2 minute read

Thomas E. Dewey

Dewey And Dutch

Thomas Dewey's career as a public prosecutor in criminal cases against New York gang leaders was not without its personal hazards. He had a regular morning routine of leaving his home with two bodyguards and would call his office while stopping at a drugstore. Not until 1940, a gangster revealed that Dewey had been targeted for assassination at this drugstore stop only five years earlier by mob leader Dutch Schultz.

Dutch Schultz was born in the Bronx, in August 1902, to immigrant German Jews. Growing up in the tougher parts of the Bronx, he entered a career in crime at a young age. Dutch was convicted of burglary at age seventeen and served time in prison. By the mid-1920s, out of prison, Dutch established ownership of various breweries and speakeasies (places for the sale of illegal alcohol) in the Bronx and parts of Manhattan, supplying illegal liquor to eager customers during Prohibition when the sale and distribution of alcohol was prohibited. Known for his brutal ruthlessness, he sometimes personally rode as a guard on his trucks delivering the liquor. His competitors grew to fear him.

After Schultz survived the mob wars in 1930, the U.S. attorney's office began a lengthy investigation of Schultz's and associate Irving Wexler's bootlegging operations. Schultz was indicted in January 1933 on tax evasion charges for not filing tax returns from 1929 to 1931. Facing a potentially lengthy prison term, Schultz went into hiding for the next two years. He became the FBI's "Public Enemy No. 1," a title that added extra agents to the case and introduced wider cooperation among agencies. While Schultz was in hiding, Dewey began prosecuting the Wexler case in November 1933. He soon gained a conviction resulting Arthur "Dutch Schultz" Flegenheimer. (AP/Wide World Photos)
in a ten-year prison term and $50,000 fine. Afterwards, Dewey returned to private law practice.

Schultz finally turned himself in to authorities in November 1934. His tax evasion trial began in April 1935 and resulted in a hung jury. A second trial resulted in a not guilty verdict in August 1935. During this time, New York governor Herbert H. Lehman (1878–1963) appointed Dewey as special prosecutor for the state to tackle the organized crime problem once again.

After Schultz's acquittal, Dewey began building a new case against Schultz. When Schultz heard Dewey was after him again, he started making plans to assassinate Dewey. He had one gang hit man study Dewey's daily routines. The plan was to shoot Dewey one morning when he made his drugstore stop. When other gang leaders learned of the plot, however, they feared this would only increase legal pressure on the mob's activities. To protect Dewey, they had two gunmen kill Schultz and his three bodyguards in a Newark, New Jersey, restaurant on October 23, 1935.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawThomas E. Dewey - Pursuing A Career In Law, Gangbusters, Dewey And Dutch, Beginnings Of Presidential Politics, A Narrow Loss