Rothstein_ The Life, Times, And Murder Of The Criminal Genius

David Pietrusza

Part 19

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Above * Rothstein's mistress, showgirl Bobbie Winthrop, committed suicide in 1927.

Right * Arnold Rothstein's longsuffering wife, Carolyn Green Rothstein, filed for divorce prior to his death.


Right * Rothstein's last mistress, showgirl Inez Norton, stood to profit from his revised will.



The Many Faces of Arnold Rothstein Above left * Arnold Rothstein, all business, circa 1920. Courtesy of Transcendental Graphics.

Above right * Man about town.

Left * Sportsman at the track; note pressman's crop marks on photo and A. R.'s painted pants.


Above left * A. R. gave small time Broadway gambler Jimmy Meehan his gun before he walked to the Park Central Hotel-and his death. Above right Attorney Maurice Cantor drew up A. R.'s last will and got Rothstein's signature on it while A. R. was on his deathbed. Below * The first floor service corridor of the Park Central, where the mortally wounded A. R. was discovered.



Excitable Park Central chamber maid Bridget Farry saw George McMa.n.u.s in Room 349 on the night of the murder.


Mayor James J. "Gentleman Jimmy" Walker knew A. R.'s murder "meant trouble from here on in."


The Colt .38 "Detective Special" revolver that killed Rothstein-"the most powerful arm that can be carried conveniently in a coat side pocket."


Left * Cab driver Al Bender-he found the murder weapon lying on Seventh Avenue.


Above * Mayor Walker's mistress Betty Compton was with him when he got the news of Rothstein's death.


Above * The Park Central Hotel-"A" marks Room 349, "B" marks the spot on Seventh Avenue where the murder weapon was found. Courtesy Library of Congress.


In late 1929 George McMa.n.u.s (at right; shown with his attorney James D.C. Murray) faced trial for Arnold Rothstein's murder.


Rothstein's lifeless body being carried from the Polyclinic Hospital on the morning of November 5, 1928. Courtesy Library of Congress.


Arnold Rothstein's grave, Union Field Cemetery, Queens. To the left is his brother Harry's.

Thus began the financial scrambling. City and federal investigators pawed through A. R.'s home, his office, and through a series of safetydeposit boxes, expecting to uncover millions in cash, in jewels, in bonds. Trustees of Nicky Arnstein's bankruptcy, hoping to finally recover $4 million in still-missing Liberty Bonds, initiated their own search through A. R.'s effects.

Not surprisingly A. R. hid his cash in a wide variety of ways, hiding a.s.sets in accounts and holdings using twenty-one separate proxies: his wife Carolyn, his late girlfriend Bobbie Winthrop, Sidney Stajer, Tom Farley, Fats Walsh, Sam Brown, attorney Isaiah Leebove, drug smuggler George Ufner, fight promoter Billy Gibson, and a.s.sorted other goons and stooges.

Investigators learned that A. R.'s financial empire had degenerated into a finely tuned, but ultimately unstable house of cards. While he lived, it had its tensions-millions of dollars tied up in real estate, drug deals, and high-interest loans to shady characters. But despite increasing difficulties, A. R. managed to hold it all together. With his death, the wheels fell off. Mortgages came due. Drug runners went off on their own, taking narcotics shipments with them. Gambling debts owed A. R. suddenly didn't have to be repaid. Loans, recorded only in indecipherable symbols in Arnold's little black account books, could safely be forgotten.

Mortgage payments of $115,000 were payable on the Fairfield. The Rothmere Mortgage Corp owed banks $140,000. Judgments and mortgage foreclosures against the juniper Holding Corp. amounted to another $42,000. A. R.'s numerous employees were owed $152,000 in unpaid salaries.

Herbert Bayard Swope's paper, the World had an explanationgreed: The irony of it is, according to one of Rothstein's a.s.sociates, that in an effort to pyramid his fortune, an effort that took the semblance of greed within the last few years, he fairly wrecked it. To capture the highest possible interest on his loans he accepted friendship for collateral. Now that he is dead, it seems the particular friendship upon which Rothstein relied will yield scant dividends to his heirs.

Political interests appeared on all sides. There was, of course, a.s.semblyman Cantor himself. Cantor, Bill Wellman, and Inez Norton hired State Senator Thomas I. Sheridan, a Democrat from Manhattan's 16th District, to protect their interests in Rothstein's estate. Another state senator, Elmer E Quinn, from Jimmy Walker's old 12th District, represented Fats Walsh. Estate coadministrators Cantor, Wellman, and Samuel Brown engaged attorney Nathan Burkan, Tammany's leader in the 17th a.s.sembly District.

The most significant political ties belonged to George McMa.n.u.s, whose Tammany connections approached those of Rothstein himself. At one point Big George even operated games out of City Clerk Michael J. Cruise's East 32nd Street political club. His best relations, however, lay with West Harlem's Tammany chieftain, James J. Hines, now the organization's most powerful and corrupt local leader.

Hines's father had been a blacksmith and Tammany captain, and Jimmy followed both professions, shoeing over 40,000 horses (160,000 hooves; 1.28 million nails) and, at age seventeen, taking over his father's election district. He became alderman at age thirty, and 11th a.s.sembly District leader at 35. Hines ruled through usual Tammany methods-both good (hard work and charity), and bad (vote fraud and graft). He awoke early, spending mornings listening to const.i.tuents' woes. Each afternoon (when not at the track) he did what he could to help: A man comes to me, any man. A man I never saw before or heard of. I don't know whether he's Republican or Democrat, but he wants something, and even before he's through talking, I am trying to see if there isn't some way I can satisfy him. Well, I do satisfy him. He votes for us. So do all his relatives. You know they do. He's grateful. He feels good toward us. We give him something he wanted.

Some voters just wanted cash. Hines provided that too, especially on election day. The Amsterdam News, one of the city's two black papers, explained: Of the 35,000 votes in Mr. Hines' district, nearly 5,000 are colored. They loved Hines dearly for the most part because he always looked after members of the district club [the Monongahela Democratic Club on Manhattan Avenue] ... For years, during his heyday, Boss Hines, as he was called, gave out $1 bills two nights a week at the clubhouse.

Whites also lined up for Jimmy's largesse. In November 1932, thousands a.s.sembled outside Hines's Monongahela Club. Each received a dollar and the advice. "Vote every star"-cast your vote for every candidate on the Democratic line.

Such beneficence required immense amounts of nontraceable cash. True, Hines owned a firm, which occasionally did city business, but payoffs were his main source of income. With the advent of Prohibition-and, later, the Harlem numbers racket-his haul became enormous.

Virtually every mobster in town paid tribute to Hines. Big Bill Dwyer, Frankie Uale, Owney Madden, Legs Diamond, Lepke Buchalter, Gurrah Shapiro, Lucky Luciano, Dandy Phil Kastel, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Frank Erickson, Meyer Lansky, and Larry Fay-as well as dozens of lesser-known and less-powerful punks-did business with him. Arnold Rothstein operated the gambling concession above the Monongahela Club.

With immense wealth at his disposal, Hines's power stretched far beyond West Harlem. Even the most powerful learned to fear him. Early in 1918, one Louis N. Hartog needed a source of glucose for British beer brewers. Hines suggested that Tammany overlord Charles Francis Murphy could a.s.sist in securing the necessary government permits. Murphy not only helped, he invested $175,000 in Hartog's North Kensington Refinery. The partnership soon soured, and lawsuits and countersuits followed. Murphy blamed Hines, and attempted unsuccessfully to drive him from power.

Hines possessed labyrinthine connections, especially regarding the selection of juries, and soon retaliated. Through Hines's machinations, a grand jury investigating wartime subversion turned its attention to wartime profiteering and indicted Murphy.

Murphy counterattacked when Jimmy sought the Manhattan Borough Presidency. Hines engaged scores of gangsters to hara.s.s opponents and repeat-vote, but the ostensibly statesmanlike Murphy played even rougher. Murphy's ally, district leader William P. Ken- neally, brutally beat Hines's top henchman and closest friend, attorney Joseph Shalleck. Two policemen stood nearby, doing nothing to stop him.

Jimmy lost the primary, and relations with Murphy remained hostile. But both still had business to do with the other. Their go-between was Arnold Rothstein. Of course, Rothstein's dealings with Hines went far beyond acting as his intermediary. As Hines performed favors for his const.i.tuents, Rothstein a.s.sisted Hines and his a.s.sociates. It might have been as simple as allowing Hines's wife, Geneva, to entertain friends at A. R.'s Hotel Fairfield-at no charge. Or pestering John McGraw for Giants season for Hines and his three sons. Or paying Hines's $34,000 gambling debt to bookmaker Kid Rags-one I. O. U. that A. R. never collected. However, their most ongoing connection was Maurice Cantor. Jimmy Hines owned A. R.'s last attorney lock, stock, and barrel.

When Murphy died, and the ineffectual judge George W. Olvany a.s.sumed Tammany leadership, Rothstein's power only increased, as Hines and a new rival, Albert J. Marinelli, battled for power behind the scenes. And something else was happening. While Murphy lived, politicians held sway over gangsters; but with both labor racketeering and Prohibition pumping money into mob pockets, power shifted from men with votes to men with money and guns. A. R. became more-not less-significant to men like Hines.

But now A. R. was gone, and in the minutes following Rothstein's shooting, Hump McMa.n.u.s needed Jimmy Hines more than ever. From a pay phone on the corner of 57th Street and Eighth Avenue, McMa.n.u.s called Hines. Jimmy didn't turn his back on his protege. h.e.l.l, he'd known and liked Big George since he was a boy. No, he wouldn't turn away. It just wasn't in him.

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Hines ordered McMa.n.u.s to stay put. In due time, a Buick sedan pulled up. "Get in," called Bo Weinberg, Dutch Schultz's closest henchman. Weinberg drove McMa.n.u.s to an apartment on the Bronx's Mosholu Parkway, where he'd remain until Jimmy Hines decided on his next move.

Nothing happened for the longest time. True, in early December 1928, Banton indicted McMa.n.u.s, Hyman Biller, and "John Doe" and "Richard Roe" for first-degree murder, but police never located Biller, never identified "Roe" or "Doe." Yet, while McMa.n.u.s (a former fugitive from justice) gained his freedom on $50,000 bail on March 27, 1929, Bridget Farry languished in the Tombs. Someone clearly didn't like what she had to say about George McMa.n.u.s. So while an accused murderer walked city streets freely, she-unaccused of any crime-remained behind bars as a material witness. In April 1929 she finally got the message-and obtained her freedom on $15,000 bond.

McMa.n.u.s used his freedom to repay Jimmy Hines, working with Dutch Schultz, to reelect Hines's puppet 13th a.s.sembly District leader Andrew B. Keating. McMa.n.u.s could sympathize with Keating. After Keating failed to shake down newly nominated Magistrate Andrew Macrery for a $10,000 bribe, he had campaign worker Edward V. Broderick beat the judge to death. Keating won his primary.

Meanwhile, investigators continued to sift gingerly through A. R.'s private financial files. District Attorney Banton a.s.signed a.s.sistant District Attorney Albert B. Unger and a police lieutenant Oliver to examine Rothstein's file, but soon Banton realized he wanted no part of their contents. There was too much there. Too many transactions. Too many names. Too many politicians. Too many cops. Too many celebrities.

Too much trouble.

Within two days, he announced to the press he was pulling Unger and Oliver off the case: "Mr. Unger called me up today and said it was a dreary job and would take at least three weeks."

This stunned reporters. "But," they asked, "you yourself told us ... it would take three weeks to sift the files."

Banton possessed a remarkable ability to remain unembarra.s.sed. "I know ... ," he answered. "Mr. Burkan and his accountants have promised to turn over to me anything that is important."

Nathan Burkan, one of the city's better lawyers, was also among the nation's finest theatrical and intellectual-property attorneys. His clientele included major movie studios, as well as celebrities Victor Herbert, Charlie Chaplin, Flo Ziegfeld, and Mae West. More significantly, Burkan was also a Tammany leader and a member of Tammany's finance and executive committees-and served as an attorney for the Rothstein estate. Nathan Burkan's job would keep any incriminating doc.u.ments from seeing the light of day, anything that might embarra.s.s Tammany and its friends.

The case dragged on. Nineteen twenty-nine was a mayoral election year, and while Jimmy Walker appeared unbeatable, he didn't believe in taking unnecessary chances. McMa.n.u.s's trial was scheduled for October 15, but blueblood judge Charles C. Nott cooperated by announcing he would not allow a trial before the election, moving it to November 12.

Gentleman Jimmy's mistress Betty Compton was busy at rehearsals of Cole Porter's new play, Fifty Million Frenchmen. On election night, a cop appeared backstage. He lifted Betty into his arms and carried her outside. Walker and Police Commissioner Whelan sat in a parked car, grinning with excitement. Walker told her the news: He had crushed LaGuardia 865,000 votes to 368,000, carrying every a.s.sembly district in the city. It seemed safe to be bold, safe to finally bring George McMa.n.u.s to trial.

People v. McMa.n.u.s began on Monday, November 18. The trial was a farce. District Attorney Banton, by now a lame duck, never appeared in court. He delegated the case to his chief a.s.sistant, Ferdinand Pecora, and two other subordinates. James D. C. Murray-he was the one who had phoned Cordes to arrange Big George's surrender-represented McMa.n.u.s. Murray, brother of Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis Gregory Murray, wasn't flashy, but he was brilliant-"as clever as a cat," an a.s.sociate once remarked, "and will jump like a flash the minute he spots an opening. You can't turn your back on Murray for a second." Brilliance-plus Jimmy Hines's money and muscle-was a tough combination to beat.

Especially when facing a prosecution that lacked the will to connect the considerable number of dots they possessed-or that downplayed their significance. Call Ruth Keyes to the stand to paint a word picture for the jurors as to just how drunk and out of control George McMa.n.u.s was that night? Nah. Jim Murray already conceded their presence in Room 349-no need to summon Mrs. Keyes from Chicago.

Or consider this. The murder weapon, a vital link to Room 349, was thrown through a window screen in that room and found in the street below. a.s.sistant District Attorney George N. Brothers deliberately cast doubt on his own train of evidence, saying in his opening argument: "whether this pistol was thrown out of the window or thrown in the street by some one in flight we don't know [emphasis added].

Or thrown in the street by some one in flight? The revolver had not been tossed away by anyone on foot or in a speeding automobile. It landed with such force-thrown as it were from a third-story window-that police ballistics experts had to straighten out its barrel before test firing it.

In any murder case, it is solicitous to establish motive, all the more so in one relying so highly on circ.u.mstantial evidence. In his halfhour, frequently interrupted, opening statement, a.s.sistant District Attorney Brothers promised to "show that ill feeling resulting from this game [at Jimmy Meehan's] was the cause of the shooting of Arnold Rothstein."

Reasonable enough, except that every witness he produced-Nate Raymond, Sam and Meyer Boston, Martin Bowe, t.i.tanic Thompsonnow swore there were no hard feelings. Meyer Boston portrayed his friend George as a cheerful loser, who laughed at setbacks and never displayed the slightest hint of anger. So spake them all, especially Red Martin Bowe: MURRAY: Was the loss of this money anything to McMa.n.u.s?

BOWE: An everyday occurrence.

MURRAY: And was this a large sum for him to lose at one time?

BOWE: Well, I never knew him to lose over $100,000 at once, but he lost over $50,000 on a race once, I remember. . He always paid his losses with a smile.

So much for motive.

Banton's office managed to produce one surprise witness, Mrs. Marguerite Hubbell, a Montreal "publicity agent." She registered in Room 357, just five or six doors from McMa.n.u.s. Around 10:00 P.M., she heard a very loud noise, much like a gunshot, followed by excited voices in the hall. She convinced herself it was just a truck backfiring and returned to her newspaper. Well-spoken, conservatively dressed in a dark suit, she was a credible witness. Murray did little to challenge her story.

Gray-haired Mrs. Marian A. Putnam of Asheville, North Carolina, occupied Room 310. Leaving her room to buy a magazine she, too, heard a terribly loud noise, as well as loud, profane arguing. In the corridor she saw a man clutching his abdomen, his face contorted in pain, looking "mad." He didn't ask for help. Trying to avoid him, she offered none.

Murray crucified Mrs. Putnam. His investigators had peered into every aspect of her life-and there were a lot of aspects to peer into. The forty-seven-year-old triple-divorcee had officially registered at the Park Central with a "Mr. Putnam." But no current "Mr. Putnam" existed, only a Mr. Perry-and he was not her husband. Murray entered that into the record and raised questions of liaisons with other men, alleged larceny, and Volstead Act violations back in Asheville.

Detective Dan Flood testified that Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Orringer, a young honeymooning couple in Room 347, heard no shots. The unreliability of Flood's police work was proven the following day, when Sydney Orringer testified. Yes, he and his bride heard no shots-they hadn't been present when they rang out, not returning until 2 A.M. the next morning.

A fairly significant-but ignored-witness was young Walter J. Walters, former doorman at McMa.n.u.s's 51 Riverside Drive apartment house. He testified that shortly after 11:00 P.M. on the night of the shooting (A. R. was first noticed in the service corridor at 10:47), he saw Willie Essenheim enter the building, rush upstairs to his boss's apartment, and return with a heavy new overcoat.

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