Friday, June 22, 2018

Cook County Circuit Judge William Hooks Frees Accused Cop Killer Jackie Wilson from Prison

After more than 36 years in custody, an accused cop killer who alleges notorious ex-Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge tortured him into confessing was ordered freed Friday while awaiting his third trial on the charges.

Jackie Wilson, 57, was granted a recognizance bond by Cook County Circuit Judge William Hooks, who last week tossed out Wilson’s murder conviction after finding that Burge and detectives under his command had physically coerced his confession to the 1982 slaying of two Chicago officers.

The judge said special prosecutors “utterly failed” in their arguments to keep Wilson in prison, adding that they appeared to want him to view the case “through the lens of a court sitting in 1982 or 1988 without considering the revelations that have come to light over the last three decades.”

Wilson is likely to walk out of Cook County Jail as soon as later Friday.

The ruling to free Wilson comes as special prosecutors filed paperwork earlier this week indicating they will ask an appeals court to reverse Hooks’ decision to toss the conviction and order a retrial.

Wilson has twice been convicted of teaming up with his now-dead brother, Andrew, who prosecutors say fatally shot Officers Richard O’Brien and William Fahey during a traffic stop in 1982. His first conviction was tossed out after an appeals court ruled that he should not have been tried simultaneously with his brother. At the retrial in 1989, a jury acquitted him of Fahey’s murder but convicted him of O’Brien’s. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Hooks held a lengthy hearing Thursday at which a team of special prosecutors laid out their case for keeping Wilson in custody pending a third trial. Prosecutors summarized the expected testimony of several witnesses, including eyewitnesses who implicated Wilson as well as correctional officers who allegedly heard him take credit for the slayings while in custody.

Thanks to Megan Crepeau.

"Cadillac Frank" Francis Salemme and Paul Weadick Found Guilty in Mob Murder Trial

Former New England Mafia boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was found guilty Friday, along with an associate, of killing a South Boston nightclub owner 25 years ago to prevent him from cooperating with investigators targeting Salemme and his son.

The verdict signified long-awaited justice for the family of Steven DiSarro, a 43-year-old father of five who disappeared in 1993, his whereabouts a mystery until the FBI found his remains two years ago, buried behind an old mill in Providence.

Salemme, 84, who became a government witness himself six years after killing DiSarro and was in federal witness protection until his 2016 arrest, will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.

Following a five-week trial in US District Court in Boston and four days of deliberations, a jury of eight women and four men convicted Salemme and Paul Weadick, 63, of Burlington, of murdering DiSarro to prevent him from becoming a federal witness. The men face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Salemme and his late son were business partners with DiSarro in the Channel nightclub, which was located on Necco Street and was demolished years ago.

Judge Allison Burroughs set sentencing for Sept. 13.

DiSarro’s daughter, Colby, cried as the verdict came down around 3 p.m. Friday, and his son, Michael, wiped tears from his eyes.

Salemme, meanwhile, let out a huge sigh when the verdict came down and appeared stunned as he remained standing for a long time in a gray suit and blue tie, taking his seat only after his lawyer told him to.

The once-feared gangster, who had smiled at his attorney when he came into the courtroom to hear the verdict, left court with his head down without glancing at the spectators’ gallery. Weadick shook hands with his attorney before he was escorted out as well. Both men have been in custody since they were arrested in 2016.

Weadick’s lawyer declined to comment outside court Friday.

An attorney for Salemme, Steven Boozang, told reporters that his client, who turns 85 next month, “feels worse for Paul Weadick than he does for himself. He’s just not a self-absorbed guy.”

Boozang also took aim at the government’s star witness, another aging gangster named Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who’s serving life in prison for 10 murders and who testified that he witnessed Salemme’s son choking DiSarro while Weadick held his legs up and Salemme looked on. Salemme’s son died in 1995.

After the verdict, Boozang called Flemmi an “absolute liar” and said the defense was confronted with “a tough set of facts” but “thought we had overcome them.”

Asked about Salemme’s relatively stoic demeanor in court, Boozang said, “He’s done a lot of time. He was in the gangland wars, so I don’t think much phases him or shocks him. He was hopeful and optimistic” for an acquittal. Boozang said he expects his client to be placed in the general prison population and added that “nobody will bother him. . . . Inside, he’s a pretty decent human being and warm, aside from what he was years ago.”

DiSarro’s family had no immediate comment after the verdict but released a statement on Tuesday as the jury began deliberating.

“The last 25 years have been heartbreaking for us due to the sudden loss of a loved one, coupled with the fact that we were left without any answers as to what happened,” the DiSarro family had said Tuesday.
“Nothing about the circumstances of our father, brother, uncle and husband’s disappearance have been typical. We have been living for years with the idea that a man who was deeply loved by his family, never returned home to those he loved and we never knew why.
“The answers were hidden deep inside a dark, and often violent underworld that we thankfully have never had access to. Of course there have been rumors, speculations, and opinions over the years, but what became forgotten amongst it all is the man that existed and the family and life that he built.”

Thanks to Shelley Murphy and Travis Anderson.

James "Whitey" Bulger, Notorious Boston Mobster, is Arrested #OnThisDay in 2011

On this day in 2011, after 16 years on the run from law enforcement, James “Whitey” Bulger, a violent Boston mob boss wanted for 19 murders, is arrested in Santa Monica, California. The 81-year-old Bulger, one of the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” fugitives, was arrested with his longtime companion, 60-year-old Catherine Greig, who fled Massachusetts with the gangster in late 1994, shortly before he was to be indicted on federal criminal charges. At the time of his 2011 arrest, there was a $2 million reward for information leading to Bulger’s capture, the largest amount ever offered by the agency for a domestic fugitive.

Born in Massachusetts in 1929 and raised in a South Boston housing project, Bulger, who earned his nickname as a child for his light blond hair, served time in federal prison in the 1950s and early 1960s for bank robbery. Afterward, he returned to Boston, where he eventually built an organized-crime empire with partner Stephen Flemmi. At the time the two men were involved with drug trafficking, extortion, murder and other illegal activities, they were serving, since the mid-1970s, as FBI informants, providing information about rival mobsters in return from protection from prosecution.

After a rogue FBI agent tipped off Bulger that he would soon be arrested on racketeering charges, Bulger disappeared in December 1994. (John Connolly, the agent who tipped off Bulger, was later convicted on charges of racketeering, obstruction of justice and second-degree murder.) Despite an international manhunt, Bulger eluded authorities for over a decade and a half. Then, on June 20, 2011, the FBI employed a new tactic by airing a public service announcement focused on Greig, Bulger’s companion. The ad, which aired in cities across the U.S. where the mobster was thought to have once lived or have contacts, was aimed at female viewers who might have seen Greig, who underwent a variety of cosmetic surgeries, at a beauty parlor or doctor’s office. Based on one of the tips they received, FBI agents staked out Bulger and Greig, then going by the names Charles and Carol Gasko, and arrested them without incident at the modest, two-bedroom Southern California apartment building they had long called home.

Law enforcement officials found weapons, fake identification and more than $800,000 stashed in Bulger’s apartment. He later revealed to them that during his years on the lam he had traveled frequently to such places as Boston, Mexico and Las Vegas, armed and sometimes in disguise.

After their arrest, Bulger and Greig were returned to Boston. In June 2012, as part of a plea agreement, Greig was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping Bulger remain in hiding. The following summer, Bulger went on trial, and on August 12, 2013, he was convicted in a federal court in Boston of 31 of the 32 counts against him, including participating in 11 murders and other criminal acts.

On November 14, 2013, a federal judge sentenced Bulger to two life terms in prison plus five years.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bugsy Siegel Gunned Down in 1947 #OnThisDay

A drive-by shooter unloads nine rounds through the front window of a Beverly Hills home, instantly killing notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel. A founder of the small but promising Las Vegas casino scene, the pal of movie stars and moguls, and head of the Mafia's west coast syndicate, is dead at 41.

Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was an American mobster. Siegel was known as one of the most "infamous and feared gangsters of his day". Described as handsome and charismatic, he became one of the first front-page celebrity gangsters. He was also a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip. Siegel was not only influential within the Jewish mob but, like his friend and fellow gangster Meyer Lansky, he also held significant influence within the American Mafia and the largely Italian-Jewish National Crime Syndicate.

Is the Gotti Movie the Worst Mob Movie of All Time or are Critics Trolls Hiding Behind a Keyboard?

As of late Tuesday evening, “Gotti” had achieved something truly remarkable.

The movieGotti Movie, a biopic tracing the life of crime lord John Gotti that stars John Travolta and Kelly Preston, joined the ranks of “Look Who’s Talking Now!,” “Highlander II: The Quickening” and “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol” by earning a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

That means not one single critic recommended the movie.

Watch the Gotti Movie Trailer.

As reviews continue to roll in, that number might be subject to change. But the harshness of these reviews won’t:


  • “I’d rather wake up next to a severed horse head than ever watch ‘Gotti’ again,” Johnny Oleksinski wrote in the New York Post, calling it “the worst mob movie of all time.”
  • “He may have been a murderer, but even Gotti deserved better than this,” Brian Tallerico wrote for RoberEbert.com.


Rather than dispute the reviews, the marketing team behind “Gotti” has leaned into them with a new ad — and blasted film critics with insults along the way.

The movie tweeted the ad from its official account, with the caption “Audiences loved Gotti but critics don’t want you to see it … The question is why??? Trust the people and see it for yourself!”

The ad itself mixes scenes from the movie along with a voice-over that says, “We’ve never been under this kind of scrutiny” and “You fight until you can’t fight no more. Never back off. Ever.”

Then a crowd chants: “Gotti! Gotti! Gotti!”

Subtle, no?

Meanwhile, “AUDIENCES LOVED GOTTI,” flashes across the screen in giant block letters, followed by, “CRITICS PUT OUT THE HIT. WHO WOULD YOU TRUST MORE? YOU OR A TROLL BEHIND A KEYBOARD.”

First things first: Evidence highly suggests that audiences do not “love” or even like “Gotti.” To begin with, it made a mere $1.9 million in its first weekend. Compare that to “Tag,” which opened the same weekend and garnered $14.9 million or the “Incredibles 2,” which earned $182.7 million.

Secondly, it has a dismal 5.1/10 rating on IMDb, about the same as the aforementioned “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.”

The only evidence to suggest the movie is any good is the Rotten Tomatoes user-generated audience score, which sits at 71 percent as of Tuesday evening. That’s shockingly high, considering the other ratings. Also high is the number of users who reviewed it: 6,974. That’s only about 700 fewer people than reviewed “Incredibles 2,” even though the Pixar cartoon earned almost 20,000 percent more at the box office.

This led Mashable to wonder if the movie is getting fake reviews, sort of the inverse of when hundreds of thousands of Internet trolls from Reddit and 4 Chan gave negative ratings to the female reboot of “Ghostbusters.” (Rotten Tomatoes told Mashable that the reviews are by “real users,” as opposed to bots.)

For what it’s worth, Gotti’s son John Gotti, Jr., who is portrayed in the film by Spencer Lofranco, seemed to enjoy it. He told the New York Post that he would give it a seven out of 10, even thought Travolta “doesn’t have my father’s natural swagger.” He also wishes it was longer, making him (probably) the only person to feel this way.

So, let’s assume the movie isn’t very good. Whether there was anything to suggest this might be the outcome depends on how rose-tinted your glasses are.

The movie was directed by Kevin Connolly, who you likely know not as a film director but as E, the most mature character in HBO’s “Entourage,” a celebration of bro-culture centered on four womanizing man-children in Hollywood.

Connolly hasn’t done much directing before. He helmed two episodes of his show, including one titled “Porn Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” He’s also directed a few indie films. The most prominent two are 2007’s “Gardener of Eden” and 2016’s “Dear Eleanor.” Neither received enough professional reviews to earn a Rotten Tomatoes score, but they both earned about a six out of 10 from users on IMDb.

Regardless of the film’s quality, it had an estimated $10 million budget, meaning it’s a box office disaster, which isn’t good for MoviePass — as strange as that might sound. The service’s finance arm, MoviePass Ventures, recently took an equity stake in the movie. It has only been financially involved with one other film: “American Animals.” That movie has an 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

So perhaps there’s a bunch of trolls wanting to take down the film. Or maybe it just isn’t very good.

Thanks to Travis M. Andrews.

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