Al Capone


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ALPHONSE CAPONE a.k.a. AL, SCARFACE Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899, of an immigrant family. He lived with his father Gabriele and Mother Teresa and his brothers and sisters. Al did quite well in school until the sixth grade when his steady record of B's deteriorated rapidly. At fourteen, he lost his temper at the teacher, she hit him and he hit her back. He was expelled and never went to school again. About this time, his family moved from their house on Navy Street to 21 Garfield Place. This move would have a lasting impact on Al because in this new neighborhood he would meet the people who would have the most influence on his future: his wife Mae and the gangster Johnny Torrio. A few blocks away from the Capone house on Garfield Place was a small unobtrusive building that was the headquarters of one of the most successful gangsters on the East Coast. Johnny Torrio was a new breed of gangster, a pioneer in the development of a modern criminal enterprise. He was a role model for many boys in the community. Capone, like many other boys his age, earned pocket money by running errands for Johnny Torrio. Over time, Torrio came to trust the young Capone and gave him more to do. Meantime, young Al learned by observing the wealthy successful respected racketeer and the people in his organization. In 1909, Torrio moved to Chicago and young Al fell under other influences. At this point in his life, nobody would ever have believed that Al would go on to be the criminal czar that he ultimately became. For approximately six years he worked faithfully at exceptionally boring jobs, first at a munitions factory and then as a paper cutter. Eventually he met a guy named Frankie Yale. He opened up a bar called Harvard Inn. And he hired Al to be a bartender. Capone's job at the Harvard Inn was to be the bartender and bouncer and, when necessary, to wait on tables. In his first year, Capone became popular with his boss and the customers. Then his luck turned suddenly when he waited on the table of a young couple. The girl was beautiful and the young Capone was entranced. He leaned over her and said, "Honey, you have a nice ass and I mean that as a compliment." The man with her was her brother Frank Gallucio.

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He jumped to his feet and punched the man who insulted his sister. Capone flew into a rage and Gallucio pulled out a knife to defend himself. He cut Capone's face three times before he grabbed his sister and ran out of the place. While the wounds healed well, the long ugly scars would haunt him forever. About 1920, at Torrio's invitation, Capone joined Torrio in Chicago where he had become an influential lieutenant in the Colosimo mob. The rackets spawned by enactment of the Prohibition Amendment, illegal brewing, distilling and distribution of beer and liquor, were viewed as "growth industries." Torrio, abetted by Al Capone, intended to take full advantage of opportunities. The mobs also developed interests in legitimate businesses, in the cleaning and dyeing field, and cultivated influence with receptive public officials, labor unions and employees' associations. Torrio soon succeeded to full leadership of the gang with the violent demise of Big Jim Colosimo, and Capone gained experience and expertise as his strong right arm. In 1925, Capone became boss when Torrio, seriously wounded in an assassination attempt, surrendered control and retired to Brooklyn. Capone had built a fearsome reputation in the ruthless gang rivalries of the period, struggling to acquire and retain "racketeering rights" to several areas of Chicago. That reputation grew as rival gangs were eliminated or nullified, and the suburb of Cicero became, in effect, a fiefdom of the Capone mob. Perhaps the St. Valentine's Day Massacre on February 14, 1929, might be regarded as the culminating violence of the Chicago gang era, as seven members or associates of the "Bugs" Moran mob were machine-gunned against a garage wall by rivals posing as police. The massacre was generally ascribed to the Capone mob, although Al himself was then in Florida. The investigative jurisdiction of the Bureau of Investigation during the 1920s and early 1930s was more limited than it is now, and the gang warfare and depredations of the period were not within the Bureau's investigative authority. The Bureau's investigation of Al Capone arose from his reluctance to appear before a Federal Grand Jury on March 12, 1929, in response to a subpoena. On March 11, his lawyers formally filed for postponement of his appearance, submitting a physician's affidavit dated March 5, which attested that Capone, in Miami, had been suffering from bronchial pneumonia, had been confined to bed from January 13 to February 23, and that it would be dangerous to Capone's health to travel to Chicago. His appearance date before the grand jury was re-set for March 20. Capone appeared before the Federal Grand Jury at Chicago on March 20, 1929, and completed his testimony on March 27. As he left the courtroom, he was arrested by Agents for Contempt of Court, an offense for which the penalty could be one year and a $1,000 fine. He posted $5,000 bond and was released. On May 17, 1929, Al Capone and his bodyguard were arrested in Philadelphia for carrying concealed deadly weapons. Within 16 hours they had been sentenced to terms of one year each. Capone served his time and was released in nine months for good behavior on March 17, 1930. On February 28, 1936, Capone was found guilty in Federal Court on the Contempt of Court charge and was sentenced to six months in Cook County Jail. His appeal on that charge was subsequently dismissed. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department had been developing evidence on tax evasion charges - in addition to Al Capone, his brother Ralph "Bottles" Capone, Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, Frank Nitti and other mobsters were subjects of tax evasion charges. On June 16, 1931, Al Capone pled guilty to tax evasion and prohibition charges. He then boasted to the press that he had struck a deal for a two-and-one-half year sentence, but the presiding judge informed him he, the judge, was not bound by any deal. Capone then changed his plea to not guilty. On October 18, 1931, Capone was convicted after trial, and on November 24, was sentenced to eleven years in Federal prison, fined $50,000 and charged $7,692 for court costs, in addition to $215,000 plus interest due on back taxes. The six-month Contempt of Court sentence was to be served concurrently. While awaiting the results of appeals, Capone was confined to the Cook County Jail. Upon denial of appeals, he entered the U.S. Penitentiary at Atlanta, serving his sentence there and at Alcatraz. On November 16, 1939, Al Capone was released after having served seven years, six months and fifteen days and having paid all fines and back taxes. Suffering from paresis derived from syphilis, he had deteriorated greatly during his confinement. Immediately on release he entered a Baltimore hospital for brain treatment, and then went on to his Florida home, an estate on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay near Miami, which he had purchased in 1928. Following his release, he never publicly returned to Chicago. He had become mentally incapable of returning to gangland politics. In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist, after examination, both concluded Al Capone then had the mentality of a 12-year-old child. Capone resided on Palm Island with his wife and immediate family, in a secluded atmosphere, until his death due to a stroke and pneumonia on January 25, 1947.


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