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Authors: John Nicholas Iannuzzi

Courthouse (9 page)

BOOK: Courthouse
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The Crusher was tall and broad, with large, sinewy arms and hands which, as a youth, had earned him his
nom de guerre
. His hair was styled forward to cover impending baldness. When The Crusher spoke, his voice rasped out the New York accent. He was modishly dressed in a patterned knit suit and ankle-high, laced boots.

“Oh, I remember your client well, Counselor,” said the Judge, a smile creasing his face momentarily. “The trial before me that ended in his conviction lasted, mmm, was it three weeks, Mister Malone?” The Judge looked toward the assistant United States Attorney, who stood at the prosecutor's table.

“Exactly,” replied Michael Malone, formerly of the FBI, who wore a dark blue, two-button suit and short-cropped hair. He looked toward Pellegrino contemptuously.

“I thought that's what it was.” The Judge nodded, smiling. “I remember it very well. And I remember your client very well, too,” the Judge said, now returning to Marc. “Four years, I thought at the time of sentence was very lenient. Very minimal, under the circumstances. And I permitted you to have bail pending an appeal too.” The Judge spoke directly to Pellegrino now. “Very liberal, if I do say so. But, instead of behaving yourself while that appeal is pending, instead of staying out of trouble, you have to start throwing your weight around.” The Judge was grave now.

A man in a brown suit entered the courtroom through a door cut into the paneled wall to the left of the judge's bench. He tiptoed up the steps to the dais. The Judge turned, and the man whispered something.

“Gentlemen, will you excuse me for a few short moments,” said the Judge, rising, gathering his robes about himself.

“All rise. The court will take a brief recess,” intoned the clerk, who sat at a lower desk directly in front of the judge's bench.

The Judge disappeared through the paneled door.

“His bookie must want him on the phone,” rasped The Crusher loudly, smiling as he turned to Marc.

“Just take it easy, Patsy,” Marc cautioned. “He's right now making his decision whether to revoke your bail and put you in jail or not. I think he may rule in your favor, so don't antagonize him. You seem to have antagonized Malone already. He glares at you as if you two have a personal vendetta going.”

“Ahh, that's his tough shit,” dismissed The Crusher with a shrug. “He's still pissed off because of that interview he gave me when I first got arrested, before I went to trial on this case.”

“What interview was that?” Marc asked. “Remember, I didn't handle your trial. I only came into your case on the appeal.”

“That's right. You weren't handling my case then, Counselor,” recalled The Crusher. “I wish you had. Anyway, this Malone has the FBI bring me to his office when I first got arrested. And he starts the regular United States Attorney bullshit routine on me, you know? All the U.S. Attorneys got their directions from Washington to ask guys they think are connected with organized crime about co-operation. Co-operate against the mob and get a break for yourself,” The Crusher explained.

“Now you know there's no way I'm going to rat out
, I don't care who it is. Even I don't know the guy,” The Crusher continued proudly. “But this Malone gives it a shot anyway. And me, I make like John the Gom, like I don't even know what he's talking about, you know? And he tells me,
you know Patsy, this is a
serious charge, but you don't have to take all the weight here, you can make it easy on yourself

“And I say,
oh, really, Mister Malone, how's that?
Like I don't know what he's going to tell me. And then he says to me,
well, if you co-operate with the Government, maybe give us information concerning organized crime, I can help you with the charges pending against you, maybe get you a good plea, and talk to the sentencing judge, help you get a light sentence
. So I say,
yeah, really, Mister Malone?”
The Crusher started to laugh. “Counselor, you should have been there, you would have pissed in your pants.”

“What happened then?” Marc asked.

“So I say,
really Mister Malone
,” The Crusher continued, “and he says,
thafs right, Patsy
. So, I say,
in that case, sure I'll co-operate, Mister Malone
. And he gets all excited, you know. He figures he's about to make a good score. And I say,
sure I'll co-operate. I'll tell you all about it. I remember it was a Tuesday, Mister Malone. And I went to your mother's house and threw her a mean fuck. Not bad either. And then I bagged your sister, but she was on her monthlies, so she only gave me a blow job …”

The Crusher started to bend double with laughter at this point of his remembrance. He began to stamp his foot with glee. “This Malone went crazy, Counselor,” The Crusher sputtered through his laughter. “You know how they never get angry; they try to get
angry, so maybe you'll say something by mistake. Well, this guy went crazy. He jumped up behind his desk, his face went purple, and he screamed for the marshals.
Get this guy out of here
, he screamed.
Get him out of here
!” The Crusher clapped his hands together in delight. “
Monaga madon
, he went crazy.”

Marc shook his head in wonder, captivated by the sheer boldness of The Crusher to do or say something like that after just being arrested. It was no wonder that Malone hated him, that the FBI agents hated him. He wasn't playing the good guy-bad guy game properly. He had no proper respect for the authorities or the righteousness of their cause.

Judge Jennings returned to the courtroom and took the bench. The Crusher calmed himself, letting the smile fade from his face.

“All rise,” intoned the clerk.

“Sorry, gentlemen,” said the Judge; “now where were we? Oh, yes, Mister Pellegrino, we were just extolling your many virtues. And trying to decide whether the United States Government and the people of New York would be in less danger if you were behind bars. Now let me see.” The Judge swiveled on his chair and began again to read from the papers before him. “Ah, yes, you started throwing your weight around on the picket-line demonstrations with the Italian-American Freedom Council. Isn't that the group controlled by the notorious Phil Compagna's crime family?” The Judge looked to Marc.

“I do not represent the Italian-American Freedom Council, Your Honor,” replied Marc. “I can't answer for it, nor, therefore, am I in a position to give the Court any information concerning its internal make-up.”

“Oh, come, come, Counselor,” scoffed the Judge. “Everyone knows that Boss Compagna is behind the Council. It's splashed on every front page in the city.”

“May I respectfully suggest to Your Honor that I would not rely on information printed in newspapers in order to answer Your Honor's questions.”

“I appreciate that, Counselor,” said the Judge. He smiled. “However, the Italian community would be better served if they chose a representative other than someone of the notorious organized crime reputation of Boss Compagna. And I know of what I speak, Mister Conte, about the Italian community.
Sono mezzo Italiano, mezzo, Ir-landese
. My mother was Irish.”

The Crusher bent slightly toward Marc, whispering softly, “The rat son of a bitch. He changed his good Italian name. The Italian blood oughta curdle in his veins.”

Marc stilled The Crusher with a stern glance.

“I feel however,” the Judge continued from the bench, “that it is unfortunate that the Government was not able to produce more compelling evidence showing the defendant's terrorizing of the workers at the
Brooklyn Home News
while he picketed for the Italian Freedom Council. If they had, I assure you, Mister Pellegrino, I'd have you hauled off to jail so fast your head would spin. But I haven't been shown enough here, unfortunately, I say again,” the Judge looked at Malone now, “to revoke Mister Pellegrino's bail and remand him to jail.”

The Crusher nudged Marc softly with his elbow.

“If the Judge sees you screwing around he'll change his mind,” Marc admonished The Crusher in a whisper.

“But I do want to comment on one thing,” Judge Jennings continued. “And that is the fact that your client is an indigent before this Court, Counselor. That is, he allegedly doesn't have sufficient money to pay a lawyer; thus the United States Government is going to pay you. Is that correct, Counselor?”

“As I understand it, yes, Your Honor.”

“Did not this defendant sign a pauper's oath, and the United States Government agree to assign and compensate you for his defense?” the Judge repeated in wonder.

“Yes, Your Honor.”

The Judge shook his head. “You know, Counselor, I remember your client very well when he was on trial. He was the best-dressed defendant ever in my courtroom.” The Judge looked at The Crusher appraisingly. “He still is. Dresses very sharply. A little loud and too mod for my taste, perhaps. And expensive, I might add. And he lives in a marvelous house in Long Beach, or someplace like that.” The Judge leafed through the papers before him. “I have that probation report here somewhere. Ahh, here it is. Yes, Long Beach, an eighty-five-thousand-dollar house. And he has a caretaker come in twice a week. Oh, I know, he says his brother-in-law owns the house and he only pays his brother-in-law rent.”

“And I owe him two months' back rent,” The Crusher whispered from the side of his mouth.

Marc ignored him.

“He lives in all this affluence and he doesn't even have a job. Does your client have a job, Counselor?” The Judge looked up. “No, I don't imagine that he does,” said the Judge, without waiting for a reply. “You know, Counselor, and by the way, I'm not blaming you for anything, or in any way implying any wrongdoing on your part by my remarks.”

“I appreciate that, Your Honor.”

“But it's a crime, I mean literally, a crime, that someone like this defendant of yours has to be supported by the United States Government, his attorney paid for, when he's a bum, a bum! I mean that. A man whose money is made illegitimately, who supports himself with a life of crime. Look at this record. Just look at it,” the Judge said, lifting several teletyped pages. “In 1944—that would make this man twenty years old at the time—rape.”

“I was in the Army,” The Crusher whispered to Marc. “This dame and me went out on a weekend and had some kicks. Then her mother got angry ‘cause we stayed out all night and she called the cops. That wasn't no rape.”

“And then Assault and Robbery, 1946,” continued the Judge. “And another Assault and Robbery, 1948.” The Judge flung the papers to his desk angrily. “Mister Pel-legrino, you're a bum. It's an absolute disgrace that you are permitted the farcical position of being a pauper before this Court. Who knows why? And it's a further outrage that you're permitted to be one of the leading members of the Italian-American Freedom Council and picket in the name of justice and liberty. I imagine you're participating in the Italian-American Freedom Council rally at Columbus Circle next Monday?”

The Crusher looked to Marc.

“You can answer.”

“I sure am, Your Honor. And being now that you're Italian, half Italian anyway, you ought to be there too.” He smiled boldly. “I'll get you on the stage for a speech.”

The Judge chuckled. “I'm not sure a lot of the people in the Freedom Council would want to see me there. I probably put many of them in jail.”

“There'll be a lot of big stars there, Your Honor, important people like yourself,” Pellegrino added. Marc recognized the jocular tone rising in The Crusher's voice.

“Can it, Patsy,” Marc said softly but sharply.

The Crusher stifled a grin.

“Your Honor,” said Malone, “may I suggest, that it's exactly because of the defendant's long record, as well as the proof adduced at this hearing, that the Government contends that the defendant is a danger to the community, and should therefore have his bail forfeited.”

“Look at that Irish punk,” said The Crusher, glaring at Malone. “I'd like to step on his face.” The Crusher saw Marc's face. “Okay, Counselor, okay. I'll take it easy. I gotta admit, you're a tough guy, Counselor.”

“I'm well aware of the defendant's record, Mister Malone,” said the Judge. “I was aware of that selfsame record when I let him out on bail after I sentenced him. After all, even Mister Pellegrino is entitled to the protections of the Constitution, and a chance to pursue his legal remedies.”

“Thank you, Your Honor,” said The Crusher.

“Oh, I'm not doing it for you, Mister Pellegrino, believe me,” the Judge emphasized. “It's the law, and it applies equally to all men before this bar. Wait,” said the Judge suddenly. “I'm just thinking of another mysterious aspect of this defendant's status before this Court. How can an indigent post ten thousand dollars bail? There are plenty of indigents in our jails who can't post a thousand dollars. And here's a defendant, supposedly indigent, and he posts ten thousand. Have you spent the time, Mister Malone, to check out the validity of Mister Pellegrino's indigence?”

Marc thought of Joey Maricyk back in The Tombs, who wasn't indigent, who hovered in that category of being employed and earning a living, but not sufficiently propertied to post a bond.

“We did, Your Honor,” replied Malone. “It seems his brother-in-law and another person, a friend, signed as sureties on Mister Pellegrino's bond. They vouched to forfeit ten thousand dollars if the defendant did not appear in court. It isn't the defendant's money or credit that has been posted on bail, Your Honor. At least not that we can prove.”

“This is an outrage,” said the Court. “But I don't imagine we can force a person to pay a lawyer's fee for someone else. People can still spend their assets any way they see fit. It's too bad they don't see fit to pay the fee rather than the bail. One of these days, Mister Pellegrino, this merry-go-round will stop.”

BOOK: Courthouse
7.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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