Al Capone is perhaps the best known gangster of all time and by far the most powerful mob boss of his era. His mob dominated the Chicago area from 1925 to 1931, when he was imprisoned for income tax evasion. This was the only crime the courts could prove against him. He went to jail at Alcatraz for eight years until he became very ill with syphilis and died from the disease in 1947 (URL:http://www.broonale.co.uk/ austria/capone.html 1-3). Al Capone was born somewhere in Brooklyn on January 17, 1899 but knowbody really knows for sure.
Capone grew up in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended school through the sixth grade. He recieved his nickname Scarface during these years as a result of a knife attack from the brother of a girl he had insulted which left three scares (Kobler 23). Soon after, Capone joined the James Street gang which was headed by a guy named Johnny Torrio. In 1920, Torrio asked Capone to go to Chicago and work with his uncle who controlled the city’s largest prostitution and gambling ring at the time. Later that year the Prohibition act came into affect and Capone became interested in selling illegal whiskey and other alcoholic beverages.
Torrio’s uncle did not agree with this idea but within the next month he was shot and killed. Capone and Torrio took over Torrio’s uncles business and added the selling of illegal alcohol. After Torrio was gunned down and almost killed by a rival gang, he retired from the underworld which left Capone to run the empire alone (Kobler 34). At the age of 26, Capone was managing more than 1,000 employees with a payroll of more than $300,000 a week. He demanded total loyalty from all of his employes (URL:http://www.nara.gov/nara/ events/calendar/capone.html 2).
During this time Capone became so rich that he gave out free food for Chicago’s unemployed which made him look like he had a heart of gold. By 1927, Capone was grossing about $105,000,000 a year from various illegal operations (the average law-abiding US citizen in 1927 was taking home just $2,400 a year in pay). When appearing in public, he travelled in a seven ton limousine and had 18 bodyguards including the guy who gave him the scares on his face. Capone was a marked man by this time, and after several attempts on his life from a rival gang, he struck back with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1929 (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia 1996, 1997 Compton’s NewMedia).
It may be the greatest violence that ever occured during the Chicago gang era, as seven members of “Bugsy” Moran’s mob were killed with machine- guns by Capone’s mob posing as police officers (URL: http://user.capone/life/story.html 1). The massacre was credited to the Capone mob, although Capone himself was in Florida and no one was ever charged with the killings.This gruesome exectution of several of his enemies ended any gang resistence against Capone and his empire. By this time however, Capone’s days as a free man were numbered, because an I.R.S. investigator, Elmer L. Irey, had built a case against him that was strong enough to convict him on tax evasion charges (URL:http://clio.nara.gov/exhall /originals/capone.html 1).
On the first day of the income tax evasion trial which began on October 7, 1930 Capone and his lawyers were confident because they had previewed the list of jurors and knew the names and addresses of each of them. At the last minute, the judge on the case was changed from Judge Edwards to Judge Wilkerson, who came to the courtroom with a new set of jurors. To reduce the temptations of jury tampering, the judge keep the trial as short as possible and quarantined the jury at night. During the trial, the prosecuters documented Capone’s huge spendings, evidence of an enormous income. The government also included proof that Capone was aware of his obligation to pay Federal income tax but failed to do so.
After nearly nine hours of court, the jurors found Capone guilty of three felonies and two misdemeanors, relating to his failure to pay and file his income taxes between the years 1925 and 1929. Capone simply said to this “The income tax law is a lot of bunk. The government can’t collect legal taxes from illegal money.” Capone believed to be responsible for at least 300 murders and ended up just being charged with tax evasion. Judge Wilkerson sentenced Capone to serve 11 years in prison and to pay $80,000 in fines and court costs in addition to the $210,000 in over due taxes. The penalty was more severe than Capone had expected (URL:http://www.nara.gov/nara/ events/calendar/capone.html 3). During this time the Chicago Crime Commission (CCC) issued its first Public Enemies List which had 28 names on it, and Al Capone’s was the first.
Known as Public Enemy Number 1, Al Capone had become the symbol for the Prohibition era (URL: http://www.disc.com/celebs/20cen/capone.html 1) Capone was sentenced to Atlanta’s federal prison for 11 years. In 1934 he was transferred to Alcatraz prison in San Francisco. He was paroled in 1939. Following his release, he never returned to Chicago. He had become mentally incapable of returning to the “mob life.” He spent the rest of his life in Palm Island mansion with his wife and immediate family, in a secluded atmosphere (URL:http://www.nara.gov/nara/events/ calendar/capone.html 5).
In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist both concluded that Al Capone had the mental ability of a 12-year-old child. He died due to a stroke and pneumonia on January 25, 1947 because he was suffering from syphilis (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia 1996, 1997 Compton’s NewMedia).