Saturday, August 28, 2004
Austin American-Statesman, (subscription required) August 28, 2004:
by Laylan Copelin
Texas' biggest political donor may have blown his cover.
Publicity-shy Bob Perry, a Houston-based home builder, is getting more notoriety for his $200,000 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth than the $3.8 million he pumped into the 2002 state elections.
As the John Kerry campaign scours the record for a tie between President Bush and the swift boat ad campaign, Perry's penchant for privacy is being tested by the national spotlight that comes only with a presidential election. The fact that so few people have heard of Perry outside of Texas political circles and Houstonians familiar with his battles over inner-city construction is testament to his insistence on staying in the background.
"Neither Perry Homes or Bob Perry give interviews," said John Krugh, vice president and lawyer for Perry Homes. "That's company policy."
Bill Miller, Perry's Austin-based spokesman, quips about his client: "He's the Greta Garbo of politics."
Two views of Perry quickly surface. Those who have benefited from Perry's money say he is an unassuming, devout family man who never asks personally for anything in return for his donations. Those who view his large amounts of political money as a corrosive influence argue that Perry doesn't have to ask because his lobbyist, Neal "Buddy" Jones, and lawyers can do his bidding for pro-business legislation.
Perry, 71, has been a player in Texas Republican political circles since former Gov. Bill Clements recruited him to help raise money in 1978. He became the player two years ago as his donations to conservative causes and Republican candidates eclipsed everyone else's.
In 2002, Perry was the largest individual contributor to Gov. Rick Perry, no relation, ($225,000), Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ($115,000) and Attorney General Greg Abbott ($537,600), and the second largest donor to Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn ($100,000). All are Republicans. He also was the top individual giver to the Republican Party of Texas, Texans for Lawsuit Reform and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority. He gave lesser amounts to a handful of Democrats, particularly Houstonians or those who supported curbing lawsuits.
The closest to Perry's $3.8 million total was $1.3 million from San Antonio businessman James Leininger, whose higher profile as primary benefactor to a conservative foundation in Texas made him the Democrats' favorite big-donor devil.
Craig McDonald with Texans for Public Justice, a group that tracks campaign finance, said the home builder had been in Leininger's range of donations until he opened up the checkbook for the 2002 election cycle. In President Bush's 1994 and 1998 campaigns for governor, Perry gave $46,000.
McDonald said Perry's donations reflect typical Texas conservatism favoring low taxation and less regulation or legal liability for his business.
"He's the primary bankroller of all things Republican," McDonald said. "But he's a mystery man who doesn't jump personally into politics. He's the opposite of (Enron's) Ken Lay, who seemed ubiquitous." Before Enron collapsed, "Kenny Boy," as President Bush nicknamed him, was a top Bush money-raiser and a Fortune 500 CEO who made the company jet and millions of dollars of donations available to elected officials from both political parties.
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who has known Perry since 1984 and counts him as his biggest financial backer, said the escalation in Perry's donations is just a reflection of the home builder's growing fortunes.
"He used to be a home builder in Houston," Patterson said. "Now he's a home builder in Texas."
From its base in Houston, Perry Homes has expanded to Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Mission-McAllen and Central Texas. Its homes range from $100,000 to more than $400,000. In Hutto's Star Ranch, Perry has homes starting at $160,000. At Four Seasons Farms in Kyle, he sells homes starting at $120,000.
Last year, according to Professional Builder magazine, the privately held Perry Homes ranked as the nation's 42nd largest home builder with $420 million in revenue.
'Happy with his life'
Perry was not born to money.
Born in 1932 in a one-room house in rural Bosque County, northwest of Waco, Perry later attended Baylor University in Waco, where his father, W.C. Perry, completed a public school teaching career as vice president of student affairs.
Upon graduation, Perry followed in his father's footsteps by teaching high school. In 1968, at 36, he started his home-building business in Houston.
He and his wife, Doylene, have been married since 1961. They have four grown children.
He and his wife live in the suburban community of Nassau Bay, where they attend services each weekend at the Nassau Bay Baptist Church.
"He's happy with his business; he's happy with his family; he's happy with his life," said Miller, Perry's spokesman. "You get the sense the guy really doesn't need anything."
To his critics, Perry got plenty for the $3.8 million he spent on the 2002 elections.
In 2003, a Republican-controlled Legislature curbed the ability of consumers to file lawsuits against businesses.
Krugh, the lawyer for Perry Homes, also helped write legislation that created the Texas Residential Construction Commission, a new state agency to create rules for dispute resolution between home builders and consumers. The governor then appointed Krugh to the nine-member commission.
Opponents see the new agency as a hurdle to consumers suing home builders; the builders defend it as a quicker, fairer way to resolve disputes.
"Bob Perry was highly rewarded with his own state agency," said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. "In Texas you can buy your own state agency, then regulate yourself."
Coleman also complained that Perry Homes, which builds in 47 neighborhoods in Houston, is gentrifying the inner city. Perry's defenders say he is providing homes where needed. Coleman said the three-story town homes don't fit in the neighborhood, won't last and are displacing the elderly.
'A very nice man'
At the state level, several office-holders said Perry never asks anything of them.
Patterson was the state senator for Perry's district before becoming land commissioner.
"In 20 years, he's never asked me for anything," Patterson said. "When I was in the Senate, there were issues he was interested in, but he never called up and said, 'Can you help me on this?' "
Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs agrees.
"He doesn't lobby me," she said. "I lobby him. I know he has contacts."
She said she asked his advice on how to encourage home construction in rural areas. He also organized a meeting of Houston ministers in minority communities when she wanted to talk about schoolchildren's diets.
When Bob Deuell was running against a Democratic incumbent for a Dallas-area Senate seat, he got help from Perry before ever meeting him.
"I just started getting these checks from him," Deuell recalls. When Deuell phoned to thank Perry and ask for a meeting, Perry said there was no need. "I know who you are," Deuell remembers Perry telling him.
By Election Day, the checks totaled more than $250,000.
Last year, during the legislative session, the two finally met during one of Perry's rare trips to the Capitol with a delegation of business leaders from Houston.
"I bumped into him in the hallway," Deuell said.
Now that Deuell has gotten to know Perry, he said his generosity does not stop at politics.
"He's a very nice man, very devout and gives a lot of money to charity," Deuell said. "He and his son fund an orphanage in Mexico. That is the other side of Bob Perry."
While Patterson said Perry is an ideological donor, he said he is pragmatic enough to support Houston-area Democrats where necessary.
Sen. John Whitmire, a longtime Houston Democrat, said Perry has supported him for years. When he attends Whitmire's fund raisers, the senator said, Perry just tells him, "Keep up the good work."
When a delegation of about 20 Houston leaders visited the senator to discuss legislation to curb lawsuits last year, Whitmire said Perry was in the audience but said nothing.
"He's very unassuming," Whitmire said.
Under a microscope
Even as President Bush says he doesn't believe Kerry lied about his military service in Vietnam, he declines to criticize the ads by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
The Kerry campaign is looking for a tie between the Bush campaign and the anti-Kerry veterans because federal law forbids coordination between a campaign and independent groups speaking out on the issues. Through Perry, the Kerry campaign sees a longtime supporter of Bush and ally to Bush's political chief, Karl Rove, who was the primary Republican Party consultant in Texas for years.
Patterson said he doubts the Kerry campaign will find that the Bush campaign coordinated the donation with Perry. Two Bush campaign associates have resigned over the swift boat ads: Campaign lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg quit the campaign after disclosing he also advised members of the swift boat ad campaign, and volunteer adviser Ken Cordier, a retired Air Force colonel, resigned his advisory role after appearing in one of the ads.
When Patterson heard that Perry contributed money to the anti-Kerry swift boat campaign, he phoned Perry to thank him.
"Why is he doing this? He thinks John Kerry is a bad guy and wouldn't make a good president," Patterson said. "He doesn't like a guy who waffles."
John E. O'Neill, the Houston lawyer and Vietnam veteran leading the swift boat campaign, said Perry's contribution was important early on but that the organization now claims 30,000 donations totaling $2.1 million. "It's just a fraction of the total," he said.
O'Neill calls Perry a "casual friend."
He said he has had lunch with Perry four or five times over the last 30 years, the last time two years ago. O'Neill said some of his clients, whom he didn't identify, recommended he phone Perry for money.
"I knew him more as a home builder than a contributor," O'Neill said. "If you had asked me to whom or how much, I couldn't have told you."
Associated Press, Aug. 28:
Israel says it knows better than to spy on the U-S.
Officials in Jerusalem are denying allegations that a Pentagon employee was leaking secret information to them about White House deliberations on Iran. U-S authorities say they may make an arrest in the case next week.
However, Israeli officials say they remember too well the tensions created nearly 20 years ago when a U-S Navy analyst was arrested and sentenced to life in prison for passing secrets on to Israel.
A top Israeli legislator says since then the country's policy has been to never spy against the U-S government or its subsidiaries.
Still, Israel says it is very concerned about Iran's nuclear program.
Later in the evening, I tuned in to another PBS program hosted by another neo-con apologist -- Tucker Carlson. The first thing that the bow-tied dandy asked his guests was "Why don't we just kill al Sadr." More tough talk from another wimp. This guy couldn't fight his way out of paper bag.
The implicit premise that both of these sissies use is that there is no alternative to United States imperialism. In this misguided world view, Bush (their brother in sissyhood) can order the U.S. military to go around the world and invade countries preemptively whenever he damn well sees fit. Sounds like fascism to me.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Sign our petition and send a message to America that God is not a Republican, or a Democrat and that the Religious Right does not speak for you. Remind America that Jesus taught us to be peacemakers, advocates for the poor, and defenders of justice.
With your help, Sojourners will place this petition in as many media outlets as possible. After signing the petition, you will have an opportunity to give a gift to help communicate this important message.
"Hastert is not complaining about the cost of rebuilding Iraq, yet he complains about rebuilding New York?"
New York Post, Aug. 26:
New Yorkers yesterday slammed House Speaker Dennis Hastert for claiming the Big Apple was guilty of an "unseemly scramble" for cash after Sept. 11 — and one city councilman demanded he return his FDNY cap.
"I want to let Hastert know we want our FDNY cap back," fumed Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., referring to the baseball cap given to Hastert three years ago when the powerful Illinois lawmaker toured Ground Zero shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
Vallone, along with a slew of other officials and residents, blasted the Republican leader's claims in his new book, "Speaker," which were reported on the front page of yesterday's Post.
Hastert wrote that at the time of the attacks, it was impossible to calculate the cost, continuing, "but already we heard voices asking, 'Who's going to pay for this? How much will it cost?' "
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) labeled Hastert's remarks "really sad."
"Hastert is not complaining about the cost of rebuilding Iraq, yet he complains about rebuilding New York?" Serrano said.
The Bush campaign's top outside lawyer, who said on Tuesday that he had given legal advice to the group of veterans attacking Senator John Kerry's Vietnam War record, said today that he was resigning from the campaign because his activities were becoming a "distraction" to Mr. Bush' re-election efforts.
The lawyer, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, said that the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, called him last month to ask for his help and that he had agreed. The group has criticized Mr. Kerry's war record and his antiwar activism in a book, television commercials and appearances on various news programs, especially on cable. ...
CRAWFORD, Texas - Former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter protesting ads challenging John Kerry Vietnam service to President Bush (news - web sites) at his Texas ranch Wednesday, but neither a Secret Service official nor a state trooper would take it.
The former Georgia senator, a triple amputee who fought in Vietnam, was carrying a letter from nine Senate Democrats who wrote Bush that "you owe a special duty" to condemn attacks on Kerry's military service.
"The question is where is George Bush honor, the question is where is his shame to attack a fellow veteran who has distinguished himself in combat?" Cleland asked. "Regardless of the political combat involved, it's disgraceful."
Encountering a permanent roadblock to Bush's ranch, Cleland left without turning over the letter to anyone.
"I gotta get out of here!" -- Alice Cooper
Shock-rock legend Alice Cooper calls rock stars campaigning for Democrat John Kerry treasonous morons.
The 56-year-old Cooper says he was disgusted to learn the likes of Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, R.E.M., Sheryl Crow, James Taylor and Dave Matthews were hitting the road for a series of concerts designed to help defeat President Bush. ...
Hi. I thought I would pass this along to you all at govdoc-l....
Apparently the University of Pittsburgh has been blocked by the Army from accessing a number of army.mil sites. There are some we can get into and others we can't. Specifically we can't access many of the army library sites - www.libraries.army.mil. Our systems department started to work on this problem because the problem was not on our end - we were clearly being blocked by these sites and we were told by the Army that yes indeed we were blocked, but the Army would not tell our systems people why. Users can access the Army sites we are blocked from from the public library (which happens to be across the street from us).
American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri Records,
The American Civil Liberties Union was formed in January 1920 largely through the efforts of Roger Baldwin. Baldwin moved to St. Louis from Boston in the fall of 1906 to be the first director of Self Culture Hall, a neighborhood settlement house founded by the Ethical Culture Society. In addition to this position, Baldwin gave the first course in sociology at Washington University. Along with his involvement in urban reform; he served as secretary of the St. Louis Civic League, an organization of urban progressives, Baldwin counseled pacifism at the outbreak of the First World War in Europe. "When I read of the British conscientious objectors in the war", he recalled, "I knew I was one of them." In 1916 he joined the St. Louis affiliate of the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) and in the spring of 1917 Baldwin resigned his position with the Civic League and moved to New York in order to donate his services to the AUAM national directing
In May, 1917 Baldwin organized the Bureau for Conscientious Objectors as a sub-agency of the AUAM to advise objectors about legal technicalities and in other ways provide legal or economic assistance. Due to ideological differences, Baldwin's organization broke away from the AUAM
and became the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB) an independent association, in 1917. In the fall of 1918, just as the war was about to end, Baldwin went to prison for eight months for violating the draft law. Following his release from prison in late 1919, Baldwin began a reorganization of the NCLB. Taking a broader scope than before, he sought to serve those directly involved in the labor struggle and those who stood on general principles for freedom of expression. Baldwin's efforts resulted in the organization of the American Civil Liberties Union
in January, 1920.
It appears that the St. Louis Civil Liberties Committee (StLCLC) was formed in that same year by a small group of St. Louisans as a permanent non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to defending the liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The StLCLC's 1936 constitution lists its purposes as: the furtherance of the cause of freedom of speech, writing, publication, assembly and thought by all legitimate means; the protection of the legal rights of individuals in respect to such
instances as may be deemed worthy; the promotion or opposition of legislation and other official action bearing upon civil liberties; and cooperation to the fullest extent possible with the American Civil Liberties Union in such of its activities as meet with the approval of the StLCLC.
The StLCLC changed its name to the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri
(ACLU/EM) in 1968. In 1971 the position of Executive Director was created to head up the workings of the ACLU/EM. The Board of Trustees conducts the affairs of the affiliate, and officers of the affiliate consist of a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. ACLU/EM has four standing committees; the legal panel, the membership committee, the program committee, and the tribute fund. The President is responsible for appointing chairmen and members of these committees. The Board may, when appropriate, create ad hoc committees and the President appoints chairmen and members as authorized by the Board. ...
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Don Bolles, doubts remain as to who was responsible for the murder
by C.D. Stelzer
first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), June 11, 1997
By 11:30 a.m., as Don Bolles walked across the parking lot of the Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix, the temperature had already begun to climb towards a high of 101 degrees that Tuesday -- June 2, 1976.
Bolles, who had lived in the desert city for 14 years, was also accustomed to another kind of heat. As a journalist for the Arizona Republic , his reporting on local corruption had won him not only accolades but death threats. When he began backing his Datsun out of its parking space, six sticks of dynamite exploded directly below the driver's seat. Bolles died 11 days later.
Witnesses at the bomb scene told police Bolles had remained conscious long enough to say: "They finally got me. The Mafia. Emprise. Find John (Harvey) Adamson."
Ultimately, Adamson confessed to the murder. The former race dog breeder admitted luring the 47-year-old Bolles to the hotel under a pretense and then canceling the meeting. But the other two parties implicated by Bolles' dying words were never thoroughly investigated by the Phoenix police even though the reporter was known to have provided congressional testimony in 1972 linking organized crime to Emprise, the Buffalo, N.Y. sports concessions conglomerate.
After more than 20 years, doubts still remain as to who instigated Bolles' assassination. There is one certainty: the murder created a patron saint for a generation of otherwise iconoclastic investigative reporters. Martyrdom is not, however, the most lasting legacy that Bolles left. His work remains a guide into the unchartered underworld, a compass pointing beyond Phoenix to other cities, including St. Louis and Detroit.
Following Bolles' death, more than 30 journalists from the then-newly formed Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) group arrived in Phoenix to carry out their late colleague's work. The IRE will reconvene in Phoenix this week for the organization's 20th annual conference. Among those expected to attend is retired Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter Bob Greene of Newsday , leader of the 1976 IRE team .
On their first visit, Greene and the other reporters spent a total of six months focusing their attention on corruption in Arizona. Their cumulative work resulted in a 23-part series -- 100,000 words in length -- which began running in newspapers nationwide on March 13, 1977.
"I still feel very proud to have been part of it, because I don't think it is something that will ever be done again. says Jerry Uhrammer, who took a leave from the Eugene (Ore.) Guardian-Register to participate in the effort. "It was unique. We were all working with a common purpose," says the recently retired 64-year-old reporter.
Members of the Arizona Project, as IRE dubbed it, agreed not to investigate the Bolles murder itself in deference to the ongoing police inquiry. Instead, the team chose to expose the kinds of corruption that garnered Bolles' interest before his death. The laundry list included: land fraud, gambling, extortion, drug trafficking, prostitution and the exploitation of illegal aliens.
From the beginning, the project had critics. The New York Times and Washington Post opposed the idea, citing among other things a hesitancy to engage in "pool journalism." Sen. Barry Goldwater, a target of the IRE team, likened the reporters to outside agitators and refused to be interviewed. Inside IRE itself, dissension centered on the team's cooperative relationship with law enforcement agencies, including trading information with the FBI and the police.
Don Devereux, another Arizona Project reporter, feels the IRE team may have trusted the authorities too much. "We accepted very uncritically their scenario. In retrospect, we were very naive to get lead around. It really isn't something that we should be running around congratulating ourselves about," says Devereux of the IRE investigation.
Devereux, who still lives in Phoenix, joined the IRE team as a stringer for an alternative weekly in New Mexico. After the Arizona Project folded, he spent most of the next decade digging deeper into the Bolles case as a reporter for the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Progress. By 1980, his reporting helped spur the Arizona Supreme Court to reverse the original convictions of two of the men found guilty of the murder. In a subsequent retrial, one defendant was acquitted and the other sentenced again.
"My feeling is that both of those men were patsies in this case," says the 63-year-old Devereux . "One guy is still in prison for the Bolles' homicide, who I believed was framed. It perturbs some of us out here that that kind of miscarriage of justice can continue.
"The biggest disservice we did to Bolles was not paying more attention to him," says Devereux. "His dying words were words we should have glommed onto a little more seriously, because when he was lying on the pavement he said: `Adamson, Emprise, Mafia. ... Emprise was almost Bolles' white whale. He was obsessed by them. ..."
Emprise was, indeed, a big fish, with 162 subsidiaries in the United States and abroad, employing more than 70,000 people. Formed in 1915 by the Jacobs brothers of Buffalo, the concessions firm had expanded from selling peanuts at baseball games to an ownership role in professional sports. Some of Emprise's partners in these far-flung ventures had long criminal records. In Detroit, for example, Emprise held a stake in the Hazel Park race track with known Mafia figures.
Bolles' first brush with the Buffalo-based corporation came in 1969, after a group of independent Arizona race-dog breeders filed suit against Funk's Greyhound Racing Circuit, alleging that the track operators were trying to put them out of business. The Funk family shared ownership in Arizona's six dog tracks with Emprise and were indebted to their out-of-town partner.
Bolles found the Funks were influencing the Arizona Racing Commission. After exposing this in a series of stories, three racing commissioners were forced to resign. The Funks hired a private investigator to tap Bolles' telephone, and obtain other confidential information. Both sides filed law suits: the Funks suing the Arizona Republic and Bolles for libel, and Bolles suing them for invasion of privacy. Despite the litigation, Bolles continued to speak out.
By the time he testified before the House Select Committee on Crime on May 16,1972, Bolles had been researching Emprise for three years. Asked by a congressman what he had discovered, Bolles answered:"We found there was a continual association with organized crime figures over a 35 year period."
In late April 1972. only a few weeks before Bolles' congressional appearance, a federal jury in Los Angeles had convicted Emprise and fined it $10,000 for concealing the Mafia's ownership of the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Mafia figures convicted along with the concessions firm included the late Anthony Giordano of St. Louis, and Anthony J. Zerilli of Detroit.
Although the case dates back a quarter of a century, the U.S. Attorney's office in Detroit last year charged Zerilli and other surviving Detroit mobsters with a multi-count racketeering indictment that includes their illegal ownership of the Frontier and other casinos in Las Vegas.
The 1972 Emprise conviction led several states to initiate their own inquiries. In Illinois, the racing board subpoenaed financial records of Sportservice Inc., an Emprise subsidiary that operated concessions at Cahokia Downs race track. In Missouri, the state liquor-control supervisor examined Sportservice's operations in St. Louis and Kansas City. But Emprise attorneys successfully defended the company against these charges except in Oregon, where the firm lost its liquor license.
Following its federal conviction, Emprise Corp. dissolved, and its many subsidiaries were placed under Delaware North Cos. Inc. The paper transfer, however, kept the assets of the privately-held corporation in the hands of Jeremy Jacobs, a son of one of the founders. During his reign, Jacobs has guarded the company's reputation by suing detractors and hiring a former FBI agent as security director. The unrelenting litigious assault against former Rep. Sam Steiger of Arizona, the most outspoken of Emprise's critics, eventually resulted in the congressman publicly expressing confidence in the concessions firm.
Delaware North continues to dominate sports concessions in several major league cities and owns numerous parimutuel horse and dog racing tracks. In Bolles' home state, the company currently operates dog racing tracks under the name of Arizona Greyhound Racing Inc. It also holds the concession rights for the Phoenix Suns basketball team through Arizona Sportservice Inc. The corporation's other interests range from ownership of the Boston Bruins hockey team to a lucrative concessions contract with the National Parks Service.
In St. Louis, Sportservice still holds the concessions contract at Busch Memorial Stadium, home of the baseball Cardinals. During this year's Missouri legislative session, the Cardinals owners lobbied successfully for the creation of a sports authority that will examine the possibility of allowing the baseball club and Sportservice to divert millions of dollars in taxes into a special fund to pay for stadium upkeep. The sports authority is also expected to look into the potential for using the same tax abatement method as a financing mechanism for building a new ballpark sometime in the future ("Pay Ball," RFT, April 9).
This is not the first time Sportservice's name has been mentioned in regard to the stadium or other professional sports facilities in St. Louis. The week before the Crime Committee heard Bolles' testimony in 1972, it listened to Capt. Earl T. Halveland, then the commander of the intelligence unit of the St. Louis Police Department. Halveland told how the Emprise subsidiary originally helped finance Busch Memorial Stadium.
"Sportservice Inc. purchased the concession equipment that was installed in the stadium. This was reported to be a million dollars worth of equipment for the concession stands," said Halveland. " (In return,) they (Sportservice) received a 30-year contract for the concessions and guaranteed ... Civic Center Redevelopment Corp. -- which developed the stadium project -- $400,000 (per year)." It doesn't take a fiduciary to ascertain that the 30-year, $12 million guarantee provided a footing for the stadium's financial structure.
One beneficiary of the Sportservice contract with Civic Center was Giordano, the St. Louis Mafia boss, who owned Automatic Cigarette Sales Co. Sportservice and its sister company, Missouri Sportservice, granted Automatic Cigarette Sales the rights to place cigarette vending machines not only at the stadium but at the municipally-owned Kiel Auditorium and the Arena, then home of the St. Louis Blues hockey team.
In 1967, Emprise lent Sid Salomon Jr., then the owner of the Arena and the Blues, $1.5 million, after Sportservice landed a 10-year concessions contract at the facility. When that contract expired, Sportservice played a hand in the complicated 1977 sale of the Arena to Ralston Purina Co., which had bought the Blues earlier that year. As a part of the $8.8 million Arena deal, Ralston paid off the mortgage holder and a partnership that included Sportservice. After Ralston acquired the Arena, it leased the building back to Dome Associates Inc., another company linked to the Buffalo-based sports concessions firm.
By 1977, Bolles was dead, but Sportservice's liaisons in St. Louis and elsewhere still seemed to mimic the patterns he explained to the Crime Committee five years earlier. Bolles then recounted how he had traveled around the country rummaging through newspaper morgues in an effort to understand the scope of the Emprise empire. He described how Emprise loans locked professional sports franchises into unbreakable long-term contracts. He outlined how the Cleveland mob borrowed money from Sportservice dating back to 1937. He explained how Moe Dalitz, a leader of the Cleveland crime organization, reciprocated, lending Emprise $250,000 in 1958.
Bolles cautioned "that Emprise has ... had a gradual shift from a concession to an ownership position in the tracks and elsewhere through the use of high-interest loans. ... If they are in ownership positions, they ... are in a position to effect the outcome of the contests. I just feel that it is absolutely essential, with millions of dollars changing hands on private bets and otherwise on every major sports contest in this nation, that we be absolutely assured of the fact that we have clean, honest sports."
The reporter's caveat dovetailed with Halveland's testimony. The intelligence unit commander told the panel that St. Louis bookmakers -- who were close associates of Giordano -- received their daily sports betting line from Las Vegas "at one location formerly owned by Missouri Sportservice Inc."
More important perhaps is Halveland's theory on how Giordano bankrolled his own move into the Las Vegas gambling scene:
"A substantial sum of money was received by Giordano ... in 1965 through the sale of property at 508 Market St., St. Louis, Mo.," said Halveland. "This building formerly housed a B-girl-type juice joint tavern. This property was sold to the Civic Center Redevelopment Corp., which subsequently constructed the St. Louis baseball stadium in this area. ... He (Giordano) is then known to have made visits to Las Vegas, Nev., and the Frontier Hotel incident began developing just after this time."
Halveland's testimony -- which went virtually unreported at the time -- indicates that an illegal St. Louis gambling wire service operated at a site previously owned by an Emprise subsidiary. In addition, the St. Louis police officer testified that Giordano may have received some of the money he secretly invested in the Frontier by selling property to Civic Center, the stadium developer. Emprise, who held the concessions contract with the stadium, was convicted of shielding Giordano's and the Detroit Mafia's joint ownership of the casino.
The St. Louis Mafia leader and heroin trafficker known used legitimate businessmen to further his casino interests. Halveland told the Crime Committee that "Giordano secured a loan from a St. Louis area restaurant operator."
Actually, Frank Cusumano, the St. Louis restauranteur, made three unsecured loans to Giordano totaling $50,000 between 1964 and 1968, according to Cusumano's testimony at the 1972 federal trial in Los Angeles. He wasn't the only St. Louisan that provided backing for Giordano, however.
Real estate tycoon Anthony Sansone Jr. testified he had withdrawn a $150,000 investment in the Frontier, after being notified he would be required to apply for a Nevada gaming license. Federal prosecutors alleged Sansone, a business partner of former St. Louis Mayor Alfonso J. Cervantes, traveled to Las Vegas with Giordano to make the investment. Sansone is the son-in-law of the late James Michaels Sr., then the Syrian crime boss of St. Louis' and a close ally of Giordano.
That Emprise was convicted with Mafiosa from both St. Louis and Detroit is probably not a coincidence. Three of Giordano's sisters married Detroit Mafia members, according to Halveland's testimony. But organized crime ties linking the two cities with Arizona date back even further.
During Prohibition, Peter and Thomas (Yonnie) Licavoli, Joseph Bommarito and other St. Louis gangsters migrated to Detroit to act as gunmen for the Purple Gang, a group of notorious Jewish bootleggers. Later, Peter Licavoli moved to Tucson in 1944 at the request of mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Moe Dalitz. At the time of Bolles' death, Peter Licavoli Sr. shared power in Arizona with Joe Bonanno, the exiled boss of one of New York's ruling Mafia families.
This is the milieu Bolles inhabited by the mid-1970s.
Profits from illicit alcohol sales during Prohibition helped establish a new multi-ethnic criminal cartel in the U.S. After repeal in 1933, the same crime groups began financing the nascent casino industry in Las Vegas, and dominating other rackets throughout the Southwest, often with the paid cooperation of local politicians and law enforcement authorities.
Beginning in 1946, Licavoli, the Arizona mob boss, operated an illegal gambling wire service with Kemper Marley Sr., the wealthiest liquor distributor in the state. Later, Marley's United Liquor Co. supplied Emprise dog tracks with 10 percent of their alcoholic beverages. During the 1974 Arizona gubernatorial race, Marley was the biggest contributor to Gov. Raul Castro's campaign. After the election, the Castro administration appointed Marley to the state racing commission, but he was forced to resign because of adverse publicity from stories written by Bolles.
The Phoenix police theorized that Marley wanting revenge enlisted the help of local contractor Max Dunlap. Dunlap then allegedly hired Adamson to carry out the bombing. Adamson claimed that plumber James Robison assisted him.
Over the years, Dunlap and Robison have maintained their innocence. Dunlap remains incarcerated. Although, Robison gained acquittal in a retrial, he is still awaiting release from prison on a related charge. Meanwhile, the state paroled Adamson last year, and he disappeared into the federal witness protection program.
he Phoenix police never even arrested Marley, who died in 1990.
Devereux, the Scottsdale Progress reporter who covered the case, believes Adamson falsely implicated Dunlap and Robison as a part of a plea bargain to lessen his own sentence. The police hastily granted Adamson associate Neal Roberts, an attorney, immunity in the case for his cooperation. Roberts promulgated the theory that Marley, a friend of Dunlap's, was behind the murder. During the trial, Dunlap testified that he had unwittingly delivered $5,800 to Adamson at the request of Roberts. The Arizona Supreme Court overturned the original trial court's convictions because defense attorneys weren't allowed to cross-exam Adamson, denying the defendants their constitutional right to confront their accuser.
In short, the police investigation and the state's prosecution both missed the mark. "I don't think it was incompetence," says Devereux. "I think this was a deliberately misdirected investigation and prosecution. And I think the press ... bought into it. Not out of any corruption on their part, just out of naivete." The state's case was handled by the office of then Arizona Attorney General Bruce Babbitt, who would later ascend to the governorship and is now the Secretary of the Interior in the Clinton administration.
"We made assumptions that Bruce Babbitt and the leadership of the Phoenix police department were in fact honest people," says Devereux. "I think we were mistaken."
Devereux places the blame for the murder on the late Bradley Funk, a close friend of Roberts, the immunized attorney. Funk was one of the local partners in Emprise's Arizona dog track operations. "Bolles was using Bradley Funk's ex-wife as one of his key information sources on the dog tracks," says Devereux. "As a consequence of the divorce from Bradley, she was going to court every two years to adjust child support payments. ... Bolles would give her lists of things that he wanted to get in the ways of documents, and she would add them to her (legal) motions. ... I think Bradley got tired of his ex-wife and Bolles playing this game with him."
No one really knows for sure what transpired excect perhaps Adamson, the only person who ever admitted having anything to do with Bolles' murder. The reporter's confessed killer lives somewhere now under a new identity with federal protection. More than likely he is far from dry winds that descend from the Superstition Mountains across the parking lots of Phoenix and all those glinting windshields and scorching vinyl seats.
Apostle of the right plots second coming in the Arizona desert; John Lichfield in Phoenix on the vengeful comeback of Evan Mecham, disgraced former governor of Arizona
by John Lichfield
Evan Mecham's campaign office is a garish bungalow, his former home transplanted to a new site within Arizona's constantly shifting - some say shiftless - capital. Outside stands a notice: ''Evan Mecham Headquarters. Office space available, enquire within . . . ''
Inside, the former Arizona governor, his face as sweet and sour as a crab apple, sits in front of the Stars and Stripes, surrounded by pictures of fighter planes and Abraham Lincoln. He is planning his comeback, his vindication and his revenge.
In April 1988, after 13 eventful months in office, Mr Mecham became the first US governor to be impeached in nearly 60 years. A devout Mormon and ultra-conservative, and wartime fighter pilot turned car salesman, he won the governorship in 1986 by something of a fluke, at the height of the powers of the religious right.
From his first day, he was savaged by the local press, the local Democrats and, most of all, fellow Republicans, for his alleged buffoonery and bigotry.
Some of his faults were undeniable, such as his reference to Japanese tourists ''getting round eyes'' at the sight of Arizona's myriad golf courses. Other accusations were grossly distorted. In the end he was convicted by the state legislature on trumped-up charges of diverting campaign funds to his struggling Pontiac dealership.
Now Mr Mecham, 63, is running for governor again in what promises to be the most colourful, vicious and confusing campaign of this autumn's US state and congressional elections.
In some ways the campaign is pure Arizonan frontier politics. But it raises, in grotesque form, a cat's-cradle of issues at the heart of post-Eighties, post-Reagan America: the relationship between economic growth, deregulation and the proper role of government; and the continuing power of the religious right within the Republican party. (With the help of Mecham supporters, or ''Evanistas'', the Republican state convention last year resolved that the US was ''not a democracy'' but a ''Christian nation'' and ''a Republic based upon the absolute laws of the Bible''.)
Most intriguing of all, the campaign coincides with fresh questions about the origins of Arizona's extraordinary post-war boom (a 600 per cent increase in population in 40 years). Mr Mecham's insists - with biblical certainty - that he was brought down by an evil cabal which controls Arizona, in which organised crime is linked to big business, to the press and to the state's leading politicians, both Republican and Democratic.
''They had to get rid of me because I was in their way,'' he said. ''It's nice and tidy for a small group of people to be able to control this state. It's not so good for the people of Arizona. But what do they care about the people? Arizona is one of the most corrupt states in the US.''
In particular, Mr Mecham blames his demise on an organisation called the Phoenix 40, a group of businessmen which is referred to by Mecham supporters as the ''Arizona House of Lords'' and ''The Forty Thieves''.
It is undeniable that the Republican ''moderate'' establishment in the state - which in Arizona terms includes the former senator Barry Goldwater - led the campaign to unseat Mr Mecham. But was this, as most Arizonans accept, from simple embarrassment at Mr Mecham's antics, coupled with fear that the Mechamite ultra-right might take over the state party? Or was it something more sinister?
Mr Mecham is a celebrated political paranoiac (he once claimed laser beams were being used to bug his office at the State House); on the other hand, Arizona is a convincing place in which to cry stinking fish.
Charles Keating, responsible for the biggest single crash in the present $ 200bn US savings bank debacle, operated from Phoenix, with extraordinary immunity from local investigation. The ''Keating Five'' - the US senators who lobbied for Keating after receiving campaign contributions - include both the senators from Arizona. All 11 of Arizona's large savings institutions have failed or are about to do so.
The state attorney-general recently reopened the case of a local journalist, Don Bolles, who was murdered in 1976, apparently while investigating links between the Mafia and Arizonan banks and other businesses. Don Devereux, a local freelance journalist, is researching the murder. He is cautious about Mr Mecham's conspiracy theories, but says it is evident that many embarrassing corpses lie buried in the desert beneath the Phoenix concrete.
''In the 1960s and 1970s, Arizona was a desert Switzerland. It had absolute banking secrecy, which attracted billions of dollars in hot money from The Mob and from white-collar crime. Add to that a climate of obsessive business deregulation, and you understand why a man like Keating came here. That kind of money breeds corruption everywhere. It was the rocket fuel for Phoenix growth in the last 20 years.''
Mr Mecham (himself an apostle of minimal government and deregulation) complains that huge sums have been made from property by the Arizona political families - the Goldwaters, the Babbitts, the Deconcinis. Mecham supporters, such as his aide Max Hawkins, accuse the establishment of exploiting insider knowledge of state road, water and zoning plans. The suggestion is that the coming of Evan Mecham threatened to upset such cosy arrangements.
Mecham supporters insist that the Keating scandal - and the related collapse of Arizona property prices - will knock the scales from Arizonan eyes. ''If the election was held tomorrow, I'd win it in a walk,'' Mr Mecham said.
A recent poll in the Arizona Republic, one of Mr Mecham's most relentless critics, suggested otherwise. It put his state-wide disapproval rating at 72 per cent.
Mr Mecham is also said to have financial troubles - hence the offices to rent in his HQ. But even his opponents acknowledge that Arizona Republicans are now so hopelessly fissured, with five candidates in the race, that Mr Mecham might just win the party primary in September. The November general election is a different proposition.
Max Hawkins remains convinced of Mr Mecham's second coming: ''The impeachment was a Greek tragedy. In the autumn, we will have a Homeric epic, the return of Odysseus . . .''
Monday, August 23, 2004
By C.D. Stelzer
The end came in the desert with a single gunshot. Not a solidarity death, as implied by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but one well attended. A death witnessed and documented, leaving little room for speculation. A simple suicide or so it would seem.
On Sunday Jan. 19, 2003, at 9:45 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, a man identified as Jesse Lee McBride shot himself with a .38-caliber revolver, while seated behind the wheel of a blue 1995 Ford Crown Victoria on the outskirts of Surprise, Ariz., according to local police reports. The victim died approximately an hour later at a nearby hospital. Law enforcement authorities closed the case, after a routine investigation. Though the Arizona press ignored the incident, the news media in St. Louis later reported the true identity of the man as Jesse Eugene Stoneking, a 56-year old mobster, who gained fame here as a federal informant in the 1980s.
During his long criminal career, Stoneking put together a resume that ran the gamut from extortion to murder. By the late 1970s, he had become the top lieutenant of Eastside rackets boss Art Berne, who took his orders directly from the Chicago Outfit. But after being nabbed as the leader of an interstate car theft ring in 1981, Stoneking rolled over and became a FBI informant. His undercover work for the bureau ultimately led to federal indictments and a string of convictions of St. Louis area organized crime figures, including his boss. The mafia reportedly put a $100,000 bounty on his head. Stoneking spent most of the next two decades running from his past.
Despite Stoneking’s reputation and the FBI’s expressed interest in his death last year, municipal and county officials in Arizona, who had jurisdiction over the case, chose not to expand the inquiry.
Their suicide ruling is based primarily on two eyewitness accounts, including one by a Maricopa County deputy. For this reason among others, the Surprise police deemed Stoneking’s death an open-and-shut case. But however certain the cause of death may be, questions persist. In death, as in life, the truth about Jesse Stoneking remains elusive. Accounts vary. Discrepancies abound. Conclusions contradict. In this case, even the name of the victim is listed wrong on the medical examiner’s report. As a result, public understanding of the under-reported case has been limited by a combination of standard police procedures and the media’s failure to provide accurate, independent, follow-up coverage of breaking news.
The men who were not there
The Post-Dispatch story on Stoneking’s death ran on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003, six days after his suicide. Relying on a Surprise police spokeman’s account of the incident, staff writer Paul Hampel reported that Stoneking had shot himself in his car “in a desolate area on the edge of town.” Among the sparse details included in the story was that the former mobster operated an automobile repossession business and “lived alone” in Wickenburg, Ariz.
Hampel’s story sketched a solitary suicide on a lonely stretch of road at a remote location in the desert. But maps of the area show a different picture. The crime took place in sprawling Maricopa County, near the intersection of two well-traveled roads, which bordered residential developments and golf courses on three sides.
More importantly, the police and medical examiner’s reports on the suicide show that Stoneking’s last act wasn’t carried out alone, but in the company of a longtime associate and a law enforcement official. Moreover, the car that Stoneking drove that night was registered in the name of his friend, as was the weapon that he allegedly used to kill himself.
The official police version of Stoneking’s death raises questions about the immediate actions taken by law enforcement officers, the methods used in the initial investigation and conclusions drawn afterwards.
The following account is based on the reports of the first officers who arrived on the scene and a police interrogation of Stoneking’s friend.
At 9:05 p.m., the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office dispatched Deputy J. Sprong to Loop 303 and Bell Road because of a report that there were large rocks in the roadway.
Sprong reported that on his arrival he saw a Ford Crown Victoria driven by Stoneking on the side of the highway with its emergency flashers on. The deputy also reported that two other vehicles, a late model Toyota SUV and a tow truck, were parked 300 yards further down the road. The tow truck driver advised the deputy that the SUV and the vehicle driven by Stoneking had flat tires from hitting rocks on the highway. The SUV driver gave the same story, according to the report, prompting Sprong to double back and remove the road hazards.
On his return, the SUV and the tow truck (identified as a flat-bed type in other police reports) had departed. Sprong then pulled behind the Ford to ask whether the driver needed assistance. At that point, the passenger, identified as Michael Laurella, got out of the car and walked back to the police vehicle.
“I then heard a single gunshot from inside of the vehicle,” Sprong wrote. Sprong says he then shined a flashlight through the back window and saw blood coming from the right side of the driver’s head. As he ordered Laurella to continue walking towards him, Surprise police officer R. Peck arrived on the scene. Sprong also reported that a third law enforcement officer from the Arizona Department of Public Safety also arrived at the scene about that time. The state officer, according to Sprong, watched Laurella as he and Peck approached the Ford from opposite sides.
“I approached the vehicle on the passenger side as the other Officer (Peck) was on the Driver’s side,” reported Sprong. “We noticed a black revolver pistol next to Jesse’s right leg on the seat. His right hand was on top of the gun. I noticed that Jesse was still breathing but did not respond to my commands. I then reached inside the vehicle and took the gun and secured it in my vehicle.”
Peck’s report of the incident is mostly the same as Sprong’s with exception of a rather subtle but possibly significant omission. He doesn’t mention the arrival of the Public Safety officer at the scene. In Peck’s account, he searches Laurella, Sprong then directs the passenger to stand behind the police vehicle, as Peck presumably returns to his squad car to request another officer.
According to Peck:
I checked Michael Laurella for weapons and Deputy Sprong then had him step to the rear of his patrol car. I then requested another officer from dispatch. Deputy Sprong and I then checked on the driver with deputy Sprong advancing on the passenger side and myself on the driver side.
The fact that Peck didn’t mention the arrival of the third officer in his report could be explained as a simple oversight. It is clear from Sprong’s version of events that he had requested additional back up.
His account indicates that three law enforcement officers from different jurisdictions were on the scene only moments after the suicide occurred. But oddly, in his report, Sprong doesn’t identify either of the other officers by name. He does, however, repeatedly refer to the victim as “Jesse; ” and the witness, Laurella, as “Michael,” which in retrospect seems somewhat informal for a police report.
Sgt. P.H. Riherd of the Surprise Police Department arrived next and advised Sprong that the shooting took place within the town’s jurisdiction. Sprong reported that he then turned the pistol over to her. Riherd also ordered Peck to close the road to traffic and set up warning flares. (Later, Peck was directed by another officer to drive Laurella home.) In the interim, emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene and Stoneking was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Phoenix, where he died.
By the time J.C. Vance, the investigating detective, arrived on the scene, an hour after the shooting, the body and the weapon had both been removed from the vehicle. Moreover, the first responding officers had been relieved of their duties by others, including Sgt. Riherd and officer G. L. Welch.
Vance reported that he received a call at 10:15 p.m. from Sgt. D. Cuker, who was at the scene, asking him to respond to a “possible homicide or suicide.”
When Vance arrived, at 10:45, Welch’s patrol car was parked directly behind the Ford Crown Victoria and the weapon that Stoneking allegedly used to kill himself was on the trunk of the Ford. Laurella was seated in the back of Welch’s patrol car.
From these official accounts, the investigation appears to have been compromised from the outset. In the hour that it took the detective to arrive, the chain of custody on the weapon had changed two or three times. Two of the three witnesses, both law enforcement officers, had left the scene. And the body had been removed.
There are other discrepancies. When Vance interrogated Laurella at the scene, Stoneking’s friend told the detective that two other vehicles had pulled over to side of the road with flat tires, not one as Sprong reported. According to Laurella’s account, the other cars were parked in front and behind his car. Laurella indicated that the tow truck driver fixed both of those vehicles' flat tires. Instead of also asking for assistance, however, Laurella says that Stoneking said that he preferred they fix their flat themselves.
By the time deputy Sprong returned to the scene after clearing the rocks from the road, both of the other vehicles and the tow truck had departed, Laurella said. During the meantime, nothing in the police reports show that Laurella or Stoneking made any effort to fix their own flat tire in the intervening 30 or 40 minutes. They also declined to request assistance from the tow truck driver, according to Laurella’s account.
Instead, they remained seated inside the car. When Sprong pulled up behind them and activated his overhead emergency lights, Laurella said that Stoneking asked him to hold his glasses and then requested that he get out and tell the deputy that help was on the way. Laurella said he was ten or 12 feet behind the car and had just begun to speak to the deputy when he heard the single gunshot come from inside the Crown Victoria.
Laurella says he was then ordered to put his hands on the hood of the patrol car by the deputy. As stated in the other accounts, officer Peck arrived at the scene immediately after the gunshot was fired. But according to detective Vance’s report, Laurella didn’t mention the unidentified state cop, who deputy Sprong says guarded Laurella while he and officer Peck checked on Stoneking.
According to detective Vance’s report: “Laurella further indicated that at this time a Surprise police officer arrived on scene and he was secured in the back of the deputy’s patrol car, while the police approached his vehicle.” Laurella added that “he remained seated in the deputy’s patrol car while other police and medical personnel arrived on scene and treated his friend, Jesse.”
Again, the differences in the accounts of the three witnesses could be an innocent oversight in the police reporting. It's also possible that Laurella, under duress, may have not have recalled the arrival of the third police officer.
Less explainable, though, is how Laurella ended up in possession of Stoneking’s wallet. According to the detective’s report: “Laurella also indicated that he had McBride’s (Stoneking’s) wallet in his pocket as it was given to him by an officer.”
If Laurella is to be believed, a police officer at a possible homicide scene removed personal effects from a victim, or, at least, from the inside of the vehicle where the shooting took place, and then handed them over to a potential suspect.
An evidence technician, who later arrived at the scene, took photographs, but by this time the crime scene had been disturbed more than once by police and the emergency medical crew. Swab tests of Laurella’s hands showed no signs of gun powder. But contrary to the Post-Dispatch, story, the medical examiner’s report doesn’t indicate that similar tests were performed on Stoneking’s hands even though they had been bagged at the crime scene expressly for that purpose. Soot was found in the head wound, according to the medical examiner, but no powder tattooing was identified, which is often present when a gunshot is fired at close range.
In addition, no autopsy was performed, according to the medical examiner's report.
The story that wasn't there
Aside from the Post-Dispatch story that appeared nearly a week after his death, there has only been one reference to Stoneking that appeared in the newspaper since then, a nostalgic column by staffer Pat Gauen that ran in the Illinois zoned edition. A search of Lexis-Nexis database doesn’t show the Jan. 25, 2003 news story was even published.
During his interrogation at the scene, Laurella said he and Stoneking lived together in a mobile home in Wickenburg. The Post-Dispatch reported that Stoneking lived alone. Laurella owned the Crown Vic that Stoneking was driving, according to the police reports. The Post-Dispatch reported that it was Stoneking’s car. Laurella and deputy Sprong were present at the time of Laurella’s death. The Post-Dispatch implied that Stoneking died alone. The .38-caliber revolver that ended Stoneking’s life belonged to Laurella. The Post-Dispatch didn’t even mention Laurella’s name.
At least one working journalist in St. Louis knew better. On Jan. 22, veteran TV newsman John Auble of KTVI-Channel 2 in St. Louis called detective Vance and said he believed that suicide victim Jesse McBride was actually Jesse Stoneking, a federal informant. Vance contacted the U.S. Marshal’s office for confirmation. The next day the detective reported that he picked up the bullet from the medical examiner’s office along with photographs of the autopsy -- the autopsy the medical examiner’s report indicates was never conducted. He also wrote that he retrieved a set of latent prints from the corpse and sent all the evidence to the state crime lab for analysis.
On Jan. 27, two days after the Post-Dispatch story ran, FBI agent Frank Brostrom of the St. Louis field office spoke with detective Vance by phone, advising him that he believed McBride was actually Stoneking. Brostrom requested that the Surprise police send him the crime scene photographs and a copy of the police report.
Vance’s police report is dated Jan. 27, 2003. It bears no indication of the results of the state crime lab results on the evidence. A later supplemental report filed by detective Sgt. Y. Ybarra indicates that he had received the medical examiner’s final report on April 17, 2003, nearly three month’s after Stoneking’s death. The report concludes that Jesse McBride died of a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Officially, Stoneking has never been declared dead. For the record, only McBride pulled the trigger. In death, Jesse Stoneking had finally managed to escape his enemies on both sides of the law, including himself.
to be continued
More than a decade before his death in the Arizona desert, Jesse Stoneking prophesized that he would die not by his own hand but as a result of a vengeful execution carried out by the Mafia.
"I know they’re going to hit me someday," Stoneking told former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ronald Lawrence in 1987. Lawrence had reported on Stoneking’s career as a federal informant and over the years a bond developed between the two men.
The trust that the newspaperman engendered prompted Stoneking to divulge aspects of his life that he had never revealed to anyone else. In 1987, Lawrence interviewed Stoneking over a two-day period at a motel in Central Illinois, which the now-retired reporter published as a magazine article two years later.
After his usefulness as a federal informant in St. Louis had been expended, Stoneking briefly entered the federal witness protection program, but he chaffed under its constraints. He left the program and began his life on the run, often hiding out in small towns in rural Southern Illinois and Kentucky, using the pseudonym Jesse McBride. Stoneking also spent stretches of time in Arizona, where he operated an automobile repossession business.
During the intervening years, Lawrence met sporadically with Stoneking and began writing a biography of him. They sometimes had lunch at the Our Lady of the Snows Shrine near Belleville, Ill. Later, they met clandestinely at a house in Chester, Ill. At that particular meeting, about a year-and-a-half before his death, Stoneking expressed apprehension about plans to return to Arizona. Lawrence last saw Stoneking in 2001, when he visited him in Arizona. Stoneking’s fears had not subsided.
"He was paranoid," says Lawrence. "Really paranoid at times. ... His cover was blown."
There is little doubt that the police knew who he was.
In the small town of Wickenburg, where he resided, Stoneking’s past was no secret. After his death, Surprise Police Department spokesman Scott Bailey, a Wickenburg native, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "We’d see him driving around town and say, `There goes the Mafia guy.’"
The Road to Perdition
Jesse Stoneking wasn’t born a hardened criminal, but by adolescence he already had begun developing anti-social tendencies. At 14, the former choirboy was expelled from Catholic elementary school in St. Louis for bringing a pellet gun to class. Soon a juvenile judge placed him on probation for a string of burglaries, which netted $20 in coins. After his parents’ bitter divorce, Stoneking lashed out by stealing a car and going on a joyride, earning him a three-year hitch in reform school, a virtual criminal training ground.
In 1964, his prior juvenile record resulted in a stiff sentence, this time for the minor offense of under-age drinking. A St. Louis County judge ordered him to serve two months in jail and meted out a two-year probation. By this early stage in his life, the dye had been cast.
The rebellious youth, who had taken a few wrong turns, was now on the irreversible path of a career criminal. Stoneking adopted his grandfather, a one-time bank robber, as his role model. His commanding size and domineering attitude served his purposes well, eventually attracting the attention of Art Berne, the Eastside rackets boss, who recruited him into the Outfit. Within a few years, he had become Berne’s number one enforcer.
Berne had inherited his criminal empire from the late Frank "Buster" Wortman. From the 1940s until his death in 1968, Wortman had reigned over prostitution, gambling and labor racketeering, including control over Pipefitters Local 562 in St. Louis. Wortman’s organization, which Berne took over, answered, in turn, to the Chicago Outfit, which by the late-1970s was controlled by Jackie Cerone and Joey Aiuppa.
Stoneking earned and kept Berne’s loyalty by doing his bidding. On Oct. 22, 1978, for instance, mob associate Donald Ellington was found dead in a remote area of Jefferson County, Mo. with two .38-caliber bullets in his head. Police arrested Stoneking as a suspect in the killing, but he was never charged. Rumors were that the dead man had incurred the mob boss’ wrath, in part, due to the mistreatment of Berne’s mistress, a prostitute. Stoneking allegedly carried out the vendetta on Berne’s orders.
Stoneking’s prowess in the Outfit grew the next year, when he killed two men in a shootout at the Kracker Box tavern outside Collinsville, Ill. In September 1980, a jury convicted Stoneking of the murders, but St. Clair County Judge Stephen Kernan set aside the convictions, after the defense claimed new witnesses had come forward. In a plea bargain, Stoneking later pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and received probation. Then prosecuting attorney John Baracevic, who currently serves as the St. Clair County executive, said he agreed to the deal because the prosecution lacked witnesses.
Killing two men in St. Clair County in 1979 had netted Stoneking a lighter sentence than he received in St. Louis County for under-age drinking 15 years earlier.
It appeared that Stoneking’s mob connections were taking care of him. During these years, the mob provided him a series of well-paying, no-show jobs with the operating engineers, pipefitters and laborers unions. But when the feds busted him in 1981, his fortunes quickly changed.
A federal grand jury in Benton, Ill. indicted Stoneking for operating a multi-state car theft ring. Stoneking pleaded guilty and received a three-year federal sentence.
Stoneking’s federal bust occurred in the wake of Anthony Giordano’s death. For decades, St. Louis’ Mafia boss, with the backing of the Chicago Outfit, had managed to cobble together an alliance of competing organized crime factions. After his death, a power struggle immediately developed, beginning with the September 1980 car bombing of Southside Syrian gangster Jimmy Michaels.
The loose alliance had come unraveled, allowing the FBI to make inroads into the previously impregnable inner sanctum of the mob’s hierarchy. Aging Mafia underboss John Vitale, who had ascended to the Mafia’s top post following Giordano death, became an FBI informant and falsely implicated Stoneking in the Michaels bombing.
Roll Over Test
His fingering left Stoneking feeling doubly betrayed. Berne had let him take the fall in the car theft bust and also not retaliated against Vitale’s accusations. Stoneking decided to roll over. In return for his early prison release, he, too, agreed to become an FBI informant.
Between October 1982 and August 1984, Stoneking secretly taped more than 130 conversations with Berne and dozens of other mobsters, including Matthew Trupiano, who had been installed as the St. Louis Mafia boss following Vitale’s death.
As a result of Stoneking’s undercover work, Berne and Trupiano were indicted on federal charges in connection with a scheme to coerce protection payments from Eastside massage parlor kingpin Dennis W. Sonnenschein. At the time, Sonnenschein was a business partner of Nando Bartolotta, who had been inducted into the St. Louis Mafia with Trupiano. (Stoneking’s testimony would also help send Bartolotta to prison on unrelated charges.) As recently as last year, Sonnenschein, the brothel operator, received a one-year prison sentence for not cooperating with a federal grand jury inquiry into the interstate promotion of prostitution by Eastside massage parlors that solicited business in the St. Louis Riverfront Times between 1994 and 2000.
Berne pleaded guilty to the extortion scheme and received a six years sentence. Trupiano, on the other hand, went to trial and was acquitted of the same charges.
Evidence and testimony introduced at the 1986 trial provided details of mob plans that otherwise may have never been publicly revealed.
For starters, FBI agent Terry L. Bohnemeier testified that Stoneking continued to receive $1,600 a month for his work as a federal informant. In return, Stoneking supplied the bureau with tapes of talks in which Berne and Trupiano discussed extorting money from Eastside topless club owners. According to the tapes, Trupiano intended to have Bartolotta, his soldier, pressure Sonnenschein into paying protection money out of profits that the two partners made from the Golden Girls topless club. Berne, on the other hand, wanted to bomb PT’s, a competing topless club in Centreville, as a means of convincing the owners to pay up.
During a car trip to Chicago, Berne expressed concerns about the risks of extorting money from "pimps" such as Sonnenschein: "You watch, these pimps will spread it around who the Mafia is," Berne warned Stoneking. "The G (government) will be there." While he continued to voice his suspensions about the reliability of pimps, his top lieutenant sat next to him in the front seat wearing a wire.
In August 1984, Stoneking left St. Louis in the dead of night. He entered the witness protection program in Boston, but bolted after only a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the Mafia had placed a $100,000 price tag on his head.
For the next two decades, while his estranged wife and children disappeared into the witness protection program, he remained at large hop-scotching across the country, living in small towns in three different states. Stoneking remarried and made efforts to settle down, but glances in his rearview mirror always kept him moving.
His last glance came in January 2003 on the outskirts of Surprise, Ariz., when a squad car rolled up behind him as he sat on the shoulder of a highway behind the wheel of a friend’s disabled Ford Crown Victoria. With the emergency lights flashing in the desert night, he put a .38-caliber revolver to his temple and pulled the trigger.
At least that’s the official version.
Reporter Lawrence, Stoneking’s confidant, tends to believe it. "I was pretty close to him," says Lawrence, adding that Stoneking had turned reflective in his later years, often reading and quoting from the Bible. "He had changed. He didn’t like what he had did."
To be continued