Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Al Capone was the prototypical gangster, ruling the Chicago underworld with a savage grip during the Prohibition era. Though he killed scores of people without a second thought, it was income tax evasion that finally brought him down -- but only after a tainted jury was switched at the last minute. After a stint in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Capone became one of the first prisoners at Alcatraz. With his mind slowly rotting from syphilis, he was released in 1939 and died eight years later. An excerpt from The Post of Oct. 18, 1931:
Federal Building, Chicago, Oct. 17 (A.P.). --
Alphonse Capone, Chicago's notorious gang character, was convicted by a Federal Court jury tonight on 5 out of 23 counts, charging evasion of income taxes.
The jury took 8 hours and 18 minutes to reach a verdict. The counts on which Capone was convicted include three felony allegations of attempt to evade and defeat income taxes for the years 1925, 1926 and 1927 and two misdemeanor counts charging failure to file income tax returns in 1928 and 1929.
The maximum penalty possible is 17 years imprisonment and $50,000 fine. ...
The defendant smiled as the verdict was read by the clerk of the court. One of his attorneys, Albert Fink, announced informally intention to file a motion for a new trial, and later withdrew the announcement. ...
Conclusion of the Court case brought to an end a three-year intensive drive by the Government to put the world's most notorious gangster in prison, on a bookkeeping charge. It was a campaign in which, the defense attorneys said, every utility of the Government was used and thousands of dollars expended. ...
The Government's case against Capone was completed today by District Attorney George E. O. Johnson, bushy-haired militant prosecutor who directed gathering of the evidence on which Capone was indicted.
"Was Capone the little boy out of the second reader who found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?" Johnson asked the jurors in his final plea, the first court address he has made during his tenure in office.
"If he was not, how did he get the money he spent so lavishly on $12,500 automobiles, $40,000 homes, $27 shirts and $275 diamond-studded belt buckles by the score?
"Or was he a modern Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor? Were the poor who sleep on the city's streets warmed by his $27 shirts? Did the unemployed ride in search of work in his high-priced limousine? "