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

David Pietrusza

Part 8

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Arnold knew who had betrayed him. He also knew what to do to minimize losses, kicking his bankroll (somewhere between $20,000 and $60,000) under the carpet. All the while he maintained eye contact with his Judas. "Rothstein always reacted faster than any other man I ever knew," Swope recalled. "This was as good an example of his reaction time as you could want. There were only a few seconds for him to figure out what was happening. He didn't need more than one or two. But hiding the roll was only part of what he had to do. He had to make certain the tipster didn't tell the holdup men where the bankroll was.

"His eyes were on that man from the moment the door swung open. He kept him under constant watch all the time the holdup was going on."

A. R. saved the bulk of his bankroll, but lost $2,600 in cash, his gold pocket watch, and pearl stickpin.

While one intruder kept his weapon trained on his victims, his two partners collected their loot, becoming increasingly relaxed. One even removed his mask. Approaching Cleveland gambler Eddie Katz, he asked. "Haven't I seen you in Cleveland?" Eddie mumbled he might have, and his interrogator responded, "Well, when you get back give my best regards to your friends, and tell 'em how well I'm making out."

That was as far as his sentimentality extended as he grabbed Katz's jeweled stickpin. "Hey," wailed Katz, "won't you leave me that. I'd rather give you twice as much money as it's worth, and keep it."

"Don't worry, I'll send you the p.a.w.n ticket. What's your address?"

The other robber examined A. R.'s stickpin, asking its worth. "Thirty-five hundred," Rothstein said.

"I'll take it," said the gunman, adding, "I'll send you the p.a.w.n ticket, A. R."

Arnold didn't like being mocked. Nor did he like losing the stickpin-the only item of jewelry the sartorially conservative gambler wore. It meant a great deal to him. "Don't bother," A. R. responded. "I'll have it back before the mail arrives tomorrow morning."

When the robbers left, there wasn't much for everyone to do. No one called the police. Rothstein lifted the carpet and retrieved his bankroll. He had Abe Attell-and his suspected betrayer-join him for coffee. He didn't particularly want to see his "friend" again, but brought him along out of caution. "I thought the b.a.s.t.a.r.ds might be waiting for me outside," he later told Swope, "and, if they were, I was going to make sure that fellow got what was coming to him."

Swope wanted Rothstein to talk to the police, goading him that he was simply afraid to bring the law into the case, and conveyed Police Commissioner Arthur Woods's comments: A. R. was "yellow."

"People know better," Arnold responded. "I never take my troubles to the cops. Why do I need them? The fence got this back to me [he pointed to his stickpin] before breakfast."

Swope bore in: "They're laughing at you, Arnold. The word is out that you're buffaloed." That got to him. Never before, and never again, would Arnold formally go to the police for justice. This time he did.

Police responded with surprising-or, perhaps, not so surprisingalacrity. Within a few days, they arrested two suspects: a thirty-fiveyear-old small-time hoodlum named Eugene F. Price and twenty eight-year-old drug addict Albert "Killer" Johnson. Johnson was more dangerous, twice having been charged with murder.


Note: All ill.u.s.trations are courtsey of the author's collection unless otherwise noted. Above left * Lower East Side Tammany chieftain, State Senator "Big Tim" Sullivan (center) helped give Rothstein his start. Above right * Times Square gambler, Herman "Beansy" Rosenthal's inability to keep his mouth shut got him killed in July 1912. Below * Beansy Rosenthal's funeral-his casket was carried from his 104 West 45th Street gambling house.

Courtesy Library of Congress.



Above left * Lower East Side gang leader Big Jack Zelig-was he killed because he knew the truth about Herman Rosenthal's murder?

Above right * Manhattan District Attorney Charles S. Whitman rode the Rosenthal murder case all the way to the New York governor's mansion.


Above * Former featherweight boxing champion Abe Attell was A.R.'s gambling buddy and bodyguard-as well as his indiscreet henchman in fixing the 1919 World Series.

Right * Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Eddie Cicotte was a key member of the 1919 World Series fix.



Police Lieutenant Charles Becker (shown with his wife Helen) went to the chair for Herman Rosenthal's murder. Courtesy Library of Congress.


Above right * Byron "Ban" Johnson. The most powerful man in baseball thought he had a deal with the man who fixed the World Series.

Above left * New York Governor Alfred E. Smith was the prized protege of Big Tom Foley, a key Rothstein contact at Tammany Hall.


Left * New York Giants owner Charles Stoneham (left) depended on A.R. to protect his crooked Wall Street operations from the law. His manager, John McGraw (right), was Rothstein's partner in a popular Herald Square pool hall.


Above left * Saloonkeeper Charles Francis Murphy was Tammany's smartest boss.

Above right * Jules "Nicky" Arnstein. Debonair international con man. Multimilliondollar bond thief. Wandering husband of f.a.n.n.y Brice. Arnold Rothstein's admirer, partner, and fall guy.

Right * Broadway star Fannie Brice married Nicky Arnstein in 1918.


Above * Jack "Legs" Diamond was Rothstein's bodyguard and henchman in rumrunning and labor racketeering.


Left * Broadway actress Lillian Lorraine steered rich suckers to Rothstein's gambling houses and card games. Courtesy of John Kenrick, The Musicals 101. com.


Above * Arnold Rothstein operated one of Saratoga Springs' most lavish gambling houses, The Brook, just outside of town. Inset * A gambling chip from The Brook.

Below left * Swarthy West Coast gambler Nate Raymond (left) took A. R. for $300,000 in a single card game, but never collected.



Above * t.i.tanic Thompson, the country-boy cardsharp and legendary golf hustler who sat in on Rothstein's fatal card game at Jimmy Meehan's.


Top * Bill "The Great Mouthpiece" Fallon, the Roaring '20s' most flamboyant and successful criminal-defense attorney, did a lot of business with A. R., but that didn't keep the duo from profoundly despising one another.

Above * Marion Davies's relationship with William Randolph Hearst was key to Bill Fallon's defense on witness bribery charges.

Swope feared that A. R. would back out of testifying against Price and Johnson. He told A. R. of Police Commissioner Woods's new remarks: "Well, I guess your friend, Arnold Rothstein, is yellow after all. I thought he was going through against those thugs that held him up. If he doesn't identify them, the police won't have any case."

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A. R. testified. Both criminals were convicted. As Killer Johnson's guilty verdict came in, he had to be restrained from attacking Arnold, threatening revenge if he ever got free. Two months later, Johnson escaped from Sing Sing.

Already the case smelled suspicious. As Smith took the case to the grand jury, the New York Times reported "rumors that several thousand dollars were spent by a wealthy gambler to keep the facts hidden and prevent prosecution."

In March 1919, New York City Mayor John E "Red Mike" Hylan wrote privately to Police Commissioner Richard E. Enright. Hylan was a former Brooklyn Elevated Railroad motorman, fired after almost running down a company superintendent. He worked his way through New York Law School and boss John H. McCooey's Brooklyn Democratic machine into a series of judgeships. He was honest but uninspiring, all in all, not much better as judge than as motorman. In 1917 he became mayor, entirely on the strength of backing from McCooey and the Hearst papers.

Hylan demanded that Enright investigate the accusations, fleshing them out in detail: There seems to be a common report around town that Rothstein, the gambler gave $20,000 [sic] to a lawyer who was formerly a Magistrate [Fuchs], which, so the report goes, was divided up equally between an a.s.sistant District Attorney [Smith] and a Magistrate [McQuaid]. However, the case against Rothstein was dismissed.


Nothing happened until June 5, 1919. Arnold's old a.s.sociate (and treasurer of the New York Giants), Judge Francis Xavier McQuade, dismissed charges against everyone save Rothstein. Swann and Smith could have a.s.sembled a case against Rothstein only with cooperation from his fellow gamblers, because police hadn't seen who fired the shots that came whizzing through the door. Only those on the other side could testify against A. R.-and now Magistrate McQuade had removed any reason for their cooperation.

Nonetheless, Swann's grand jury dutifully delivered two indictments against Rothstein: for first- and second-degree felonious a.s.sault: the first count for shooting Detective McLaughlin, the second for wounding Detective Walsh. There were no consequences for winging Detective Oliver and, as Rothstein possessed a valid pistol permit, no weapons charges. Judge Thomas C. T. Crain ordered Rothstein's arrest, but before police laid a hand on him, A. R. presented himself to judge William H. Wadhams in General Sessions. Wadhams released A. R. on $5,000 bail.

With no one testifying against A. R., only one possible outcome existed: dismissal. On June 25, Swann's office brought the case before Judge John E McIntyre. Jim Smith was conveniently out of town on vacation. Rothstein attorney Emil Fuchs sprang to his feet, moving for dismissal: The record is barren of any evidence tending directly or indirectly [sic] to connect the defendant with the commission of any crime. Much time was spent and, doubtless, much public money expended, in an effort to fasten the crime on the defendant, and, I might add, that in the Court's judgment, the time was uselessly spent. Not a word of evidence appears in the Grand jury minutes showing that the defendant committed an a.s.sault upon anybody. All that is disclosed is as follows: Q-Do you know who did the shooting?


Q-Did you see Rothstein have a gun, or did you see him do the shooting?


Q-Well, who in your opinion did the shooting? Give us your best opinion.

Q-From reading the papers, my opinion is that it was Rothstein.

Judge McIntyre agreed: This appears to be the only evidence that in any way relates to Rothstein.

Under our system of jurisprudence, fortunately, a surmise, a conjecture, or a guess can have no place as evidentiary of the commission of a crime. Why the Grand jury ordered an indictment in this case is incomprehensible. It should not have been voted. It was idle to do so. The motion to dismiss is granted.

Rothstein was free. A gambler shoots three cops in front of nineteen witnesses and walks. The failure of the system can be interpreted in one of two ways. One: The underworld wall of silence had once again thwarted justice-an unfortunate but understandable situation. Two: The system had gone into the tank.

In 1920 many believed the latter, particularly in cases involving the Manhattan District Attorney's office or Arnold Rothstein. In cases involving both, cynicism increased exponentially.

William Randolph Hearst's American had little personal interest in Rothstein, but great curiosity about "Big Tom" Foley-A. R.'s primary contact at Tammany Hall since Big Tim Sullivan's unfortunate demise. Foley began as a blacksmith, moved to saloon keeping and thence to politics, serving as alderman and county sheriff, but primarily deriving his power from leadership of a downtown a.s.sembly district.

He had repeatedly helped derail Hearst's political ambitions, and Hearst hated him for it. Out of professional courtesy, Hearst's staff also hated Herbert Bayard Swope, who had made the World into the city's most respected paper. By striking against Rothstein, the American hit both Foley and Swope.

The American hinted broadly that Rothstein bribed his way to freedom. "It is believed," they wrote, "that Rothstein's bankroll is now some $32,000 lighter than it was when he was placed under arrest."

Police Commissioner Richard E. Enright now demanded that Dominick Henry tell him what he knew. Henry responded with a number of accusatory affidavits against a.s.sistant District Attorney Smith, alleging both graft and anti-Semitism. (Smith, Henry claimed, had told him he "was going after the Jew gamblers, but would not touch a hair of the head of any Christian who was running a place.") Smith in turn called Henry a grafter who allowed vice to overrun his precinct, fattening his bank and brokerage accounts in the process.

Mayor Hylan hinted broadly that Herbert Bayard Swope had acted as a bagman for Rothstein, writing Commissioner Enright, "it is common knowledge that Swope knows Rothstein and has long been friendly with him."

District Attorney Swann convened two new grand juries: the first investigating Rothstein, McQuade, Fuchs, and Swope, the second investigating Inspector Henry. The case against Swope collapsed immediately and spectacularly: Swope had been abroad during the whole imbroglio, from December 1918 through September 1919, covering the Versailles peace conference. "I ask to go before the grand jury to scotch this lie and to brand the liars, whoever they may be, and to ask satisfaction for this criminal libel," Swope bl.u.s.tered.

"The mayor," jibed Emil Fuchs, "ought to be man enough to come out and say he was mistaken." Fuchs, McQuade, and Rothstein appeared before the grand jury. All denied wrongdoing.

Swann cleared Smith and indicted Henry for failure to shutter his precinct's "disorderly houses." Henry won quick acquittal, but Swann and Smith indicted him once more, this time for perjury regarding his testimony to the grand jury. In June 1920, they convicted Henry, who faced expulsion from the force and four years in prison.

The Appellate Division reversed Henry's guilty verdict. He returned to active service, and should have received both back pay and reimburs.e.m.e.nt for his considerable legal fees. Authorities stubbornly refused to pay the latter. In 1922 the New York State Legislature pa.s.sed an act mandating payment. Governor Nathan Miller vetoed it. In 1923 Alfred E. Smith, now returned to the governorship, signed it. Still, Henry was not paid. A local judge ruled the law unconst.i.tutional. Not until 1924 would Henry receive his back pay.

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