Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlos Marcello: Big Daddy In The Big Easy

Degrees of Separation

Carlos Marcello was a fervent racist. He despised blacks and vehemently opposed the civil rights movement during the 1960's. He openly expressed his hatred of Dr. Martin Luther King and his white knight, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Known to be a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan, Carlos was a generous financial supporter of anti-civil rights movements.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover also shared his views. At one time he had been passed a news release that showed Time magazine had nominated Dr King "Man of the Year" in 1962. Hoover scribbled in the margin, "They had to dig deep in the garbage to come up with this one." On one occasion, Hoover was heard to say at a press conference: "King is one of the lowest characters in the country."

There is a story to the effect that J. Edgar Hoover's distaste for "the Left" was so great, that he once ordered his chauffeur to drive from Dallas to Austin without taking any left turns.

Sometime late in the afternoon of that April day, Dr King was visited by his good friend Dr Ralph Abernathy. Just before they left to go out for dinner, King stepped out on the balcony of room 306 of the Lorraine Motel and as he lent over the veranda rail to talk to his driver, he was shot through the right cheek by a 30.06 rifle bullet, which severed his spine and exited through his chest in a hole big enough for a man to put both fists through

Four days after King was killed, John McFerren, a black man, reported to the FBI in Memphis, that he had overheard a telephone conversation prior to the day of the murder, in which the speaker had said: "....kill the SOB on the balcony. You will get your $5000... don't come here, go to New Orleans and get your money." The man on the telephone was identified as one of the owners of Liberto, Liberto and Latch Produce Store. He was Frank Liberto, brother of Salvatore "Jack" Liberto, the man who attended the Churchill Farms conference on September 11, 1962 with Carlos, Becker and Ruppolo.

According to a New Orleans-based journalist William Sartor, James Earl Ray, the alleged killer of Dr. King, had attended a meeting at either The Town and Country Motel or the Provincial Motel, another New Orleans mob hangout, on December 17, 1967. At this meeting were Charley Stein, Salavatore "Sam" DiPiazza, Lucas Dileo and Salvatore LaCharda. These men were either associates or in some way connected to Carlos Marcello. Later, Ray claimed he left New Orleans on December 19 with $2500 in cash and the promise of a further $12,000 to "do a big job, early in the new year."

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations confirmed the mob ties of the men and their links to Marcello. In 1961, a FBI intelligence report disclosed that William Hugh Mavis, a prominent Klan member and imperial wizard, had told a Klan gathering in October that racial problems in the South would only be eliminated by the murder of Dr. King, and that he had "underworld associates who would kill anyone for a price."

Salvatore Liberto was heavily involved in the New Orleans Mafia-dominated produce markets and Sam DiPiazza was a king hitter in the gambling outlets of Marcello's empire. It was not beyond the realm of possibility that Marcello funded Ray as he stalked Dr. King through the South in the months leading up to April 4.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that there was a 95% probability King was killed by a conspiracy. In 1993, a man called Lloyd Jowers went on the Prime Time Live television show and stated that he hired the killer of Dr. King as a favour to New Orleans mob boss Carlo Marcello, who in turn was doing it as a favour for J. Edgar Hoover. He was adamant that the killer was not James Earl Ray.

Hoover, who was no doubt delighted at the murder of King, was happy to let the case rest with Ray, who like Oswald five years earlier, may well have been a killer on the day, but not the only one involved in the killing of an American icon.

Hoover's direction of the investigation of the assassination of Dr. King was so inept that the House Select Committee on Assassinations delivered in its final report the harshest critique ever levelled at him and his agency. In part, it said: "in regards to the conduct of the FBI towards the civil rights leader prior to his murder, it was morally reprehensible, illegal, felonious and unconstitutional."

The FBI file on Dr. King consists of some 93 volumes that contain over 6000 articles and exhibits. It's hard to believe they could get it so wrong.

In May, 1968, as Robert Kennedy was getting into first gear in his run as Democratic candidate for the presidency, Jimmy Hoffa ex-teamster boss was in prison in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg. He was overheard discussing a plot to kill Robert Kennedy with Carmine Galante, the feared underboss of the Bonanno crime family of New York. There were rumours of a $750,000 Mafia contract out on Kennedy should he receive the Democratic nomination.

There was no doubt that if Robert Kennedy became president, he a) would re-open the investigation on his brother's death, and b) rejuvenate his efforts to destroy organized crime.

Carlos Marcello had remained good friends with L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen since they both had appeared before the McClellan hearings. By 1968, Cohen was in prison, having waged a full-scale war with the Dragna family for control of the rackets in Los Angeles, including the major racetracks that were all hooked into the Marcello' s wire service and bookie network.

Sirhan Sirhan, the alleged killer of Robert Kennedy, worked as a groom at the Santa Anita race track controlled by Cohen, who had also been a close friend of Jack Ruby, the gangster who shot Oswald dead. Ruby was part of the Civello set-up in Dallas that was controlled by Marcello. That Robert Kennedy's brother was himself shot dead in a city that was controlled by a close friend of Carlos Marcello, who was more than likely the immediate boss of the man who shot the man who shot the president, has to be surely more than just a coincidence.

Robert Kennedy was shot and fatally wounded as he was walking through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, in Los Angeles. His alleged killer fired all eight rounds from his .22 calibre revolver, wounding at least five other people. The fatal wound to Kennedy occurred behind his right ear from a bullet that was fired from a gun less than one inch from the victim's head. Sirhan Sirhan was at least three feet in front of Kennedy when he began to shoot. In all, at least ten, possibly fourteen shots were fired that night; the alleged killer's gun contained only eight bullets and he never got the chance to reload the weapon.

Added to all of this mystification there were the dubious records of Sirhan's defence counsel, the deliberate obfuscation of the Los Angles police department who destroyed key evidence taken from the Ambassador Hotel pantry where Kennedy was shot, as well as misplacing over 2000 key documents relating to the shooting, and the predictable response of J. Edgar Hoover. Days after the shooting, Hoover confirmed that the FBI's investigation indicated that Sirhan Sirhan was the only person involved.

The elimination of Robert Kennedy from the 1968 presidential race paved the way for victory for Richard Nixon, the man Marcello had always supported. In fact in the 1960 race between Kennedy and Nixon, Carlos had donated $500,000 towards Nixon's campaign. With Robert Kennedy dead and Nixon's accession to the presidency on Jan 20, 1969, Carlos Marcello had now a thread even to the White House.

Norfio Pecora and Joe Poretto, two of Carlos' top men, were each married to a sister of D'Aston Smith, a close associate of Marcello. He was a good friend and confident of Murray Chotiner, who was one of Nixon's closet advisors and confidants. He was also closely connected to the L.A. mobster, Mickey Cohen. He became Nixon's special counsel in 1971 and used his influence to help secure a presidential pardon for imprisoned labour leader Jimmy Hoffa, who was a very good friend of Carlos Marcello.

And so, the boss of the Louisiana Mafia was able to extend his reach into the White House.

It was no miracle that the two-year sentence imposed on Carlos for assaulting an FBI agent was reduced to six months, to be served in a comfortable medical centre.

There were indeed many degrees of separation linking Carlos Marcello to some of the most tumultuous events of the 1960's.

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