Monday, October 23, 2006

Brewer Shadowed by Mob Heritage

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Tony Accardo, Jackie "The Lackey" Cerone
Friends of mine: Frank Sinatra, Soprano Crime Family

A ceramic bust of a Windy City mobster stares from behind the candlelit bar at Aldente Cafe and Lounge. His hollow gaze is cast in the direction of a black-and-white photograph of himself stirring a pot of sauce. Below the likeness of the late Jackie "the Lackey" Cerone, rows of bottles stamped with Iron City Beer's red label glisten in a cooler.

The connection between the beer and the bust might seem obscure, but the link is Jack P. Cerone, 66, of Des Plaines, Ill., the publicity-shy mobster's son. His family owns the Lincoln Park restaurant and he might soon own a major stake in the bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing Co.

By all accounts, Jack P. Cerone is not a member of La Cosa Nostra. Some critics, however, contend he has done little to distance himself from the fearsome reputation his father earned as a protege of Anthony "Big Tuna" Accardo, one of the powerful bosses of the Chicago Outfit in the 1950s.

Jackie "the Lackey" Cerone ran the Chicagoland mob in the late 1960s, six steps removed from the immortal Al Capone. His term ended in 1986 when he was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in skimming more than $2 million from Las Vegas casinos. The scam was the basis for the blockbuster motion picture "Casino."

"His father's name would still carry weight in Chicago," said John Flood, a former Chicago-area law enforcement official and organized crime expert. "Everybody knew Jackie Cerone. He was a big-time Chicago mobster."

Jack P. Cerone denied repeated attempts to be interviewed for this article. Pittsburgh Brewing President Joseph R. Piccirilli has said he hired Cerone in the late 1990s to negotiate a labor contract, but he has declined to detail their relationship. "He heard of him because he's a labor lawyer? Maybe," said Jim Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission. "But he probably more heard of him because of his father and the mob connection."

Stake in Iron City

Details about Jack P. Cerone's transformation from labor lawyer to financial stakeholder in the brewery are emerging in Pittsburgh Brewing's ongoing bankruptcy. Court records show Jack P. Cerone holds the lucrative trademark rights to Iron City, IC Light and Augustiner brands as well as minority ownership in the company.

Jack P. Cerone's financial involvement began three years ago, when he paid $1.5 million to purchase two brewery loans worth about $6 million. Collateral on the loans included 20 percent ownership in Pittsburgh Brewing and the trademark rights. But his stake in the 145-year-old Lawrenceville brewery could increase substantially. The company filed a recovery plan last week that could increase Jack P. Cerone's ownership stake to 40 percent and his claim against Pittsburgh Brewing to $8 million.

The brewery now must persuade its creditors and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge M. Bruce McCullough to accept the plan for Jack P. Cerone to maximize his investment. "The company would have to succeed with the current ownership in place for him to get all of his money," said George Sharkey, business agent for the International Union of Electrical Workers of America Local 144b, which represents Pittsburgh Brewing's bottlers.

Should the brewery fail, Jack P. Cerone might be in position to sell the brands to recoup his money. The value of the three flagship brews has been bandied about between $3 million and $4 million, said attorney Michael Healey, who represents Pittsburgh Brewery's unions. He said he is not aware of any formal appraisal of the trademark rights. Selling trademarks is an option, said Carol Horton Tremblay, an economics professor at Oregon State University and co-author of "The U.S. Brewing Industry: Data and Economic Analysis."

In May, Anheuser-Busch Cos. bought the rights to brew Rolling Rock beer for $82 million. The pride of Latrobe, Westmoreland County, is now brewed in New Jersey. "But Pittsburgh Brewing Co. today isn't even Pittsburgh Brewing Co.." of old, said Robert S. Weinberg, 79, a St. Louis-based beer industry consultant, "much less a Latrobe. ... There's always a renaissance, but I think there's a point beyond which brands can be resurrected -- and I think they're beyond that."Pittsburgh Brewing Co.

Kenneth Elzinga, a University of Virginia economics professor and beer industry expert, agreed. "The odds for the economic redemption of a medium-size, regional brewery producing a mainstream lager beer are not good," Elzinga said. "Most brewing firms in the United States that survive or prosper are either very large, and can exploit economies of scale, or small, and can tap into the market for special tastes and preferences. Pittsburgh Brewing is not well positioned to do either."

A private family man

While his involvement in Pittsburgh Brewing has raised Jack P. Cerone's public profile, he apparently prefers to stay out of the limelight. He graduated from Illinois Benedictine College in Lisle, Ill., then earned a law degree from DePaul University in Chicago in 1964. He joined the Chicago Bar Association in 1965 and once served as president of the Justinian Society of Lawyers of Illinois, a Chicago-based association of Italian-American attorneys.

Friends and colleagues refused to comment.

Jack P. Ceroneand his wife, Judy, have five children.

Daughter Jill C. Marisie, a Republican, is running uncontested in November for a Cook County, Ill., circuit judgeship. She was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1990 and has worked as a state prosecutor.

Son Jack runs two restaurants in Chicago -- the Rat Pack-themed II Jack's, named after father and son, and Aldente, which is replete with large photos plucked from the family album. The late Jackie Cerone is included in many of the oversized, black-and-white images -- either cooking or posing with family and friends.

Some people consider Jack P. Cerone as the real owner of the restaurants, which he has called "his" when inviting people to dine there.

In August, eight employees of a former Frank Sinatra tribute music venue, Rizzo's Live in downtown Chicago, filed a lawsuit that claimed Jack P. Cerone owes them almost $100,000 in back wages. The federal lawsuit claims he was the sole financier and controlled the business -- even though he is not listed on paper as the club owner.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported notable visitors of the popular Chicago nightspot included Dean Martin's daughter, Gail, and Federico Castelluccio, who played hit-man Furio Giunta on "The Sopranos."

"I don't know of any information received that put him in business with any (mobsters) here in Chicago, other than associating with his father and friends of his father," said Wagner, of the Crime Commission. "But there's a difference between just associating and trading off the reputation -- and I think for a while that's what he was doing."

Jack P. Cerone will not publicly discuss his father. His only published comments came in a newspaper article following Jackie Cerone's death in 1996 -- six days after being released from federal prison in Florida due to bad health. "He was a gambler, a bookmaker all his life and he ran a tavern," Jack P. Cerone told the Chicago Tribune. "He loved to be around people. He was my best friend. Whatever he did he did and kept that to himself."

Fighting for unions

Jack P. Cerone earned a reputation as a labor lawyer, fighting for union workers in numerous contract fights with Chicago city officials -- from the 1980s when he fought for Laborer garbage collectors and seasonal street cleaners to the late 1990s when he salvaged victory for the Decorators Union in a trade show row.

When Piccirilli brought him in, even union representatives said his presence helped. "He certainly knows more about the bargaining process than Joe Piccirilli, and that's no shot at Joe," said Ken Ream, international representative of the International Union of Electrical Workers.

Ream and others describe Jack P. Cerone as professional but tough. "You can tell he's been around the negotiation table before," said Sharkey, the union business agent. "He's worked both sides of the fence. He's worked for the unions, for companies and as an arbitrator."

Cutting ties

A 1986 report by the President's Commission on Organized Crime identified Jack P. Cerone as one of three sons of well-known mobsters working for Laborers-International Local 8 in Chicago. "You're talking about the old Chicago mob and their sons," said former FBI Special Agent Peter J. Wacks, who investigated the Chicago mob for 30 years and helped convict the late Jackie Cerone. "They all end up working for the same union. Doesn't that seem odd?"

Court-ordered sanctions forced labor unions to cut ties with people connected to organized crime. One casualty was Jack P. Cerone, who had business dealings with Teamsters and Laborers unions. His company, Marble Insurance Agency, lost union contracts in 1993 because of his ties to organized crime, according to a 2004 Teamsters report.

In 1995, Jack P. Cerone, saying he was not a mobster, filed a federal lawsuit claiming he'd been improperly severed from his business relationships. A district court judge rejected the claim a year later, saying Jack P. Cerone "knowingly associated with his father." The court said the union's actions "were not only appropriate, but were mandated by (an) obligation ... to rid itself of the corruption influence of organized crime," the report stated. "There's no release from that," said Wagner of the Crime Commission. "It's a permanent ban." But Jack P. Cerone's associations with organized crime figures weren't limited to his father, investigators say. Wagner said Jack P. Cerone socialized with mobsters. Wacks, of the FBI, said surveillance showed Jack P. Cerone arranging and sometimes attending meetings with "made men and top guys."

Members of the Chicago mob met at the Brookwood Country Club. According to an affidavit of a former FBI agent, some of these meetings involved the late Jackie Cerone.

At one time, the country club was owned -- in part -- by Jack P. Cerone. A jury in 1989 ordered DuPage County officials to pay Jack P. Cerone and other owners more than $10 million for the 116-acre golf course and driving range. The county took the property through condemnation because nearly a quarter of it was flood plain.

Until Jack P. Cerone's name surfaced this year in connection with the Pittsburgh Brewing bankruptcy, Chicago investigators said they hadn't heard his name in years. "His profile here has been very, very low key," Wagner said, "perhaps by choice."

Thanks to Jason Cato

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Feds Give Up on Junior

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

For John A. (Junior) Gotti, the third mistrial was the charm.

Federal prosecutors announced yesterday they will not retry Gotti for racketeering and will abandon efforts to nail him for trying to kill radio host Curtis Sliwa. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said in a statement that a fourth trial was "not in the interests of justice in light of the three prior hung juries."

That means for the first time in eight years, Gotti, 42, is a free man with no criminal charges hanging over him. That didn't sit well with Sliwa, who vowed to bring a lawsuit against Gotti seeking damages for the 1992 shooting, which allegedly was in retaliation for his on-air attacks on the late Gambino crime boss John Gotti.

"I feel as disappointed as a Mets fan today," Sliwa told the Daily News. "I would have hoped they would have prosecuted him four or five times. But I understand they have to deal with legal technicalities."

Late yesterday afternoon, Gotti - whose father's ability to beat the rap earned him the moniker the Teflon Don - returned to his gated mansion in Oyster Bay Cove, L.I., with one of his sons in a chauffeured sedan, declining to speak to a reporter.

The mob scion has expressed interest in moving out West, returning to school to study child psychology and writing a book, but he needs permission from the feds because he's still on supervised release for his 1998 federal conviction. "He's been talking about plans for the future and now John has the freedom to go on with his life," sister Victoria Gotti said. "His only option, I think, is to get off the [government's] radar and go off and live somewhere else, like the Midwest or down South."

She said the entire Gotti clan is "beat up and tired" after three trials that have taken a heavy emotional toll on her brother. Gotti already had heard the good news on the radio by the time defense lawyer Charles Carnesi reached him. "He was thrilled," Carnesi said. "As much as it was expected, it's still different when you finally have confirmation.

"He wants to leave New York as soon as it can be arranged," Carnesi added.

Sliwa said he's owed monetary damages - "I can't tell you the pain I suffer as a result of the rearrangement of my internal plumbing" - and promised to donate any proceeds to charity. But his lawsuit is probably dead on arrival, legal experts say, for the very same reason the feds failed to convict Gotti - the statute of limitations has passed.

Although the jury in the last mistrial agreed to convict Gotti in the Sliwa attack - which might have created an exception to the one-year statute of limitations for filing a civil suit - there was no verdict because they were hung on the racketeering charge.

Gotti's mother, Victoria, didn't think much of Sliwa's threatened suit. "I think the victims of all his hoaxes should sue him," she said, referring to Sliwa's admissions that he had staged publicity stunts to get media coverage of the Guardian Angels, including a fabricated claim that he had been kidnapped by a city transit cop.

Though Gotti insists he left the Mafia behind in 1999, one law enforcement source said it's "pretty impossible" to believe he's going to move away and go straight. "He sitting on a ton of money which is all ill-gotten gains," the source said. "He knows one life and it's called organized crime. Plus he has to look over his shoulder with the Gambino family because he really upset a lot of people." But mob expert Jerry Capeci said he doesn't think anyone is gunning for Gotti for speaking to prosecutors, which at one point was a serious Mafia no-no. "He never hurt anyone, never became a cooperating witness," Capeci said. "Even though three juries could never agree on whether he quit the mob, his Gambino crime family days are gone, if not forgotten."

Thanks to John Marzulli

After 3 Strikes, Gotti's Prosecutors are Out

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

John A. Gotti, who three times in just over a year has escaped conviction on federal racketeering charges, will finally be able to pursue what he claims he has long desired: an ordinary life.

After three trials in Manhattan, each ending in a hung jury, federal prosecutors have announced that they will not seek a fourth trial on those charges for Mr. Gotti, a decision federal officials had indicated was likely. It enshrines him as a defendant even trickier to convict than his father, the Gambino family don, John J. Gotti, who beat the rap three times himself before being found guilty in 1992 and dying in a federal prison hospital 10 years later. (The younger Mr. Gotti is not invulnerable: He was convicted in a previous case and served prison time.)

In a terse statement issued yesterday, Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said this particular case was over. “The government has concluded that a retrial of defendant John A. Gotti on the pending indictment is not in the interests of justice in light of the three prior hung juries in the case,” it read. “Accordingly, we submitted a proposed order which the court has signed and which ends this prosecution.”

That left Mr. Gotti, who has acknowledged through his lawyers that he ran the Gambino family during stretches of the 1990’s, to return to a life as normal as his name will allow — for now. This decision does not preclude the F.B.I. or other authorities from developing new evidence for a different case some day.

At the end of his third trial in September, Mr. Gotti told reporters he wanted to “move on” and expressed a desire to work with children.

His lawyer, Charles F. Carnesi, said Mr. Gotti may turn to academe. “He’s interested in pursuing a degree,” he said. “In social work or counseling or maybe something with the schools.” With the indictment dismissed, he is free to go as he pleases, and the liens on his property securing his bail will soon be lifted, Mr. Carnesi said.

Mr. Gotti’s triumph was a stinging defeat for Curtis Sliwa, the radio talk show host whom prosecutors said was a victim in the case. While the jury agreed that Mr. Gotti ordered the abduction and attack of Mr. Sliwa in 1992 after he called the elder Mr. Gotti a drug dealer on the air, they could not agree on the overall charge that this was part of a racketeering conspiracy.

In a statement from the newsroom of WABC radio, Mr. Sliwa called Mr. Gotti a criminal and a drain on society. He also called Mr. Gotti’s father a serial killer and a disgrace to the human race. He said he intended to sue Mr. Gotti “for not only the bullets that he ordered put into my body, but for the fear and abuse he has heaped on our law-abiding society over the past 20 years.”

He ridiculed Mr. Gotti’s plan to “turn over a new leaf” as a charade. “He claims that he has moved on with his life and just wants to live in peace,” Mr. Sliwa wrote. “He wants to write books for children and raise money for charity, he claims. But part of moving on in life is acknowledging the innocent people hurt in the past. The people he extorted, stole from, had beaten and shot.”

Thanks to Alan Feuer

Trying to Fix an Award for Sidney Korshak

I received an e-mail from the Wisconsin Alumni Association this week seeking nominations for its annual "Badger of the Year" awards.

The release noted: "The criteria for the Badger of the Year awards are simple - recipients are alumni who are making a difference, whether by developing a successful business, serving as an educational leader, being a philanthropist or publicly supporting UW-Madison." I knew immediately who I wanted to nominate. He's a former UW-Madison student and athlete who definitely made a difference, while developing a most successful business.

Unfortunately, when I contacted the Wisconsin Alumni Association Friday, it turned out my nominee failed to meet certain other criteria for being named Badger of the Year. He's dead, for one thing, and he didn't graduate from UW-Madison for another. The rules require a recipient to be alive and to have graduated from here. Still, I went ahead and filled out the e-mail nomination form anyway, thinking perhaps an exception could be made.

So exceptional is my nominee that a major new book about him has just been published. The book, written by the esteemed investigative journalist Gus Russo, is titled "Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers."

Korshak attended UW-Madison for two years in the 1920s and won the campus intramural boxing championship in 1927 at 158 pounds.

He then left Madison (transferring to DePaul) and became, in the words of the "Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers" jacket copy, "the Chicago Outfit's fair-haired boy, Sidney Korshak, a.k.a. 'The Fixer,' who from the 1940s until his death in 1996 was not only the most powerful lawyer in the world, according to the FBI, but also the most enigmatic, almost vaporous player behind some of the shadiest deals of the twentieth century."

To which I would say: Who's perfect?

It all began for Korshak in Chicago, where he knew mobsters like Al Capone, and, later, Tony Accardo, who regarded Korshak almost as a son. From the outset Korshak was groomed to be organized crime's intermediary with legitimate business and politics - "the underworld liaison to the upperworld," in Russo's words.

Korshak moved easily from Chicago to Beverly Hills, where he mixed with stars like Frank Sinatra and moguls like Lew Wasserman and survivors like Robert Evans. Evans - who for years has been trying to make a movie about Korshak - was the source of the anecdote that kicks off Russo's first chapter on Korshak in California, a chapter that begins: "Sid Korshak's life in Beverly Hills was developing into a contradictory combination of sphinx-like mysteriousness and high-profile socializing with the world's most famous celebrities."

Korshak's new bride learned early that her charming husband conducted his business on a need-to-know basis, and among the things she was not to know were the names of his friends. Returning from their honeymoon, Bernice Korshak checked for messages and found that the following people had tried to reach her husband: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

"Your friends sure have a strange sense of humor," Bernice said. "Who are they?"

"Exactly who they said they are," Sidney replied. "Any other questions?"

Evans, told the story by Bernice, noted, "Fifty years later, Bernice has never asked another question."

Hollywood historian Dennis McDougal would note that by 1960, "Korshak's influence surged beneath the surface of Hollywood like an underground river." He could start or stop labor strikes; get an actor a role or prevent it from happening; he was everywhere and nowhere. Korshak's photo was never to be taken, his name never included when a press agent puffed a list of party-goers to a gossip columnist. He lived in the shadows and it was from the shadows that Korshak and his supermob identified their next target, an arid land fit for growing nothing, nothing except money - Las Vegas.

So it went - a lucrative land grab here, a tax dodge there, somewhere else a quiet favor for a friend of a friend. Gus Russo's digging gets as close to the real Sidney Korshak as anyone ever has, and yet some mystery remains. It could not be otherwise.

As for that Badger of the Year award, I'll admit it's a long shot. But reading Russo, it seems Korshak's true vocation - fixing - might have got its start in Madison. Russo, quoting a UW student newspaper, says that in his championship campus boxing match, Korshak was out-punched and badly beaten by his opponent. "Consequently," the paper noted, "when the judges awarded the fight to Korshak, there was a great deal of surprise in the crowd."

It was a fitting beginning for "The Fixer."

Thanks to Doug Moe

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ghost of Capone Haunting Alcatraz?

Friends of ours: Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly

In the late 1850s, the first inmates to occupy Alcatraz were military prisoners who were put to work building a new prison that later became known as "The Rock." The U.S. Army used the island until 1933, at which time the Federal Government decided to open a maximum-security, minimum-privilege penitentiary to deal with the most incorrigible inmates.

Alcatraz was designed to break rebellious prisoners by putting them in a structured, monotonous routine until their release. Prisoners were given four basic things - food, clothing, shelter and medical care. Receiving anything beyond that had to be earned. Famous criminals, such as Al Capone, George "Machine-Gun" Kelly, Alvin Karpis and Arthur "Doc" Barker, spent time in Alcatraz. Mobsters in other prisons often managed to manipulate special privileges from guards, but not at Alcatraz.

Tough Punishment

The Strip Cell

Prisoners refusing to follow prison rules risked being confined to the Strip Cell, located on the lower tier of D Block. It was a dark steel cell, where inmates would be stripped naked and given water and bread once daily, an occasional meal and a mattress at night. The only 'toilet' was a hole in the cell floor and there was no sink. While there, convicts had no contact with others, spending their time in pitch-dark solitude.

The Hole on D Block
Similar to the strip cell, there were five 'hole' cells also on the lower tier, where prisoners were kept in isolation for up to 19 days. The cells had a toilet, sink, lightbulb and a mattress provided during the night only.

Prison Closure
Because of the huge cost to refurbish the prison it was closed in 1963. Later the island and parts of the prison were reopened by the Parks Services for daily public tours.

Tales of Torture
The fact that Alcatraz was built on an island and kept so isolated from public view, tales of inmates being tortured and of their bitter spirits coming back to haunt the halls of Alcatraz began to circulate.

The Ghost Stories of Alcatraz

The Utility Corridor
One of the areas which some claim is the most active with paranormal activity is a utility corridor where inmates Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard were plummeted with bullets after a failed prison escape. It is there that in 1976 a night security guard reported hearing unexplained eerie clanging sounds coming from inside.

Cell 14D
Cell 14D, one of the 'hole' cells is believed by some to be very active with spirits. Visitors and employees have reported feeling a raw coldness and at times a sudden 'intensity' encompasses the cell. Tales have been told of an event in the 1940s, when a prisoner locked-in 14D screamed throughout the night that a creature with glowing eyes was killing him. The next day guards found the man strangled to death in the cell. No one ever claimed responsibility for the convict's death, however the next day when doing head counts, the guards counted one too many prisoners. Some of the guards claimed seeing the dead convict in line with the other inmates, but only for a second before he vanished.

Warden Johnston
Other stories have circulated that Warden Johnston, nicknamed "The Golden Rule Warden," also faced a bizarre event while showing some of his guests around the prison. According to the story, Johnston and his group heard someone sobbing from inside the prison walls, and then a cold wind whisked past the group. Johnston could never explain any reason for the occurances.

Cell blocks A, B, and C
Visitors to cellblocks A and B. claim they have heard crying and moaning. A psychic visiting wrote that while in Block C he came upon a disruptive spirit name Butcher. Prison records show that another inmate in block C murdered Abie Maldowitz, a mob hitman known as Butcher.

The Ghost of Al Capone
Al Capone, who spent his last years at Alcatraz with his health in decline from untreated syphilis, took up playing the banjo with a prison band. Fearing he would be killed if he spent his recreational time in the "yard," Capone received permission to spend recreation time practicing his banjo in the shower room. In recent years, a park ranger claimed he heard banjo music coming from the shower room. Not familiar with the history of Alcatraz, the ranger could not find a reason for the sound and documented the strange event. Other visitors and employees have reported hearing the sound of a banjo coming from the prison walls.

More Paranormal Reports
Other odd events experienced over the years include guards smelling smoke, but finding no fire; sounds of unexplained crying and moaning; unexplained cold spots in areas of the prison and claims of seeing ghosts of prisoners or military personnel. Could it be Alcatraz is haunted? Ghost hunters have said they feel parts of the island and areas of the prison evoke a certain "strangeness," but it is mostly employees who are in areas of the prison alone who have reported most of the unexplained events that haunt the dark corridors of Alcatraz.

Thanks to Charles Montaldo

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Federal Probe Alleges Mobster Involved in Naperville Hit

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, Anthony Chiaramonti

It was a crime in the heart of Naperville that had the markings of a mob hit.

Rosemarie Re was shot seven times in broad daylight July 16, 1997, outside Linden Oaks Hospital, where she was to meet her estranged husband to discuss one of their children. Police found Randall G. Re in the hospital lobby after the shooting, and the husband denied involvement. The gunman escaped, but detectives have suspected for almost 10 years Re was behind the attempted hit on his wife, who survived.

Their investigation sparked unrelated federal charges that landed Re and a reputed mob enforcer - who authorities say may be the gunman - in prison for extortion. As Re's accomplice, Anthony N. Calabrese, faces new allegations in the federal probe, authorities are hoping for a break in the long-unsolved attempted murder.

On Monday, Naperville police Detective Mike Cross met with top DuPage County prosecutors to discuss why there might now be enough evidence to indict the 52-year-old ex-husband on solicitation to commit murder charges. Rosemarie Re also met with the prosecutors.

The 51-year-old woman underwent 15 surgeries and still has three bullets lodged in her body. She lives in Venice, Fla., with the former couple's three children, now ages 21 to 16, and suffers from chronic pain. "I feel like it's close," she said after the meeting. "I'm real optimistic." Charges may come in the attempted murder by year's end, sources said.

Rosemarie Re filed for divorce six months before she was shot. The Lisle woman survived after spending three months in Edward Hospital, where she was guarded around the clock and registered under an assumed name. She remained in a coma for six weeks.

Police released Randall Re without charges after 24 hours of questioning, but they said he remained the prime suspect.

In April 2003, Re and Calabrese were sentenced to seven years in prison for trying to shake down a Florida businessman in 1997. Calabrese, a reputed member of the Chicago Outfit's Bridgeport-Chinatown Crew, beat the businessman with a baseball bat after he opened a warehouse in Florida next to one Re owned.

Rosemarie Re hasn't been able to identify her shooter. Law enforcement officials suspect Randall Re paid Calabrese at least $10,000 to do the hit.

Both men remain in federal prison. Re is scheduled for release in February 2009. Last month, prosecutors indicted Calabrese and four others in connection with three armed robberies in the Lockport and Morton Grove areas. Calabrese, 45, formerly of Lockport, is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

Federal authorities also are investigating Calabrese in connection with an unrelated mob shooting, this one deadly. He surfaced as the suspected triggerman who killed loan collector Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti Nov. 20, 2001, in the vestibule of a Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant on Harlem Avenue in Lyons, according to a federal indictment. The getaway driver who implicated Calabrese in the Lyons murder, Robert G. Cooper of Bridgeport, is serving a 22-year federal prison term after pleading guilty in 2003 to first-degree murder.

Although Calabrese has not been charged with killing Chiaramonti, authorities hope the two ongoing federal probes will lead to a break in the Naperville case. Cross recently interviewed Randall Re, and Calabrese and his co-defendants in the three armed robberies.

This development is just the latest in the twisted saga. The investigation was complicated in 1998 when a DuPage County judge allowed Randall Re's divorce lawyers to question Cross. Cross, whose work led to the federal charges, was forced to reveal some of the details of the attempted murder investigation during the deposition. Both former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan and DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett unsuccessfully fought the court order requiring Cross to testify.

Also, one of Randall Re's divorce attorneys was disbarred for stealing $2.5 million from his clients, including money from the sale of Re's warehouse meant for his children. Rosemarie Re has since recouped most of her losses. But in a development that netted some progress in the case, police in August 2002 recovered at the bottom of the Cal-Sag Channel in Alsip the .22-caliber gun used in the Re shooting. Police said the gun was found just a block from a business owned by Calabrese, who an informant involved in the Florida case said was known to toss his weapons in the channel. A ballistics test done at the FBI's crime lab in Quantico, Va., later confirmed it was the one used in the Re shooting, officials said.

Despite all of the twists, Rosemarie Re said she remains hopeful and is indebted to the Naperville Police Department, especially Cross, for never giving up on her case. "When I remember those nanoseconds of the shooting, I still feel the searing pain, like it was yesterday," she said. "Victims never forget.

"I'll always suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and will probably always be in counseling, but at least (with charges) my kids and I will have closure. We can move on with our lives."

Thanks to Christy Gutowski

Mob Boss Son to Increase Brewery Equity Stake

Friends of ours: Jackie Cerone

Bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing filed its long-awaited reorganization plan yesterday, saying it intends to modernize the 145-year-old Lawrenceville brewery with $7 million from investors and lenders.The son of Jackie Cerone, Jack P. Cerone, will double his ownership of the Pittsburgh Brewing Company based upon the latest reorganization plan

The investment would be used to pay bankruptcy-related expenses and purchase a new boiler and a keg system, which would allow the brewery to expand sales to taverns. Remaining funds would be used for marketing. The plan is based on estimated annual savings of $1 million by revising its labor agreement and terminating a union pension plan.

Pittsburgh Brewing's plan, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Downtown, does not disclose the investors or who would provide financing to the company. The loans would be in addition to a $500,000 line of credit the company has arranged through Craig Newbold, an East Liverpool, Ohio, native whose fortune is based on a software venture he developed and sold.

Some long-suffering creditors will likely object to the 18-page plan, which contests claims filed against Pittsburgh Brewing by several major creditors, most of them government agencies. Unsecured creditors would get 33 cents for every $1 they are owed. They would get less if creditors win claims the brewery is disputing.

Members of the IUE/Communications Workers of America have thus far rejected the wage and other concessions the brewery is seeking, saying they will base their final decision on the merits of the reorganization plan.

President Joseph Piccirilli, who would continue to run the brewery, would increase his ownership of the company to 50 percent under terms of the plan. Jack P. Cerone, the son of a former Chicago mob boss who has an $8 million claim against the company, would double his ownership stake to 40 percent by converting the unpaid loans he provided to the brewery to equity.

Other secured creditors who would be paid in full include the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, which would receive $577,700 owed on a $1.4 million, five-year loan it provided in 1996; a union pension plan that would receive $200,000 in overdue contributions; and the City of Pittsburgh, which would collect $50,800 in unpaid real estate taxes. Mr. Piccirilli would also receive $112,000 in unpaid wages.

Pittsburgh Brewing is contesting a $2.7 million claim by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. The agency's threat to terminate service over unpaid bills triggered the brewery's decision to seek bankruptcy protection Dec. 7.

The brewery also is contesting the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.'s $1.8 million claim over a terminated pension plan; a $309,500 claim by the Internal Revenue Service; $120,000 of an $814,400 claim for unpaid federal excise taxes filed by the U.S. Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau; $136,100 in claims by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue; and a $38,200 claim for Allegheny County real estate taxes.

Unsecured creditors have filed claims in excess of $18 million, but the brewery estimates legitimate claims at $6 million, a figure the 33-cent-on-the-dollar payout is based on. Robert Sable, attorney for the unsecured creditors, declined comment, saying he wanted to review the plan with his clients.

The brewery provided estimates of its financial results based on the reorganization plan. It projects losses of $1.6 million this year and $347,000 next year before turning profits of $575,000 in 2008 and $1.1 million in 2009.

Thanks to Len Boselovic

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Judges Tied to Syndicate? Criminal Contempt is the Response

Michael Lynch's campaign to expose what he says are judges involved in a conspiracy linked to organized crime was put on hold Friday when a judge sentenced him to 60 days in Cook County Jail for criminal contempt.

Lynch once headed Michigan Avenue Partners and turned Chicago-based McCook Metals into a major aluminum force. The New York Times wrote of his entrepreneurial skills when McCook offered a higher bid than Alcoa for Reynolds Metals.

Now fighting bankruptcy, he tells judges to their faces in federal and state court that he thinks they have ties to organized crime and need to recuse themselves from his cases -- such as those seeking to foreclose on his Lake Forest home.

Cook County Judge Paddy McNamara, who gets good ratings from lawyers' groups, sent him to jail Friday after a two-hour hearing in which he repeatedly accused other judges of getting mob money and then produced what he said were some of the judge's own financial records.

Lynch sees a conspiracy of judges linked to law firms that represent Alcoa trying to take him down. He suspected his own lawyers were involved. Lynch said when one judge seemed ready to rule in his favor, the case was suddenly transferred to another judge who ruled against him.

Cook County Judge Alexander White -- as highly rated as McNamara -- told Lynch two weeks ago "Counsel, that's libelous. . .. I have never received a penny," in response to Lynch's demand that White "admit or deny" ties to organized crime.

On Friday, Lynch asked McNamara to let him bring in a source from an organized crime family to back up his claims, but the judge said she had heard enough.

Thanks to Abdon M. Pallasch

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dapper Don Instigated Bloody Mob War

Friends of ours: John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Colombo Crime Family, Carmine "The Snake" Persico, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico, Vic Orena, John "Junior" Gotti, William "Wild Bill" Cutolo

The late Gambino boss John Gotti instigated the bloody civil war within the Colombo crime family in a diabolical scheme to consolidate his power on the Mafia Commission, a turncoat witness testified yesterday. Gotti falsely branded jailed Colombo boss Carmine (The Snake) Persico "a rat" in an attempt to get him replaced by another Colombo gangster who was close to Gotti, according to former Gambino capo Michael (Mikey Scars) DiLeonardo.

DiLeonardo, testifying at the racketeering trial of Persico's son and acting boss Alphonse (Allie Boy) Persico, surprised Brooklyn Federal Judge Sterling Johnson when he matter-of-factly said that Gotti was behind the conflict that left a dozen gangsters dead and an innocent bystander slain outside a Brooklyn bagel shop in the early 1990s.

"John Sr. instigated it?" the judge asked the witness.

"Oh, yeah," DiLeonardo replied.

DiLeonardo explained Gotti's strategy this way: "John was close to Vic Orena and figured if he could get him in, and Allie out, he [Gotti] would have a majority vote on The Commission," DiLeonardo said. "He [Gotti] owned Vic Orena."

During the war, DiLeonardo said he accompanied John A. [Junior] Gotti to Rockaway Beach for secret late-night meetings with members of the Orena faction to try to iron out a settlement.

DiLeonardo said he thought that it was wrong that the Dapper Don had slurred the elder Persico's name. "Allie found out about it and wasn't happy," he recalled. "I told him it wasn't right and I set out to try and make things right."

Alphonse Persico is charged with ordering the 1999 murder of Colombo underboss - and Orena loyalist - William (Wild Bill) Cutolo.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jack Nicholson Researches for Role in The Departed

The Departed topped the box office nationwide Sunday, starring Jack Nicholson as a cocaine-snorting, hard-drinking, womanizing Mafia boss. He had to do a lot of research for the role. He had no idea what it's like to be a Mafia boss.<br><br>

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Departed Gets it Right

Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" is set in Boston among the Irish mob and Irish cops, a story of betrayal and lies by a director who has made his life's work the study of the consequence of sinMartin Scorses's The Departed

"I didn't want to be a product of my environment," says Boston mob boss Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson, in a raspy voice over a black screen at the outset. "I want my environment to be a product of me."

Naturally, it begins with an altar boy sipping a soda in a store, with Nicholson in shadow, muscling a terrified shopkeeper. The shopkeeper hands over some cash in the shakedown, and Nicholson then begins flirting with the teenage, female cashier. The boy silently takes all this in, the threats, the cashier's receptive smile, and there is a glint in the boy's eye. He's charmed by such leverage. He's an intelligent boy drawn to the possibilities of power. And so he becomes the servant.

There is no one who does sin better than Scorsese.

"The Departed" is a story of the mob infiltrating the police, and the police infiltrating the mob, and others leveraging the feds in scheme after scheme. They rat each other out, and the consequences fall upon them, inevitably, like snow on a graveyard in December.

With all the intrigue, it could easily have been set in Chicago, and should have been, although we don't seem to do that kind of movie here. Here, we have history enough for Scorsese to make a trilogy on the Outfit and local law enforcement.

We've had hit men cops and jewel thief cops who've been portrayed as heroes until their arrests; and honest police officers stuck for their entire careers hauling drunks out of wagons, others sentenced to 25 years in blue without ever making sergeant. It is a circumstance that can only happen in a highly political town, a town where everything is traded, a bartertown like Chicago, like Boston.

Another element missing were the politicians. The Outfit has owned several freight trains of politicians in Chicago, including mayors. And in Boston, there's Democratic political boss William Bulger and his brother, James "Whitey" Bulger, the hit man charged with 19 murders, and who also corrupted an FBI agent. There weren't any politicians in this one. Maybe next time.

I saw the film on Friday morning. Though I've written about the Chicago Outfit and it's penetration of local law enforcement in the case of former chief of detectives William Hanhardt, I'm no movie critic. But I did go to film school at Columbia College and ran the projector for free screenings for a month or so, watching post-war Italian films involving sad dogs and sad clowns during lunch. So why can't I rate this one?

I happily give "The Departed" four broken knuckles, or four bullets, or four lead pipes, or four broken thumbs, if you will.

Not for the violence (it's supposedly terrible to celebrate violence, but it makes for great cinema when done right), but for the acting of Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin.

And a special bonus for the scene in which DiCaprio's character asks the alluring female police psychiatrist if she has any cats.

"You don't have any cats?"

"No," she says.

"I like that," he says.

I'm not going to spoil what happens next. You'll have to trust me. You might believe what happens immediately after the cat scene, but you won't believe the rest.

So see it soon, before other people you know see it themselves and invariably spoil it for you, the way some idiots spoiled "The Usual Suspects" (directed by Bryan Singer) a few years ago.

People who saw "The Usual Suspects" before you did just couldn't keep their mouths shut about it, could they? They pretended they didn't want to say anything, but they couldn't resist the temptation of dropping some stray detail, which zinged back through your memory as you sat in the theater, moments before you learned the identity of Keyser Soze.

Don't let anyone do that to you this time. See the movie. And except for the cats and the altar boy, I'm not going to spoil or divulge anything from "The Departed," except for this one little thing.

A woman behind me at the movie started talking, alone, to herself during the ending. As I turned, she was rattling her popcorn bag, her fingers glistening like washed baby carrots.

She kept saying "Come on!" and "Gosh!" and "Oh!" and I kind of lost my temper, just a bit, and politely told her to shut her mouth or I'd pull a Jack Nicholson on her.

"Wow!" she said.

"Madam, will you please be quiet! Please!" I hissed.

"Oh all right," she said, mumbling something under her breath, before the final scene, which I won't tell you about. You've got to see it for yourself.

Thanks to John Kass

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Organized Crime to Help Terrorists? Fughgeddaboudit!!

FBI officials in Washington have said that they worry terrorists will ally with organized crime in America to plot terrorist attacks. That's insane. Not even the janitors union struck the World Trade Center when John Gotti protected New York.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"JP" Helps the Syndicate

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Albert "The Blast" Gallo, Genovese Crime Family, Colombo Crime Family, Crazy Joe Gallo, Larry Gallo, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Frank "Punchy" Illiano

On your "Gambino Crime Family" profile chart you list Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo as a Friend of Ours. He's actually a made member of the Genovese Family. He started with the Colombos in the crew run by his brothers--Crazy Joey and Larry Gallo. He went through the Gallo-Profaci War with them. He was supposedly a favorite of Vincent "Chin" Gigante until The Chin died this past December.

Then Albert "Al the Blast" Gallo Jr. (his full name and I don't think he uses the "Kid Blast" nickname anymore) switched allegiance to the Genovese Family in the mid-1970s after Larry died of cancer and Joey was hit in 1972 at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy. Nearly the whole crew switched to the Genoveses.

Former Gallo crew member Frank "Punchy" Illiano is now a capo in the Genovese Family and Al Gallo is a made guy in his crew (or it could be the other way around, Gallo's the capo and Illiano's the top member of his crew--reports are conflicting on exactly who the capo of the crew is).

Thanks to "JP" who emailed this information to me.

Will The Departed Lead to an Arrest by the Police?

Friends of ours: James "Whitey" Bulger

The Tulsa Police hopes a piece of Hollywood will finally end a murder case that began 25 years ago.

The movie, "The Departed" opened Friday in theatres and stars Jack Nicholson playing an Irish Mafia boss in Boston. That character is based on real life Irish mobster, Whitey Bulger.

Bulger has been on the run since 1995 when corrupt FBI agents warned him he was about to be indicted. Tulsa Police want him in connection with the mob murder of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler in May of 1981.

They hope this movie will lead someone to turn Bulger in. Tulsa Police Sgt. Mike Huff: "We would love to see him captured. It'd be wonderful to finally put this thing to an end. I have never seen a case that has drug on this long. It changed a lot of people's lives." Bulger has a $1-million price tag on his head and is on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted fugitive list.

Police say he was spotted in Oklahoma as recently as three years ago, at the Luvs in Henryetta.

Scorses is the New Boss with The Departed

Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" is an instant gangster classic, a gritty, intense and electrifying work from a master who knows this turf better than any director who ever lived. The moment it was over, I wanted to see it again.
The DeParted
In Jack Nicholson's opening monologue as longtime crime boss Frank Costello, he spews a nasty racial slur as casually as you'd say "hello." You're not going to like this man. He doesn't want you to like him. Even before he emerges from the shadows of the narrative and reveals his hardened face, Nicholson is serving notice that he's going to keep the familiar tricks -- the lovable bad boy grins and the arched eyebrows -- in the drawer in favor of serving up an authentic, searing performance. It's some of the best work he's ever done -- and it's one of a half-dozen nomination-worthy performances in the best movie so far this year.

With "The Departed," Martin Scorsese returns to the gutter-level gangster genre he practically re-invented with "Mean Streets" (1973) and then perfected with "Goodfellas" (1990) -- but this time, his camera is prowling the streets and alleys and abandoned buildings and taverns of Boston, and most of the criminals and the police are Irish to the core. We actually spend more time with the cops than the crooks -- not that you can always tell one from the other, even with a scorecard.

"The Departed" is based on the Hong Kong classic "Infernal Affairs" (2002), but there are major revisions in the story and a shift in focus on some of the characters, most notably Nicholson's mob boss, a rather minor force in the original who becomes the central figure in the epic American version.

Nicholson's Frank Costello is a 70-year-old career criminal who rules his turf with all the subtlety of a lion in the wild. With his unkempt hair flying every which way and his mad eyes darting about, Costello grabs what he wants with both hands and stomps his enemies with bloody glee. Whether he's singing an Irish tune with an exaggerated, self-mocking accent, harassing a pedophile priest in a restaurant, sitting in an opera box with two dates whose combined ages don't match his, or meeting with an informant in a porn theater, Costello is the dominating force in the room, lapping up every moment while there's still time.

When Frank asks one tavern patron about his mother's health, the man says, "She's on her way out."

"We all are," says Frank, as he begins to make his exit. "Act accordingly."

It's a giant and sometimes funny performance, but Nicholson isn't clowning around or vying for our affections a la his villainous work in "Batman" or "The Witches of Eastwick." He's a man and he's a monster, albeit a very entertaining one.

Scorsese has cinematically adopted Leonardo DiCaprio, who follows his fine work in "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator" with the best performance of his career as Billy Costigan, a smart hothead who tries to escape his criminal family ties by joining the Massachusetts State Police Department's Special Investigations Unit, which is obsessed with bringing down Costello and his crew. Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, an equally promising recruit who fast-tracks his way through the department -- but even as Sullivan gets assigned to the elite unit tracking Costello, he's working his second cell phone every step of the way, letting the mobster know exactly where the investigation stands. Sullivan isn't a good cop gone crooked --he's a plant who was handpicked as a teenager by Costello to join the force as the ultimate mole. This guy is an informant a dozen years in the making.

In the meantime, Costigan washes out of the force, gets convicted of a crime, does some jail time and winds up hanging around with his idiot drug dealer of a cousin -- but that's all by design as well. Only two men on the force -- a Notre Dame-loving captain (Martin Sheen) and his foul-mouthed second-in-command (Mark Wahlberg) -- know that Costigan in fact has never left the force and has been tabbed to infiltrate Costello's crew.

Never have cell phones played such an integral part in a crime thriller, with Costigan and Sullivan text-messaging and calling their respective bosses with key bits of information, even as both units try to flush out the rat in their midst. (There is a moment late in the film when they have their own cell phone "meeting," and nothing is said, and yet everything is said. The tension is almost unbearable.) But when you spend a year pretending to be a gangster, or for that matter a hard-charging cop, how much of it begins to rub off? Damon and DiCaprio are so skilled at portraying moral ambiguity, and Scorsese is so adept at keeping these stories racing along until their inevitable collision, that there were times when it was difficult to remember who was the good guy and who was the real crook. It's a house of mirrors, but one never feels manipulated.

Complicating matters is Vera Farmiga's Madolyn, a psychiatrist who seems like she needs her own time with a therapist. She's dating Sullivan (whom she believes to be a good cop) and counseling Costigan, to whom she is also attracted. Each man feels as if he's closest to being himself when he's talking to Madolyn, but neither is telling her the truth. Everybody in "The Departed" is a professional liar, with the possible exception of Sheen's Captain Queenan and Alec Baldwin's Captain Ellerby, a hilariously intense veteran whose gut bulges against his sweat-stained dress shirt as he rails about his hatred for Costello.

Scorsese is an original artist, but "The Departed" contains all sorts of touches and echoes of other films, from "True Romance" to "The Third Man." A number of signature Scorsese moves come into play as well, from the sublime use of 1970s rock-soundtrack staples such as "Gimme Shelter" and "Comfortably Numb" to the pervasive Roman Catholic imagery in scene after scene, to the shocking jolts of violence that somehow feel more real than the gunplay and bloodshed in just about any other gangster movie.

"The Departed" is about men who live in a world of casual violence, whose workdays routinely include battering skulls or attending funerals. It is funny, shocking and brutal, and it's filled with brilliant performances, with some of our best actors sinking their teeth into a great screenplay from William Monahan. Scorsese reinforces his reputation as one of the greatest living directors. He may get his sixth Oscar nomination and he might even win, but does it matter? Along with "Goodfellas," this is one of the best gangster movies in film history, whether or not there's ever a gold trophy attached to it.

Thanks to Richard Roeper

Scorsese's World

Director Martin Scorsese practically invented the gutter-level gangster film:

Not so much a gangster movie as a perceptive, sympathetic, finally tragic story about how it is to grow up in a gangster environment. Johnny Boy is played by Robert De Niro and it's a marvelous performance, filled with urgency and restless desperation. (R, 1974) **** Roger Ebert

A masterful examination of guilt, greed and violence in the American Mafia, "Goodfellas" tells the real-life story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), a mobster who lusted after the recognition and status he could find as a professional criminal, but who was never really top material. (R, 1990) **** Ebert

David Ayer to Direct a "Mafia Cop"

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

David Ayer ("Harsh Times") has signed on to rewrite and direct "Mafia Cop" for Mandalay and Universal Pictures reports the trades.

The true-life story centers on highly decorated police officers Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa who participated in eight murders (three mafia-sponsored), two attempted murders, one murder conspiracy, money laundering, obstruction of justice and drug distribution from 1986 to 1990.

Eppolito and Caracappa were arrested in 2005 after retiring from police work. Eppolito's father was a member of Gotham's Gambino crime family and before his arrest, Eppolito tried his hand in acting in such films as "GoodFellas," "Bullets Over Broadway" and "Predator 2".

Ayer also wrote "Training Day" and the "Wild Bunch" remake "Cartel" which he is attached to direct. Dan Gordon penned the first draft of the 'Cop' screenplay.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Taste of Mob Life at Little Italy in New York

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family, Corleone Crime Family, Tony Soprano, Vito Corleone, Al Capone, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, "Crazy Joe" Gallo, Mickey Cohen, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, John "Junior Gotti

Once home to New York's huge immigrant Italian population and a hot-bed of mafia activity, Little Italy still draws crowds fascinated by mob life.

Now a popular tourist destination, there is little in Little Italy to back its violent history and visitors are unlikely to encounter anything more unusual than the smell of fresh garlic wafting from family-owned restaurants. But a recent exhibition, "Made In America, the Mob's Greatest Hits," gave fans of fictional mobsters Tony Soprano and Vito Corleone a taste of what the community used to be like with curator Artie Nash in talks to take the show elsewhere.

The exhibition housed in a small museum in Little Italy, featured a collection of original photographs and arrest warrants of some of the most notorious Mafiosos, including Al Capone and Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Luciano was the Italian-U.S. mobster behind the explosion in the international heroin trade on whom the character of Vito Corleone in "The Godfather" was loosely based.

Nash, curator of the exhibition, spent the best part of 15 years putting the collection together piece by piece, from both police department sources and from the estates of some of the most famous figures in organized crime. "I am mainly fascinated by the relationship that the American public have had with organized crime. It really has, over the last 75 years, permeated our popular culture to such a great degree," Nash told Reuters.

The mob enjoyed its hey-day during the backbreaking years of the Great Depression and Prohibition in the 1920's and 30's, when gangs all over the country carved out an existence in bootlegging, drug-dealing, blackmail and racketeering.

New York and Chicago were home to some of the most active branches of the mob and violent rivalries between different Mafia "families" often resulted in bloodshed.

Hollywood and the media have contributed in large part to glamorizing the life of the mobster, often depicted as fiercely loyal foot soldiers who struggled to protect their families.

The exhibit has attracted a wide variety of visitors, including students, high-ranking police officers, and even some current crime figures, Nash said.

Actor Leonardo Di Caprio even took a tour of the collection to check out the real "Gangs of New York," the 2002 Martin Scorsese film in which he played a gangster in the blood-soaked turf wars set in the 19th century in the notorious "Five Points" slum in what is now downtown Manhattan.

Popular items include a fedora worn by "Crazy Joe" Gallo, a ruthless Brooklyn-born killer, the day he was shot on Mulberry Street and a collection of silk pajamas from the lavish wardrobe of diminutive dapper Los Angeles don, Mickey Cohen.

The collection also features a series of gruesome photos of the victims of "Murder Inc," a crime organization that carried out hundreds of hits on behalf of the Mafia in the 1920's.

Public interest in the Mafia has been revived in recent years by hit TV drama "The Sopranos" and real-life events such as the trial of accused mob boss John Gotti, son of the late John J. Gotti, former head of New York's Gambino family.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sopranos Helping al-Qaida?

Friends of mine: Soprano Crime Family

The FBI's top counterterrorism official harbors lots of concerns: weapons of mass destruction, undetected homegrown terrorists and the possibility that old-fashioned mobsters will team up with al-Qaida for the right price.

Though there is no direct evidence yet of organized crime collaborating with terrorists, the first hints of a connection surfaced in a recent undercover FBI operation. Agents stopped a man with alleged mob ties from selling missiles to an informant posing as a terrorist middleman.

Would the Sopranos really help terrorists? The FBI says the high level mobsters have told them for the right price, yes.That case and other factors are heightening concerns about a real-life episode of the Sopranos teaming with Osama bin Laden's followers. "We are continuing to look for a nexus," said Joseph Billy Jr., the FBI's top counterterrorism official. "We are looking at this very aggressively."

The new strategy involves an analysis of nationwide criminal investigations, particularly white collar crime, side by side with intelligence and terrorist activity. "We have developed an ability to look harder and broader in a greatly enhanced way to see if there is any crossover," Billy said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Organized crime syndicates could facilitate money transfers or laundering, human smuggling, identification fraud or explosives and weapons acquisitions, officials said.

The options are many for terrorists groups.

There are the five reputed La Cosa Nostra families in New York, Russian criminal enterprises from Brighton Beach in the New York borough of Brooklyn to Moscow, and the emerging Asian crime syndicates that operate in many Islamic countries with al-Qaida offshoots.

A contract study produced recently for the Pentagon and obtained by the AP warned that the potential for organized crime assisting terrorists is growing. "Although terrorism and organized crime are different phenomena, the important fact is that terrorist and criminal networks overlap and cooperate in some enterprises," the study said. "The phenomenon of the synergy of terrorism and organized crime is growing because similar conditions give rise to both and because terrorists and organized criminals use similar approaches to promote their operations."

The traditional mafia has highly developed networks for acquiring goods and services and money, all for a price.

The mob's potential interest in helping a terrorist has nothing to do with ideology or sympathy but with greed, said Matt Heron, head of New York FBI's organized crime unit. "They will deal with anybody, if they can make a buck," Heron said. "They will sell to a terrorist just as easily as they would sell to an order of Franciscan monks. It's a business relationship to them."

"If the mob has explosives and a terrorist wants them and they have the money, they could become instant friends," he said.

Pat D'Amuro, a retired senior FBI official and now chief executive of Giuliani Security, said a Mafia boss once acknowledged that the mob would help terrorists. "I am aware of a high-level Mafia figure, who was cooperating with authorities, being asked if the Mafia would assist terrorists in smuggling people into Europe through Italy," D'Amuro said. "He said, 'The Mafia will help who ever can pay.'"

Officials said they have no specific evidence that such a relationship has been cemented. But concerns were heightened last year after an Armenian immigrant was arrested in New York for allegedly leading a plot to sell military weapons to an FBI informant posing as a middleman for terrorists.

Arthur Solomonyan had claimed to be able to deliver shoulder-fired missiles from his connection in Russian organized crime to the informant, who claimed to have ties to al-Qaida, federal prosecutors said. Solomonyan and 17 others in New York, Florida and California were charged in the case.

Solomonyan is scheduled for trial this month. His lawyer, Seth Ginsberg, said he plans to "vigorously contest" the charges and call the government's confidential informant to the stand to challenge his motives. The Italian, Russian, and Asian mafia remain active, particularly in New York, even though the government has successfully prosecuted numerous figures in recent years.

In the past three years, well over 100 associates from all five La Cosa Nostra families have been arrested in New York, Heron noted.

While the potential of a gangster-terrorist marriage is on the FBI's radar, homegrown terror cells and weapons of mass destruction are also big concerns for those in the FBI given the job of stopping the next terrorist attack. "We are not only aware that they want to come across the ocean to attack us but they may be physically here developing in our own homeland," Billy said.

The Internet has become the new Afghanistan, allowing terrorist sympathizers to promote their radical ideas and to recruit and train followers right their home computers. That makes it far more difficult for investigators to identify them.

Billy said his biggest concern remains weapons of mass destruction. While Hezbollah and Hamas are more defined terrorist groups, with a territorial focus and a political platform, al-Qaida is more unpredictable. "We know they were trying to acquire it prior to 9/11, bin Laden's own words said that," said Billy. "What makes us think they are still not trying?"

Thanks to Pat Milton

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How Capone's Successors Built a National Syndicate

He was dubbed with one of the all-time greatest gangland nicknames, The Fixer. The tag fit Sidney Korshak like a calfskin glove.

Born to immigrant parentsSupermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers, Korshak beamed his bright light on a law career and - with the connections of several underworld mentors - got his start representing wiseguys against criminal charges. But his real value to the Chicago Outfit, as the inheritors of Al Capone's criminal empire came to be called, was as a labor consultant and negotiator.

With Korshak in the foreground, Gus Russo's "Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers" tells the story of how a tightknit claque of mostly Russian Ashkenazi Jews rose from the rough-and-tumble rackets to seats of influence and power in some Fortune 500 companies.

In their heyday, around 1960, the gang had long tentacles in Hollywood, controlled an interest in the Hilton hotel chain and held sway over ally Jimmy Hoffa's Teamster's union. That's to say nothing of their outright, if well-hidden, ownership of several Las Vegas casinos, including the Desert Inn - the high roller's haunt where Frank Sinatra made his Sin City debut.

Organized crime's ultimate objective is to make the lucre go in filthy and come out clean, through investments in legitimate businesses. In this, the Supermob had no equal.

Their most sophisticated scheme involved buying property that Japanese-Americans were forced to sell during World War II. Korshak, his cronies and their man inside the Roosevelt administration's Office of Alien Property, turned this land grab into a dandy cash-washing machine. Their exertions were so diabolically intertwined with legal maneuvers that the exact details have eluded two generations of investigators.

The complete story, the author admits, is still unknown. This complex trail is also difficult to follow, and though germane to the work, makes for some glacially paced reading.

When he wasn't perverting a union or arranging a sweetheart loan, Sidney's activities were far more entertaining. The Fixer hustled Dean Martin out of Chicago in one piece after Dino's roving eye locked on the moll of one of the Outfit's boys. Korshak also hot-wired a hooker-filled hotel room with an infrared camera, blackmailing a Senate investigator into going easy on his Chi-town pals.

"Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers" is chocked with anecdotes like this. The gangland gossip and Hollywood scuttlebutt ultimately outweigh Russo's dissection of Byzantine financial chicanery, and in the end, the book adds up to an exhaustive Who's Who of the dark power players of 20th century America.

Thanks to Peter Pavia

The "Scarface" Brand

What a difference 20 years makes. When Brian De Palma's "Scarface" hit theaters in 1983, it was panned by critics and earned a paltry $45.6 million at the domestic boxoffice -- enough to squeak by "Jaws 3-D" for the No. 16 position on the year-end rankings.

"We were trashed," says Martin Bregman, the film's producer. It was Bregman and Universal Pictures who had taken a chance on Oliver Stone's audacious script about a ruthless Cuban immigrant's rapid rise and fall in South Florida's underworld drug trade, and it was De Palma and star Al Pacino who had turned it into an operatic testament to the dark side of the American dream.

Today, "Scarface" resonates with a new generation of viewers that relates to the outsider status of Pacino's antihero and finds truth in the message of societal forces that reward -- however fleetingly -- aggression, naked ambition and greed.

Roger Ebert, one of the few reviewers to weigh in positively upon the film's initial release, lauded "Scarface" for its ability to "take a flawed, evil man and allow him to be human," writing in the Chicago Sun-Times that Pacino "does not make (Tony) Montana into a sympathetic character, but he does make him into somebody we can identify with in a horrified way, if only because of his perfectly understandable motivations. Wouldn't we all like to be rich and powerful, have desirable sex partners, live in a mansion, be catered to by faithful servants and hardly have to work? Well, yeah, now that you mention it." But most observers did not see so deeply into a story that, on its surface, contains entirely raw violence. Combined with a performance by Pacino that was trounced roundly as over-the-top, the violence generated a ripple of notoriety -- but not enough for the film to avoid becoming a commercial disappointment.

Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger believes that "Scarface" was ahead of its time, suffering in the long shadow of Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" movies. To enter the epic gangster genre after 1972's "The Godfather" and 1974's "The Godfather: Part II" won a combined nine Academy Awards, he says, was an uphill battle.

Only later would "Scarface" find its niche among the broadband generation, which finds Tony's Cuban swagger more relatable than that of the old-school Corleones, who seem quaint by comparison. That youthful embrace has propelled "Scarface" into a marketing juggernaut, with more than 40 licensees in the U.S. alone that make everything from T-shirts, jackets and skullcaps to comic books, money clips and even a die-cast model of a Cadillac, complete with a miniature Tony Montana in his famous white suit and smoking a cigar.

Although the groundswell has bubbled up organically through bootleg goods, obscure musical references and the like, Universal's licensing group has been savvy enough to recognize an opportunity and take it to the next level. The latest installments in the "Scarface" merchandising phenomenon are the Vivendi video game "Scarface: The World Is Yours," set to hit store shelves Oct. 8, and Universal Studios Home Entertainment's planned Tuesday "Platinum Edition" DVD release, for which the film's sound effects and audio have been overhauled. Both products are launching into a market that has embraced "Scarface" as a part of pop culture.

The hip-hop community has adopted the film as its rags-to-riches morality tale, and clips from "Scarface" have appeared in countless movies and TV shows including the 2004 feature "Meet the Fockers," in which a precocious baby hits a remote control and changes the channel from a children's show to a blaze of bullets. "Scarface's" classic "money line" -- where Tony, about to open fire on a foe, sneeringly says, "Say hello to my little friend" -- has echoed around the globe.

"In one of my kids' middle school, there was a board, and every day there was a new quote -- by (William) Shakespeare, (Mahatma) Gandhi, people like that," Shmuger says. "One day, the quote was, 'Say hello to my little friend.' It has become a touchstone; it has left a lasting impression on our culture in ways that nobody could have imagined when it was originally released in 1983." Adds Bregman, "It's a major part of pop culture, and not just in this country: You can go to Israel and buy T-shirts with Pacino's face in every souvenir store."

"Scarface" was intended to be a remake of Howard Hawks' noirish 1932 mob drama of the same name, set in Chicago during that period. After producing 1973's "Serpico" and 1975's "Dog Day Afternoon," both starring Pacino, Bregman was seeking another vehicle for the actor. He approached De Palma, who began working on an adaptation with playwright David Rabe.

When it became clear that the script was not working, De Palma dropped out, and Stone and director Sidney Lumet were brought in. Lumet came up with the concept of moving the film to 1980s Miami and turning the Al Capone-inspired lead character into a Cuban refugee who makes his fortune in cocaine.

Stone, reportedly battling cocaine addiction at the time, took the idea and ran with it. When he submitted his draft, though, Lumet had problems with it -- so Bregman, who liked what Stone had written, turned back to De Palma.

De Palma liked Stone's graphic, violent script, and soon he and Pacino traveled to Miami, immersing themselves in the local culture. Big-screen newcomer Michelle Pfeiffer was cast as Pacino's girlfriend, and the supporting cast was filled out by several Latin Americans including Cuba-born Steven Bauer, then married to Melanie Griffith.

Crews began to set up the shoot in summer 1982, but trouble began almost immediately. A group of Cuban immigrants protested what they felt would be a slam on their culture, and a Miami city commissioner threatened to introduce a bill that would ban the shoot from taking place there unless Pacino's character was turned into a Communist spy sent by Fidel Castro.

An agreement was reached to screen "Scarface" before a group of Cuban-American leaders who could (and did) tag it with a disclaimer, but the filmmakers, fearing further repercussions, moved most of the production to Los Angeles. The Miami internment camp seen in the movie was built beneath the Santa Monica and Harbor freeways, and the Little Havana cafeteria in which Tony works is actually a restaurant in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.

"Scarface" was pegged for U.S. release on Dec. 9, 1983, but the MPAA's Classification and Ratings Administration gave it an X rating that October for "cumulative violence," and the movie underwent several hasty edits. When the X rating stood after four go-rounds, the filmmakers appealed -- and the final vote was 17-3 in favor of an R rating, clearing the way for a wide release. But things would get worse: Reviews went from bad to scathing, and the filmmakers were lambasted for the movie's excessive violence.

"Even in our test screenings, the movie wasn't playing well," says Shmuger, who saw the film in a New York theater long before he joined Universal. "I was just stunned; I didn't know how to take it. 'The Godfather' had seemed so perfect and proper, but 'Scarface' just felt so aggressive."

"Scarface" earned only $4.6 million during its opening weekend and wound up grossing $45.6 million during its initial theatrical run -- hardly the makings of a blockbuster. Slowly but surely, though, a cult following developed, primarily among young urban audiences who kept coming back for repeat viewings.

In 2003, while preparing the release of a 20th anniversary "Scarface" DVD, Universal conducted a second round of test screenings -- and met with markedly different results.

"We put a print in front of audiences on the West Coast and the East Coast because we wanted to see if it would stand up as a theatrical release again in Los Angeles and New York, and scores were through the roof," Shmuger says. "The movie hadn't changed; what had changed was the audience and the culture."

Not only was the graphic violence more palatable to viewers raised on films like 1994's "Natural Born Killers" and video games like Midway's "Mortal Kombat" franchise, but also the premise of "Scarface" resonated among the test-screen throng.

"The whole story of trying to fight your way up, by hook or by crook or by violence -- of doing anything to achieve the American dream -- became something of an anthem to the hip-hop culture," Shmuger says. And the film's authenticity has endured. Says Bregman, "What makes all this possible, 23 years later, is a movie that is very much still a fresh and hot property."

Thanks to Thomas K. Arnold

Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Powerbrokers

Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power BrokersSupermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Powerbrokers

Reviewed by Hillel Levin

Reviewed by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Reviewed by Peter Pavia

Reviewed by Geoff Schumacher

Reviewed by Steve Warmbir

Mafia and Mob Book Reviews

Chicago Syndicate Fencing Operations

More Books and Reviews will be added periodically.

An Offer We Can't Refuse -- The Mafia in the Mind of America by George Stefano

"After Capone: The Life and World of Chicago Mob Boss Frank (the Enforcer) Nitti" by Mars Eghigian

Bringing Down the Mob by Thomas Reppetto

Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires By Selwyn Raab

Motor City Mafia by Scott Burnstein

Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Powerbrokers by Gus Russo

The Battle for Las Vegas by Dennis Griffin

The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia by Guy Lawson and William Oldham

The Chicago Mob by John Binder

The Last Godfather by Simon Crittle

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone by William J. Helmer and Arthur J. Bilek

Monday, October 02, 2006

Stool Pigeon in Mafia Cops Case Freed

Friends of ours: Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Lucchese Crime Family
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa, Burton Kaplan

The truth has set him free.

Stool pigeon Burton Kaplan, the key witness against mob cops Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, was sprung from prison yesterday after serving just over nine years of a 27-year sentence for dealing tons of marijuana.

Brooklyn federal Judge Jack Weinstein commuted the prison stint for Kaplan, who was the go-between for the ex-NYPD detectives and Luchese crime-family boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, as part of a deal for his cooperation. "His information led to the resolution of eight murder investigations," said prosecutor Robert Henoch, who had nothing but praise for the detailed information Kaplan, 72, offered - which Henoch said was "excruciatingly corroborated."

"His memory was astounding," Henoch said, noting that Kaplan helped investigators uncover evidence that the cops were acting as paid Mafia moles and hit men while wearing their shields.

Neither Kaplan's wife nor daughter, Manhattan state Supreme Court Judge Deborah Kaplan, were in court yesterday because Kaplan feared for their safety, according to his lawyer Michael Gold. "I know words cannot change my crimes," Kaplan told Weinstein. "My only concern was my own selfish motives of not wanting to get caught."

The judge released Kaplan, who pleaded guilty in March 2005 to charges stemming from the crooked cops' case, on $2 million bail while he awaits sentencing for those crimes.

Eppolito and Caracappa were convicted in April, but Weinstein overturned the jury conviction on a legal technicality. The pair are on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a federal prison in Brooklyn while prosecutors appeal Weinstein's decision.

Thanks to Zach Haberman

Tough Time Getting Medical Help in Federal Lockup for "The Clown"

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

It wasn't cardiac clowning for Joe Lombardo. According to Lombardo's lawyer, a couple of weeks ago, the clown tried to get some medical attention. He has heart problems and thought he was having a heart attack and said he wanted to be taken to the hospital--stat. But it apparently took some convincing by Lombardo and his lawyer before he was actually taken to the hospital.

Joey Lombardo is known for his clowning around, like hiding behind a newspaper mask while walking through the courthouse or leading fellow mobsters up a construction ladder to evade news crews. But when Lombardo, sometimes also nicknamed "Lumpy," clutched his breastbone in a cell at the Metro Correctional Center, it was no sight gag.

Lombardo's lawyer Rick Halprin tells the I-Team that Lombardo himself couldn't convince MCC officials he was having a heart attack. Halprin says he had to appeal to the MCC's lawyer to get Lombardo taken seriously and treated.

The ailing hoodlum was brought to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was diagnosed as having had a minor heart attack. Lombardo was put into an operating room where he underwent surgery, according to his lawyer, to have a stent installed. A stent is a small metal tube inserted permanently into an artery, propping it open so that blood can flow through. It was Lombardo's fourth stent procedure.

Friday night, the hoodlum is on the mend back in his MCC jail cell and may be saying "I told you so."

While Joey Lombardo was a federal fugitive two years ago, he sent a prophetic letter to a federal judge explaining why his previous jail sentences prevented him from surrendering. It said: "Medical care in prison is a farce. I went 3 times with chest pain and 3 cardiograms they said I had a enlarged heart take 1 aspirin a day. 1 month later I was released had chest pain went to the hospital took a angiogram and found I had artery 98% blocked. Had angioplasty the same day. Since my release 1993 I've had 2 or 3 angioplasty and 3 stents put in."

Lombardo turns 78 years old on New Years Day. His federal murder racketeering trial isn't scheduled to begin until the spring, and with his latest cardiac crisis, expect the clown's health to be a recurring courtroom issue.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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.

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