||Chicago| John Scalise
Death: May 7, 1929
John Scalise was an American organized crime figure of the early 20th century and, with partner Albert Anselmi, was one of the Chicago Outfit's most successful hitmen in Prohibition-era Chicago.
Born in Castelvetrano, Sicily, Scalise was involved with the mob starting early in his life. Sometime around age twenty, Scalise lost his right eye in an attack, which was then replaced with a glass eye. A little time after this incident, Scalise traveled illegally to America, finding his home in Chicago's Little Italy aka "The Patch."
Prohibition & the Bootleg Wars
While working for the Genna Brothers, Scalise met Albert Anselmi, who later became his mentor and close friend. Although younger, Scalise was much more dangerous and intelligent, and soon enough the student was leading the teacher. Both men remain, to this day, the prime suspects in the murder of Dion O'Banion, boss of Chicago's North Side Gang.
Soon after O'Banion's murder, Scalise and Anselmi secretly defected from the Gennas, and cast their lot with Al Capone's Chicago Outfit. During the Capone mobs subsequent dogfight with the North Siders, Scalise and Anselmi would shoot to prominence. On June 13, 1925, Anselmi and Scalise, along with Mike Genna, ambushed North Siders Bugs Moran and Vincent Drucci in The Patch, shooting up their car with shotguns and wounding Drucci. About an hour later, as the shooters raced south on Western Avenue, they were pursued by a detective squad and overtaken at the corner of Western and 60th Street. After the cars screeched to a stop, the gangsters opened fire with their shotguns. During the ensuing gun battle, Chicago Police officers Charles Walsh and Harold Olsen were killed and Michael Conway severely wounded. The fourth officer, William Sweeney, pursued the fleeing Anselmi, Scalise, and Genna towards the next block of houses. Genna was fatally shot by Sweeney while the other two fell into police hands. Anselmi and Scalise were bound over for trial.
Prosecutor Bob Crowe vowed to send both men to the gallows. During some of the most bizarre legalistics in American history, the two killers’ lawyers managed to convince the jury that they had reacted against "unwarranted police aggression." Anselmi and Scalise were found guilty of the manslaughter of Officer Walsh, drawing a sentence of 14 years in prison.
In the time between their trials, the two men and their cohorts sent "collectors" around The Patch to get money for their defense fund. Most wealthy Italians who had given generously to the first defense fund were not so keen about giving again. Men like Henry Spignola, Agostino and Antonio Morici were murdered. The main "collector", a fearsome mobster named Orazio "The Scourge" Tropea, was discovered to be keeping most of the collections for himself. Tropea was shotgunned to death on Halstead Street on February 15, 1926. Other deaths would follow before both Scalise and Anselmi were both acquitted of the murder of Patrolman Harold Olsen.
Back in Joliet, serving their original manslaugter sentence, the two still played a part in Chicago gangland affairs. The war between Al Capone and Hymie Weiss reached a crescendo in the fall of 1926. During a peace conference, Weiss offered peace to Capone if the killers of his friend, Deanie O'Banion (Scalise and Anselmi,) were killed in prison. Al refused and had Weiss killed less than two weeks later.
By December of 1926, both Scalise and Anselmi were granted a retrial in the killing of Officer Walsh. The next month, they got out of prison. In June of 1927 the two were tried and acquitted for the murder of Officer Charles Walsh. Capone threw them a grand party upon their acquittal, climaxed by a shoot-out with champagne-bottle corks.
Due to the fact that they had gotten away with killing two Chicago Police officers and their Sicilian heritage, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, were automatically suspected of guilt any time any of Capone's enemies turned up dead.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre
After the murder of Pasqualino Lolordo, president of the Unione Siciliane, John Scalise was elevated to the position of vice-president, under Joseph "Hop Toad" Giunta. Soon after the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre, John Scalise was heard to brag, "I'm the most powerful man in Chicago." Most observers have taken this boast as an admission of guilt in the massacre, but it most probably referred to the vice-presidency (recent studies indicate that Scalise and Anselmi were not the shooters on Valentine's Day.)
Due to their bad reputations, both John Scalise and Albert Anselmi were questioned in the massacre case, but only Scalise was indicted, along with Jack McGurn. Shortly after the indictment, Scalise, Anselmi, and Joseph Giunta were found dead on a road near Hammond, Indiana in the early morning hours of May 8, 1929. All three had been severely beaten and shot to death. One of Scalise’s numerous wounds was a gunshot into his glass eye, the fragments lodging in his face. The coroner said he had never seen such disfigured bodies.
Within a few days, informants stated that the three men were lured to a banquet with their Sicilian friends and, while trying to break up a quarrel that was being staged for their benefit, were attacked and killed. Years later, a more popular story would emerge that Al Capone had discovered that Anselmi and Scalise had decided to betray him. At the climax of a dinner thrown in their honor, Capone produced a baseball bat and beat the three men within an inch of their lives, before two or three gunmen stepped in to finish the job. However exactly the two died, no one shed any tears over them. Scalise’s body was shipped back to Castelvetrano, Sicily for burial.
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