“All Against The Law” covers U.S. major crime in the Great Depression era. It is the incredible stories of daring prison escapes and breathtaking police pursuits by the Great Depression’s four successive Public Enemies Number One - John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Alvin Karpis with the Barker brothers. These were the most aggressive and dangerous killers ever. When fleeing from pursuing lawmen, every one of these bank robbers either whirled their cars around and floored their accelerator towards their pursuers, or they ran in the open, charging pursuers while relentlessly blasting away with machineguns. All these ferocious counterattacks made them dreadfully successful at killing the most policemen and FBI agents of any American outlaws. This is the first complete history because the newspaper accounts and trial testimonies by both their criminal cohorts and the harborers during their long fugitive manhunts are included.
Against these fierce killers, Congress assigned a fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), an accounting agency of government money made up of politically-appointed accountants and attorneys with no police experience. Headed by J. Edgar Hoover, a librarian, he failed to teach his agents any of the fundamentals of police and detective work or instruct them to respect individual liberties and rights. Thus, his courageous but ill-prepared early agents conducted one amateurish and failed raid after another that occasionally caused disastrous results for both his agents and innocent civilian bystanders caught up in the lines of fire.
Hoover’s leadership and management of the FBI has been thoroughly discredited by contemporary exposé articles and scholarly historical biographies. This book penetrates the veil much further in presenting how politically-conservative Hoover failed to prosecute serious criminals, used underhanded illegal tactics against critics; occasionally fought to survive his malfeasance in office; and blackmailed errant Congressmen to further his own political agenda. All this made him an unaccountable malevolent fourth branch of the federal government totally outside the brilliantly-conceived Constitutional checks-and-balances system.
To disprove that the FBI’s chief suspect, Pretty Boy Floyd, was involved in the Kansas City Massacre that slaughtered four lawmen, and to finally reveal the actual perpetrators and their motives, the forty-year reign of that town’s unique political-power structure is laid bare. The town’s political kingmaker Jim Pendergast chose as his lieutenant the city’s Mafia leader, and this Mafioso selected the chief of police and his detectives. The state legislature tried to stop this affront to justice by having the governor appoint a Police Commission to control the city’s departmental hirings. This action just led Kansas City’s Mafia chieftain to expand his political sphere of influence across the state to elect puppet governors who appointed Commissioners of his choosing.
These Kansas City political leaders stuffed ballot boxes in every election of politically-progressive Harry Truman, who later became the only president to sell out to organized crime because of his long political ties to the Kansas City Mafia. The entire last chapter strictly covers the many interactions Truman had from the White House with this Mafioso. Their mutual political hijinks, conflicts, and intrigue are astonishing. As tensions mounted this Mafioso was murdered, and Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress directly accused the President of ordering his political henchmen to kill him. This whole period in the White House is beyond mind-boggling.
A number of the gangsters in this book had ties to the early Nevada gambling industry, where the author spent his whole career. The action opens in that state, when Reno was its largest city, and Bill Graham and Jim McKay were the biggest casino operators both before and after gambling was legalized in 1931. Prior to Baby Face Nelson going into bank robbing, he was their doorman/bouncer. Graham and McKay operated the most popular casino in the state’s largest hotel, the Golden, and they developed an effective but very illegal tourist-marketing program to bring in high-rollers during the Great Depression. They offered an emporium of services for criminals who stole money through armed robbery, kidnapping, or by con. This drew financial criminals in large numbers from across the country. One service was to hide fugitives on the run in this isolated town and protect them from police interference. In the weeks to months before the FBI took down Dillinger, Nelson, Floyd, Karpis, and Fred Barker, all enjoyed the safe haven provided by Reno’s casino operators.
Before Ben Siegel began construction of his Fabulous Flamingo gambling resort, Kansas City Mafioso Charles Binaggio, who was shot to death under President Truman’s portrait, had planned to become a major investor in the Thunderbird Hotel & Casino on the Strip. A number of other links between the Kansas City Mafia and the Nevada casino industry during this era are presented. This book closes with the career of Kansas City’s fifth Mafia leader, Nick Civella. As the original pioneer gangsters, who had built the Las Vegas Strip from their Prohibition fortunes, retired and sold out, Civella financed a new wave of hidden underworld casino owners through the Teamsters Union Pension Fund, as was fictionally presented in the 1995 movie Casino.
This book is based on 47 years of research, and it has an enormous amount of new information. It details the major crimes of that era, and it exposes major corruption by politicians, police detectives, prosecutors, and judges. Justice eventually prevailed as the vast majority were imprisoned.
Every word comes from the victims, eyewitnesses, local police officials, or the pursuing FBI agents' official internal reports, as documented in 34 pages of 326 endnotes. the suject Index is 14-pages of double-columns.
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© Bill Friedman, 2015