Al Capone’s Trial BY OANA RUSU ROMAN SNELLA Investigating the case Even though Al Capone, by his real name Alphonse Gabriel Capone, was a well-known and feared mobster from Chicago, he was brought in front of the justice with civil charges for twenty-two counts of tax evasion, totalling over $200,000. Capone and 68 members of his gang were charged with 5,000 separate violations of the Volstead Act. These income tax cases took precedence over the Prohibition violations. The Defendant Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone ( January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947) The Prosecution Frank J. Wilson Frank J. Wilson George E. Q. Johnson During the trial Attorney George E. Q. Johnson made a mockery of Capone’s claim to be a ‘Robin Hood’ type figure and man of the people. He stressed the hypocrisy of man who would spend thousands of dollars on meals and luxuries but give little to the poor and unemployed. How, he asked, could Capone possess so much property, vehicles and even diamond belt buckles when his defence lawyers profess that their client had no income? After nine hours of discussion on 17 October 1931, the jury found Capone guilty of several counts of tax evasion. Judge Wilkerson sentenced him to eleven years, $50,000 in fines and court costs of another $30,000. Bail was denied. Ledger showing payments to Capone and others Prosecution Witnesses Chester Bragg, insurance salesperson (participated in civic organization raid on gambling hall) Leslie Shumway, cashier at gambling hall Rev. Henry C. Hoover, man who led raid on gambling hall Frank Wilson, revenue agent introducing "the Mattingly letter" Parker Henderson, transferred Florida estate to Capone's wife John Fotre, manager at Western Union branch Morrisey Smith, clerk at Metropole Hotel Fred Reis, gambling hall cashier The Defense Albert Fink Michael J. Ahern Defense Witnesses Milton Held, bookie Oscar Gutter, bookie Defense Witnesses: Milton Held, bookie Oscar Gutter, bookie Direct examination by Mr. Fink: Fink: Have you had any transactions with the defendant, Alphonse Capone? Held: Yes, while I was taking oral bets at Hawthorne in 1924 and 1925. I would take a bet and settle the next day. Fink: Did he win or did you? Held: He lost, I judge, about $12,000. Fink: When you say you judge, does that mean to the best of your recollection? Held: It does. Main arguments of the defense Michael J. Ahern, one of the lawyers of Al Capone, argued in front of the jury that the defendant was much alike Robin Hood. He also referred in the trial to a roman story of a Sergeant by the name Cato that ended every speech in the Senate meetings with “Carthage must be destroyed”. According to the defense “these censors of ours, these prosecutors, the newspapers all cry, "Capone must be destroyed!" ”. Another of his arguments concluded that the US Government spent loads of money on bringing witnesses from different states just to show that Capone was a spendthrift and that was not a good reason to imprison someone. Also, that in those hard times, that money should be spend on soup kitchens. Main arguments of the prosecution George E. Q. Johnson argued the credibility of the defendant’s income, that a man who spends that much amount of money can not earn that less. He also pointed out that it is the duty of the US Government is to enforce the revenues laws and without that there will be no more civilization and the USA will become eventually a jungle. The prosecution also criticized the “Robin Hood” statement of the defense. His argument was : Robin Hood took from the strong to feed the weak. Did this Robin Hood buy $8000 worth of belt buckles for the unemployed? Was his $6000 meat bill in a weeks for the hungry? Did he buy $27 shirts for shivering men who sleep under Wacker Drive? The chronology of the case January 17, 1899 Alphone Capone is born in Brooklyn, New York to Italian immigrants. 1920 Al Capone joins Johnny Torrio as a member in the Colosimo mob. 1925 Torrio retires, elevating Capone to boss. Capone extends the gang’s control over illegal brewing, distilling, and distribution of beer and liquor. April 27, 1926 Chicago prosecutor Billy McSwiggin is gunned down outside a bar in Cicero. McSwiggin had attempted to charge Capone with murder in 1924. February 14, 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Seven associates of the Moran Gang are gunned down at SMC Cartage Company by men dressed in police uniforms. February 27, 1929 Capone is subpoenaed to appear before a Chicago Heights grand jury investigating possible violations of the Prohibition Act. The chronology of the case March 11, 1929 Capone’s lawyers file a petition to postpone his appearance on March 12th, and attach an affidavit from Capone’s physician, Dr. Kenneth Phillips, which attests to Capone suffering bronchial pneumonia. Capone is reportedly bedridden and alleges it would be dangerous to his health to travel to Chicago to appear in response to the subpoena. That night Capone attends the Sharkey-Stribling boxing match. March 20, 1929 Capone appears before the Chicago Heights grand jury and testifies for 80 minutes. March 27, 1929 Capone makes his second appearance before the Chicago Heights grand jury. After finishing his testimony, Capone is arrested for contempt of court and released after posting $500 bail. May 17, 1929 Capone and bodyguard are arrested in Philadelphia for carrying concealed weapons. Each is later sentenced to one-year terms in prison at the County Prison at Holmesburg. Capone is soon transferred to Eastern State Penitentiary. March 17, 1930 Capone is released for good behavior after serving nine months. The chronology of the case April 23, 1930 The Chicago Crime Commission issues first Public Enemy List. Capone tops the list. February 27, 1931 Capone is found guilty on a contempt of court charge and sentenced to six months in Cook County Jail. Capone is released on bond pending appeal. March 13, 1931 Capone is indicted for tax evasion relating to failing to file a return for 1924. June 5, 1931 Capone is indicted on charges for tax evasion for the years 1925 to 1929. June 11, 1931 Capone is indicted on one count of conspiracy to violate the Prohibition Act. June 16, 1931 Capone decides to plead guilty to all tax evasion and prohibition charges. A plea agreement is negotiated calling for a 2 ½ year sentence. The chronology of the case July 30, 1931 Sentencing Hearing Judge Wilkerson informs Capone that he is not bound by that arrangement in determining Capone’s sentence and will reject it. Capone changes his plea to "not guilty." October 6, 1931 The tax evasion trial of Al Capone begins. Judge Wilkerson switches the potential jury pool prior to voir dire after receiving word from Frank Wilson that Capone may have been able to bribe members of the original jury pool.October 18, 1931 Capone is convicted of three felony counts of tax evasion and two misdemeanor counts of failing to file a tax return. November 24, 1931 Capone is sentenced to eleven years in Federal prison, a fine of $50,000, and court costs of $30,000. Additionally, Capone is ordered to pay $215,000 plus interest for back taxes. The six month contempt of court sentence is served concurrently. While awaiting the outcome of his appeal, Capone is housed in Cook County Jail. February 27, 1932 Capone’s appeal is denied. The chronology of the case March 23, 1932 Rehearing of Capone’s appeal is denied. May 2, 1932 The Supreme Court denies Capone’s petition for certiorari. May 4, 1932 Capone begins serving sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta. August 22, 1934 Capone is transferred to Alcatraz. November 16, 1939 Capone is released from prison after serving 7 years, 6 months, and 15 days and having paid all fines and back taxes due. January 25, 1947 Capone dies from a stroke in Palm Island, Florida.