Typed deposition signed an unbelievable four times, “Alphonse Capone,” once on each page of a four-page transcript of Capone’s interrogation by police in their investigation of the attempted murder of his former mentor and crime associate John Torrio, dated January 24, 1925. Capone’s deposition is contained within 50 pages of police interviews, testimony, and notes in the case, each signed by the witness, two of whom include Capone’s chauffeur, Robert Barton and his accountant, Jake Gusick.
The first page provides the facts surrounding the shooting stating that it took place at 3:30 P.M. at 7011 Clyde Avenue. Page states Torrio had “3 superficial gun shot wounds,” with the cause stating “While alighting from his automobile from the front of the above address was assaulted by three men, two of the men fired several shots at him, causing above injuries. The assailants then jumped into a dark cadillac touring car.” Capone’s police interrogation took place the same day as Torrio’s near fatal shooting.
Capone’s statement is captioned: “Statement of Alphonse Caponi [sic]. 7244 Prairie Avenue…relative to the shooting of John Torrio…about 3:30 P.M. Jan 24th, 1925.” Highlights of the interrogation are as follows: “Q. What is your business? A. Furniture business. 2224 Wabash Ave. Q. What is [the] name of store? A. Antique furniture. No name to store…Q. How long do you know John Torrio? A. About three years. Q. Where did you meet him.? A. In Chicago, at the Race Track, I met him at the Bennie Leonard fight in East Chicago, about three years ago….Q. Do you know any of the Costello in New York? A. Yes, Frank.…Q. How did you happen to know Frank Costello? A. I met him in a restaurant at 7th and Broadway.…Q. Were you ever in trouble in New York? A. No…. Q. How many times were you arrested in Chicago? A. Everytime something happens I get arrested. Q. You do know Johnny Torrio, three years? A. Yes. Q. What time today did you hear he was shot? A. About six o’clock. Q. Where were you when you heard of it? I was going over to buy a couple of tickets for the White Cargo. A. I heard it in Al Bloom’s cigar store, first, everyone was talking about it. Q. What did you do when you heard of it? A. I called the hospital…Q. You got to the room where Torrio was? A. Yes. Q. Did you talk to him in Italian? A. No.…Q. Did he tell you who did it, or did you ask him who did it? A. I did not ask him and he did not tell me because he was in no condition to talk. Q. Would [you] have any idea who did it? A. No. Q. Would you tell us if you did know who did it? A. No, I value my life too much to tell if I did know…. Q. Can you give any reason for the shooting? A. No I cannot. Q. This statement is true and if you were called to testify this would be your statement and you will be willing to sign this statement? A. Yes, sir.”
Another interesting page is a memo from a captain to the Deputy Supt.of Police concerning witness Peter Veesart, dated March 4, 1925. In part: “Took Peter Veesart…to the B. of I. And he picked out the above named man, Chief of Detectives Schoemaker…arrested George Gage alias Moran and brought him to the 5th district where he was identified by Peter Veesart…as one of the men that done the shooting On that day. The prisoner was also brought to the Jackson Park Hospital where he was viewed by Johnny Torrio and his wife and they stated that he was not one of the men that done the shooting…Had three other witnesses to the shooting view George Gage alias Moran and they state that he resembled the man that done the shooting from the rear of the car on that day.” A large blue pencil notation at the bottom of the page indicates Veesart “after leaving jail at Wheaton, Ill., left the country refuses to identify anyone.”The final page of the report is a memo to the Chief of Detectives requesting “that the attached picture of George Gage alias George Moran is wanted in connection with the shooting of Johnny Torrio…who was shot in front of his home.”
In very good and slightly fragile condition, with uniform toning to pages, staple holes to top edges, scattered chips and areas of paper loss to the edges, and some mounting remnants to top edges of opening and closing pages.
The victim, John Torrio, was Capone’s mentor and sponsor in their previous criminal activities with the Five Points Gang in Brooklyn, where both had grown up. When Torrio moved to Chicago to manage a string of brothels for ‘Big Jim’ Colosimo, he brought along his protege, Capone. Torrio took over the empire after the murder of Colosimo; meanwhile Capone moved into the enormously lucrative bootleg whiskey business. Dion O’Bannion, an Irish mobster, and his lieutenant, Earl ‘Hymie’ Weiss, became their chief rivals. Conflicts between them escalated and in November 1924, O’Bannion was shot to death. On January 24, 1925, Weiss, with his sidekicks ‘Bugs’ Moran, Vincent Drucci and Frank Gusenberg, seeking revenge, came upon Torrio and his wife unloading packages in front of his home. Torrio fell in a hail of bullets, but Moran’s gun either jammed or he ran out of ammunition as he was about to deliver a shot to Torrio’s head. When Torrio eventually recovered, he fled to Italy, leaving Capone the undisputed boss of Chicago crime, a position he enjoyed until he was convicted of tax fraud and finally jailed.
Information was virtually impossible to collect in regard to the shooting. The few witnesses seemed fearful; none would conclusively identify the gunmen, although Moran was initially fingered. Even Torrio, when Earl Weiss and Vincent Drucci were brought into his hospital room, refused to identify them as being party to his shooting. A remarkable archive providing a vivid and compelling first-hand view of the methods perfected by Capone which rapidly propelled him to the pinnacle of the underworld.
Provenance: Jerome Shochet Collection Robert Batchelder, Catalogue 84, item 241 Christies, Sale 7888, May 20, 1994