Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wisconsin Supreme Court rejects crime boss' son John Balistrieri bid to practice law

Frank P. Balistrieri (center) walks with his sons, John (left) and Joseph,
in the Milwaukee County Courthouse in 1975. (Sentinel Files)
Article thanks to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Links provided:

8/12/2014 The bid by
John J. Balistrieri, a felon and the son of Milwaukee's onetime organized crime boss, to get his law license back was shot down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday morning.

The rejection comes two years after Balistrieri applied to practice law for the second time since his 1989 release from federal prison. The court has had the matter before it since 2012 after Richard Ninneman, the attorney appointed to review the case, recommended that Balistrieri be allowed to practice law again. The court’s Office of Lawyer Regulation, however, opposed his reinstatement.

Balistrieri, 65, his older brother, Joseph, and their father, Frank, were convicted of attempted extortion in 1984 after an FBI sting and federal trial that focused on the role of organized crime in the Milwaukee vending machine business. Frank Balistrieri died in 1993 and
Joseph died in 2010.

The Balistrieri brothers were each sentenced to eight years in prison, a term that was slashed to five years after they blamed their father for their wrongdoing.

In its
unsigned opinion, the court wrote that it was “not averse to providing a second chance” to disbarred lawyers if they show they have changed their ways.

But, the court added: “The record in this instance, however, does not demonstrate that Attorney Balistrieri has clearly and convincingly proven that he has the required moral character to practice law, that he has a proper attitude toward society's laws and the standards imposed on members of bar, and that he is fit to represent clients and to aid in the administration of justice as a member of this state's bar.”

In fact, the court wrote that “the record reveals a pattern of a lack of acceptance of responsibility over the years that have passed since Attorney Balistrieri's conviction.”

The court noted that when Balistrieri first tried to get his license back, the court’s policing arm in 1995 recommended against allowing him to practice. Balistrieri responded by lashing out at the agency saying it “was biased against him because of his Italian heritage," the court noted Tuesday. “He attacked the integrity of the reinstatement process with a completely unsupported charge of ethnic bias.”

Justice Patience Roggensack did not participate in the decision and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote a dissent arguing that Balistrieri should be allowed to practice law.


Other of my related Mob posts:
"Mr. Fancy Pants" Balistrieri - Tracking Milwaulee's most dangerous mobster
Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggerio-The real story of the "wise guy"
The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)
Milwaukee Mob Attorney - Tale of a Double Life
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef - Part 1
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef Processors - Part II
Sally Papia - A life lived on the edge
The Milwakee Mob Hit on Anthony Biernat
The Milwaukee Mob Hit on August Palimisano
New York's "Joe Bananas" meets Milwaukee's Frank "Mad Bomber" Balistrieri
The Life and Times of a Chicago Mafia Hit Man
From Balistrieri's Bag Man to Investigative Reporter
Louis Fazio - Milwaukee Mob Hit or Robbery?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Loius Fazio - Milwaukee Mob Hit or Robbery?

As published in the following archive of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, most of the local police officials immediately dismissed the idea that the motive for murder may have been a mob hit, and were certain that it was a “simple” robbery-murder.

But, as mentioned in several accounts, Frank Balistrieri, Milwaukee’s mob boss, and Louis Fazio were enemies.

On Feb 2, 1973, Milwaukee Journal reporters Alex Dobish and Thomas Lubenow reported in the Journal that back in 1968 there were rumors that Fazio was going to be offered the post of Mafia don in Milwaukee. That would not have set well with "The Mad Bomber" Balistrieri, who had been in command since 1961. (The Chicago Outfit had the ultimate control of Milwaukee and it was well within their power to depose and appoint a Milwaukee don.)

Joseph Pistone, an undercover FBI agent, and “Lefty Guns” Ruggerio (New York mobster) were guests in Frank Balistrieri’s Milwaukee home for dinner one Saturday evening in 1978. Joe wrote in his book, “Donnie Brasco”, that Frank wanted to go to an ethnic Italian civic dinner event the next evening that Fazio had been a previous chairman of. He had not attended the event for several years. Frank made the statement that evening about Fazio, “He’s dead, Five times thirty-eight.” Of course, thirty-eight referred to 38 caliber. The next evening, Frank and his entourage walked in unannounced, to “have some fun”, disrupting everyone as the staff scrambled to accommodate them and Balistrieri played the “godfather” to the hilt! The event took place in none other than the Grand Ballroom of the Marc Plaza hotel!

Ned Day, a former bagman and bartender for Balistrieri turned investigative reporter in Las Vegas, wrote years later:
“I remember Louie Fazio got blasted. Frankie Bal didn't like him. I remember when Augie Maniaci took two bullets in the skull. Frankie Bal didn't like him, either.”

As I remember, back in those years, Milwaukee County District Attorney Hugh O’Connell and long time Police Chief Harold Breier were persistent in their public statements that there was no evidence of organized crime in Milwaukee or Wisconsin! Did the power from the top command the bottom to “look the other way”? Other federal and state agencies didn't see it the same way.

In an article in the Milwaukee Sentinel on N0v 3, 1975, Milwaukee Dist. Atty. E. Michael McCann was quoted as saying the deaths of Louis Fazio and August Maniaci were "reflective of an interior struggle" within the organized crime element in Milwaukee.

Here’s the original story, thanks to the Journal Sentinel Archives. No reporter was credited by the Sentinel. Links provided:

Louis Fazio Shot Dead in Parking Lot of Home

Sept. 27, 1972 Louis Fazio, a member of a prominent Milwaukee restaurant family who served nearly a dozen years in prison for his part in a 1948 gangland slaying, was found shot to death outside his home Wednesday morning.

Fazio, 58 of 2805 N. Humbolt Ave., was found in a parking area behind his home at about 6:45 a.m. by a neighbor.

County medical examiner’s investigators X-rayed the body first, without removing Fazio’s clothing. By noon they had located two slugs still in the body, one in the head, with what appeared to be an entrance wound at the right rear side of the head and another in the neck, apparently fired as Fazio was falling or lying on his side.. That slug tore through the shoulder of his coat, leading detectives to believe he had a shoulder wound, officials said.

There was a third bullet wound in Fazio’s abdomen, but that slug had not been located by X-ray. An autopsy was to be held.

A copy of The Milwaukee Sentinel was found on the ground beside the body. Two more copies of the paper were found inside the car.

Joseph La Monte, deputy county medical examiner and a friend of the Fazio family since childhood, said it had been Fazio’s practice to bring a newspaper home with him after closing the Iron Horse restaurant, 100 W. Wells St., one of the family enterprises, which he managed. La Monte said said it was a practice of one of the regular late night customers to buy the papers and hand them out just before it’s 2 a.m. closing.

Detective Inspector Leo Woelfel said that as far as police could determine the motive was robbery.

He said Fazio was known to carry two or three wallets and that “he was a guy known to carry a bundle of cash.” After closing the restaurant, said Woelfel, Fazio was probably carrying much of the day’s receipts.

However, when the body was searched at the county medical examiner's office, a total of $448 was found in his pockets, more than $400 of it in a money clip.

The other wallets to which Woelfel referred were not found.

“Apparently, he put up a fight”, said Woelfel, “his knuckles were bruised.”

Woelfel discounted the possibility that Fazio was a victim of a Milwaukee gangland struggle. He said there was no evidence to point to anything but robbery as a motive.

Found in Parking Lot
However, federal authorities and agents of state Atty. Gen. Robert W. Warren’s organized crime strike force were known to be interested in the slaying investigation.
The body was found on a three stall concrete parking area behind the four-family apartment house in which he and his wife, Josephine, lived.
Fazio had parked his car in the middle space, as was his custom. The body was found at the rear of the car.
Fazio’s keys were found behind the left rear wheel of the auto, a 1972 Chevrolet.
Mrs. Fazio said that when she awoke: “I heard voices outside. I pulled up the shade and there they all were.” She was referring to police.
Mrs. Fazio said it was her husband’s practice to arrive home between 2 and 3 a.m. and take their dog out for a walk. She said she looked out a rear window about 2:30 a.m., saw the car and expected Fazio inside at any minute. The Fazios had been married 37 years.
Ray Suminski, Fazio’s nephew and a bartender at the Iron Horse, said that Fazio left the restaurant at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
According to the county medical examiner’s report, neighbors heard arguing about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday and then heard two or three shots.
Although police were officially listing robbery as the motive, detectives and other Safety Building and Courthouse officials were speculating that there might be other motives - possibly revenge.
Fazio had a police record dating back to 1933, when he was arrested on a charge of carrying concealed weapons.

First Prison Term
He received his first prison term - 10 years - in 1942, when he was sent to the State Prison at Waupun for pandering and carnal knowledge and abuse.
At the trial Fazio was accused of being a leader of a white slave ring, in which, among other things, he allegedly bought for $150 another man’s interest in a 15 year old girl whom the other man had placed in a house of prostitution in Sheboygan county.
That sentence was commuted by Gov. Julius Heil and Fazio was released from prison May 18, 1945. Heil’s action brought protest from then Dist. Atty. Herbert J. Steffes, now a Circuit Judge, who had prosecuted Fazio, and from Milwaukee women’s groups.
Slightly more than a year later - June 24th, 1948 - Fazio was returned to the state prison for his part in the slaying of Mike Farina and the attempted murder of Farina’s brother, Joseph, on Hwy 43 in Kenosha county that year.
Also convicted in that killing were John Mandella, his brother Jerome, and Dominic Lampone, all associates of Fazio.

Revenge Considered
Authorities believed the slaying was in revenge for the burglary of John Mandella’s home. Loot from the burglary was taken to Kenosha and it was on the way back that the Farina’s truck was stopped on the highway by a car following them. Inside were the four defendants.
Joseph Farina lived to testify in court and pointed to Fazio as the trigger man.
“The four punched us around,” Farina testified, “and then Fazio made me get in the back of the truck. He sat on a box and I sat on the floor. Lampone was in the driver’s seat. Then Fazio got out and went away, but he came back. I saw sparks coming toward me and felt my head twisting around. I knew I was shot when I felt blood. I was shot twice in the head and three times in the left hand. “Then I heard fighting outside the truck and Mike started in the back end. Mike said ‘Are you hurt Joe? What’s the matter?’  

More Shots
“Then there were more shots behind Mike. He grunted, and fell on me. I saw Fazio at the door of the truck. More shots were fired, so I fell down and played dead.”
Fazio was sentenced to life for the murder and to 30 years to run concurrently, for the assault on Joseph Farina.
Former Waupun Warden John C. Burke said Wednesday that he recalled Fazio as a good prisoner, one whose conduct enabled him to have some of the more privileged jobs in the prison.
While it may have been his good conduct that brought him special treatment in the state prison, it was his political influence that brought him special favors in the State Legislature. It also brought the end of the political career of Mark Catlin, then one of the state’s most powerful politicians.
Catlin, an attorney and speaker of the Assembly, was named in a complaint by Board of State Bar Commissioners with unethical conduct in trying to obtain clemency for state prisoners - among them, Fazio.
Frank Fazio, Louis’ brother and now operator of a Fort Lauderdale restaurant, testified that he paid Catlin  $5,000 in an effort to get Louis released from prison.
The attempt failed, but Catlin lost his bar license for six months - it has long since been reinstated - along with his political influence.
At the time Catlin had been considered as the choice of the state Republican organization to replace Alexander Wiley on the ballot for US senator.

Gets Parole
Fazio was paroled Dec, 2, 1957, after serving about the minimum sentence.
Within two years he was returned to prison for violating his parole. Police found 80,000 ballpoint pens and jewelry taken in a burglary of a downtown Milwaukee jewelry store in his car.
Fazio was returned to prison for a year and was paroled on Oct. 10, 1960.
He went back to work in the family restaurant on N. 5th St. and on Dec. 12, 1966, his prison sentence was commuted by former Gov. Warren P. Knowles.
Because he was serving a life sentence Fazio would have been on parole for the rest of his life and as a parolee Fazio could not have held a City of Milwaukee bartender’s license.
However, the commutation changed that and he was granted a bartender’s license on 1968.