his children.'' According to Rabbi Silverman, Ruby was sobbing and crying and seemed to be ''a very emotional, unstable, erratic man.''

At the moment President Kennedy was assassinated, on Friday afternoon, Nov. 22, 1963, Ruby had been at the offices of the Dallas Morning News, placing advertisements for his two clubs, The Carousel and Vegas, that would appear in the newspaper. When word reached the building that Kennedy had been shot Ruby was clearly upset at the news.

The next evening Ruby visited his sister, Eva Grant. They talked about the assassination and Ruby's feelings came pouring out. He was remorseful of what the assassination had done to Dallas and of how the Jews had lost a great friend in the President. Ruby was highly strung and obviously disturbed. Later that evening he went to the Dallas police station and observed Oswald's midnight press conference. Ruby was enraged that Oswald was smirking at the police officers who surrounded the alleged assassin. Close friends who met Ruby that evening spoke of Ruby's anger, revulsion and hatred for Oswald. At his last stop that night, at the Southland Hotel's coffee shop, he told his friend George Senator of his anger at an anti-Kennedy advertisement which had been placed in Friday's Dallas Morning News. He was especially upset because the advertisement had been placed by someone who had a ''Jewish sounding name'' which he believed would bring discredit on the Jews.

Ruby slept until 9 a.m. Sunday morning. He watched television for a while and then made breakfast. When he left the apartment at 11 a.m. he took his pet dachshund with him. Into his jacket pocket he slipped his .38 caliber revolver. Ruby usually carried the weapon in his car or, if he was holding cash receipts from the clubs, in his jacket. Bob Larkin, a doorman at Ruby's Carousel nightclub said, ''He carried a lot of money....that's why he kept a gun in the bank bag...whenever he was carrying money he kept his piece handy.''

Ruby drove downtown past the Texas School Book Depository and parked his car not far from his destination, the Western Union Telegraph office where he was to telegraph some money for one of his dancers. He left his dog Sheba in the car, a telling act that would later convince a number of Ruby's friends the nightclub owner had not planned on killing Oswald. At 11:17 a.m. the Western Union clerk gave Ruby a receipt for his money order. Ruby walked out the door and headed down Main Street toward the police station. He was four minutes away from his historic role in the tragic events of that weekend – the slaying of the president's alleged assassin before a television audience of millions.

Dets. L.C Graves and James Leavelle led Oswald to the basement of the Dallas Police Department. As they were going down in the lift Leavelle said to Oswald, ''If anybody shoots at you I hope they're as good a shot as you are.'' Leavelle was handcuffed to Oswald's right arm and Graves held his other arm.

The armoured car that was to take Oswald to the County Jail could not manoeuvre down into the basement so a police car was assigned for the job. As Oswald came through the swing doors Ruby had just positioned himself in a group of television and newspaper reporters. Camera lights flashed and blinded the detectives and police officers who were guarding the basement. As Oswald was escorted out the swing doors to the basement garage, 10 to 15 feet away from the escort car, Ruby angled himself directly in front of Oswald's path. Ruby then rushed forward and fired a single shot into Oswald's abdomen, the bullet striking vital organs. Leavelle grabbed Ruby by the shoulder and pushed down on him. Graves had the hammer of the pistol locked with his thumb while Ruby was trying to pull the trigger again. Dets. L.D Montgomery and ‘Blackie' Harrison grabbed Ruby from the back and got him to the ground. Ruby responded with ''I'm Jack Ruby. You all know me.'' As he was taken to a third- floor interrogation room, Ruby said, ''I hope I killed the son of a bitch. It will save you guys a lot of trouble.''

After Ruby was subdued Oswald was carried back into the jail office and given artificial respiration. The ambulance arrived in a matter of minutes and Oswald was taken to Parkland Hospital. One of his escorts, Det. Billy Combest, said Oswald made a ''definite clenched-fist salute'' during the journey to the hospital. Oswald was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital at 1:07 p.m., about an hour and a half after he was shot.

Ruby and the Mob

It was Ruby's relationships with unsavoury mob-linked characters throughout his life that led to a great deal of speculation that he was controlled by organized crime. The Warren Commission's investigation into his background failed to dispel this notion because the commission – which basically relied on hundreds of FBI interviews of Ruby's known associates – did not fully investigate his alleged Mafia connections and his trips to Cuba.

One of the most intriguing questions surrounding Oswald's assassin concerned Ruby's 1959 trip to Cuba. The 1976-1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigation determined that he had made at least three trips to Havana that summer and that he had visited a safe deposit box in Dallas in the meantime.

However, the trips had nothing to do with the Mafia. As Ruby's lawyer Melvin Belli explained, ''It came out in one of our earliest interviews that he had tried to arrange some sort of deal with Cuba soon after Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime. But that, Ruby would insist, was when Castro was considered something of a hero in the United States. Now Castro was considered a Russian-supported Communist, and Ruby was mortified to think that anyone might get the wrong impression of the deal. ‘When Castro first came in he was considered a hero,' Ruby said, ‘and I thought maybe I could make a deal in selling jeeps to Cuba. He was still a hero at the time; his brother was the first one to turn. Steve Allen and Jack Parr (television entertainers) and Jake Arvey's son were all interested then in making deals with him. I had been associated with a very high type of person, but a gambler, Mack Willie, who ran a club in Cuba, so I went there for eight or 10 days.' People would say he had planned to give guns to Cuba, Ruby fretted; they would think he wasn't a good American. He insisted that we telephone all over the place to try to set the record straight on this, although I got the impression, frankly, that the deal had been primarily the figment of his imagination.''

That same year, according to the HSCA, the FBI contacted Ruby eight times trying to recruit him as an informant. But J. Edgar Hoover, head of the F.B.I., withheld the information from the Warren Commission. Later it was disclosed that Ruby, because of his advantageous position as a Dallas nightclub owner, had given FBI agent Charles Flynn information about thefts and similar offenses in the Dallas area. In November of 1959 Flynn recommended that no further attempt be made to develop Ruby as a PCI, (potential criminal informant), since his information was useless. Ruby had been trying to dish the dirt on his nightclub competitors.

Hugh Aynesworth, a Times Herald reporter who knew Ruby well, said, ''In 1959 the FBI tried eight times to recruit Jack Ruby. They wanted him as an informer on drugs, gambling, and organized crime, but every time they contacted him, Ruby tried to get his competitors in trouble. 'Ol' Abe over at the Colony Club is cheating on his income tax.... Ol' Barney at the Theatre Lounge is selling booze after hours.' After a while the FBI gave up on the idea.''

As the years passed following Ruby's death, discoveries about his activities provided more material for sensationalist speculation by conspiracy advocates. During the 1970s the public learned that the CIA failed to disclose a report that Ruby may have visited Santos Trafficante, mob boss of Florida, during the time Trafficante was in a Cuban jail. The HSCA later investigated these reports but did not place any credence upon them.

Ruby's telephone records have been the subject of numerous investigations and some conspiracists have alleged they provide proof of Mafia involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy. While it is true that Ruby made many telephone calls to his underworld contacts in the months before the Kennedy assassination, the calls had nothing to do with any arrangements to kill the President. There is no evidence the calls were conspiratorial in nature. In fact the calls centered around the fact that Ruby had wanted assistance from the strippers' labor union to dissuade rival clubs from using amateur talent.

Furthermore, since most of the calls were made before the President's trip to Dallas was even announced, much less before the motorcade route was set. Journalist Seth Kantor speculated that Ruby borrowed money from the mob and that the mob later called in the debt by asking him to silence Oswald. Kantor, however, provides no proof of his allegations.

Conspiracy advocates rightly point to Ruby's association with Dallas mob bosses Joe Civello and Joe Campisi as evidence that Ruby was mob-linked but they fail to put the connection in the right context. Ruby's world consisted of nightclubs and socializing with people who were in the same business. As the McClellan Committee recognized in the 1950's, no city in the United States was immune to Mafia control of off-track betting, gambling, and nightclub entertainment. It was the milieu in which Ruby operated. Ruby also entertained many Dallas police officers at his club. None of them testified to any sinister connection with the Dallas bosses. One police officer, Joe Cody, said that Ruby was often seen with Joe and Sam Campisi because they were part of Ruby's social scene. Ruby ate at the Egyptian Lounge and Cody often joined Ruby and the Campisi brothers. Cody said there were no criminal reasons for the meetings.

It was inevitable that Ruby would associate with characters who could be linked in some way with the underworld. But it is illogical to assume mob involvement in Ruby's actions that tragic weekend. The evidence indicates otherwise. ''It is so ludicrous to believe that Ruby was part of the mob,'' Tony Zoppi, a close friend of Ruby's, told author Gerald Posner (Case Closed 1993). ''The conspiracy theorists want to believe everybody but those who really knew him. People in Dallas, in those circles, knew Ruby was a snitch. The word on the street was that you couldn't trust him because he was telling the cops everything. He was a real talker, a fellow who would talk your ear off if he had the chance. You have to be crazy to think anyone would have trusted Ruby to be part of the mob. He couldn't keep a secret for five minutes. He was just a hanger on, somebody who would have liked some of the action but was never going to get any.''

Former Dallas Assistant D.A. Bill Alexander said, ''It's hard to believe…that I, who prosecuted Ruby for killing Oswald, am almost in the position of defending his honor. Ruby was not in the Mafia. He was not a gangster. We knew who the criminals were in Dallas back then, and to say Ruby was part of organized crime is just bullshit. There's no way he was connected. It's guilt by association, that A knew B, and Ruby knew B back in 1950, so he must have known A, and that must be the link to the conspiracy. It's crap written by people who don't know the facts.''

Conspiracy advocates have alleged that Ruby had been involved in the nightclub business in Chicago and was sent to Dallas by the Chicago Mafia. However, many years later Ruby's brother Earl said, ''That's absolutely false. I worked with Jack during that time, and he never had anything to do with nightclubs in Chicago. When you were actually there and know what went on, it drives you crazy to hear charges like that, which are just completely wrong.''

Bill Roemer, the FBI agent in charge of investigating the Chicago Mafia in the 1960's, agrees. ''Ruby was absolutely nothing in terms of the Chicago mob,'' Roemer said. ''We had thousands of hours of tape recordings of the top mobsters in Chicago, including Sam Giancana (the Chicago godfather), and Ruby just didn't exist as far as they were concerned. We talked to every hoodlum in Chicago after the assassination and some of the top guys in the mob, my informants, I had a close relationship with them – they didn't know who Ruby was. He was not a front for them in Dallas.''

Roemer knew how the Mafia operated. He arrested many members of the Mafia and bugged the Armory Lounge, Giancana's headquarters. Roemer was convinced that if the Mafia hired anyone for a hit they would choose someone who had a track record of killing and who would remain ''tight lipped.'' None of these traits applied to Ruby.

Ruby certainly knew many people who had police records. ''It was the nature of his business,'' said Bill Alexander. ''Running those types of nightclubs, he came across plenty of unsavory characters. The police had a pretty good idea of what happened at Ruby's club, and there was no dope and he certainly didn't allow any of the girls to do anything illegal from the club, because that would have cost him his license. Ruby was a small time operator on the fringe of everything, but he never crossed over to breaking the law big time.''

Jack Ruby and the Conspiracy Theorists

Despite attempts by conspiracy writers to prove Ruby was part of a conspiracy to kill JFK, there are compelling and persuasive reasons that Ruby was acting alone when he shot Oswald. Despite some claims to the contrary, there is no evidence to suggest Ruby had been hired by the Mafia to silence Oswald. Allegations that Ruby acquiesced to the Mafia's demands because he knew he had cancer have made the rounds for years – and continue to do so – but are spurious.

There are no medical records, or statements from his brothers and sister to say that Ruby knew he had cancer prior to killing Oswald. Ruby certainly never claimed he had cancer prior to killing Oswald. It would not be until 1966 that Ruby, suffering from paranoia and delusions would claim that he was being injected with cancer cells. The doctors at Parkland Hospital, who began treating Ruby for cancer in December of 1966, estimated he'd had the disease for only the last 15 months.

Mark Lane in his conspiracy book Rush to Judgement (1966), Oliver Stone in his movie J.F.K. (1991), and Henry Hurt in his book Reasonable Doubt (1986) examined Ruby's 1964 testimony to the Warren Commission and concluded it indicated Ruby's involvement in a conspiracy.

After Ruby had been convicted of Oswald's murder and sentenced to death, Warren Commission members Earl Warren and Gerald Ford questioned him at the Dallas jail. For many months there had been rumors that Ruby was a hit man whose job had been to silence Oswald. According to Lane and Stone, Ruby seemed eager to disclose his part in a conspiracy. According to Lane, ''Ruby made it plain that if the commission took him from the Dallas jail and permitted him to testify in Washington, he could tell more there; it was impossible for him to tell the whole truth so long as he was in the jail in Dallas... (Ruby said) 'I would like to request that I go to Washington and... take all the tests that I have to take. It is very important...Gentlemen, unless you get me to Washington, you can't get a fair shake out of me.''

However, it is clear from Ruby's Warren Commission testimony that he simply wanted to inform the commissioners of a conspiracy to murder Jews. Earl Warren, the commission's chairman said, ''I went down and took Jack Ruby's testimony myself – he wouldn't talk to anybody but me. And he wanted the FBI to give him a lie detector test, and I think the FBI did, and he cleared it all right. I was satisfied myself that he didn't know Oswald, never had heard of him. But the fellow was clearly delusional when I talked to him. He took me aside and he said, 'Hear those voices, hear those voices'? He thought they were Jewish children and Jewish women who were being put to death in the building there.'' He told Warren, Gerald Ford and others, ''I am as innocent regarding any conspiracy as any of you gentlemen in the room.'' Ruby was actually begging the commission to take him back to Washington so that he could take a polygraph examination and prove that he was telling the truth when he denied any role in a conspiracy.

After his arrest, Ruby had been diagnosed as a ''psychotic depressive.'' His testimony to the Warren Commission indicates that he believed he was a victim of a political conspiracy by right-wing forces in Dallas. He suggested that the John Birch Society was spreading the falsehood that he, a Jew, was implicated in the President's death in order to create anti-Jewish hysteria. ''The Jewish people are being exterminated at this moment,'' Ruby insisted. ''Consequently, a whole new form of government is going to take over our country…No subversive organization gave me any idea. No underworld person made any effort to contact me. It all happened one Sunday morning...If you don't get me back to Washington tonight to give me a chance to prove to the President that I am not guilty, then you will see the most tragic thing that will ever happen...All I want is a lie detector test…All I want to do is tell the truth, and that is all. There was no conspiracy.''

A letter Ruby sent to his brother Earl clearly reveals Ruby's mental state. Ruby wrote, ''You must believe what I've been telling you for the past two and a half years. If you only would have believed me all along you would have found some way to check out what I said. You would have saved Israel, but now they are doomed, because they think the U.S. are for them, but they are wrong because (President) Johnson wants to see them slaughtered and tortured. Egypt is making believe they are an ally of Russia, that is only to fool Russia and the U.S. It's too late now to do anything, and we are all doomed. They are torturing children here. If you only would believe what I'm telling you...Earl, they are going to torture you to death, and you will witness your own family being put to death. Forgive me for all this terrible tragedy I've caused. I know you won't listen to me Earl, but if you go to a public phone booth, they may be watching you, pretend that you are going to a department store or a movie, and then give them the slip…''

Another primary claim the conspiracy theorists make is that the Dallas police conspired with Ruby to take out Oswald. Oswald was scheduled to be transferred from the city jail in the police station to the county jail at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24th. Before the transfer of Oswald to the county jail, the alleged assassin was due a further interrogation by Captain Will Fritz and representatives of the Secret Service and FBI. Oswald's interrogation on Sunday morning lasted longer than originally planned because Postal Inspector Harry D. Holmes arrived. Holmes had helped the FBI trace the money order that Oswald used to buy the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Holmes had also helped the FBI trace the ownership of the post-office box number to which Oswald's rifle and pistol were sent.

The arrival of Holmes delayed the transfer of Oswald. In his testimony to the Warren Commission Holmes said, ''I actually started to church with my wife. I got to church and I said, 'You get out, I am going down to see if I can do something for Captain Fritz. I imagine he is as sleepy as I am.' So I drove directly on down to the police station and walked in, and as I did, Captain Fritz motioned to me and said, 'We are getting ready to have a last interrogation with Oswald before we transfer him to the county jail. Would you like to join us?' I said I would.''

Secret Service agents and an FBI agent interrogated Oswald after Fritz. Unexpectedly, Fritz then turned to Holmes and asked whether he wanted to interrogate Oswald. Holmes accepted. It was for this reason the interrogation continued for another half hour or so.

Ruby shot Oswald approximately five minutes after Ruby left the Western Union office. If Inspector Holmes had continued on to church with his wife that morning, the length of interrogation would have been shortened and Jack Ruby would never have had the opportunity to kill Oswald. David Scheim in his book Contract On America (1988), ignores this vital piece of evidence surrounding the transfer of Oswald. Scheim took part of Ruby's testimony out of context in order to present evidence that Ruby had had assistance in the murder of Oswald: ''Who else could have timed it so perfectly by seconds. If it were timed that way, then someone in the police department is guilty of giving the information as to when Lee Harvey Oswald was coming down.'' Exactly the same conspiratorial statement, taken out of it's proper context, was used 10 years later by Noel Twyman in his book Bloody Treason (1997).

This ''conspiratorial'' statement contradicts Ruby's actual testimony. What Ruby really said was, ''…but I know in my right mind, because I know my motive for doing it, and certainly to gain publicity to take a chance of being mortally wounded, as I said before, and who else could have timed it so perfectly by seconds. If it were timed that way, then someone in the police department is guilty of giving the information as to when Lee Harvey Oswald was coming down. I never made a statement. I never inquired from the television man what time is Lee Harvey Oswald coming down. Because really a man in his right mind would never ask that question. I never made the statement ‘I wanted to get three more off. Someone had to do it. You wouldn't do it.' I never made those statements...Anything I said was with emotional feeling of I didn't want Mrs. Kennedy to come back to trial.''

Some conspiracists have alleged that the Dallas police allowed Ruby to enter the Dallas police basement through an unlocked door instead of entering by a ramp. However, they ignore an important witness who actually saw Ruby descend the ramp. The witness was an ex-Dallas police officer named Napoleon Daniels. Daniels, a college educated African-American had been a member of the segregated Dallas police force who had left prior to the assassination. Daniels had observed Ruby descend the ramp when the police officer guarding the entrance, Roy Vaughn, was distracted by a car trying to manoeuvre into the basement entrance. Vaughn had to walk into the middle of the street to divert the car. Daniels thought the man entering the basement was a police detective and did not tell Vaughn. He did, however, notice a bulge at the person's waist that he believed to be a holstered handgun. The Dallas police tried to discredit Daniel's testimony possibly because he was black but also because his testimony revealed the incompetence of the Dallas Police Department.

Another authoritative source has gone on record as late as March 1997 which confirms that Ruby, in the confusion that surrounded the police station that Sunday morning, did not have any assistance in entering the basement. Paul McCaghren, a retired police lieutenant who was not present at the time but later investigated the shooting of Oswald, said that Ruby's access to the basement was just lucky timing on his part. He said that in hindsight things should have been done differently but it was a situation that had never occurred before.

According to the report filed by the Dallas Police Department investigating Oswald's shooting, an armored truck was to be used to transport Oswald to the county jail from the city jail. According to the report, police decided that, ''an unmarked police car would be better from the standpoint of both speed and deception...Such a car, bearing Oswald, should follow the armored truck.'' But the police lieutenant driving the squad car was forced to go the wrong way on a ramp at police headquarters to pull in front of the armored car because the exit was blocked. Another police officer, guarding the area, the report said, was surprised when the lieutenant pulled in and blasted his car horn to hold the pedestrian traffic. McCaghren said this is when Ruby slipped into the basement, went immediately down the ramp and shot Oswald.

Jim Ewell, a former reporter with the Dallas Morning News, maintains that the idea that the Dallas Police Department had a hand in assisting Ruby is not true and that Dallas Police Department officials would have done things differently in the transfer of Oswald but top city officials over-ruled them. He believes the police would have made the media stand in the street had they been given their way. The city officials wanted to make sure the world knew that Oswald was not being mistreated. Furthermore, during the transfer of Oswald, many officers were blinded by the high intensity television lights which accounted for the fact that Ruby was able to move among them without being challenged.

Conspiracy advocates raise all kinds of similar conspiratorial questions about Ruby in their attempts to prove he was part of a plot. As David Belin first noted (Full Disclosure, 1988), nearly every conspiracy theorist ignores the testimony of Ruby's rabbi, Hillel Silverman. Rabbi Silverman had visited Ruby in prison frequently. Rabbi Silverman is convinced Ruby was not part of a conspiracy. According to Silverman, at his first meeting with Ruby on the day after the shooting of Oswald, Ruby told him that, ''Had I intended to kill him (at a press conference on the Friday evening), I could have pulled my trigger on the spot, because the gun was in my pocket.'' And the truth of Ruby's explanation is confirmed by Lonnie Hudkins, a newspaper reporter, in an interview with BBC ''Timewatch'' researchers. ''I asked him if he was packing a pistol at that midnight press conference,'' Hudkins said, ''and he said 'Yes'. I asked him, 'Why didn't you plug him then?' and he said 'I was frightened of hitting one of you guys.' ''

These circumstances are vital to an understanding of Ruby's actions because the time to shoot Oswald would have been the Friday night press conference. It was pure coincidence that Ruby had an opportunity to kill Oswald on the Sunday morning.

The final words by Ruby about the allegations that federal agents or the Dallas police were instrumental in allowing Ruby to enter the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters were uttered shortly before he died. Ruby made a deathbed statement using a tape recorder, secreted in an attach̩ case, which was smuggled into his hospital room by his brother, Earl Ruby. Ruby was questioned by his lawyers. The tape recording was later incorporated in an L.P. record entitled ''The Controversy'' (1967). The interview lasted 12 minutes but was edited down to three minutes for the recording. Ruby said that it was pure chance in meeting Oswald at the Dallas police headquarters, ''The ironic part of this is I had made an illegal turn behind a bus to the parking lot. Had I gone the way I was supposed to go, straight down Main Street, I would never have met this fate, because the difference in meeting this fate was 30 seconds one way or the other...All I did is walk down there, down to the bottom of the ramp and that's when the incident happened Рat the bottom of the ramp.'' In the final recording of Ruby's voice he was asked if he knew the time Oswald was supposed to have been moved, Ruby replied ''He was supposed to be moved at 10'o'clock.'' Ruby explained he always carried a gun because he often had large sums of money.

Furthermore, it is logical to assume that no conspiracy could profit by silencing Oswald in a public fashion. There would be no point in eliminating one suspect while simultaneously handing the police another. And, if it were Oswald's intention to ''talk,'' he could have done so in the two days he was incarcerated in the Dallas Police Station.

Ruby denied that he knew Oswald and said Oswald had never been in his club. Rumors that Ruby and Oswald knew each other have been repeated over and over again since the time that Ruby shot Oswald. Many Conspiracy advocates have stated flatly that Oswald recognized Ruby just before Ruby pulled the trigger in the Dallas police basement.

The Warren Report investigated numerous specific allegations that Ruby knew Oswald but found none which merited credence. Although it would be impossible to investigate all of these ''sightings'' – which are uncorroborated and unsubstantiated – a clue why they arose in the first place may be gleaned from the commission's investigation of one particular sighting. The Warren Commission stated, ''The testimony of a few witnesses who claim to have seen Ruby with a person who they feel may have been Oswald warrants further comment. One such witness, Robert K. Patterson, a Dallas electronics salesman, has stated that on Nov. 1, 1963, Ruby, accompanied by a man who resembled Oswald, purchased some equipment at his business establishment. However, Patterson did not claim positively that the man he saw was Oswald, and two of his associates who were also present at the time could not state that the man was Oswald. Other evidence indicates that Ruby's companion was Larry Crafard.''

The Warren Commission concluded that Crafard, sometime in late October or early November, accompanied Ruby to an electronics store in connection with the purchase of electronic equipment.

Furthermore, Oswald's wife Marina never believed that Oswald and Ruby would have associated with each other, ''How could Lee have known Ruby?...He didn't drink, he didn't smoke, he didn't go to nightclubs and, besides, he was sitting home with me all the time.''

Ruby's True Motives

On the evening of JFK's assassination, Ruby met one of his dancers, Kay Coleman, and her boyfriend Harry Olsen, a Dallas policeman. They talked for an hour and Olsen told Ruby, ''They should cut this guy (Oswald) inch by inch into ribbons.'' Ruby agreed and cursed Oswald. This may have been the beginning of Ruby's plan to kill Oswald. Ruby never mentioned the conversation until after his trial knowing it would be evidence of premeditation.

According to Rabbi Silverman, Ruby had seen a television broadcast on the Saturday morning in which a rabbi had been speaking about President Kennedy and the assassination. The next morning, Nov. 24, Ruby read in the newspaper that Jacqueline Kennedy might have to come to Dallas to testify at Oswald's trial. Ruby's rabbi was convinced of the sincerity of Ruby's explanation that he had killed Oswald because he was emotionally distraught over JFK's murder.

Melvin Belli, who became Ruby's lawyer after he shot Oswald, wrote, ''There was one weird trait. Unfailingly, at the mention of a member of President Kennedy's family, tears would start to course down his cheeks. It could even be a casual mention – later we tested his reaction by saying things like, 'Too bad Jack Kennedy won't be able to see the Giant's play' -- and the tears would just flow out of there. It was too spontaneous to be an act. I am convinced of the sincerity of this affection...''

Ruby's sister, Eva Grant, has testified to the emotional turmoil Ruby was experiencing the weekend of the assassination. ''He was sick to his stomach...and went into the bathroom...He looked terrible…He looked pretty bad...I can't explain it to you. He looked too broken, a broken man already. He did make the remark, 'I never felt so bad in all my life even when Ma and Pa died...someone tore my heart out.' ''

Cecil Hamlin, a long-time friend of Ruby's, said Ruby was ''very emotional...very broken up.'' Buddy Raymon, a comedian, remembered that when Ruby telephoned him, ''He was crying and carrying on, ‘What do you think of a character like that killing the president'? Ruby had asked him. George Senator said it was the ''...first time I ever saw tears in his eyes.''

After the assassination Ruby had visited his synagogue and cried. His brother Hyman said, ''They didn't believe a guy like Jack would ever cry. Jack never cried in his life. He was not that kind of guy to cry.''

Ruby described his actions that fateful Sunday morning, ''...I don't know what bug got a hold of me. I don't know what it is, but I am going to tell the truth word for word. I am taking a pill called Preludin. It is a harmless pill. And it is very easy to get in the drugstore. It isn't a highly prescribed pill. I use it for dieting. I don't partake of that much food. I think that was a stimulus to give me an emotional feeling that suddenly I felt, which was so stupid, that I wanted to show my love for our faith, being of the Jewish faith, and I never used the term and I don't want to go into that – suddenly the feeling, the emotional feeling came within me that someone owed this debt to our beloved President to save (Jackie Kennedy) the ordeal of coming back (for Oswald's trial). I don't know why that came through my mind.''

James Leavelle, the homicide detective who was handcuffed to Oswald when he was shot and who also transferred Ruby to the county jail, said that he asked Ruby why he shot Oswald and his answer was, ''I wanted to be a hero. It looks like I fucked things up.'' Leavelle also said, ''Ruby told me an interesting thing when I was a patrolman which didn't make any sense to me at the time, but it did after. He told me, 'I'd like to see two police officers sometime in a death struggle about to lose their lives, and I could jump in there and save them and be a hero.'''

Ruby told Assistant D.A. Bill Alexander, ''Well, you guys couldn't do it. Someone had to do it. That son of a bitch killed my President.'' Leavelle's reasoning for Ruby's actions are confirmed by many of Ruby's friends who believed the nightclub owner shot Oswald to become a hero. And Ruby, in the days after the shooting believed he would soon be out of jail and running his nightclubs as usual, according to Ruby's bartender, Andrew Armstrong, who visited Ruby regularly in jail to report on the club's affairs. ''In the beginning,'' Joe Tonahill said, ''Ruby considered himself a hero. He thought he had done a great service for the community. When the mayor, Earle Cabell, testified that the act brought great disgrace to Dallas, Jack started going downhill very fast. He got more nervous by the day. When they brought in the death penalty, he cracked. Ten days later he rammed his head into a cell wall. Then he tried to kill himself with an electric light socket. Then he tried to hang himself with sheets.''

In interviews conducted by authors Ovid Demaris and Gary Wills, Armstrong and many of Ruby's friends and acquaintances had little doubt as to what went through Ruby's mind at the time he decided to shoot Oswald. ''At the club, after the first shock,'' said Carousel Club drummer Bill Willis, ''we all said, 'Well, it figures. Jack thought while he was downtown he might as well kill Oswald too.'' Max Rudberg, a Ruby friend said, ''Well, everyone was saying the sonvabitch needs killing, and Jack was anxious to please...he was bound to poke his head in and see what was happening. Wherever there was a crowd, he couldn't possibly pass it by.'' Milton Joseph, a local jeweller and friend of Ruby's, had no doubt that Ruby killed Oswald to be in the limelight.

Contrary to the claims of conspiracy writers, Ruby died telling the truth. There is no credible evidence he was part of a conspiracy. Ruby murdered Oswald for personal reasons – he wanted to show that ''Jews had guts''; he felt emotionally distraught about the Kennedys, and he wanted to fulfil his life long dream of becoming a real hero.

Ruby was a small time wheeler-dealer who could never have been a participant in a complex conspiracy. No one, least of all the Mafia, would have trusted such an incompetent small timer to play a leading role in an elaborate and secretive plot. Most people who knew Jack Ruby agree.

Thanks to Mel Ayton.
Mel Ayton is the author of "The JFK Assassination: Dispelling The Myths" (Woodfield Publishing 2002) and "Questions Of Controversy: The Kennedy Brothers" (University of Sunderland Press 2001). His latest book, "A Racial Crime – James Earl Ray And The Murder Of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.", was published in the United States by ArcheBooks in February 2005. In 2003 he acted as the historical adviser for the BBC's television documentary "The Kennedy Dynasty" broadcast in November of that year. He has written articles for Ireland's leading history magazine History Ireland, David Horowitz's Frontpage magazine and History News Network.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

State Treasurer Candidate Asked to Explain Mob Allegations

Mike Madigan doesn't get mad. He gets even. And boy, does he get even.

Lobbing another political hand grenade, the state Democratic Party chairman and Illinois House speaker said Tuesday he is withholding his support for Democratic treasurer nominee Alexi Giannoulias until he answers "those allegations of connections to the mob."

"I want some answers," Madigan said. "The allegations are there." The powerful Southwest Side Democrat made the remarks at his annual fund-raiser when I asked him why Giannoulias' photo was still not on the party's Web site.

A North Side banker and political novice, Giannoulias, you will remember, beat Madigan's choice for state treasurer in the primary, Downstater Paul Mangieri. That gave Giannoulias the chance to square off against Republican nominee Christine Radogno in November. But Giannoulias, 30, became engulfed in controversy. The Chicago Tribune published articles about millions of dollars his family-owned bank loaned to two convicted felons and an alleged money-launderer.

Broadway Bank is not accused of anything illegal, but it has been a political embarrassment for Giannoulias, who first called one of the men a "very nice person," then later said he had been too "cavalier."

The bombshell from Madigan recalls his cryptic comments in 2002 about never-explained "indiscretions" of then-Democratic gubernatorial nominee Rod Blagojevich. This time, Madigan is being more pointed. "I mean my history in politics, if you were alleged to be connected to the mob, you were done, but life seems to go on," he said.

Giannoulias told me he feels he has satisfactorily answered reporters' questions about the loans. "I would love to sit down with the speaker at some point," he said. "I've put calls in to his office and see if we could sit down and talk about how we could uh, you know, work together." But Giannoulias conceded he's stumped about what he can do to bring Madigan on board. "You know, I don't know," he said. "I'm a political outsider to some of this, you know, silliness."

Thanks to Carol Marin

Junior Gotti Hits Triple Crown with 3rd Mistrial

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the racketeering trial of former mob boss John A. "Junior" Gotti, the third time in 12 months a jury had been unable to reach a verdict in the case.

The jury sent out a note Wednesday indicating it could not reach a unanimous verdict. "Your honor, unfortunately we are deadlocked," said the note, prompting U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin to declare the mistrial shortly after noon. A day earlier, the jury had sent a similar note to the judge.

It was the jury's seventh day of deliberations. Two previous juries in the last year wound up deadlocked, with resulting mistrials.

A relieved Gotti hugged his brother Peter and other supporters Wednesday, then wiped his eyes while sitting at the defense table. "It was a tough one," Gotti said. "This one drained the life from me."

Gotti's lawyers argued the second-generation Mafiosi had years ago severed his ties to organized crime. If convicted, the 42-year-old Gotti had faced up to 30 years in prison. He is free on $7 million bail, and there was no immediate word on whether the government would mount a fourth prosecution.

From the start, the key issue in the case has been whether Gotti quit the Gambino crime family as he claims before July 1999. If so, a five-year statute of limitations would have expired before prosecutors brought new racketeering charges in 2004.

Prosecutors say the jury should conclude Gotti continued to receive mob money after 1999 and thus was part of a racketeering conspiracy. His defense lawyers say Gotti paid a large fine when he pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in another case in 1999 and was permitted to keep the property and businesses which remained, regardless of where the money originated.

Gotti was also accused of ordering two 1992 attacks on radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa, including one where he was shot twice before escaping out the window of a taxi rigged to keep him trapped inside. Prosecutors have said Gotti was retaliating for on-air attacks against his father, John Gotti, who was sentenced in 1992 to life in prison without parole. He died in prison in 2002.

Sliwa sat in the courtroom, looking disappointed, as the mistrial was declared. But this trial didn't focus as much as the first two did on the Sliwa attacks. Prosecutors instead aimed their evidence at convincing jurors that Gotti never quit the mob before he pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 1999 as he insisted he had.

They tracked Gotti's financial moves to try to convince the jury that Gotti never left the mob because he continued earning money off businesses such as real estate that he started with crime-tainted money.

Gotti's defense team acknowledged his life in organized crime, but insisted their client had retired from the Mafia and had no role in the Sliwa attack. Gotti was indicted on these charges in July 2004, just two months before he was due out of prison on a prior conviction.

Last September, a jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. At his second trial, the majority of the second jury favored acquitting Gotti in March after his lawyers successfully emphasized their claim that he had had quit the mob. The trials were meant to resolve the 14-year-old question of whether Gotti ordered two assaults on Sliwa.

According to authorities, the younger Gotti assumed control of the powerful Gambino family after his father's 1992 conviction on racketeering and murder charges.

Junior Gotti Jury says It's Deadlocked

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family

A jury deliberating the fate of John "Junior" Gotti at his third racketeering trial told the judge Tuesday it was unable to agree on a verdict. The judge asked the jury to try again.

The jury released a note after noon saying it had only been able to agree on one of two acts it must decide before reaching a verdict on the racketeering charge. "We have been unable to reach a unanimous verdict on all charges," the jury said. "We feel we are deadlocked."

From the start, the jury has sought evidence aimed at deciding whether Gotti quit the Gambino crime family before July 1991, as he claims. If so, a five-year statute of limitations would have expired before prosecutors brought new racketeering charges in 2004.

The jury was in its sixth day of deliberations. It had asked for some evidence to be read back as it deliberated over the last week, but the panel has not been particularly noisy in a courthouse where jurors can sometimes be heard shouting at one another.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin encouraged the jurors to give it another try, saying the case would likely have to be tried again and it was unlikely that another jury would be better able to judge the evidence. Two previous juries in the last year wound up deadlocked, with resulting mistrials. "I know it's been long but there's still no hurry," she said. "I ask you with great respect that you continue your deliberations and I await your word whatever it may be."

Prosecutors say the jury should conclude Gotti continued to receive mob money after 1999 and thus was part of a racketeering conspiracy.

Defense lawyers say Gotti paid a large fine when he pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in another case in 1999 and was permitted to keep the property and businesses which remained, regardless of where the money originated.

Gotti has also been accused of ordering two 1992 attacks on radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa, including one in which Sliwa was shot twice before he escaped out the window of a car.

Prosecutors have said Gotti was retaliating for on-air attacks against his father, John Gotti, who was sentenced in 1992 to life in prison without parole. He died in prison in 2002.

If convicted, Gotti could face up to 30 years in prison. He is free on $7 million bail.

Mobster Son's Brewery Stake Challenged by Feds

Friends of ours: Jackie Cerone

The federal agency that took over bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing Co.'s pension plan has challenged the status of the brewery's second-largest investor as the sole creditor with rights to trademark beers Iron City and IC Light.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. wants to alter a March agreement that makes Jack P. Cerone, a Chicago attorney who owns a minority share in the Lawrenceville brewery, the only creditor of Keystone Brewers Holding Co., which owns the trademark rights. A hearing is scheduled for today in Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh.

The pension agency claims it too is a creditor because it assumed $11.8 million pension liabilities from bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing in May. Cerone is owed about $6 million, according to a financial statement filed in April.

The pension insurer also wants the court to eliminate a provision in the March agreement that preserves Cerone's rights even if the brewery is forced into liquidation. Pittsburgh Brewing filed a Chapter 11 bankrutpcy in December and faces an Oct. 15 deadline to file a reorganization plan. The pension insurer declined to comment further, spokesman Gary Pastorius said.

The agreement between Cerone and a committee of unsecured creditors was approved March 9 without the agency's knowledge, the pension insurer said. Neither Cerone nor his Pittsburgh attorney, Donald Calaiaro, could be reached for comment.

Under the deal, Cerone gets weekly payments of $9,105 on two loans to Pittsburgh Brewing. He purchased the loans in 2003 for $1.5 million. Cerone also agreed to postpone payments of $2,200 a week on an August 2005 loan he made to the brewery. Joseph R. Piccirilli, Pittsburgh Brewing's president, has said he agreed to make the payments to Cerone because of his ownership of the loans.

Cerone acquired his minority stake in the brewery -- 10 percent of the brewery's stock, plus warrants that allow him to buy an additional 10 percent -- when he purchased a loan from Provident Bank of Cincinnati, Piccirilli said.

Cerone's father, the late Jackie Cerone, was "a notorious mobster in the 'Chicago Outfit,'" said Dan Moldea, author of "The Hoffa Wars" and an expert on the Teamsters union. Cerone had links to both labor unions and management, Moldea said.

Cerone's insurance firm, Marble Insurance Agency of Addison, Ill., was barred from doing business with Teamsters Local 727 of Chicago and other Teamster-related clients in 1993 because of his father's alleged ties to organized crime, according to a 2004 report prepared for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Separately, the union representing bottlers and brewers at Pittsburgh Brewing says it may take the company's latest contract offer to its membership for a vote. A decision will be made early next month. "I think we may be done negotiating," said George Sharkey, a business agent for the International Union of Electrical Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 144B, which represents the brewery's bottlers.

Two bargaining sessions last week failed to produce a tentative agreement, and the brewery's demands are similar to those made in July, Sharkey said. Pittsburgh Brewing wanted a 10 percent wage cut, but workers would get wage increases stipulated in the current contract, which took effect in May 2005, Sharkey said.

If the union does not approve the company's offer, Sharkey said he the brewery may renew its efforts to seek permission in Bankruptcy Court to terminate its labor contract. Pittsburgh Brewing asked the court for such permission, but postponed a hearing on the matter last month because negotiations had resumed.

Piccirilli declined to comment yesterday, but has said a cost-cutting labor contract is a key element of a successful reorganization.

Thanks to Joe Napsha

Saturday, September 23, 2006

No Verdict Yet for Junior Gotti

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti

Jurors in John A. (Junior) Gotti's racketeering trial wrapped up their fourth day of deliberations yesterday by asking for homework.

Jurors wanted to take home a lengthy jury charge, which details the law they must apply in reaching a verdict, but Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin denied the request after both sides objected. Prosecutors and the defense feared doing so might invite jurors to consult with relatives or friends.

Scheindlin suggested reading the charge at home over the weekend might help jurors as they ponder their decision. "I will be guided by your unanimity but I think it's unfortunate," Scheindlin told the attorneys.

Early in the day, jurors asked to listen to a tape of a recorded July 2003 prison visit, which included Gotti encouraging Howard Beach pal Steve Dobies to hold a fund-raiser to help him pay his legal bills.

Several of the jurors' notes to the judge have focused on testimony that centers on the key element in Gotti's defense - that he renounced all ties to the mob in 1999 around the time he pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. Gotti served six years in prison on those charges.

Gotti, 42, is accused in a wide-ranging conspiracy of loansharking, extortion, witness-tampering and kidnapping. He's accused of sending thugs to silence radio host Curtis Sliwa in June 1992, after Sliwa repeatedly mocked the Gotti clan on the air.

The mob scion scored mistrials when jurors deadlocked at two earlier trials.

Thanks to Thomas Zambito

Mob Boss Hit List Results in Terror Case Restrictions

Friends of ours: Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano

A set of restrictive rules established for terrorism suspects has been imposed on a convicted mob figure under investigation for plotting to kill a federal judge and others, prosecutors disclosed in a court hearing Thursday.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales imposed the rules on reputed mob boss Vincent Basciano after a jail house informant revealed a list that Basciano wrote, which prosecutors allege was a hit list with the names of the judge, a prosecutor and three mafia turncoats.

Basciano gave the list to the informant, a fellow inmate at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, according to prosecutors, and indicated he wanted the people on it killed. A lawyer for Basciano has said that the list was intended for a mystical religious ceremony, recommended by the informant, to improve Basciano's fortune in his trial.

Basciano, known as Vinny Gorgeous, was convicted earlier this year of racketeering charges, though jurors deadlocked over more serious allegations including murder.

The special rules imposed on Basciano, known as special administrative measures, restrict privileges including phone and mail use and visits. They also require his lawyers to sign affidavits saying they will not pass messages from their client to anyone.

The measures have been used 40 times since they were developed in 1996, according to a Justice Department spokesman. Twenty-five of those instances involved terrorism cases. The spokesman said that the rules had been used in three other organized crime cases, but would not say which.

A prosecutor in the hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn suggested the rules were meant to keep Basciano from communicating what they allege are bad intentions.

Basciano now faces a murder and racketeering indictment including the accusation that he planned to kill the prosecutor whose name appeared on the list. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Chicago Outfit's #2 Man is Missing

Friends of ours: Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi

Anthony Zizzo is currently the major domo of the Chicago mob, considered by law enforcement to be the outfit's No. 2 man or "underboss." Officially, Zizzo is considered a missing person. But in the mob, "missing" is historically defined as "deceased but not located." And in Zizzo's case, the clues left behind certainly point that direction.

Anthony Zizzo drove away from his condominium in the west suburbs three weeks ago, August 31. He said goodbye to his wife Susan and left to conduct some business, possibly a meeting in the Rush Street area on Chicago's near North Side.

When the bespectacled Zizzo didn't return home, his wife came to the Westmont Police Station to fill out a missing persons report. The report, obtained by the I-Team, states that the 71-year-old Zizzo is very ill with kidney failure but left home without his daily medication. He was wearing a grey shirt with black pants black shoes and a black jacket.

Susan Zizzo told police he possibly diverted to their vacation home in Lake Geneva but his I-Pass had not been used. That's because her husband apparently only made it as far as Melrose Park. His Jeep was found in a restaurant parking lot on Division Street. The restaurant owner tells the I-Team that Zizzo was a regular customer but that he doesn't recall seeing him there the day he vanished. According to an alert sent to Chicago area law enforcement, the car was undisturbed and Zizzo's cellular telephone equipped with a GPS tracking device was still in the car.

Zizzo was a key operative of the late Chicago rackets boss Sam "Wings" Carlisi. Zizzo specialized in loan sharking and extortion, is considered a trusted outfit enforcer and claimed to be a legitimate trucking business owner. He goes by a list of mob aliases including: Little Tony, LT, Tony Z and Tony the Hat. He is "Little Tony" in height, just a bit over 5 feet tall, but hardly small in girth -- his 200 pound frame prompting the official police report to describe his build as "pot belly."

Law enforcement sources say the FBI crime scene technicians processed Zizzo's car looking for clues as to who might have hustled him off. The FBI role strongly suggests that Zizzo was not suddenly put into federal witness protection.

Mobwatchers and outfit lawyers say they cannot explain why there might have been a contract on Zizzo's life. He did prison time in a mob racketeering case in the 90s but was not charged in the current operation family secrets.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hotline for Corruption Established by Chicago Crime Commission

Friends of ours: Al Capone

For more than 100 years, Chicago has had a reputation as the most corrupt city in America. A city attorney was once quoted as saying: "I wonder frequently if there is anyone in Chicago who really looks after its public affairs." That was said in 1903. this week somebody new will start looking after Chicago's public affairs.

The Chicago Crime Commission is rolling out a public corruption hotline and webpage, where government employees and concerned citizens may report official misconduct and wrongdoing. They may need a stable of operators standing by to take information, if history is any indication.

In the past few years, more than 200 city, county and state government employees and elected officials have been convicted of corruption while on the job. The list includes governors and judges, congressman and state legislators, and enough crooked aldermen to populate half the Chicago City Council.

On Thursday moring, the crime commission unveiled its new hotline phone number and webpage address that commission officials say are intended to ease the burden on the FBI and other staff-strapped federal agencies experiencing "resource limitations."

The hotline is (888) EYEONGOV or (888) 393-6646.

The Web site is www.888eyeongov.org.


Federal prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald and other law enforcement officials are doing their part to address public corruption, according to the crime commission, but some government employees fear on-the-job retaliation if they try to blow the whistle. So, the new crime commission hotline will promote anonymous reporting of corruption tips and complaints.

Since the days of notorious Chicago outfit boss Alphonse Capone, crime commission investigators have linked the success of mob rackets to political graft, judicial fixes and payoffs to government workers. The commission hopes its latest crime fighting tool will address the chronic plague of Chicago corruption. Consider that it was 1955, 51-years ago, on the night that Richard J. Daley was first elected mayor that Alderman Paddy Bauler issued his famous declaration, "Chicago ain't ready for reform."

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Monday, September 18, 2006

Junior Mourns Manly Mob on Prison Tapes

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Gambino Crime Family

As he languished in a federal prison in 2003, John "Junior" Gotti had plenty to worry about.

The jail, he told visitors, was crawling with informants. He had money problems. Old friends were getting indicted. Other members of the Gotti clan were stealing his money. But at the root of his troubles was this: The modern mob, he lamented, was losing its manliness. "Now are we men? Or are we punks or rats or weasels? You tell me," he angrily asked one friend while serving a racketeering sentence.

Gotti's conversations were routinely recorded before his release from prison last year, and the tapes have played a central role in his current racketeering trial in Manhattan. A jury was to begin deliberating the case Monday.

Among other things, the son of the legendary mafia boss "Dapper Don" John Gotti is accused of ordering an attack on Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, who was shot twice by would-be kidnappers in 1992.

Prosecutors contend that "Junior" Gotti was involved in mob affairs even after he was imprisoned in 1999. The defense says the recordings, made at the federal prison at Ray Brook, N.Y., show that Gotti had developed a distaste for mob life and retired. In any case, the tapes provide an inside look at the gangster's code, particularly its obsession with "being a man" at all costs.

Lesson No. 1: Men fight.

"If a guy wants to get all fancy and prancy, if he picks his hands up to you, you pick your hands up back. You're not a punk," Gotti explained in one recorded discussion.

"No hiding behind fences," he said during another conversation. "Take our coats off like gentlemen. Now, let's see. Let's see who the tough guy is. No knives. No guns. Like gentleman. ... Let's see who the real man really is."

Lesson No. 2: Men tolerate no assault on their character.

Gotti is firm on this point when he discusses two uncles who diminished his leadership role in the gang by badmouthing him to his father in 2001, a year before the elder Gotti's death from cancer in prison. "If any of them ever come here, I'm telling you, I swear it to you, on my dead brother and my dead father, I swear to you, I will meet them by that (prison) door, with two padlocks in my hands and I will crack their skulls, I promise you that. I promise you that. This I take as a solemn oath as a man."

Lesson No. 3: Manliness is in the blood.

"You're a real man," he told longtime friend John Ruggiero. "You wanna know why, John? Not only for who you are. But for who your father was. You got his genes, you're a man."

A person who isn't a man, he added, can't simply become one by acting tough. "These ain't men you're dealing with, you're dealing with frauds," he said. "It's like a kid who gets (unintelligible) all his life ... and he gets his milk money taken. What does he grow up to be? A cop. He's got a gun and a badge. That's, that's his equalizer. Got a gun and a badge, now he's a man. Well, that's how all these guys are, John, they're no different."

Lesson No. 4: A man spends time with family.

"Listen, I love my brother," Gotti said. "But my brother's a bum. That's all he is. No more, no less. He doesn't spend a moment with his own children. I have a hard time respecting any man who doesn't spend any time with his wife and kids."

Lesson No. 5: Men can do prison time.

"Some guys are made for this. Some guys just aren't," Gotti said of his life behind bars.

"Gravano was an example," he said, speaking of Gambino crime family turncoat Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano. "I mean he was a legendary soldier in the street. Brooklyn, he was a legend in Brooklyn. He got to jail, he fell to pieces."

Lesson No. 6: Real men don't snitch, but if they do, they don't make stuff up.

"Bottom line is, if you're gonna become a rat, become a rat: Tell the f------ truth. Don't go out of your way to hurt people," he said.

This is Gotti's third trial on the latest racketeering charges. The first two ended when jurors deadlocked on the charges, in part because of the defense argument that he became disenchanted with the mafia and retired long enough ago that the legal deadline for prosecuting him for old crimes had expired.

Which brings us to Gotti's Lesson No. 7: Mafia life stinks.

"So much treachery ... My father couldn't have loved me, to push me into this life," he lamented to friend Steve Kaplan.

"Oh ... I'd rather be a Latin King than be what I am," he said, referring to the Hispanic street gang. "I swear to you, Steve, and I, I mean it on my father's grave. I'm so ashamed. I am so ashamed."

Thanks to David B. Caruso

Deputy US Marshal Investigated in Operation Family Secrets

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Frank Calabrese Sr.
Friends of mine: Anthony Doyle, Michael Ricci, Frank Sinatra


A deputy U.S. marshal has been placed on paid administrative leave while the FBI investigates whether he was involved in leaking information in the federal Operation Family Secrets mob case, law enforcement sources said Thursday.

The deputy, a member of the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, was required to surrender his badge and gun last week, sources said. He is not identified because he is not charged with a crime.

His role in the Operation Family Secrets case is unclear. In 2005, federal authorities charged 14 people in the sweeping mob indictment. The investigation, which is continuing, pinned 18 previously unsolved murders on the Chicago Outfit.

The deputy marshal has spearheaded several high-profile fugitive arrests, including the capture of an Italian mobster living in the west suburbs and a Chicago street gang member named as one of the country's 15 most-wanted fugitives. "Everyone realizes this is a good guy, and in some ways heroic," one law enforcement source said.

The deputy's father was a Chicago Police officer who was convicted in a corruption scandal and died in prison, sources said.

The Family Secrets case is set to go to trial next May. High-profile defendants, including Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs, were charged in the case, and both initially fled and were fugitives.

Schweihs was found late last year in Kentucky. The FBI tracked down Lombardo in Elmwood Park in January after he was on the lam for about nine months. Sources say Lombardo's flight and his apprehension remain closely guarded details.

Two former Chicago Police officers -- Anthony Doyle and Michael Ricci, a onetime bodyguard for Frank Sinatra -- were also charged in the case. Doyle and Ricci allegedly provided inside information or passed along messages from mob loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr. to the Chicago Outfit while he was in prison. Ricci died in January after undergoing heart surgery.

The deputy marshal could not be reached for comment Thursday. Spokesmen for the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI declined comment. Kim Widup, the U.S. marshal in Chicago, also declined comment.

Thanks to Frank Main

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gotti Never Quit Mafia Says Prosecutor

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti

A prosecutor argues that John "Junior" Gotti never quit the mob. In her closing statement at Gotti's racketeering retrial in New York, Miriam Rocah told jurors there is ample evidence that Gotti's alleged departure from the Mafia in 1999 was a sham.

John A. Gotti, the 42-year-old son of the late John J. Gotti, could face 30 years in prison if convicted. He claims he left the mob in 1999. If the jury accepts that claim, the charges would fall outside the statute of limitations.

Two previous trials have ended with deadlocked juries.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Matty the Horse Cuts a Deal

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante

The ailing, aging reputed boss of the Genovese crime family pleaded guilty Thursday to helping try to infiltrate a union and thwart a federal grand jury probe.

The 86-year-old Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, his wooden cane hanging on a chair beside him, entered the plea before U.S Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis in Manhattan.

A plea agreement signed with the government called for Ianniello to be sentenced to 1-1/2 to two years in prison on the single racketeering charge. Without the deal, Ianniello would have faced up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing was set for December 14. He also agreed to forfeit up to $1 million to the government.

Ianniello was reputedly a longtime capo in the crime family and allegedly became one of its acting bosses after the 1997 racketeering conviction of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, who died in prison last December. Ianniello, who lives on Long Island, is free on bail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Treanor told the judge that Ianniello participated in a conspiracy in which union officers lied to federal investigators about the involvement of organized crime in union business, among other things.

In court, Ianniello was difficult to understand as he read a statement admitting a role in efforts to corrupt a union and to prevent the union's leaders and employees from being honest with the government during a federal grand jury probe of mob activities. Ianniello's lawyer said his client's voice was affected by a stroke.

In his plea, Ianniello admitted receiving unlawful payments from a labor union and that he conspired to obstruct justice between 1990 and 2005.

Gigante had long been dubbed the "Oddfather" for bizarre behavior that included wandering the streets of Greenwich Village in nightclothes, muttering incoherently.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Junior Attempted to Provide "Hottie" for Prisoners

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti

Mafia scion John "Junior" Gotti invested about $20,000 US in a failed magazine for prisoners called Hottie, according to tapes played at his racketeering trial.

Gotti discussed the venture with friend Steven Dobies, wondering about who should run the project, which would have offered free legal advice, as well as photos of female hip-hop stars.

He asserted the investment was made with "clean" money, a claim prosecutors dispute.

The tapes were used to try demonstrate Gotti's involvement with organized crime.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Here We Go Again: Judge Tosses Junior's Racketerring Charge

For the second time, a judge on Wednesday tossed out racketeering charges filed against John "Junior" Gotti, finding the evidence introduced at his trial insufficient to support a conviction.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin decided the government had not proven its claims that money invested in several of Gotti's properties stemmed from alleged loansharking or construction industry extortion.

The government filed the new charges several months ago in a bid to boost its case against Gotti, the son of late mobster John Gotti, after two juries in the last year deadlocked on racketeering charges against him. Closing arguments in his retrial could begin as early as Thursday.

A spokeswoman for prosecutors, Lauren McDonough, said the government had no comment on Scheindlin's ruling. Scheindlin had thrown out the new charges last month before Gotti's retrial started but changed her mind and reinstated them days later.

With the new charges, the government had tried to prove that Gotti continued to benefit from Gambino crime family money even after he said he quit the mob when he pleaded guilty to charges in another racketeering case in 1999. The government's new strategy did have some benefits because the judge decided that jurors could consider new evidence about Gotti's finances even though they could not use that evidence to convict him on the new racketeering charges.

Gotti is still charged with racketeering related to other alleged crimes, including an allegation that he ordered two 1992 attacks on radio show host and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa in retaliation for Sliwa's on-air rants against his father.

The elder Gotti died in prison in 2002, 10 years after he was sentenced to life for racketeering.

The New Godfather: Justin Timberlake

Is Justin Timberlake the new godfather? Timberlake has forgiven hometown friends Three 6 Mafia for snubbing him on a recent album by allowing the hip-hop group to record on his latest project. The Cry Me A River Star was upset to learn the rappers recorded all-Tennessee album Stay Fly in 2005, without his help - even though he grew up next to them. But he was so desperate for his new Futuresex/Lovesounds album to have a Southern sound he asked the rappers to collaborate with him regardless.

Group member Juicy J tells MTV, "It was great working with Justin. "We are (all) from Memphis, so the Southern vibe was there when we recorded the song. "It was a dream come true for us, we knew it was a smash hit." I am sure it was also a blessing to be forgiven by the new godfather, Justin Timberlake.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Da Vinci Code's Mafia Version

Friends of ours: Bernardo Provenzano

When top Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano was captured in April after 40 years on the run, his hideaway in the Sicilian hills turned up none of the extravagance of Cosa Nostra's cinematic lore. No suitcases of cash, no jewels, nothing to match the popular imagination of the all-powerful godfather. Still, Italian police had no doubts that the square-jawed 73-year-old living in near squalor in an abandoned farmhouse had reigned over the very real-life affairs of Cosa Nostra's billion-dollar business of drug trafficking, high finance and cold-blooded murder. Provenzano, who had been sentenced to life in absentia for a series of high-profile murders, had opted for the spare existence in order to keep the lowest possible profile as he tried to stay one step ahead of Italy's biggest Mafia manhunt ever.

Although no riches were found, there were some precious pieces of evidence when Provenzano was finally nabbed, in the hills above his hometown of Corleone. Most notably, police recovered dozens of the infamous pizzini, the tiny, tightly wrapped typewritten notes that the boss had used to communicate with his lieutenants. Thanks in part to the pizzini, several other key Mafia figures have been arrested since Provenzano's capture. But perhaps the most enticing find of all was a worn copy of the Bible, near Provenzano's bed. The soft-spoken don had filled the volume with notations, arrows and underlinings of certain passages. The markings may simply be the solitary spiritual musings of the boss, who was also found with several crucifixes at the time of his arrest. But Italian investigators suspect that the book could be a kind of Holy Grail in a century-long battle to unravel the secret codes and business methods of the Mafia's vast criminal network.

So far unable to unlock any potential secrets, the Italians have turned to the FBI for their code-busting expertise. A U.S. official confirmed an Italian newspaper story Thursday which reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit will be studying Provenzano's copy of the Bible. In the past, the FBI unit, located at the Bureau's laboratory in Quantico, Va., has uncovered illicit codes of prison gangs and deciphered messages from threatening letters. Now, they will try to determine if there are "any hidden messages" in the holy book, said a U.S. official. "It's an interesting challenge because both the Bible and Provenzano's notes are in Italian."

No doubt the biblical twist will add to the intrigue of the infamous crime network, which over the past century has occasionally crossed paths with the Roman Catholic church. But Cosa Nostra's sins share nothing with those of the Da Vinci Code or Francis Ford Coppola films — they are real. Provenzano is believed to have had a hand in the slayings of countless rival gang members, as well as of innocent bystanders and crusading magistrates. It's no longer a secret that some mobsters are deeply religious. The mystery remains that they can reconcile what they read in the holy scripture with what they write in the book of life.

Thanks to Jeff Israel

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No Egg McMuffin Results in Arrest of Mob Associates

Friends of ours: Bobby "the Beak" Siegel, Paul "Peanuts" Panczko
Friends of mine: Theodore Victor Ristich, Walter Frank Zischke

Bad luck and a couple of slices of toast.

That's what stopped two mob-connected burglars from adding a Creve Coeur jewelry store to a cross-country series of crimes that netted more than $40 million in loot - $350,000 of it in seven months.

So bad was their luck that Theodore Victor Ristich, 60, and Walter Frank Zischke, 62, didn't even take a chance with a jury. The crooks pleaded guilty Monday in St. Louis to federal charges that may add up to five years in prison to their already-bulging rap sheets.

In a sense, it was all because the office manager of a law firm in the same building as the Michael Genovese jewelry store on Olive Boulevard decided not to stop for an Egg McMuffin and went straight to work early one Saturday in June."The diet side of me said, 'Just go into work and have some toast,'" said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for her safety. "Timing is everything."

She arrived about 7 a.m. to spot two suspicious-looking men in hooded sweatshirts. They spotted her too, and left.

Based on her call, Creve Coeur police stopped a van just before it might have disappeared onto Interstate 270. Officers found the lock to Genovese's door, along with tools and guides to antique malls, according to court records and Detective Tom Rich.

A search of the men's hotel rooms revealed more burglar tools and ads for antique malls and jewelry stores from magazines all over the U.S. An investigation revealed that police had snared men who spent decades robbing and burglarizing jewelry stores and banks, sometimes beside some of the most notorious members of the Chicago mob - men with names like Bobby "the Beak" Siegel and Paul "Peanuts" Panczko.

After an arrest in 1994, Zischke told the FBI that the men had stolen about $40 million from 40 jewelry stores, according to documents. "If there ever was a professional criminal, it's Ristich and Zischke," said retired FBI agent Jack O'Rourke, once part of the bureau's "top thief" team. He said both were well-known to law enforcement. He likened their crimes to those in the 1995 Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro movie "Heat."

O'Rourke said Ristich was "primarily an armed robber and a burglar," who once confessed to robbing a restaurant with one of the top mob hit men. "Zischke was more of an old time, tough-armed robber," he said.

Federal court documents show that Ristich, 60, of Bloomingdale, Ill., has been convicted of burglary three times, possession of burglary tools six times, transportation of stolen property, racketeering conspiracy and armed robbery. He is now on parole for robbing a bank in Wisconsin.

Zischke, 62, recently of Maine, has been convicted of auto theft, armed robbery, two counts of attempted murder, escape, numerous burglary-related charges, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, concealed weapon charges, robbery, false imprisonment and racketeering conspiracy, documents show.

Each pleaded guilty Monday to one count of transport of stolen goods, with sentencing set for Dec. 1. They still face charges in St. Louis County of burglary and possession of burglary tools.

Rich said fingerprints taken after their arrest identified Ristich and Walter Wonish - Zischke's new name in witness protection. Rich and FBI Special Agent Mark Wood then dug through "lots" of crimes and recognized Zischke and Ristich on some surveillance videos. Rich and Wood linked one or both to 10 burglaries in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In front of U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson, Ristich and Zischke admitted they planned to drill the lock at Genovese's, which prosecutors said kept about $2 million in jewelry in showcases.

Zischke admitted taking about $350,000 in jewelry and coins from 10 antique malls, a goldsmith and jewelry stores in Illinois and four other states. In court, Zischke said Ristich did not participate in all 10.

Zischke told authorities he is a self-employed carpenter with two college degrees. Ristich, a high school graduate, has the looks of a businessman but said he is a member of a machinery movers' union.

Rich suggested the aging men may have lost the stamina for armed robbery and switched to burglary. Zischke has asthma and Ristich high blood pressure and cholesterol problems.

Zischke's lawyer did not return a message Monday but turned down a request to interview Zischke last month.

Attorney Scott Rosenblum declined to allow an interview with Ristich but said he was satisfied with the plea agreement. Prosecutors could have sought life terms under racketeering laws. Rosenblum said, "They're a couple characters. Nice guys. You can't help but like them."

Rich and Wood said that Zischke and Ristich would spend as little as two minutes in a store, sweeping the loot that they wanted - the untraceable stuff - into one of the large plastic Rubbermaid containers they carried.

That's a little less time than an early-morning stop at McDonald's.

Thanks to Robert Patrick

Hoffa Challenged for Boss

Friends of mine: Jimmy Hoffa

James Hoffa, son of Jimmy Hoffa and leader of the TeamstersFrom a remote Oregon base, Tom Leedham is trying again to unseat the heir to the best-known name in American labor, James Hoffa, for the leadership of the 1.4-million-member Teamsters Union.

Academics, labor lawyers and other specialists say that while there are issues to discuss, it might take a major scandal to rile up enough of the membership to trounce Hoffa, and that hasn't happened.

Leedham, who got 35 percent of the vote against Hoffa five years ago, disagrees. "Everything is different now because Hoffa has a record to run on and it is a record of very weak contracts, the first pension cuts in the history of our union and the biggest dues increase in the history of our union that happened without a membership vote," he said at Oregon's Labor Day picnic, a brief respite from his nationwide campaign.

When Hoffa took over in 1998, he said the union was bordering on bankruptcy with only about $3-million in assets and virtually no strike fund. He put through a 25 percent dues increase that he said revived the fund and put the union on a sound footing. Leedham said it violated campaign promises.

Pension accrual issues have cut benefits or extended retirement ages for tens of thousands of Teamster drivers, mostly in the central region extending from Nebraska though Pennsylvania, to make up for diminished pension funds.

Leedham, 55, is a low-key man who doesn't fit the usual image of a Teamster official. A top officer of Oregon's statewide Local 206 since 1984, Leedham started as a warehouse worker after one year of college. He wound up running the union's 400,000-member warehouse division under Ron Carey, who defeated Hoffa for the union presidency in 1996 and was kicked out of the union for using $800,000 in union funds for his own campaign.

Leedham has the support of the feisty, dissident Detroit-based Teamsters Democratic Union. Whether he is tilting at a well-entrenched windmill or can actually oust Hoffa will be known in November. Ballots go out in early October.

Hoffa spokesman Rich Leebove said their campaign takes all challenges seriously but sees Leedham's effort as "more of a vanity campaign." "He has no record to run on, so he is attacking the Hoffa administration," he said in a telephone interview. Leedham, Leebove said, "is just part of the old guard trying to come back in a new guise."

Hoffa is the son of the famously absent Jimmy Hoffa, who ran the union from 1957 to 1971, served prison time for jury tampering and pension fund irregularities, and was presumed murdered by the mob in 1975. He was declared dead in 1982, but his body was never found.

Under the incumbent Hoffa, the Teamsters paid millions of dollars for an investigation led by former federal prosecutor Edwin Stier into any remaining links of the union to organized crime.

Stier and his team all quit the same day in April 2004, with Stier saying Hoffa was blocking investigation efforts "under pressure from a few self-interested individuals." Hoffa called the statement "reckless and false." But overall, the younger Hoffa has a pretty good record, said Gary Chaison, who teaches labor relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. "Many of the problems the Teamsters face are being faced by all unions, such as globalization and outsourcing," he said.

Robert Bruno, associate professor at the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said there are issues Leedham can run on but wondered if they would mobilize a union with often-low voter turnouts.

Bruno said signs are that union members are becoming more defensive, concentrating on protecting what they have and worrying less about union growth. Most recent Teamster growth has come from taking in other unions, not from expanding the ranks of truck drivers, he said.

Chaison said defeating any incumbent union leader is difficult. "He has the patronage, he's the one who shakes the hands."

"Bizarro FBI" Roots for "Defendant"

When Lin DeVecchio goes to court, he never goes alone.

His lawyers are there, making arguments. The news media are there, taking photographs and notes. His wife sometimes shows up, making small, sorrowful faces as she grips him by the hand. Then there are the men who make a path for him as they escort him back and forth through the crowd. The ones with the gray hair and the jowls, the stern faces and the off-the-rack suits.

Almost from the moment he was charged in March with helping to commit four murders for the mob, R. Lindley DeVecchio has been surrounded by this posse of supporters: retired F.B.I. men who for years were not only his colleagues, but also his friends.

They watch his back. Personally guarantee his million-dollar bond. Solicit money for his legal bills. Scoff at his accusers. Interview — or, some have said, intimidate — witnesses in the case. And at every chance they get, tell whoever cares to listen that Mr. DeVecchio is an innocent man.

Sixty-five years old and retired from the F.B.I., Mr. DeVecchio stands accused in a state indictment of four counts of second-degree murder. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office says he helped an informant in the mob, Gregory Scarpa Sr., kill four times in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, so that Mr. Scarpa could rid himself of rivals and win bloody battles in a war within the Colombo family.

To a federal agent, there is nothing more toxic than a corruption charge — which even by association can ruin a career. And the charges faced by Mr. DeVecchio are radioactive: that he gave secret information to Mr. Scarpa in exchange for $66,000.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that 19 former F.B.I. agents have put their names and reputations on the line to save their troubled friend. These were not the bureaucrats or pencil pushers of the New York office, but its veteran undercover and investigative men. “We’ve all worked with Lin since the early 1970’s,” said Joseph D. Pistone, the real-life Donnie Brasco, who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family as an undercover agent in the 1970’s.

“We’re all veteran street guys,” Mr. Pistone said. “If anyone could smell something bad, it would be us. And with Lin, we never smelled bad.”

The so-called Friends of Lin DeVecchio have a total of 480 years of street experience, give or take a few, and while most spend their time these days on a golf course or at the shore, they remain encyclopedic on the subject of the mob.

Who knows better than us, they say, what happened 20 years ago at Carmine Sessa’s bar or at Larry Lampesi’s house near McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn? (Both places will figure prominently at trial.) “We gathered the information,” said James M. Kossler, who from 1979 to 1989 was Mr. DeVecchio’s boss.

Much of that information has been posted on a Web site, www.lindevecchio.com, which attempts to refute the state indictment with transcripts of federal trials and with private F.B.I. reports called 302’s. There is information about how to donate money toward Mr. DeVecchio’s legal expenses. The Web site also levels personal attacks against the state’s lead prosecutor, Michael Vecchione; its chief witness, Linda Schiro, Mr. Scarpa’s former companion; and Sandra Harmon, who is a self-described relationship coach and the co-author with Priscilla Presley of a tell-all book on Elvis Presley, and who had planned to write a book with Ms. Schiro but wrote one instead about Mr. Scarpa’s son.

Mr. DeVecchio’s supporters make no bones about their deep disdain for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, who they say considers a good Mafia case to be rounding up gamblers on Super Bowl Sunday. “Here you have a rackets bureau that doesn’t know a thing about organized crime,” Mr. Kossler said. “They don’t know what they’re doing. If they had a track record of making great O.C. cases, fine — but they don’t.”

The bad blood between the state and the F.B.I. goes back many years, to at least 1992, when Mr. Scarpa went into hiding after Brooklyn prosecutors obtained a warrant for his arrest on a gun possession charge. From April to August of that year, court papers say, Mr. Scarpa met or spoke with Mr. DeVecchio seven times, but the F.B.I. neither informed the state of his whereabouts nor arrested Mr. Scarpa.

Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes, waved off accusations that the office was incompetent. “These people who are making these allegations can’t possibly know the depth of the evidence we have compiled to make this case,” he said.

Part of that evidence is likely to include the testimony of Lawrence Mazza, Mr. Scarpa’s one-time disciple, who has already told investigators that Mr. Scarpa had a friend in law enforcement, whom he used to call “the girlfriend.” Mr. Mazza, who now works at a gym in southern Florida, said that several weeks ago, one of the retired agents paid him a visit. Without saying exactly what happened, he said the agent had tried to intimidate him in connection with the case.

Mr. Kossler scoffed at the charge, saying the former agent had gone to Florida merely to interview Mr. Mazza on Mr. DeVecchio’s behalf. As a witness for the prosecution, Mr. Mazza is of obvious interest to the defense, he said. While the prosecution has said in court that intimidation of witnesses may have occurred, it will not publicly discuss Mr. Mazza’s accusation.

At its core, the DeVecchio case is about the tenuous give-and-take that exists between an agent and a confidential source. Prosecutors say that Mr. DeVecchio abused that give-and-take, giving Mr. Scarpa names and addresses of men who wound up dead.

Mr. DeVecchio has said that in the 12 years he “ran” Mr. Scarpa, he never leaked a secret and never received anything more than a Cabbage Patch doll, a bottle of wine and a pan of lasagna.

As for the Friends of Lin DeVecchio, they maintain it takes a special sort of man to handle Mafia informants. He must speak the language of the street and of the F.B.I. He must appreciate the criminal mind without admiring it. He must be able to cultivate trust among those who trust no one but themselves. “That’s the fine line the agent has to walk — to always remember who he is and who he’s dealing with,” said Christopher Mattice, who served for many years as the F.B.I.’s informant coordinator in New York. “You have to talk the language and make them understand you understand what’s going on.” And most important, he said, you must remember that no conversation between an agent and a mole takes place in a vacuum. Questions fashioned to elicit information give information: If Agent X asks about Gangster Y, it means that he is interested in Gangster Y. If Gangster Y winds up dead, is that Agent X’s fault?

For now, Mr. DeVecchio’s trial is scheduled to open at the beginning of next year, and his federal friends are planning to attend. “The bond is very close,” said Douglas E. Grover, Mr. DeVecchio’s lawyer. “It’s not just that they worked together; it’s like they were in the Army together, like they went through the wars.”

Should things go poorly for Mr. DeVecchio, his supporters will not quit, they say. “We’ll continue to do what we’re doing,” Mr. Kossler said. “We’ll fight this as far as it has to go.”

Thanks to Alan Feuer