SI Vault
October 05, 1959
The Boxing Indictments
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October 05, 1959

Events & Discoveries

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So Leonard told Blinky, with broad reservations, that he and Nesseth would submit to the extortion. But Leonard didn't submit.

Thereafter Leonard was subjected to threats by Blinky, by Carbo, by Joe Sica, a muscular hoodlum, and by Lou Dragna, a leading figure of the Los Angeles underworld.

And so one night, Jackie Leonard says, he was brutally slugged by two men as he was closing his garage door. Later a fire bomb was tossed into his house. And a man, snarling "stool pigeon," attacked him in a parking lot. The word was out along Skid Row that anyone who beat up Leonard would be enriched by $250.

The California State Athletic Commission started an investigation, then wisely enlisted the aid of Captain James Hamilton, head of the Los Angeles police intelligence unit. At the same time a federal grand jury in L.A. was investigating aspects of the Apalachin mob's activities as part of a nationwide federal drive to uncover the Mafia's place in national crime.

Instead of pursuing separate courses, these three agencies—of city, state and federal authority—formed a triple entente. Their cooperation resulted last week in the indictments and arrests of Gibson, Carbo, Palermo, Dragna and Sica on charges of conspiracy to violate the federal anti-racketeering act, interstate communications extortion and conspiracy. Gibson was charged only with conspiracy. It was an "essential part of the conspiracy," the indictment said, that Gibson "would use his power and authority" to persuade Nesseth and Leonard to accede to Carbo's demands for control of Jordan.

With astonishing speed, in a mere matter of hours, FBI agents rounded up the five who were indicted, and thus put boxing's story on Page One. They took Carbo in a room at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, where he had gone for a look at his ailing kidneys, and Gibson at a friend's apartment in Chicago. Palermo was nabbed in Philadelphia, Dragna and Sica in Los Angeles.

As Captain Hamilton put it, explaining his and the California commission's decision to let the Federal Government handle the job: "We had gone as far as we could locally. The FBI had the facilities to do this much more thoroughly."

That is true and may well be the key to an eventual cleanup, of a substantial and permanent nature, of boxing's dirty business. The Federal Government has the nationwide facilities, and some very apt anti-racketeering laws, at its disposal. District Attorney Hogan, operating within the confines of New York, was able to nail Carbo only on a series of misdemeanor indictments, and at that Hogan is the only district attorney ever to have bothered Carbo on a boxing rap. Nor has any state boxing commission, working with the meager investigative resources common to commissions, ever been able to do more than inconvenience Carbo and the mob temporarily. Most haven't even tried. Many a manager, promoter, fighter and fight have been licensed by boxing commissions with the full knowledge that they were thereby enriching the hoodlums who have done most to debase the sport.

There is the added factor that to a great extent the new problems of boxing are a product of the television age. The national ramifications of boxing in this age have discouraged local law enforcement authorities from any effective corrective moves. And television's impresarios haven't yet produced any measures of their own to keep the hoods out—if, indeed, they have taken time to think seriously about the subject.

The California commission, the Los Angeles police and the U.S. Attorney General's office have blazed a new and most intelligent trail by the simple device of sharing information and facilities, then allowing the best equipped of the law enforcement agencies to carry the ball.

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