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Shortly after the massacre on Clark Street, two eyewitnesses came forward to tell police that they had seen some of the action on the street. Their testimony seemed inconsequential at the time and was quickly forgotten, but it included this nugget of information from one of them: “Just about the time I arrived in front of the place, an automobile I thought was a police squad car stopped in front of the garage. There were five men in it. The fellow who stayed at the wheel had a finger missing. His hand was spread out on the steering apparatus, so the old amputation was apparent.” Police, it seems, never followed up on the lead.
For several years in the early 1930s, White worked as a federal informant, supplying information about Chicago hoodlums to federal agents in exchange for their protection, according to FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. If John Edgar Hoover knew of White’s role in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the bureau might have helped to cover his tracks for fear of losing an informant and jeopardizing the lives of the agents who worked with him.
In January 1934, when some of his peers figured out that White was a rat working for the Bureau of Investigation, White was executed in his home. Federal agents were seen visiting White at home shortly before the murder. The killers were never caught.
A year later, when Hoover received the letter from Frank T. Farrell suggesting that White had been responsible for the nation’s greatest unsolved crime, the director replied that the gangland killing was a matter for local police and of no interest to the bureau. In other words, as far as he was concerned, the case was closed. Farrell was never again heard from. Recent attempts to locate his family were unsuccessful.
* * *
Whether Capone had anything to do with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre or not, one thing is clear: He was punished for it. The crime lit a fire under the federal prosecutors. Capone’s imprisonment became a national priority. The U.S. attorney eventually settled on a charge of felony income-tax evasion, and he wound up winning the stiffest sentence ever handed down for such a crime at the time: 11 years.
“A blow to the belt,” Capone called it. “But what can you expect when the whole community is prejudiced against you?”
The punishment proved effective: When Capone emerged from prison, his mind was wrecked by syphilis, and his criminal power was gone.
Over the course of his prison term, the great gangster was interviewed dozens of times by psychiatrists and prison officials. He spoke of his regrets: He said he wished that he had not been so friendly toward the press, because the publicity he earned had put a target on his back. He said he felt that his lawyers had failed him and that the judge assigned to his case had been unfair. He apologized for the grief he had caused his mother, his wife, and his son.
But he never spoke of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the crime that helped cement his legend and end his career.
He never knew what hit him.