Monday, June 18, 2007

Made to Be Mayor

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, Frank Cullotta
Friends of mine: Oscar Goodman

Oscar Goodman once defended some of Chicago's most notorious hoodlums and is now running the city they once ran: Las Vegas.

When federal prosecutors in Chicago put 14 mobsters on trial this summer, an aspect of the case will be how the outfit once controlled criminal rackets in Las Vegas. That prospect has Las Vegas' most prominent politician somewhat skittish because he was part of that past.

Oscar Goodman, Made to Be MayorIn a city of lights and largess, no one shines brighter or bigger these days than Oscar Goodman, the mayor now in his third term. The seat behind his city hall desk isn't just a chair, it's actually a throne. Even the headliners billed out on The Strip haven't played the halls that King Oscar once played before becoming mayor: the halls of justice, where for years as a lawyer, he tried to keep some top Chicago hoodlums out of jail.

The Chicago mob-the outfit, which is the given name for traditional organized crime founded in Chicago almost a century ago, is an organization pioneered by Al Capone and perfected by Anthony "the Ant" Spilotro, the outfit's Las Vegas emissary into the 1980s, frequently shadowed by his lawyer, Oscar Goodman.

"From a government perspective, he killed 26 people 21 people or 19 or whatever, but when I represented him he never did a day in jail. From '72 until the time he was killed ...They created him to be much greater than the role that he was really playing on behalf of Chicago while he was here, but they made him into an everyday news item and caused him to have a reputation perhaps he didn't deserve," Goodman said.

Nor did Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael deserve this, according to Goodman: the men were buried alive in an Indiana cornfield after angry mob bosses ordered them pummeled and planted.

"It was a violent death," said Goodman. "I think it was interesting when they were filming the movie Casinoand depicting the murder of Tony and his brother, it was so rough, that even during the production of a movie, somebody broke their arm. That's how violence it was."

Oscar Goodman knows all about the brutal movie. He played a mob lawyer in the film, and Goodman reveals that, as the Spilotro murders remained unsolved for years, he was never contacted by investigators. "I was always disappointed that nobody asked me any questions about who had done it or what was happening as far as Tony was concerned before it took place," Goodman said.

I-Team: "They didn't ask you a single question?"

Goodman: "No, not a single one. Don't you think they would've asked: Do you have any idea who might have done this?"

Despite smothering the opposition in last April's mayoral election, Goodman is not without critics.

"He's a braggadocio man. He's got an ego as big as it can be, and he's got the right job, because he's got a big mouth and he can promote [Las Vegas]," said Frank Cullotta, ex-mob hitman.

Cullotta was Tony Spilotro's major domo In Las Vegas before rolling over in 1982 to help the government prosecute outfit bosses. Cullotta and two former lawmen are authors of a new book on the Chicago mob and contend that Goodman had little to do with the mob's eventual exodus from Las Vegas.

"The Chicago Outfit is much less potent than it was years ago," said Dennis Griffin, author/former policeman.

"It is interesting that the mayor stopped it. Because before he said there was no organized crime," said Dennis Arnoldy, author/former FBI agent.

"Big corporations cleaned up this town...not Goodman," said Cullotta.

Unlike Mayor Richard M. Daley, who refuses to capitalize on Chicago's rich mob history, Goodman proudly displays outfit trinkets in his office and is turning a historic Las Vegas building into a mob museum.

"To celebrate that era, basically it's going to be telling the truth about Las Vegas. We're not going to implode any decades here...I won't whitewash our history here. We advertise as what happens here stays here, the mystique of Las Vegas. I don't want to give that up," said Goodman.

Goodman says that during the time he was representing mobsters, federal prosecutors tried to have him indicted for obstruction of justice but could never convince a grand jury that he did anything wrong. He has never been charged with anything.

Goodman says he is so well liked that a movement is underway to eliminate term limits in Las Vegas so he can continue to sit on the throne.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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