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

David Pietrusza

Part 20

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The prosecution actually possessed a reasonable circ.u.mstantial case against McMa.n.u.s-or, at least, thought they had. Room 349 was McMa.n.u.s's room. A call from there summoned Rothstein to his death. Lindy's cashier Abe Scher could identify George McMa.n.u.s as the voice on the other end of the phone. Jimmy Meehan told investigators that A. R. showed him a note confirming that fact. Chambermaid Bridget Farry placed McMa.n.u.s and Biller in Room 349 at 9:40, just an hour before Rothstein was found shot and more significantly just thirty-two minutes before Abe Scher picked up the phone-and according to the New York Sun's account eight minutes after the call. The switching of the nearly identical overcoats placed both Rothstein and McMa.n.u.s in Room 349 at the time of the shooting. The murder weapon, found by cabbie Al Bender on Seventh Avenue outside Room 349, helped tie the weapon to that room. McMa.n.u.s's and Essenhelm's visit to McMa.n.u.s's apartment to retrieve a new overcoat-just half an hour after the shooting-simply reinforced everything else.

But the prosecution's case crumbled rapidly. Key witnesses recanted previous testimony. Park Central telephone operator Beatrice Jackson, who previously had identified McMa.n.u.s's call as occurring at precisely 10:12 P.M., now could no longer pinpoint its time. Abe Bender had informed Detective Dan Flood that the revolver he found on Seventh Avenue was still hot when he picked it up. On the stand he denied stating anything of the sort.

It was a small point, just enough to cast doubt on the prosecution's timeframe. What followed was far worse. Lindy's cashier Al Scher refused to identify the voice on the other end of the phone as McMa.n.u.s's.

Wednesday, December 4 saw two of history's worst prosecution witnesses testify. Jimmy Meehan told a patchwork of lies-about not fearing prosecution for weapons possession (his lawyer, Isaiah Leebove, had obtained immunity), about never having talked with Murray (Murray admitted it to a.s.sistant D.A. Pecora), about A. R. showing him a slip of paper about seeing McMa.n.u.s at the Park Central.

Most significantly, he lied when he said A. R. had another gun the night of the murder. To investigating police and the grand jury, he told a simple story. A. R. gave Meehan his pistol and traveled unarmed to meet McMa.n.u.s. Now, Meehan told an exasperated prosecution team that Rothstein had two revolvers (Q: "Isn't this the first time you ever mentioned a short-barreled gun?" A: "I believe it is."). Meehan now claimed A. R. gave him a long-barreled gun but carried a short-barreled revolver, much like the murder weapon, to the Park Central.

Surpa.s.sing Meehan's performance was Bridget Farry's. She not only denied seeing McMa.n.u.s in Room 349-odd, since he admitted being there-but refused to admit identifying him in the Tombs lineup. Worse, she now swore McMa.n.u.s had checked out of the hotel, just after 10:00. She exhibited a furious, if comic, hostility to the prosecution-at one point accusing it of tendering her a $10 bribe (for cab fare after she had vociferously complained about the cost of riding down from the Bronx). Trying to avoid photographers as she left the Criminal Courts Building, Farry tripped in her green chiffon dress, and rolled down the steps into a parked car.

Farry's perjury caused Chief a.s.sistant District Attorney Ferdinand Pecora to snap: But take this matter of hostility on the part of our witnesses. That's the sort of thing we're up against all the time. We've got to put them on the stand to prove certain things. When they testify we can't very well control them. The men we've had up here so far, the two Bostons, Martin Bowe, t.i.tanic Thompson all spoke with marked esteem of the defendant and seemed hostile to us. That's the way they've been all the time-even when they talked to me in my office last winter. It isn't that they're afraid of McMa.n.u.s, who sits twenty feet in front of them. They are his friends. They all like him. They think he's a pretty good fellow. And in that crowd I suppose he was-in his bluff way. And yet I believe he killed Rothstein.

a.s.sistant District Attorney Brothers announced that his remaining witnesses would be police officers testifying regarding McMa.n.u.s's flight (placing in the jury's mind the question of why he fled), and police firearms expert Detective Henry b.u.t.ts testifying about the murder weapon (making the point that the murder weapon had most likely been tossed from a room rented by the defendant; i.e., that Rothstein had not been shot in the service corridor). Judge Nott threw Brothers a double roadblock: If the defense denies the flight of the defendant the State can put in its evidence on this point, through the police officers, on reb.u.t.tal. It now appears, however, sufficiently clear that this defendant was absent from his home between Nov. 4 and Nov. 27. Unless this absence is denied there does not seem to be any reason for the testimony of the police officers, since testimony on his absence has already been introduced.

Now as to the pistol experts. To be very frank with you, I am at a loss to see that you can get very far even if you prove that the bullet found in the deceased was discharged from a revolver which was found in the middle of Seventh Avenue. There is no doubt that the deceased was shot by a bullet from some gun.

It all seemed neatly ch.o.r.eographed. Both judge and prosecutor were striving mightily to convey to the public that they were really, really, really trying their best to serve justice. Now, the next morning, it was a.s.sistant D.A. Brothers' turn. As George McMa.n.u.s leaned forward to listen, Brothers threw in the towel: If the court please, the adjournment was taken until this morning to allow us to determine the advisability of calling certain experts as to the ident.i.ty of the bullet as compared with the weapon found in the street. We have concluded not to call the witness.

We think your Honor's opinion, which coincides with ours is sound. It would not throw any light at this time upon the ident.i.ty of the, so the people rest.

The great ballet continued. James Murray sprang to his feet, striding toward Nott to announce: "Your Honor, please. I move that your Honor direct a verdict of acquittal on the ground that the People failed to make a case." Nott looked to Brothers, who drew himself up to say: In a case of this character, if the court please, depending solely upon circ.u.mstantial evidence it is necessary for the People to prove such a chain of circ.u.mstances that are not only consistent with guilt but exclude all reasonable hypothesis of innocence. I am frank to say that we have not covered the second point.

When we started this prosecution it was based upon evidence which has not been forthcoming. From the beginning of this trial until we rested the People's case, with very few exceptions, witnesses were hostile. It was apparent that they did not tell the truth. Many of them refrained and refused to state the evidence which they had sworn to before the grand jury, which has left us where we are now.

I do not say this in criticism, but in justification of the conduct of the case from the inception. We have done our best. We fought against odds which we could not overcome.

Nott, alleging sympathy for the prosecution's plight, nonetheless instructed the jury to acquit. They did as told. "Not guilty," announced jury foreman Herman T. Sherman. A murmur ran through the courtroom, an odd, loud rumble, indistinct yet clearly approving of the verdict. No one there seemed to care about justice for Arnold Rothstein-or perhaps they'd long ago concluded that Arnold had received justice. After Nott gaveled the farce to its end, McMa.n.u.s blew a kiss to his wife, then turned to his four brothers. "Buddy," said older brother Stephen. "I wouldn't go through with this again for a million dollars. You are the idol of my heart and the idol of your mother's heart. We all know you wouldn't hurt a hair on the head of any one or shoot anything."

"That's right Steve," George replied. "I never hurt anyone. Now go and tell mama."

George fought through the crowd in the corridor, pausing to shake hands with Red Martin Bowe. Outside police (and Bowe) escorted Mr. and Mrs. McMa.n.u.s to a limousine, which took them to Hump's mother up on University Avenue in the Bronx. Reporters followed the car, and when McMa.n.u.s emerged, he handed them a note scrawled on a sheet of yellow paper: I was innocent of shooting Arnold Rothstein and am naturally happy that it all turned out as it did. Details I cannot give, because I have no personal knowledge of the occurrence. This is all I have to say, outside of wishing everybody a merry Christmas.

How fixed was the case? How orchestrated? How involved was judge Nott? Consider this: On November 22, a Cecelia Kolsky, on trial in an unrelated case, appeared before Nott, who informed her to return on December 6, when the schedule would be clear. Nott dismissed charges against George McMa.n.u.s on December 5.

CHAPTER 21 * "Tell Me Who is Using My Money for Dope"

ARNOLD ROTHSTEIN WAS DEAD. Gambler. Political fixer. World Series manipulator. Bootlegger. Fencer of stolen jewels. Fencer of stolen bonds. Protector of bucket shops. Garment district racketeer. Bookmaker. Racetrack owner. Casino operator. Real estate baron. Bail bondsman. Loan shark.

The public thought it knew everything about the Big Bankroll.

It didn't. It knew nothing about his biggest operation, which cost millions to fund, netted millions more in profits, was international in scope-and ruined thousands of lives in the process.

Meet Arnold Rothstein: founder and mastermind of the modern American drug trade.

It was nothing to be proud of, nothing to advertise. Gambling was a gentleman's pastime. One boasted of one's winnings and losses. Bootlegging? That was nothing to be embarra.s.sed about. Everyone wanted booze. The only people excited about rum-running were hicks and politicians, who drank anyway. But drugs-and the people who trafficked in them-were dirty. As A. R. took pains to conceal his gambling background from Carolyn Rothstein or Inez Norton on making their acquaintance, he masked any and all hint of sympathy for the drug trade. "I know that Arnold's personal reaction to the narcotic drug habit was one of repugnance," his widow would write. "One day he caught one of his closest a.s.sociates smoking an opium pipe, and he became quite angry. 'Come on, get out of here,' he exclaimed. "If you're going to do that you'll have to move.' "

Carolyn had it all wrong. The Manhattan of Arnold's youth was rife with drug use. Opium. Cocaine. Morphine. Heroin. Opium dens, many in the narrow streets and back alleys of Chinatown and the Bowery, were commonplace. Stephen Crane observed in rather understated fashion how "splendid 'joints' were not uncommon then in New York," estimating there were 25,000 opium users in the city. Many of A. R.'s a.s.sociates had drug problems. Sidney Stajer was an addict as well as a peddler. Dago Frank Cirofici was high on opium when he was arrested for murdering Beansy Rosenthal. Cirofici's accomplice, Whitey Lewis, shared his addiction, as did Wilson Mizner. Bridgie Webber operated an opium parlor down on Pell Street. Waxey Gordon sold drugs before-and after-moving into booze, as did Lucky Luciano.

Arnold and Gordon pioneered the rum-running trade, earning big, quick profits. But almost immediately Rothstein abandoned the direct end of the business. The alcohol trade was just too complicatedeven for the Great Brain. The problem wasn't that it required tying up huge amounts of capital-A. R. was used to that. But bootlegging required warehouses and tankers and speedboats and convoys of trucks and bribes paid out-not just to cops but to custom agents, coastguardsmen, state police. Arnold was used to making or losing fortunes with nothing larger than a deck of cards, a pair of dice, or a wad of bills. How much easier to leave bootlegging's dirty work to the Lanskys and Schultzes. How much easier to profit from men's vices-not by importing a shipload of Scotch but a mere steamer trunk packed with opium, cocaine, or heroin, worth literally one million dollars on the street.

National prohibition of drugs preceded national prohibition of alcohol. In 1914 the Harrison Narcotics Act (named for its sponsor, Tammany-backed Congressman Francis Burton Harrison), banned the domestic drug trade, but obtaining narcotics abroad remained as easy as obtaining British Scotch or Canadian whiskey. Merely contact the big drug manufacturers in France, Germany, or Belgium, and you could obtain all the heroin or morphine you wanted. Stateside, particularly in New York, plenty of customers remained from when the stuff was legal-supplemented by new addicts accidentally hooked on prescription painkillers, primarily morphine.

And-oh yes-there was too much compet.i.tion in selling booze, too much fighting over territory, too many killings. No one paid much attention to drug dealing-and that's how A. R. wanted it.

Rum-running provided Rothstein with experience in importing lucrative illicit substances, and thus A. R.'s first agent in bootlegging, exiled bucketeer Harry Mather, became his first agent in importing drugs. Soon, others-Dapper Don Collins, an old bootlegging a.s.sociate, and Legs Diamond among them-traveled Europe in search of narcotics for their boss. But the primary source of drugs was China. There, A. R. dispatched henchmen Sidney Stajer; Jacob "Yasha" Katzenberg (like Mather, originally a booze buyer in Europe); and George Uffner, a veteran drug dealer and Rothstein flunky (who would be arrested with Fats Walsh and Lucky Luciano on trumpedup robbery charges, but in actuality for questioning regarding their boss's murder, just following A. R.'s death).

There was, of course, some infrastructure involved in the drug trade, the occasional front business. But that was the sort of operation A. R. relished, providing multiple opportunities for profits. Take, for example, Vantine's, an established and legitimate antiques firm. Rothstein used Vantine's primarily for narcotics smuggling, but also to actually sell a fair amount of antiques. When f.a.n.n.y Brice purchased an elegant West 70s town house, A. R. displayed avid interest in her furnishings, insisting on selecting them personally-and charging her $50,000 for the service. An appraisal revealed they were actually worth between $10,000 and $13,000. Arnold was clearly still collecting interest on Nicky Arnstein's bail. f.a.n.n.y paid without a whimper.

Sometimes Rothstein's drug connections were tenuous, but nonetheless intriguing. A still-unsolved murder case reveals how ubiquitous A. R.'s ties to everything crooked in the city could be. In March 1923, Ziegfeld chorus girl Dot King, known on Broadway for being regally bedecked and bejeweled by wealthy admirers, was discovered dead, chloroformed in her fifth-floor studio apartment at 144 West 57th Street. Some $30,000 in jewelry was missing, including a $15,000 ruby necklace and a diamond- and emeraldstudded wrist.w.a.tch.

A. R. was her landlord. He controlled a string of upscale properties on West 57th Street, among them 144 West 57th Street. He also corresponded with the doomed Miss King and lent her money. It is not unreasonable to a.s.sume that she, a known drug courier, paid her debts by peddling narcotics for A. R.

Dot King's wealthy, married, and male friends included Philadelphia socialite John Kearsley Mitch.e.l.l, son-in-law of the head of the prestigious Drexel Bank, and Draper M. Daugherty, only son of United States Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty. Mitch.e.l.l was fabulously rich and the interplay between him and his embarra.s.sedand even wealthier-in-laws fascinated the press, particularly since police found his yellow silk pajamas in the deceased's apartment.

Intriguing-but the Daugherty connection is more significant. Shortly after Dot's murder, someone (a someone young Daugherty knew but never identified) attempted to blackmail him regarding his relationship with the twenty-seven-year-old blonde. District Attorney Joab Banton and his chief a.s.sistant Ferdinand Pecora cleared Draper of any suspicion (they were good at that), and Daugherty fled to Mexico. When he returned a few weeks later, his wife had him declared an "inebriate" and committed to a Connecticut sanitarium. In June 1923, Daugherty escaped, climbed into a waiting car, and eventually found his way to Chicago.

By strange coincidence, Draper M. Daugherty, son of the Attorney General of the United States, worked for Arnold Rothstein's insurance company.

Yet another connection remained. The first name surfacing as a suspect in the case belonged not to Mitch.e.l.l or Daugherty, but rather to shady former stockbroker Alberto Santos Guimares. Police wanted to question Guimares about a New Year's Eve party he and Dot attended at the West 52nd Street apartment of professional dancer and former vaudevillian Frank Barrett Carman. Also present was Mrs. Hugo A. C. Schoellkopf, wife of a wealthy Buffalo industrialist. That night Mrs. Schoellkopf would be robbed of $300,000 in jewelry, including one 201-pearl necklace, a 99-pearl necklace, and, not one-but two eight-carat diamond rings. To keep her silent, her robbers chloroformed her.

Mrs. Schoellkopf's three a.s.sailants included a former Arrow shirt model named Eugene Moran. Moran had worked with Legs and Eddie Diamond, riding shotgun on Long Island protecting A. R.'s Scotch shipments. Eventually, he became A. R.'s $1,000-a-week bodyguard. Moran and his a.s.sociates disposed of the Schoellkopf loot through Broadway jeweler John W. Mahan-receiving just $35,000 for their haul. Mahan, in turn, fenced it through A. R. Eventually Moran's gang, as well as Mahan, were caught. Mahan returned much of the jewelry and no one dared implicate Arnold. Hapless authorities never connected Dot King's murder with the Schoellkopf robbery.

In July 1926, A. R.'s narcotics network suffered a major setback when federal agents raided a sixth-floor Walker Street toy-company loft and arrested two of his henchmen, longtime drug peddler Charles Webber and ex-police officer William Vachuda. Police seized $600,000 ($4 million street value) worth of heroin, morphine, and cocaine- 1,220 pounds of the stuff, packaged in five crates labeled "bowling b.a.l.l.s and pins." The drugs originated in Germany and reached New York's Pier 57 aboard the White Star liner, Arabic. Officially they were to be transshipped to Kobe, j.a.pan. Their real destination: the streets of New York. Rothstein quickly provided Webber and Vachuda with $25,000 bail each. When the duo stood trial in February 1927, he attended each session, and heard prosecutors allege that "from Feb. to Aug. 1, 1926, more than two tons of narcotics were introduced by this ring into the traffic of this country," figures that represented the bulk of the national drug trade.

The jury deliberated seventeen hours, while A. R. paced courtroom halls furiously. He had more at stake than bail money. The jury found Webber and Vachuda guilty. Federal Judge Isaac Meekins, a North Carolina Republican imported for the trial, threw the book at the defendants, sentencing Webber to fourteen years and Vachuda to eight, hoping to force them to implicate Rothstein. They didn't talk. n.o.body ever talked.

In the drug trade, as elsewhere, Rothstein wasn't averse to betraying others to save himself. In July 1927, he dispatched Legs Diamond to suburban Mount Vernon, New York to sell a shipment of drugs. To curry favor with federal authorities on his own trail, he informed narcotics agent William Mellin of Diamond's activities. Then, to cover his tracks, A. R. provided Legs' $15,000 bail. Diamond discovered the double cross, but didn't seek revenge. Rothstein had something in mind to make Legs forget this unfortunate little incident.

In spring 1928, Rothstein obtained an unlikely but extremely valuable partner in the narcotics business, one as far removed from the Legs Diamonds and Sidney Stajers as possible. Belgian national Captain Alfred Loewenstein, "the mystery man of Europe," was the world's third-richest person, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He owned eight villas in Biarritz alone. During the First World War, he reputedly offered to ransom Belgium from the Germans. He was rich enough to do it.

That spring Loewenstein, accompanied by a retinue of twenty, including his private pilot, a chauffeur, four secretaries, two typists, and a ma.s.seur, arrived in America. At an East 42nd Street hotel, surrounded by their respective entourages, Loewenstein, Rothstein, and Diamond hammered out what has been called "probably the biggest drug transaction in the country up to that time." Negotiations dragged on for hours, often disintegrating into heated arguments, with Diamond storming from the room and Rothstein acting as peacemaker. When Loewenstein flew to Montreal, Rothstein followed him by train. They returned together, and soon Loewenstein sailed for home aboard the Ile de France, promising a return that November.

Loewenstein's visit intrigued Nat Ferber, the New York American reporter who had uncovered Rothstein's Wall Street machinations. Ferber approached A. R., trying to bait him into divulging his secrets.

"What luck in Canada, Arnold?"

Ferber's simple question unnerved the normally cold-blooded Rothstein. "You're crazy! I wasn't in Canada. I haven't been out of New York. You're nuts."

"When weren't you out of New York?"

"Some day you'll get yours," Rothstein responded menacingly. "What are you up to now?"

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Ferber drove in: "What are you and that bird Loewenstein up to? I saw you at Grand Central."

Mr. Blake further stated that if Agents of this office were to work on the case he would prefer that they work independently of the New York City Police Department who, as you know from the newspaper publicity, has been devoting unusual efforts since the murder of Rothstein to the untangling of the mystery surrounding his death.

We do not possess J. Edgar Hoover's reply, but we do know that U. S. Attorney Tuttle persevered. In early December, his agents obtained confirmation of Nat Ferber's suspicions regarding the Loewenstein- Rothstein connection, unearthing doc.u.ments linking the two mystery men. "The information cannot be officially released, but we have the facts," an anonymous federal official told the press. "Loewenstein and Rothstein were connected in the drug ring. Just how closely cannot be revealed now but if necessary we can prove it."

a.s.sistant United States Attorney Blake wouldn't deny the leak: "I won't say a word on the Loewenstein phase of it now. But we have found evidence in the files showing that Rothstein was the financial agent for an international drug smuggling syndicate."

But nothing further was ever heard regarding Captain Loewenstein. The feds were after live prey Joseph Unger, now registered at East 42nd Street's Hotel Commodore as Joseph Klein (a.k.a. Joseph Meyers). On December 7, 1928, Unger left for Grand Central Terminal, boarding the Twentieth Century Limited for Chicago and checking two large steamer trunks with redcaps. From Rothstein's papers, Tuttle's men knew what they contained, what similar trunks being transported about the country contained, who sent them, and their destinations. They hurriedly hauled Unger's trunks from the baggage car, finding heroin, opium, and cocaine worth an estimated $2 million.

Rafael Connolly stayed aboard the Twentieth Century Limited, trailing Unger, but didn't dare attempt to seize his prey singlehandedly. At 11:00 P.M., as the train neared Buffalo, four heavily overcoated federal agents jumped on. Rendezvousing with Connolly, they rousted Unger from his lower berth and arrested him, seizing his notebooks and more drugs. In Chicago, federal agents raided the Hotel North Sheridan quarters of Unger's accomplice, thirty-year-old divorcee and former actress, Mrs. June Boyd, and seized another $500,000 in narcotics. From Unger's papers, feds learned of two more of A. R.'s former operatives, drug addict and dealer Samuel "Crying Sammy" Lowe and a Mrs. Esther Meyers, described by the New York Times as a twenty-year-old "lingerie manufacturer." They arrested both.

"This," p.r.o.nounced Tuttle, perhaps forgetting the Webber- Vachula haul, "is the single biggest raid on a narcotic ring in the history of the country."

There was more to come. On the Jersey City docks, the feds seized $4 million in narcotics, packed in boxes labeled "scrubbing brushes."

"This seizure," said Tuttle, "is the second development in the plans which this office, in conjunction with the narcotics bureau, has made to destroy the traffic in illegal drugs in this city at the source.

"This seizure is a very large fraction of the drug supply of the biggest drug ring in the United States, and the papers we have seized, and the evidence we have in our possession indicate that Arnold Rothstein had to do with arranging the financing of this ring."

But suddenly the case lost steam-and defendants seemed to know it would. June Boyd appeared strangely unimpressed by her imprisonment. Transported from Chicago to New York's Tombs prison, she had other things on her mind. "Wait a minute, please," Mrs. Boyd implored her captors. "Where's the Woolworth Building? As long as I'm here, I might as well have something to tell the folks about."

Tuttle indicted Unger on four counts of drug trafficking and rushed the case to trial on December 21, a mere two weeks after his arrest. Had his trial proceeded, much would have been revealed about A. R.'s drug-running operations. It didn't. Joe Unger pled guilty the first day. Prosecutors thought he'd cooperate in their investigations. They were naive. "My life wouldn't be worth a nickel if I told," Unger admitted.

Then something even more puzzling happened. On December 27, 1928, chief narcotics agent Jim Kerrigan died at New York's Miseri- cordia Hospital. Official cause of death was an injury sustained raiding a Newark opium den back on September 28. Yet, the fortyone-year-old Kerrigan continued on the job until a week before his death. Surgery designed to relieve his pain revealed a condition "as if he had been kicked in the abdomen." Some said Kerrigan had been poisoned by drug dealers.

Why had the Rothstein case, once so incredibly promising, suddenly evaporated? The answer lies in the ident.i.ty of a visitor from whom Washington U.S. Attorney Tuttle received just after arresting Joseph Unger: Colonel Levi G. Nutt, Chief of the entire Federal Narcotics Bureau.

If truth be told, Colonel Nutt didn't really want his men-or anyone else-rooting around in Rothstein's private papers. They contained too many embarra.s.sing details, especially concerning Nutt's family and the Narcotics Division. A. R. had on his payroll Rolland Nutt, Colonel Nutt's son, as well as Nutt's son-in-law, L. P. Mattingly, and George W. Cunningham, federal narcotics agent in charge of the metropolitan New York district. In 1926 Rothstein had engaged both Mattingly and Rolland Nutt, each one an attorney, to represent him in tax matters involving his returns for 1919, 1920, and 1921, the last return being particularly troublesome-as it had caused an indictment for tax evasion. A. R. went so far as to provide both with power of attorney in these matters, and in 1927 the Treasury Department let Rothstein off the hook. Rothstein also lent Mattingly sums totaling $6,200. In Rothstein's practice any "loan" to a public official-or to anyone influencing public officials-meant "bribe."

That is what we know about A. R.'s relationship with Colonel Nutt and the Narcotics Bureau. We do not know what else Colonel Nutt didn't want anyone to see. But we may not be the first to pose such suspicions. In February 1930 a New York grand jury investigating local drug trafficking, publicly reported all the above informa tion about the Nutt family-as well as irregularities in the New York office of the Narcotics Division. The grand jury concluded that even though Mattingly and Rolland Nutt's actions "may have been indiscreet," it found "no evidence that the enforcement of the narcotic law was affected thereby." In Washington, others reached less sanguine conclusions. The following month, Colonel Nutt's superiors relieved him of his duties, demoting him to the Prohibition Division's Syracuse field office.

And so, a year and a half after A. R.'s death, his threatened "terrible record" had destroyed only a single crooked narcotics chief in far-off Washington. Colonel Nutt, it appeared, would be just about the only casualty resulting from the Big Bankroll's demise. George McMa.n.u.s was a free man. So was Hyman Biller.

District Attorney Banton conveniently ignored-and Tammany's Nathan Burkan carefully disposed of-any incriminating doc.u.ments Arnold Rothstein had left behind. Banton and Burkan had made the world a safer place for the politicians, cops, and judges who had profited from acquaintance with Rothstein. At City Hall, at the Tammany Wigwam, at Police Headquarters, those whose nerves had frayed, whose brows had beaded with sweat, now slept like babes. The world would always suspect, but mercifully would never really know, the full scope of A. R.'s power. The System survived.

And then judge Albert J. Vitale gave a banquet.

CHAPTER 22 * Aftermath: "A Wonderful Box"

Jimmy Walker had it right. A. R.'s death did indeed mean "trouble from here on in." With a mayoral election on the ballot in 1929, Walker's opponents hammered away at the Rothstein murder case. Capitalizing on the scandal were Republican Congressman Fiorello "The Little Flower" LaGuardia, a colorful progressive representing an overwhelmingly Italian East Harlem district; Ralph E. Enright, "Red Mike" Hylan's old police commissioner, on something called the Square Deal Party; and even Socialist Norman Thomas.

Thomas had run for president in 1928, for mayor in 1925, for governor in 1924. Economics, the struggle of the working cla.s.s, decent housing-these should have topped Thomas's priorities. They didn't. The first plank of his 1929 platform dwelt on crime and an increasingly corrupt city government-and the unfinished business of Room 349: The recovery of elemental justice. This means making an end of the complex alliance of politicians, fixers, racketeers, the Police Department and magistrates; an alliance on which the unpunished Rothstein murder set a lurid light .. .

Only LaGuardia possessed any chance of unseating Walker, but not much of one. He also played the Rothstein card, alleging A. R. had extended a series of "loans"-in actuality, bribes-to Tammany politicians. "He gave the money," Fiorello charged, "and never expected to get it back."

District Attorney Joab Banton blandly replied that Rothstein's papers revealed no loans whatsoever to politicians or those in public life. LaGuardia counterattacked, revealing Rothstein's June 1929 "loan" to Bronx Magistrate Albert H. Vitale. "If there is one thing we need in this city it is honest magistrates," LaGuardia argued. "I am going to clean out the whole lot of them. I will say that the judges of the magistrates' courts were never so low as they are today."

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