Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Crime/Gangster · #1793562
His last words were, "Into thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit!"
A Matter of Corruption
Herman "Beansie" Rosenthal's club, The Hestor, on W. 45th Street in Manhattan was raided and closed shortly after it opened in 1912. A NYC Police Lieutenant, Charles Becker, headed the special squad of police that raided the club. Rosenthal later told District Attorney Charles Whitman the club was closed because he refused to pay for police protection.
On the night of July 15, 1912, following meeting with Whitman, Rosenthal went to the Hotel Metropole on W. 43rd Street, a hangout for gamblers. A waiter informed him that someone wanted to speak to him outside.
"Over here Beansie!" a man called out when Rosenthal walked outside. As he moved closer, four shots rang out. As Rosenthal lay on the sidewalk, a killer put a final shot into his head.
On July 29, 1912, a New York City Grand Jury indicted Lieutenant Charles Becker for murder based on a written statement from Bald Jack Rose, the owner of the getaway car. He was given immunity in return for that statement. Lt. Becker was home, asleep at the time of the murder.
My name is George Campbell, I was a police officer assigned to the Tenderloin area of Manhattan, now known as Times Square. While the state was putting Lt. Charles Becker to death, my partner, Angus MacCormac, and I had proof of his innocence—proof that was hidden to further the career of District Attorney Charles Whitman.
"Are you sure you're telling us the truth?" I asked Mason Moore, an assistant District Attorney.
"You'd better not be telling us no lies, now." Angus threatened.
"I'm telling the truth," Moore pleaded. "I can't be a part of the death of an innocent man."
"He's hardly innocent," I said. Backed by Big Tim Sullivan, a state senator, Becker controlled the graft paid by illegal casinos and pimps in the Tenderloin. "He's corrupt, there's no doubt of that."
"That's true," Moore said, "the police department is full of corruption, but he shouldn't be executed for taking bribes."
"Well, we never shared in any of the money, that's right enough," said Angus, "So why should be care?"
"Because he's innocent!" Moore stood and walked to the window. "Remember, the conviction was based on the lies of the actual participants in the murder...William Shapiro drove the Packard that was leased to Bald Jack Rose. Shapiro said he drove Louis "Lefty" Rosenberg, Frank Cirofici, Jacob "Whitey Lewis" Seidenschmer and Harry "Gyp the blood" Horowitz to the Metropole that night. Harry Vallon and Bridgey Webber waited for them outside the Metropole. When the car drove up it was Vallon that sent the message inside for Rosenthal to come outside."
"So what's your point," Angus asked. "That's what the evidence showed."
"The motive!" Moore turned back to us. "It was a Jewish crew that killed him, a Jewish gang."
"Not all the men in the car were Jewish, what about Frank Cirofici?"
"He came along as a signal that the killing was sanctioned by the mob. Everyone stood to lose with Rosenthal's testimony. Only the Jewish members of the crew did the shooting."
"So why did they bring Becker into it?" Angus asked.
"The Honorable Charles Whitman, D.A., that's why," Moore said with a flair. "They knew Whitman wanted to be governor. Convicting a well-known, corrupt Police Lieutenant would get him plenty of publicity...show the do-gooder's who wanted the Tenderloin cleaned up that he was on their side. A man of law and order." Moore leaned across the desk. "Becker was named by the killers because Whitman would give them a break, not ask for the death penalty for them, in return he would make a name for himself."
"It makes sense, Georgie," Angus said to me. "Whitman did get elected Governor, the case helped him along, that's sure."
"How do we know they all lied when they implicated Becker?" I asked Moore.
"Look, the night that Vallon, Webber and Rose were arrested, Whitman had them roughed up by the cops, then thrown into a cell at the Tombs."
"There's no place worse than the Tombs," Angus said.
"But there's more. They were placed in the same cell, away from the other prisoners. I was standing there when Whitman began to close the cell door, then stopped and said, 'you better come up with a good story against Becker, or get used to a cell like this one.' It was then that I knew the story was contrived."
"You may have waited too long to tell this," I said, "Becker is going to die early tomorrow morning."
"I never thought it would go this far," Moore said, "But I didn't figure on Judge John W. Goff."
"He's a tough judge, right enough," Angus said.
"He's an avowed enemy of the underworld, and he had investigated corruption in the police department in 1894, he convicted Becker before the jury was seated."
"What can we do at this late hour, Mr. Moore?" I asked.
"I'll sign an affidavit, we can present it to a judge, stop the execution. I have what I need as proof in my car, outside. I'll get it."
Angus and I sat in the squad room at the 13th Precinct and wondered if there was enough time to save Becker's life. Our thoughts were halted when we heard two shots ring out. We ran to the window and looked out. There, lying in the gutter was Mason Moore, a dark river of blood ran from under his body. We were unable to copy the license tag of the car that sped away.
On July 30, 1915, Becker, dressed in black, his trousers slit up the sides, walked down death row. It was known that witnesses had lied during the trial. Becker's wife pleaded with now Governor Charles Whitman, Becker's prosecutor, to no avail. At 5:30 a.m. the switch was pulled, sending two thousand volts of electricity into Becker's body. His last words were, "Into thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit!"
Word Count 994
Winner, Writer's Cramp, July 15, 2011.