1 minute read

Al Capone Trial: 1931

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, "impossible To Bargain With A Federal Court"

Defendant: Alphonse "Scarface Al" Capone
Crime Charged: Income tax evasion
Chief Defense Lawyers: Michael J. Ahern and Thomas D. Nash
Chief Prosecutor: George E. 0. Johnson
Judge: James H. Wilkerson
Place: Chicago, Illinois
Dates of Trial: October 6-24, 1931
Verdict: First indictment (tax liability for 1924): Not guilty; second indictment (22 counts): Guilty on five counts (tax liability for 1925, '26, '27, '28, and '29); third indictment (violation of Volstead Act): Indictment not pursued
Sentence: 11 years' imprisonment, $50,000 in fines, $30,000 in court costs

SIGNIFICANCE: While for 10 years the Chicago police had been unable, if not unwilling, to put the most notorious and murderous of mobsters behind bars, the federal authorities found a way to jail him: through the tax laws. Thus the head of the country's most powerful syndicate providing Americans with bootleg liquor, gambling and prostitution wound up in Alcatraz.

A Brooklyn boy who quit school in the sixth grade after beating up his teacher and getting beaten up by the principal, Al Capone earned the nickname "Scarface Al" as a teenager when his face was severely slashed in a fight. At 21, he moved to Chicago to help his uncle—the city's most powerful brothel keeper—broaden his business to include control of bootlegging. By 1925, at age 26, Capone was running an organization of 1,000 racketeers with a $300,000 weekly payroll.

By eliminating his competition (he ordered 500 deaths, while an estimated 1,000 people died on both sides in his bootleg wars), Capone built a vast network of liquor distributorship, distilleries, breweries, and brothels. To maintain control, he paid off countless politicians and police. At the same time, he made certain all his accomplices were absolutely trustworthy—a key factor in ensuring his safety. So successful was Capone that when a rival gang sent a string of cars filled with machine-gunners to pump a thousand rounds into Capone's headquarters, he remained unscathed.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940