Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Genovese, Costello and Anastasia: The Decline And Fall Of the American Mafia

Jim Zirin at offers a piece on the organized crime meeting at Apalachin, New York.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the trial in the infamous mobster conspiracy case, United States v. Bufalino, known as the “Apalachin affair,” a case that prosecutors won before a jury, and lost on appeal.  The case involved 20 of the more than 60 mobsters who attended a summit meeting of the American Mafia on November 14, 1957 at the 130-acre estate of boss “Joe the Barber” Barbera in Apalachin, New York. The meeting, which became a scene in Mario Puzo’s Godfather, occurred in Apalachin, a sleepy hamlet along the south shore of the Susquehanna River about 145 miles northwest of New York City. The jury must have wondered why anyone would go there.

Before the meeting could get off the ground, state police and federal agents raided Barbera’s home. At the time, no one knew what was on the bill of fare. There was no evidence at trial of the purpose of the meeting or that there was anything improper or illegal about it.

The government charged the Apalachin 20 with conspiracy to obstruct justice by giving similarly false and evasive answers before the grand jury as to the nature of the meeting.  The defendants, many of whom were festooned in Italian tailor-made suits, drove expensive cars and had come long distances to attend the meeting, were apprehended as they tried to escape the house into the nearby woods, which police found strewn with newly printed hundred dollar bills.

No one at the trial was permitted to say the word “Mafia,” as it was deemed too prejudicial. Still, the jury must have known that sitting in the well of the courtroom before them was an underworld stew of evil. The guest list at the Barberas that evening read like a mobster “social register.” Among those in attendance were notorious gangsters Don Vito Genovese, the kingpin of the mob, Carlo Gambino, Joe Profaci and Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonnano.  Questioned by police, virtually all of them claimed that they had visited the house from such far-flung locations as Buffalo, Rochester, Dallas, Denver and Los Angeles because they heard Barbera was not feeling well.  Anther claimed he had visited the house to deliver fish.

Although at least 50 men managed to escape into the woods outside Barbera’s house, state troopers and federal agents successfully arrested another 58.  State Trooper Edgar Croswell, a real life Inspector Javert who had been channeling Barbera for about a year, headed the raiding party.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

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