Aleman Finally Convicted
Aleman Finally Convicted
IPSN Oct. 12, 1997
His Career as an Outfit Enforcer Recalled
Harry Aleman’s contention that he is an ordinary family man trying to live a quiet life of peaceful contemplation in Chicago’s Western Suburbs with his wife, his daughter, a son-in-law, and the grand kids, is as far from the vision of middle class America as one can possibly get.
In his free and easy days, Harry Aleman roamed the streets of Chicago basking in the certain knowledge that his reputation as the syndicate’s most efficient “enforcer” bestowed upon him a certain celebrity status. He enjoyed the protection of John D’Arco, Sr., the crooked First Ward Democratic committeeman, and his principal administrative aide, Pat Marcy, whose influence in such matters dated back to the heyday of the notorious West Side Bloc of syndicate-controlled politicians who rose to power in the 1940s.
Together these men ruled the First Ward and acted on behalf of the Chicago outfit when the outfit’s interests were threatened as they were in 1977 when Harry “the Hook” Aleman was about to stand trial for the 1972 shotgun murder of Teamster steward William Logan.
Logan, whose former wife happens to be a cousin of Harry Aleman, allegedly refused to assist Aleman in a scheme to loot cartage trucks. Government prosecutors also believe that Harry Aleman’s motive may also be tied to Logan’s mistreatment of his wife. The couple were engaged in a bitter custody battle at the time of Logan’s death.
Billy Logan was ambushed by an assassin lying in wait in a parked car outside his home on West Walton Street in the Austin neighborhood on September 27, 1972. Aleman was identified as the triggerman by two eyewitnesses. The state went to trial believing they had an ironclad case against Harry Aleman, or so they thought at the time.
The Chicago outfit had a vested interest in Harry, and they went to great lengths to assure an acquittal. “This is a very serious matter, some very important people are concerned about this individual [Aleman]….don’t say you can do it unless you can do it…we have to know for sure,” cautioned John D’Arco, Sr., to attorney Robert Cooley who indicated that he could arrange the “fix.”
Cooley prevailed upon his good friend Judge Frank Wilson for help. Wilson had the reputation of being a “law and order” jurist which made him all the more appealing to the First Ward overseers. The attorney and the Cook County judge gambled and drank together. Their after-hours collegiality was typical of other existing arrangements between defense attorneys and members of the Cook County judiciary that eventually revealed a mountain of corruption and bribery culminating in the Operation Greylord scandal of the 1980s.
Cooley proceeded cautiously, but he was certain Wilson could be bribed – for $10,000. The case was originally assigned to Judge James Bailey – a man beyond reproach, and then later Judge Fred Suria. However, the Aleman matter was eventually transferred to Judge Wilson’s calendar in one of those strange twists of backroom wheeler-dealing that could only occur in Chicago.
As the case unfolded, Wilson realized he was in a real jam. His career, his reputation, such as it was, and possibly even his life had been placed in harm’s way. After he discovered that a witness was being paid the same amount of bribe money, he demanded much more from Cooley. “I am going to lose my job on this thing and that’s all I’m getting…it’s not fair. I deserve a lot more than this,” he told the attorney. Cooley adamantly refused. There was no more syndicate money to spread around.
Judge Wilson collected his envelope containing the original agreed upon amount and acquitted Aleman according to the game plan. In February 1990, with the government closing in on this corrupt judge who contaminated the Circuit Court system of Cook County, Frank Wilson shot himself in the head in the backyard of his Arizona retirement home.
The Wilson-Cooley fix drew Harry Aleman into the national spotlight. But long before the case unraveled, “the Hook” was a seasoned career criminal.
He is believed responsible for at least five mob hits (the figure could run as high as 15, according to some accounts) including the murder of independent bookmaker Anthony J. Reitinger on October 31, 1975. Reitinger was asked to pay his “street tax” to one of Harry Aleman’s associates – identified in trial transcripts as “LaPietra” (possibly Angelo or Jimmy LaPietra). A federal informant and former “rogue” police officer named Vince Rizza supplied LaPietra with a list of free-lancing bookies who were obligated to pay their tax or face stern reprisals. Rizza supposedly told Aleman that “Committing murder in Chicago is okay if you kill the right people.”
Anthony Reitinger brushed off the threats. He ran his North Side games and allowed the chips to fall where they may – his big mistake.
On the night of the murder, Aleman reportedly called Rizza at his home to tell him to watch TV. “The guy had been whacked.” And indeed he was dispatched to another world outside Mama Luna’s Restaurant, 4846 W. Fullerton Avenue, by two armed assailants in the presence of several witnesses who suffered from memory lapse.
The only physical evidence linking Aleman to the crime was a latent fingerprint found on a warranty book in the stolen getaway car when it was recovered on December 1, 1975. The government was unable to prove conclusively that this was the same vehicle used as the “work car” in the Reitinger murder. Once again, Harry Aleman, unscathed, slipped away into the night.
In 1978, six years after the Logan murder faded into memory, Aleman was charged in a nine-count indictment with two violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), for his involvement in three home robberies in Illinois and Indiana. Aleman was convicted in a jury trial and sentenced to 30 years in prison after he was shown to be the ringleader of this interstate armed robbery and home invasion gang.
Harry Aleman was released on parole in April 1989, after serving 11 years of his sentence. He returned to his Oakbrook home and went to work for his son-in-law Ted Strong, as a personnel supervisor at Accurate Coring Company in Rosemont, earning about $1,000 a week. At the time of his release the U.S. Parole Commission reported that Harry was a “model prisoner” and had served his time “without incident.”
“I love my wife and kids and that is my stability and predictability,” he told Judge Williams in a prepared affidavit. “There isn’t enough money in the world to make me run away from my family. Throughout my years in prison, I survived for my family and they have stood by me never knowing when I was coming home with the 30-year sentence I had. Concerning the community where I live, I cannot comprehend the meaning of ‘Danger to the Community.’ I have only lived in my community a short while and they accept me as they do my family.” The Aleman defense team supplied letters from the neighbors attesting to Harry’s good character.
While Aleman was in federal prison for running a home invasion ring, Joe Ferriola reportedly ordered the 1981 murder of his long-time associate and reputed partner William “Butch” Petrocelli, a notorious Chicago mob figure active from the 1950s through the 1970s. Petrocelli had failed to turn over $100,000 to Harry’s family while he was “away.” It was one of the most hideous murders in the annals of Chicago mob history. Petrocelli was found in the backseat of his car at 4307 W. 25th Place. He had been stabbed twice in the neck and the killers set fire to his face with lighter fluid.
It is customary in organized crime circles for the families of imprisoned members to be “taken care of” during the period of incarceration. When he failed to carry out the order, Petrocelli was “taken care of.”
The Aleman-Petrocelli alliance came to the attention of state authorities in 1969 when the two men were arrested by agents of the Illinois Crime Investigation Commission and the Chicago Police Department on charges of extortion and juice loan racketeering. The operation was headed by the late Fiore “Fifi” Buccieri who passed away in 1973. Buccieri’s operations were taken over by James V. “Turk” Torello, the powerful West Side juice loan extortionist and gambling boss.
In later testimony, Robert Cooley identified Petrocelli and Aleman as the killers of Chris Cardi, a former Chicago Police officer and part time juice loan collector who was gunned down in the presence of his wife and kids on July 14, 1975, near Jim’s Beef Stand at 1620 N. River Road in mobbed-up Melrose Park.
Cooley also linked Harry Aleman and his partner “Butch” Petrocelli to the December 20, 1973 slaying of Richard Cain, former chief investigator who served under Cook County Sheriff Richard B. Ogilvie in the 1960s. Cain, a rogue operative whose law enforcement career was shattered by his personal involvement in cartage theft and bank robbery, later worked for Sam Giancana as his driver and personal assistant.
Cain was gunned down inside Rose’s Snack Shop at 1117 W. Grand Avenue by two masked men carrying walkie-talkies. Many knowledgeable mob watchers believe the Cain hit was masterminded by Joey “the Clown” Lombardo. In February 1983, a small time hood and protected federal witness named Alva Johnson Rodgers fingered Lombardo for the hit in a federal courtroom.
The sensational assassination of Richard Cain, discussed in numerous books and articles about organized crime in the Windy City, has never been solved.
After eight months on “the outside,” Harry Aleman’s parole officer glowingly predicted that “there is ample evidence to suggest that he [Aleman] is able to maintain a lawful lifestyle if free on bond.
It is obviously not possible to discern his motivation, but I believe that his record while on supervision indicates a reasonable probability that he could avoid criminal activity while on bond.”
Nevertheless, when Aleman went before a federal court judge on racketeering charges in 1991, the government produced a witness who testified that Aleman had received $100,000 from Joseph Ferriola prior to Ferriola’s death in March 1989, and had failed to “distance” himself from his former criminal associates. Joseph Ferriola, who headed a vicious street crew engaged in loan sharking, bookmaking, bribery, and shakedowns was Harry Aleman’s uncle.
During his 1991 trial before U.S. District Judge Ann C. Williams, Harry pleaded guilty to racketeering charges but he steadfastly refused to testify against Rocco Ernest Infelise, who had assumed command of the Ferriola street crew in 1989, and five other co-defendants.
The plea agreement between Aleman and the court called for a 12-year prison sentence which he would serve at a federal prison in Oxford, Wisconsin. After emerging from Judge Williams’ chambers, it was reported that Aleman exited smiling .
The smile quickly turned to a frown in December 1993 when State’s Attorney Jack O’Malley announced his intention to re-indict Aleman for the William Logan murder – a case that strained the limits of the constitutional provision protecting a defendant from double jeopardy after being found not guilty the first time around.
“The festering potential of reinstating a criminal charge after acquittal defies every known authority on double jeopardy,” argued defense attorney Allan Ackerman at the time.
“It raises a constitutional question of the highest magnitude.”
However, both the Illinois Appellate Court and the Supreme Court ruled that because Aleman was never in any serious danger of being convicted the first time around in a sham trial presided over by a bribed judge, there simply was no jeopardy to consider.
The second trial moved forward before Judge Michael P. Toomin at the Criminal Courts Building and was completed in less than a week.
Based on the eye-witness testimony of Robert Lowe who was out walking his dog the night that Aleman shot and killed William Logan, the jury had no problem returning a guilty verdict in this second trial, despite the nervous apprehensions of one female juror who asked to be excused because she feared “reprisals.”
The conviction of Harry Aleman, and his sentencing hearing on November 4, brings closure to the victims of his assorted crimes, and to a sorry episode in Criminal Court history.
The Aleman verdict indicates that after 20 years justice has had its final rendering, and the career of a feared hit man whose reputation inspired terror in the hearts of viniremen summoned to jury duty to carry out their civic duty is over.
It also suggests that a battered, and corrupt criminal justice system, still reeling from the ground tremors of Operations Greylord and Gambat, has won a temporary reprieve and has escaped from the shadowy criminal-politico tie-up that prevented a stone-cold killer like Harry Aleman from receiving his judicial retribution.