What Will the Scammers Think of Next?
In 1961, just out of the Army and working in my second job in book publishing at $90 a week, I found myself on a federal grand jury. Usually grand juries are made up of older people with many years' experience on petit (trial) juries. This special grand jury was empanelled to serve every business day for a solid month from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
When I tried to get out of it by saying I was a young guy on my first job, Judge Dudley Bonsal called me up to the bench. A disarming, utterly charming guy, Bonsal had red hair and freckles that contrasted against his severe black robe. He surveyed me up and down, and then looked me in the eye and said in a very quiet voice, "But you are just the kind of fella we need for this kind of jury. Won't you please say yes?"
What's a boy to do?
It turned out this jury was a big deal. We got our pep talk from a young U.S. attorney named Robert Morgenthau, who has made big news lately, as he is about to be reelected after more than 30 years as New York district attorney at age 85 (sic!).
It turned out that $1 million worth of negotiable financial instruments had been stolen from the safe of Wall Street firm Bache & Co., and were being fenced all over the country.
For one solid month, the 23 ladies and gentlemen of the special grand jury sat riveted as the kingpins of every major crime family in New York were paraded before us--Gambino, Luchese and Traina, to name three.
As a 26-year-old kid, I had vaguely heard about the Mob. But that was eight years before Mario Puzo's "The Godfather" was published. None of us knew what "omerta" (the vow of silence), "Capo di tutti capi" (big boss), "The Commission" (ruling body), "family," and all the other jargon that we have all come to know and love, meant.