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Charles "Lucky" Luciano Trial: 1936

"i'm Gonna Organize The Cathouses Like The A&p", Aided The War Effort

Defendant: Charles "Lucky" Luciano
Crime Charged: Compulsory prostitution
Chief Defense Lawyers: Francis W.H. Adams and George Morton Levy
Chief Prosecutor: Thomas E. Dewey
Judge: Philip J. McCook
Dates of Trial: May 13-June 7, 1936
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: 30 to 50 years imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: The "Lucky" Luciano case is a paradox: It proves that, no matter how much money a crime boss has made or how well his lawyers and henchmen have protected him, he can be convicted and sentenced to long imprisonment. But it also proves that where there's a will, there's a way to gain release, as Luciano ultimately did.

In 1935, Charles "Lucky" Luciano was the nation's number one crime boss. He had run the national crime syndicate—later famous for its disciplinary arm dubbed "Murder, Inc."—since its organization in 1931.

A New York grand jury, briefed on the extent of vice and racketeering, asked for appointment of a special prosecutor. Governor Herbert H. Lehman appointed Thomas E. Dewey, an ambitious former chief assistant U.S. attorney.

Dewey learned that "Lucky" Luciano (so nicknamed because he usually won craps games and had survived a severe beating and throat-slitting) had expanded his operations from extortion from bordellos to complete control over them. He was taking in more than $10 million annually, with 5,000 prostitutes on the nationwide payroll.

Dewey's staff interviewed whores, pimps, loan sharks, and strong-arm men. Word reached Luciano: Many had talked. He disappeared. Dewey proclaimed him "Public Enemy Number One." The grand jury indicted Luciano on 90 counts of compulsory prostitution (later reduced to 62).

Luciano was found in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where organized crime maintained a well-protected sanctuary. He was extradited only after Dewey pictured the Arkansas governor as a protector of gangsters and 20 Arkansas Rangers removed Luciano from the protection of the Hot Springs sheriff.

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