CONCLUSION – WAS CHARLES BECKER GUILTY IN ORDERING THE MURDER OF HERMAN ROSENTHAL?

The $64,000 question is: Did Lieut. Charles Becker order the murder of Herman Rosenthal, or was he framed? And if Becker was framed, who did the framing, and why? The answer to the first question, to me, is self-evident. Charles Becker did not order the murder of Herman Rosenthal. Yes, Becker was a lout, a ruffian, a crooked cop, and much worse, and he certainly had the makeup to be a murderer; if that’s what Becker thought was in his best interest. But that doesn’t mean Becker ordered Rosenthal’s murder. As for the motive, some people might say Becker had plenty of reasons to want Rosenthal dead. I say it was in Becker’s best interest to keep Rosenthal alive. Let’s examine the facts as we know them. It was obvious that Becker and Rosenthal were partners in an illegal gambling house, and at the time of his death, Rosenthal had already informed on Becker in the most open of forums – the New York City press. Killing Rosenthal would not have undone the damage Rosenthal had already wrecked on Becker and his career. Keeping Rosenthal alive was the best thing for Becker, since it would give Becker a chance to discredit the gambler and possibly clear his own name in the process. Becker had a lot of pull in law enforcement and in Tammany Hall. It is not inconceivable that Becker could have walked away from Rosenthal’s accusations unscathed. And surely, Becker was not a stupid man. If Rosenthal were to be killed just hours before he was to visit District Attorney Whitman’s office to make a formal affidavit against Becker, Becker would be the first person to come under suspicion. This fact made Becker the perfect pigeon for a frame. Who else who stood to gain if Rosenthal were croaked? Bald Jack Rose certainly fits that description. With Rosenthal out of the way, Rose, and his pals Harry Vallon, and Bridgey Webber presumed they would be standing pretty in the Tenderloin. With the competition from Rosenthal’s gambling house out of the way, these three creeps probably figured they would rake in the fallen crumbs from Rosenthal’s gambling residue. As events further unfolded, they were chased from the Tenderloin instead, by irate members of the underworld, who, by nature, despised informers. Let’s assume for a moment that Rose arranged Rosenthal’s murder without Becker’s knowledge. It could have been the perfect crime if Rose and his pals weren’t so stupid. Why rent a car for the murder; a car that could be traced back to Rose? Efficient killers would have stolen a car to do the dirty deed. And surely, if Becker were arranging Rosenthal’s murder he would have been intelligent enough to make sure the killers didn’t use a rented car. Once the owner and the driver of the murder car (William Libby and Louis Shapiro) were caught, and they were caught quickly, the entire scheme fell apart. This is where Rose used his ingenuity, his ability to survive. As soon as Libby and Shapiro were arrested, Rose knew he was in deep spit unless he came up with a plan. Rose decided to turn chicken crap into chicken salad by first turning himself in. Soon, Webber and Vallon were sitting in the same Tombs prison cell next to Rose, so they could plan and scheme to their heart’s delight. Behind bars was where Rose transformed himself from a dumb murderer into a smart witness; a witness against Becker, whom was dumfounded - first when Rosenthal was killed, and again when he was arrested for Rosenthal’s murder. Bridgey Webber, Sam Schepps, and Harry

Vallon, out to save their own skins, backed up Rose’s play, and this was the start of the demise of Lieut. Charles Becker. Rose also knew he had two aces in the hole: two men who wanted Rose’s story to be true for their own personal ambitions - District Attorney Charles Whitman and newspaper columnist Herbert Bayard Swope. Whitman wanted to be Governor of the state of New York; then President of the United States of America. The best way to accomplish this exacta was to successfully prosecute a highly visible case; especially one where the accused was a decorated New York City police lieutenant (a variation of this same strategy was later employed by New York City Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey and New York Attorney for the Southern District Rudolph Giuliani, amongst others). Whitman didn’t want to know the truth, and like Jack Nicholson once said in a movie, “He couldn’t handle the truth.” The truth was three lowlife gamblers arranged the killing of another lowlife gambler. This was not the stuff dreams were made of; at least not Whitman’s dreams. Whitman needed a big splash to further his political career, and his two successful prosecutions of Becker was the right ticket Whitman needed to propel him upward politically; the truth be damned. As for Swope, he was just a huckster who knew a good story when he saw it, even if the story lacked the ingredients of the truth. Swope, who later won the first Pulitzer Prize in 1917 for his reporting on “Inside the German Empire,” once said, “It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America. And thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts." And that’s exactly what Swope did concerning the murder of Herman Rosenthal. Swope knew the most sensational “opinion” to have was that a corrupt police lieutenant had ordered the killing of Rosenthal. Swope, like Whitman, saw no career advantage in stating the truth, so he tilted his reporting in a manner that would assure a guilty verdict for Becker.

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