May 20, 2008 Updated Nov. 23, 2010
Josef Fritzl, photographed just after his arrest
Josef Fritzl locked his 18-year-old daughter Elisabeth in his cellar and raped her repeatedly for the next 24 years. She would bear him seven children, three of whom he moved upstairs to live with him and his wife, and four to languish below, one of whom would die days after birth.
In the past only fly fishermen would have heard of the Lower Austria town of Amstetten and only a few elderly Austrians would have been able to say that they’ve heard the name Josel Fritzl before.
Amstetten is 40 miles (65 kms) from Linz and 81 miles (130kms) from Vienna and just fewer than 23,000 people live there. The town, which was first mentioned in 995, is on the Ybbs River, a contributory to the Danube. The Ybbs’s crystal clear water makes it a fly-fishing paradise. Few who have gone there to fish though would have known that the town had once been the seat of two sub-camps of the Nazis’ Mauthausen-Güsen group of concentration camps. It’s not something the locals wish anyone to recall or mention.
Grègory Villemin, age 4
The murder of little Grègory Villemin was one of the most mysterious and media-hyped criminal cases of the 20th century. During the 25 years since, the investigation has seen new and surprising developments, throwing light on numerous dysfunctions within both the French judicial system and the media, and leading to repercussions including a second murder, the resignation of a high-ranking gendarmerie office, the destruction of one judge's reputation and another's loss of health and subsequent premature death. Who was the murderer? Who was the corbeau? A quarter of a century later these questions remain unanswered in a story of murder, revenge, bizarre family feuding, strange twists and surprise suspects.
Grègory Villemin would have been 29 years old this year and probably – like his parents before him – happily married, with a good job and a nice house. Instead, an infinitely more cruel fate was reserved for him: On Tuesday, October 16, 1984 his body, tied hand and foot, was found floating in the River Vologne. He was only 4 years old.
As if this wasn't shock enough for the 1,000 inhabitants of the village of Lèpanges-sur-Vologne (Vosges, north-eastern France), a second murder was to follow a mere five months later.
So many rumors, contradictions distortions of the truth have beset the case that it is difficult picking one's way through the files, news reports and books written on the subject to determine what was fact and what supposition, malicious gossip or plain lies.
March 8, 2009
The Return of the Irish-American Gangster to the Silver Screen
When The Godfather was released in the early 1970s, it effectively created a myth of the virtually unbeatable Italian crime family for the American public that endured for the remainder of the century. The film also effectively eliminated all other white ethnic organized gangs from the silver screen, as well as from the public's eye. But Hollywood had its history wrong in this case: The Italian Mafia was never as invincible nor did the "families" always have everything their own way when it came to illegal activities. It wasn't until the close of the last century that the film industry began to expose the old-time hoods as being fallible and besieged on all sides from new criminal elements connected with newly arrived immigrant groups. The Cubans, Russians and the Colombian hoods, along with the longer established black and Mexican-American gangs, had begun to nibble away at the turf long controlled by the almighty Italian mob.
As the paradigm of the urban underworld began to shift to reflect the new realities of the global economy, another look at the past by historians and Hollywood is revealing that the Italian gang never had absolute power as it was once commonly believed. The Irish hoodlums were actually engaged in gangland activities years before the arrival of the Italians and the Irish also competed with the Italians up until recently.
October 14, 2007
The Raid in Teaneck is the prologue from Ron Chepesiuk and Anthony Gonzalez's book, Superfly: The True Untold Story of Frank Lucas, American Gangster. (A major movie about Lucas entitled American Gangster and starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe will be in theaters beginning Nov. 2, 2007.) The book investigates Lucas's life and criminal career and the claims to fame the movie makes about him. This includes Lucas's relationship with legendary Harlem gangster Bumpy Johnson, his connection to La Cosa Nostra, the money he made in the drug trade and the development of the Asian drug pipeline. Lucas's life as a government informant is also examined. Beginning Oct. 25, 2007, Superfly can be purchased from the web site franklucasamericangangster.com. A documentary is also available.
The law enforcement raid came on a crisp, cold night in late January, 1975, without a high profile. No involved planning. No SWAT team. No large show of force. No TV cameras. There was plenty of man power, though: a task force consisting of 10 agents from Group 22 of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and 10 New York Police Department detectives attached to the Organized Crime Control Bureau (OCCB).
The task force felt confident that it would face little resistance and certainly no bodyguards wanting to disrupt the raid and cause trouble. After all, it was the personal residence of the drug dealer and his family lived with him.
Group 22 had been investigating the Gambino crime family of East Harlem for some time, and now the long hours and hard work were about to pay off. In 1975 the Gambino family was one of the five families that ruled the powerful Italian American mob, La Cosa Nostra, and controlled organized crime in New York City.
May 7, 1999 Updated 8/30/06; 07/20/08; 1/30/13 and 10/25/13
The Boulder Daily Camera reported on January 27, 2013 that the Boulder Grand Jury convened in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey voted in 1999 to indict both John and Patsy Ramsey on charges of child abuse resulting in death in connection with the events of Christmas night 1996 at the Ramsey home in Boulder. Former Boulder First Assistant D.A. Bill Wise confirmed the grand jury's vote. The Daily Camera quotes him saying, "It names both of them, John and Patsy Ramsey."
The indictment on child abuse resulting in death, when charged as "knowingly or recklessy," is a Class II felony in Colorado that carries a sentence of four to 48 years. The statute of limitations on that charge in Colorado is three years from the date of the crime. The vote for the indictment was in October of 1999, over two months before the statute of limitations would have taken effect.
Then D.A. Alex Hunter refused to sign the indictment, presumably because he did not believe there was sufficient evidence to win a courtroom conviction. There is no doubt that the completely botched crime scene would have enabled the defense to put up strong resistance to any allegations advanced by the prosecution.
Ruth Brown was only 13 when she went to work as a telephone operator. She worked the night shift. During the day she studied shorthand and bookkeeping and dreamed of growing up and marrying her boss. Not the boss at the telephone company, but some ideal of a wealthy executive with whom she would live happily ever after. Not that Ruth would lack for marriage proposals. Later in life, while on trial for murdering her husband, she would receive a total of 164.
by Doris Lane
Ruth was 20 in 1915 when she married her employer, the editor of Motor Boating magazine, Albert Snyder. Before marrying Ruth, Snyder had been engaged 10 years to Jessie Guishard and he hadn't exactly gotten over her. When Albert and Ruth set up housekeeping, one of the first pictures to hang on a wall of the family home was Jessie's. When Albert bought a boat he named it after Jessie. When Ruth objected, Albert declared that Jessie was "the finest woman I have ever met."
Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton Duel
Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, the most star-crossed political foes in U.S. history, joined together in 1800 to defend a man accused – and all but convicted in the court of public opinion – of the murder of his fiancée.
by Doris Lane
If you stood on Greene Street, off Spring Street in SoHo, looked around and imagined the past, you might be able to picture Lispenard's Meadow of 1799. Not flat, like now, but gently hilly: A rural pleasure ground for strolling New Yorkers in summer; a vast ice-skating arena when the meadows froze over in winter.
Broadway then was a narrow country lane used to herd cows north from the city to feed at the grassy salt meadow. Spring Street, today lined with art galleries and expensive shops, was a path to the Hudson River. From the corner of Broadway and Spring Street, in 1799, there would not be a cobble-stoned street in sight. If you looked through the trees you could see the white country mansion of Aaron Burr, the New York lawyer soon to be Vice President of the United States.
Albert Bradford: a/k/a Malik Hakim
The story of Albert Bradford, a talented and charismatic man who went to prison at the age of 17 with three life sentences for rape, transformed himself into an artist of note and a leader of men -- then committed his most heinous crime of all and beat the system.
(Ed. Note: One would think that Albert Bradford would be high up on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, but it never happened – even though he owes the state of Missouri the balance of three life sentences, and is wanted for trial in a crime more shocking and brutal than the ones that earned him those life sentences. It is a strange and fascinating tale of how this man beat the system.)
On March 12, 1951, 17-year-old Albert Bradford entered the courtroom of Judge Harry F. Russell in St. Louis, Missouri. He was charged with two counts of rape and two counts of armed robbery. One of the two women raped by Bradford was white. Bradford might have expected a sentence of five, or even ten years, which at that time would be normal for a teenaged first offender.
When Judge Russell announced a sentence of life imprisonment, Bradford cried out, "Judge, have mercy on me!" while his mother and other female relatives began screaming. During the ensuing melee that broke out, with Bradford’s hysterical mother being ordered out of the courtroom, someone split the cheek of deputy constable Venable Slater.
Finally subdued, Bradford was sentenced to a second term of life imprisonment, at which point he cried out, "Oh, god!" and fainted. Bradford was still in a faint when the third life sentence was imposed.
April 5, 2009
Mumia Abu-Jamal's 27 years on Death Row for a murder he did not commit would have turned almost anyone else into an embittered, defeated man. Instead, he has remained what he always was, "the voice of the voiceless," as he demonstrates yet again in his most recent book, Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A. (City Lights Books, 2009.)
Through hundreds of essays, radio commentaries and now six well-written, meticulously researched books, he has defied the walls that encase him to speak out against oppression. His voice his heard weekly throughout the United States on Pacifica Radio and his writings are read and admired throughout much of the world. From the bowels of Death Row, where 3,600 others languish in the United States, Abu-Jamal presses on for justice, day after day, year after year.
Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A. opens a tightly shut door into the operations of the U.S. penal system by chronicling the exploits of dozens of jailhouse lawyers – both men and women – who have fought the injustices the courts and the prisons have dealt them and their fellow prisoners. Their accomplishments, against all odds, have been incredible. Their story is a story never before told.
For the vast majority of the 2.3 million prisoners in the United States and for Abu-Jamal himself, the overriding, inescapable reality about the U.S. justice system is that the law is only what a judge says it is.
December 30, 2008
Treason is the highest crime an American can commit against his country. And that's what one president accused his successor of committing.
by Don Fulsom
Richard Nixon's treason to scuttle President Lyndon Johnson's 1968 Paris peace talks—much more than Watergate or his long-time ties to the Mafia—should stand as our 37th President's greatest sin. There's no better word than "despicable" (used by LBJ in this context) to describe Nixon's betrayal.
In a newly released Johnson phone call to Senator Everett Dirksen, just before the November 1968 election, the Senate GOP leader readily agreed with the President's treason conclusion about Nixon, and pledged to call his party's presidential candidate on the carpet on it.
Johnson himself – a number of times earlier, and later – scolded Nixon, who repeatedly denied any knowledge of sabotage and pledged to do nothing to hurt President Johnson's efforts to end the war. (When the phone was hung up after at least one of these Nixon lies, Nixon and his cohorts reportedly burst into loud and sustained laughter.)
The newest LBJ Library tapes tell the dramatic story of how Johnson blew his stack and nearly blew the whistle on Nixon's treachery.
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