Saturday, 8 November 2014

Charles Becker: Downfall of New York`s Crookedest Cop PT2

Carrying on with the career of Lieutenant Charles Becker, it was in 1912 that gambler Hertman Rosenthal opened the Hesper Club West 45th Street, and upon it`s opening night, Becker made a personal call on Rosenthal.  The request was a basic "So what are you offering me?"  However, Rosenthal refused to toe the line, telling Becker that this club had the approval of Tim Sullivan.  Becker backed off.  For a while.  Soon Sullivan was seriously ill and unable to issue orders, so Becker came back to Rosenthal and demanded money.  Rosenthal started doing the unthinkable.  He stood up to Becker, who responded by having a multiple killer named Jack Rose, to work inside the club and skim some of the takings.  Rose was a fearsome gangster, but again, Rosenthal refused to pay protection.  Then he started complaining about the extortion attempts to Tammany Hall, and in particular, Becker.

    Becker was now under pressure from the Commissioner to shut down the Hesper club, which he did.  He also kept a man in the premises to make sure it did not reopen.  Rosenthal was bitterly angry and took a very drastic step; he went to see the District Attorney Charles Whitman, a very politically ambitious man and the man instrumental in the downfall of Becker. July 15th 1912, Rosenthal met Whitman and told what he knew about Becker, and promised to have a Grand Jury convened.  He left Whitman`s office and stayed in a cafe, but news of the visit to Whitman had spread like wildfire.  At 2.00am, he was told by a waiter that somebody wanted to speak to him outside.  There, he saw four men.  Shots rang out and he collapsed in the street.  One gunman walked up to him and calmly shot him in the head, then they fled in a car.  Soon the street filled up with people as news of the shooting spread.  Police were supposed to have chased the getaway car but lost it.  Whitman was to allege that Police allowed it to escape, a charge taken up by the media.  However, there were witnesses.  These were discovered by an investigation run by Whitman.  The number of the getaway car was traced to a taxi service.  The car had been leased to Jack Rose, one of Becker`s hired thugs.  The car had been driven by Bill Shapiro, a petty villain. Witnesses also named two men seen hanging around the cafe, Harry Vallon and Bridgey Webber.  Vallon had sent the message to Rosenthal.  So Whitman had these two Chinatown opium pushers arrested.

    Rose surrendered to Whitman, and told him where to find Shapiro.  Shapiro remained silent, so Whitman offered a deal; immunity for all four if they would tell all.  Facing a possible death sentence, Shapiro gave Whitman everything he knew and named the four gunmen.  Louis Rosenberg, Frank Cirofaci, Jacob Seidenschmern and Harry Horowitz.  Webber, Rose and Vallon were all incarcerated together in the notorious Tombs prison and so had the opportunity to rehearse a story for the court.  Becker, who had an airtight alibi for the murder, was charged by Whitman with murder and the testimony of the three, was enough to have Becker convicted and sentenced to death.  Whitman used this conviction to gain entry to the Governor`s mansion, being politically ambitious.  The execution of Becker was a botch job.  First off, he was not properly strapped in the chair, and then it took three bursts of electricity to dispatch him.  Was he guilty?  Opinions are divided, but an overly ambitious man used three men who would have done anything to spare themselves from the same fate as Becker.  Becker`s wife remained bitter towards Whitman throughout her life, claiming he had her husband executed to further his career.  Whatever, it did nothing to stem the flow of corruption throughout the NYPD.