ALPHONSE CAPONE, aka. AL, SCARFACE
CONTEMPT OF COURT
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899, of an immigrant family,
Al Capone quit school after the sixth grade and associated
with a notorious street gang, becoming accepted as a
member. Johnny Torrio was the street gang leader and
among the other members was Lucky Luciano, who would
later attain his own notoriety.
About 1920, at Torrio's invitation, Capone joined Torrio in
Chicago where he had become an influential lieutenant in the
Colosimo mob. The rackets spawned by enactment of the
Prohibition Amendment, illegal brewing, distilling and
distribution of beer and liquor, were viewed as "growth
industries." Torrio, abetted by Al Capone, intended to take full advantage of
opportunities. The mobs also developed interests in legitimate businesses, in the
cleaning and dyeing field, and cultivated influence with receptive public officials, labor
unions and employees' associations.
Torrio soon succeeded to full leadership of the gang with the violent demise of Big
Jim Colosimo, and Capone gained experience and expertise as his strong right arm.
In 1925, Capone became boss when Torrio, seriously wounded in an assassination
attempt, surrendered control and retired to Brooklyn. Capone had built a fearsome
reputation in the ruthless gang rivalries of the period, struggling to acquire and retain
»racketeering rights« to several areas of Chicago. That reputation grew as rival gangs
were eliminated or nullified, and the suburb of Cicero became, in effect, a fiefdom of
the Capone mob.
Perhaps the St. Valentine's Day Massacre on February 14, 1929, might be regarded
as the culminating violence of the Chicago gang era, as seven members or
associates of the »Bugs« Moran mob were machine-gunned against a garage wall by
rivals posing as police. The massacre was generally ascribed to the Capone mob,
although Al himself was then in Florida.
The investigative jurisdiction of the Bureau of Investigation during the 1920s and early
1930s was more limited than it is now, and the gang warfare and depredations of the
period were not within the Bureau's investigative authority.
The Bureau's investigation of Al Capone arose from his reluctance to appear before a
Federal Grand Jury on March 12, 1929, in response to a subpoena. On March 11, his
lawyers formally filed for postponement of his appearance, submitting a physician's
affidavit dated March 5, which attested that Capone, in Miami, had been suffering
from bronchial pneumonia, had been confined to bed from January 13 to February 23,
and that it would be dangerous to Capone's health to travel to Chicago. His
appearance date before the grand jury was re-set for March 20.
On request of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Bureau of Investigation Agents obtained
statements to the effect that Capone had attended race tracks in the Miami area, that
he had made a plane trip to Bimini and a cruise to Nassau, and that he had been
interviewed at the office of the Dade County Solicitor, and that he had appeared in
good health on each of those occasions.
Capone appeared before the Federal Grand Jury at Chicago on March 20, 1929, and
completed his testimony on March 27. As he left the courtroom, he was arrested by
Agents for Contempt of Court, an offense for which the penalty could be one year and
a $1,000 fine. He posted $5,000 bond and was released.
On May 17, 1929, Al Capone and his bodyguard were arrested in Philadelphia for
carrying concealed deadly weapons. Within 16 hours they had been sentenced to
terms of one year each. Capone served his time and was released in nine months for
good behavior on March 17, 1930.
On February 28, 1936, Capone was found guilty in Federal Court on the Contempt of
Court charge and was sentenced to six months in Cook County Jail. His appeal on
that charge was subsequently dismissed.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department had been developing evidence on tax
evasion charges in addition to Al Capone, his brother Ralph »Bottles« Capone, Jake
»Greasy Thumb« Guzik, Frank Nitti and other mobsters were subjects of tax evasion
On June 16, 1931, Al Capone pled guilty to tax evasion and prohibition charges. He
then boasted to the press that he had struck a deal for a two-and-one-half year
sentence, but the presiding judge informed him he, the judge, was not bound by any
deal. Capone then changed his plea to not guilty.
On October 18, 1931, Capone was convicted after trial, and on November 24, was
sentenced to eleven years in Federal prison, fined $50,000 and charged $7,692 for
court costs, in addition to $215,000 plus interest due on back taxes. The six-month
Contempt of Court sentence was to be served concurrently.
While awaiting the results of appeals, Capone was confined to the Cook County Jail.
Upon denial of appeals, he entered the U.S. Penitentiary at Atlanta, serving his
sentence there and at Alcatraz.
On November 16, 1939, Al Capone was released after having served seven years, six
months and fifteen days, and having paid all fines and back taxes.
Suffering from paresis derived from syphilis, he had deteriorated greatly during his
confinement. Immediately on release he entered a Baltimore hospital for brain
treatment, and then went on to his Florida home, an estate on Palm Island in Biscayne
Bay near Miami, which he had purchased in 1928.
Following his release, he never publicly returned to Chicago. He had become mentally
incapable of returning to gangland politics. In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore
psychiatrist, after examination, both concluded Al Capone then had the mentality of a
12-year-old child. Capone resided on Palm Island with his wife and immediate family,
in a secluded atmosphere, until his death due to a stroke and pneumonia on January
BIBLIOGRAPHY REGARDING AL CAPONE
1. »Farewell, Mr. Gangster!« Herbert Corey, D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc., New
York, New York, 1936
2. »The FBI Story,« Don Whitehead, Random House, New York, New York, 1956
3. »Organized Crime In America,« Gus Tyler, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor,
4. »The Dillinger Days,« John Toland, Random House, New York, New York, 1963
5. »The Devil's Emissaries,« Myron J. Quimby, A. S. Barnes and Company, New York,
New York, 1969
6. »Capone,« John Kobler, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, New York, 1971
7. »Mafia, USA,« Nicholas Gage, Dell Publishing Company, Inc., New York, New York,
8. »The Mobs And The Mafia,« Hank Messick and Burt Goldblatt, Thomas Y. Crowell
Company, New York, New York, 1972
9. »Bloodletters and Badmen,« Jay Robert Nash, M. Evans and Company, Inc., New
York, New York, 1973
10. »G-Men: Hoover's FBI in American Popular Culture,« Richard Gid Powers,
Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois, 1983