The Atlanta Pen

I used to drive past the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta – known as “USP, Atlanta”, ‘the Federal Pen” or just “the Pen” – on a fairly regular basis. But I never gave it much thought. Oh sure… I’d sometimes wonder what the prisoners were doing at that exact moment and sometimes I’d think about how nasty the 1987 riots were.

USP, Atlanta
(photo via Atlanta Time Machine)

I was surfing around a few nights ago and found some interesting stuff about USP, Atlanta.

The prison was authorized by the “Three Prisons Act” of 1891, which also created prisons in McNeil Island, Washington and a rather famous one in Leavenworth, Kansas. Construction was approved by President William McKinley in 1899, and the facility was completed in 1902. At the time, it was the largest federal prison in the United States, with a capacity for 3,000 prisoners.

And what prisoners they were!

*     *     *

Ignazio Lupo was an organized crime figure who ran Manhattan’s Little Italy in the early 1900s. In 1903, Lupo married Giuseppe Morello’s half-sister (Morello ran similar gangs in East Harlem and the South Bronx). The gangs merged to form the “Morello family”, which became the basis of the Genovese family, considered by many to be the “gold standard of American crime families”. Although suspected of killing no less than 60 people, Lupo was actually convicted of running a counterfeiting ring, and spent a decade in USP, Atlanta from 1910 to 1920. Once freed, he petitioned the US government to travel to Italy, something prohibited by the terms of his parole. President Warren G. Harding approved Lupo’s request, with one amazing clause: Harding, and Harding alone, would judge whether Lupo was “law-abiding” and “not connected with any unlawful undertaking during the period of the sentence”.

Ignazio Lupo
Ignazio Lupo. Photo from lacndb.com

By the 1930s, the National Crime Syndicate (a loose coalition of organized crime families created by Johnny “The Fox” Torrio) decided that Lupo was too wild and attracting too much law-enforcement attention. So Lupo was stripped of all of his criminal enterprises. Lupo then started a protection racket amongst Italian bakers in NYC, and by 1936 he’d grown so violent and over the top that the governor of New York asked FDR to put Lupo back in prison for the remainder of his original term. So Lupo served an additional 10 years in Atlanta, from 1936 to 1946. He died, almost forgotten, in Brooklyn in 1947.

*     *     *

USP, Atlanta’s most famous resident was Al Capone.

As a young man, Johnny Torrio – the same Johnny Torrio who later created the National Crime Syndicate – worked legitimate jobs as a bouncer and porter in Manhattan. He joined a street gang, became their leader, and managed their money so well that he was soon able to buy them a pool hall as a hang out. It didn’t take long for the hall to become a hotbed of gambling and loan sharking, all of which Torrio managed well. This attracted the attention of Paolo Vaccarelli (a.k.a. Paul Kelly), founder of the Five Points Gang. Kelly invited Torrio to join. Torrio quickly drew the attention (and admiration) of several younger members, including Capone. In time, Torrio would hire Capone to tend bar at The Harvard Inn, a Coney Island dive owned by Francesco Ioele (a.k.a. Frankie Yale).

Torrio had an aunt – Victoria Moresco – who was married to “Big Jim” Colosimo, owner of over 100 brothels in Chicago. Torrio was asked to go to the Windy City to help Big Jim deal with an extortion racket being run against the brothels. While Torrio was away, Capone got into a bloody fight with a member of the rival “Irish White Hand” gang. Yale asked Torrio to take Capone off his hands until the heat died down. Torrio sent for Capone, who never left Chicago.

Al Capone
Al Capone. Photo via Wikipedia

Contrary to the public’s memory, Capone’s reign was short: he took over Torrio’s operation on January 25, 1925 after an attempted assassination attempt on Torrio, and was indicted for tax evasion in 1931. Capone arrived in Atlanta in May 1932. Prison doctors diagnosed him with syphilis and gonorrhea, a perforated septum (a hole in the tissue separating his nasal passages, thanks to his massive cocaine habit) and withdrawal affects from the same.

His mind was slipping so fast from syphilis that his letters to friends and family rarely made sense. Capone was so incompetent at dealing with other inmates that a former minor member of Capone’s gang, Red Rudinsky, also serving time in Atlanta, felt sorry for him and gave him protection. This led to charges that Capone was getting “special treatment”, While no such “special treatment” was ever proven, so many rumors circulated through the prison that the situation became tense. So the warden, James D. Stephens, asked for Capone to be moved elsewhere,

He was sent to the new prison on Alcatraz Island in 1934, his mind declining the entire time thanks to syphilis. He was released in 1939 and was transferred to another California prison to serve a 10 month sentence on contempt charges. Capone then moved into his mansion in Palm Island, Florida. Syphilis had so deteriorated his mind that in 1946 a pair of doctors reckoned his mental age to be 12 years-old. On January 21, 1947 Capone had a stroke, then got pneumonia, then had a heart attack and died on January 25.

*     *     *

Jimmy Burke was an associate of the Lucchese crime family in New York. Convicted of extortion in 1972, Burke served his time in Atlanta and was released in 1978. Burke was suspected of being the mastermind behind the infamous “Lufthansa Heist” of 1978, in which $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewelry was stolen from JFK airport (inflation-adjusted value: $21.3 million). If all this sounds familiar, it’s because Robert De Niro played Burke (as “Jimmy ‘The Gent’ Conway”) in the 1990 film Goodfellas. Burke eventually died from lung cancer at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, after being transferred from Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York. He had been serving a 20 year sentence for fixing a Boston College basketball game and for the murder of a man named Richard Eaton, one of the 50 men Burke was suspected of killing… and the only murder he was convicted of. Had Burke not been so sloppy in disposing of Eaton’s body, he might have died a free man.

*     *     *

Since we’re talking about movies, Vincent Papa not only served time at USP, Atlanta, he was murdered there in 1977. Like Burke, Papa was an associate of the Lucchese crime family. He was a drug dealer for many years, and with a partner named Virgil Alessi he came up with the idea of stealing over 400 pounds (181 kg) of heroin and cocaine from the New York City Police Property Clerk’s office in Lower Manhattan. Papa and Alessi paid detectives to either steal the drugs or to look the other way when Papa would send gang members in to steal the drugs directly. The total value of the drugs was estimated to be around $70 million… although you should always be wary of dollar figures attached to drug operations, since law enforcement agencies always calculate value based on the highest possible price and lowest common sales unit. It’s kind of like saying that a $20,000 car is worth $40,000 because that’s how much it would cost to buy each part individually.

The heroin Papa stole had been shipped to New York from Turkey via Marseilles… The French Connection of movie fame. Papa was convicted in 1975 and sent to Atlanta. In 1977, he was stabbed to death by a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, allegedly at the behest of a gangster named Herbie Sperling. Exactly why has never been determined, but the most likely reason is that Papa offered up names of crooked members of the United States Organized Crime Strike Force, a federal law enforcement group created in the late 1960s by Robert Kennedy. And who was the idiot who leaked news of Papa’s deal to the press? United States attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who would become mayor of New York in 1994.

*     *     *

Sticking with movies, Frank Abagnale, of Catch Me If You Can fame, broke out of USP, Atlanta while awaiting trial.

If you’ve seen the film, you’re probably familiar with the scene in which Abagnale escapes from a BOAC VC-10 aircraft as the plane taxis to the terminal by lifting up the toilet and shimming through a 2 foot hatch used to pump out the toilet. There are several problems with this scene. In real life, it was nighttime when he landed, not afternoon, and there were no FBI agents with him on the flight: they were all waiting for him at the airport. And many aviation experts have said that the trick simply wasn’t possible. But Abagnale somehow did escape, and once he was found, he was sent to Atlanta to await trial.

Frank Abagnale
The real Abagnale in a cameo in ‘Catch Me If You Can’: he’s the guy in the plain black hat leading Leonardo DiCaprio.

At the time, civil rights was a big issue, and the rights of prisoners had become a hot topic. The federal government had a number of undercover prison inspectors, and was in the middle of a huge sting operation to find civil rights issues in prisons. And, for some reason, the person who processed Abagnale into Atlanta was convinced that he was one such inspector. Abagnale was accordingly given preferential treatment: nice food, a good cell, etc.

According to Abagnale, he called a female friend, who posed as a freelance reporter and got an interview with an actual federal prison inspector. The point of the fake interview was to get a copy of the man’s business card, which she gave to Abagnale on a prison visit. She then went to an print shop. She ordered copies of a business card given to her by an FBI agent who’d interviewed her about Abagnale. She claimed to be the agent’s daughter, and said that her father had moved, and she was getting him the new cards as a gift. So she asked the shop to put different phone numbers on the cards… which were actually side-by-side payphones at an Atlanta shopping mall. She then got one of the cards to Abagnale.

At an agreed-upon time, Abagnale went to the prison office, claiming to be an inspector, and gave the guard the genuine business card as proof. Abagnale said that he’d overheard some information vital to a case agents in Philadelphia were working. He asked the person on duty if he could call an FBI agent, and presented the fake FBI agent’s card. The guard called the number on the card, and Abagnale’s female friend answered the payphone, posing as a secretary. The prison employee asked for the agent listed on the card, and when the “secretary” said she’d transfer the call, the guard just handed the phone to Abagnale. Frank pretended to have a conversation in which the agent wanted to meet him at the prison gates for 10 minutes or so. The prison employee, who was sure that Abagnale was an undercover prison inspector before all this even happened, agreed. Abagnale was served coffee and chatted with the guards for a while, and around 15 minutes later a car matching the description of the “FBI agent” pulled into the lot. The guards walked him to the door and let him out. Abagnale got into the car – driven by his lady friend, who was disguised in a man’s trench coat and hat. The two drove off into the night, and the guards had no idea they’d let a con man go.

*     *     *

Speaking of con men, ever wonder why pyramid schemes are sometimes called “Ponzi Schemes”? It’s because of Carlo “Charles” Ponzi, an Italian immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1903. In 1907, Ponzi moved to Montreal, where he got a job at Banco Zarossi, a private bank for Italian immigrants started by Luigi “Louis” Zarossi. The bank offered high returns on investments, which attracted tons of customers. But the bank issued a lot of bad real estate loans, and Ponzi found that money from new investors was being used to pay off earlier investors: a pyramid scheme. The bank eventually failed, and Zarossi fled to Mexico with whatever money remained.

Ponzi decided to stay in Montreal and care for Zarossi’s family. However, Ponzi had a hard time finding a job. He went to a company called Canadian Warehousing, a former Zarossi investor, to ask for a job. But when he arrived he found no one in the office. Someone had left the company checkbook on a desk, so he wrote himself a check for $425.58 (around $8,500 US dollars these days) and left. He was caught and sent to prison for three years.

Ponzi came back to the United States where he got involved in a human smuggling operation. He was caught and spent two years in the Atlanta Pen, where he got special privileges by translating the letters of Ignazio Lupo for the warden. Ponzi also became fast friends with crooked Wall Street speculator Charles W. Morse, who had kicked off the Panic of 1907. Morse had hired an army of lawyers and doctors to get him out of Atlanta prison; by eating soap chips, he was somehow able to convince prison doctors that he had acute nephritis. He was released on humanitarian grounds.

Charles Ponzi
Charles Ponzi. Photo via Wikipedia

It wasn’t until after World War I that Ponzi came up with his infamous scheme.

He’d moved back to Boston and started a fully legit magazine that advertised businesses to other businesses… almost like a Yellow Pages. The company failed, but shortly after that he received a letter from a company in Spain that wished to advertise in his (now defunct) publication. The letter included an International Reply Coupon, or IRC.

IRCs were like international gift cards for postage. If you wanted to write someone in the UK, for example, and wanted to pay return postage for their reply, you couldn’t include American stamps because the British post office wouldn’t accept them. You could include British stamps… if you knew where to buy them in the US (and good luck with that!). You could include American coins so the recipient could buy postage, but they’d have to go to a bank, exchange the American money for British, then buy a British stamp. Or you could go to a bank yourself and trade American coins for British ones. But IRCs eliminated all that: you just bought an IRC from your local post office, included it with your letter, and the recipient could exchange the IRC at their local post office for airmail postage of up to 20 grams to any other country in the Universal Postal Union.

Ponzi noticed that post-World War I inflation had greatly lowered the cost of Italian IRCs. Before the war, an Italian IRC and an American IRC cost roughly the same; after the war, the value of the Italian lira dropped so much that one could (theoretically) buy an IRC in Italy for 1¢, send it to the US, swap it for a 10¢ US stamp, which you could sell for face value and make a healthy profit on, a classic arbitrage situation.

If you prefer, think of it this way: imagine that instead of selling gift cards in specific dollar amounts (like $10), McDonald’s sold “Big Mac cards” which allowed you to buy a Big Mac anywhere in the world. Typically, a Big Mac might cost $3 in the US and $3.15 in Italy, so usually it’s not really worth anyone’s time to buy cards in the US and ship them to Italy. But now imagine that the Italian economy has tanked, and thanks to rampant inflation you could buy a Big Mac card in Italy for 25¢. You could send an Italian relative $100 to buy 400 Big Mac cards, which you could then sell in the US for half-price: $1.50. This would bring you back $600, for a net profit of $500. Sweet!

Ponzi borrowed some money and sent it to Italy with instructions for relatives to buy as many IRCs as they could and send them to him. So they did. But Ponzi ran into a wall of bureaucrazy when he tried redeeming so many IRCs at once. Ponzi decided to ditch the scheme but keep the pitch: he created a company called Securities Exchange Company which heavily advertised the amazing profits in IRC trading to the Italian community. He paid lavish commissions to street hustlers for bringing in new investors. Ponzi’s company was soon awash in a literal ocean of cash: in February 1920, Ponzi made $5,000 ($57,513 in 2013 dollars). A month later, he’d made $30,000 ($345,082). By May, his monthly income was an amazing $420,000 ($4.8 million).

Financier J. Paul Getty famously said “If you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem”. Ponzi was no dummy. He knew his situation couldn’t last forever. He deposited all this cash in the Hanover Trust Bank of Boston, in hopes of gaining leverage over the bank, and maybe even becoming its president. But even that wasn’t enough to help. Boston’s financial reporters could come up with no legitimate scenario where Ponzi could have gone from broke to millionaire in so short a time. Someone, somewhere, figured out that Ponzi’s scheme would require more IRCs than actually existed in all of Europe, and no post office in the United States reported abnormal increases in IRC exchanges.

Oddly, Ponzi’s downfall had nothing to do with the scheme itself. Just as Al Capone was taken down for evading income tax, so Ponzi was taken down for some banking shenanigans. Joseph Allen, a state banking commissioner, looked in to Ponzi’s accounts and found nothing obviously illegal. But Ponzi, through Hanover Trust, had loaned himself a huge sum of money. There had been some small runs on Securities Exchange when unfavorable articles appeared in local papers, but Ponzi was able to use cash from the bank to pay off those investors. Allen was afraid that if really bad news were to leak, Ponzi’s scheme would cause Hanover to fail, which could have caused all the banks in Boston to collapse. Allen had some underlings keep a close eye on Ponzi’s accounts, When nervous investors pulled their money from Ponzi and cashed his checks, it became clear that Hanover would collapse. Allen was forced to forbid Hanover from paying out any more of Ponzi’s checks, and that caused Massachusetts Attorney General J. Weston Allen to issue a public statement saying that, in effect, the whole thing was a pyramid scheme.

On August 11, 1920, the whole thing crashed, and Ponzi was convicted and sent back to Atlanta, where he served three years. But it wasn’t over: as soon as he was released, Massachusetts arrested him on 22 charges of larceny. Ponzi was surprised, since he was under the impression that he’d made a plea deal with the US government where the charges in Massachusetts would be dropped if he pled guilty to the federal charges. He sued, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court as Ponzi v. Fessenden. Ponzi lost when the court determined that federal plea deals did not, and could not, apply to state charges, and that double jeopardy did not apply in this case, as the feds had charged him with mail fraud while Massachusetts had charged him with larceny.

Ponzi, acting as his own attorney, sweet-talked a jury into finding him not guilty on the first ten counts. He tried repeating his success in a second trial, but the jury deadlocked this time. In going for the three-peat he lost: he was found guilty on all remaining counts.

Ponzi appealed, and while out on bail he moved to Jacksonville and started a real estate company called Charpon Land Syndicate which sold sketchy property, much of which was actually under water. He was arrested and found guilty of violating securities laws. While out on bail (again? seriously?), he moved to Tampa, where he shaved his head and tried to leave the country. But the ship made a stop in New Orleans. Ponzi was caught and returned to Massachusetts, where he spent seven more years in prison.

Because Ponzi had never become a US citizen, he was deported to Italy after his release from state prison. He tried several small schemes without much success, and eventually got a job in Brazil with Ala Littoria, the Italian state airline. However, World War II broke out and Brazil sided with the Allies, so all flights between Italy to Brazil were suspended. Ponzi was let go from his job and died penniless in Brazil in 1949 of a heart attack.

One interesting footnote: Ponzi’s wife, Rose, never left Boston. She divorced him in 1937 and remarried some time later, She would go on to become the bookkeeper for New Cocoanut Grove Inc,, the company that owned the Cocoanut Grove nightclub… which caught fire on November 28, 1942. 492 club patrons died that night, making it the second worst public fire in American history… and which lead to many reforms (read my History Blog article about the disaster here).

*    *     *

Marcus Garvey was born to a solidly middle-class family in Jamaica. He left the island when he was 23, first moving to Costa Rica, where he had a relative. A few months later he moved to Panama, where he lived for a brief time before moving back to Jamaica. He moved again a few months later, this time to London, where he attended a university and took classes in law and philosophy. He sometimes delivered speeches at Speaker’s Corner, a part of Hyde Park where political discussion is encouraged. Most importantly, he got a job at African Times and Orient Review, a periodical published by an Egyptian-British activist named Dusé Mohamed Ali.

Garvey later returned to Jamaica, where he formed a group called the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The group held an international gathering at Madison Square Garden in 1921, and upwards of 50,000 people attended. Garvey soon began corresponding with Booker T. Washington, who convinced him to move to the United States.

Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey. Photo via Wikipedia.

I think it’s important to mention here before Garvey came along, most black leaders in the US were only interested in helping the plight of blacks in the United States. While others, like  Martin Delany and Prince Hall, urged blacks to take an involvement in African affairs, Garvey was the most vocal, highest-profile figure to call on all people of African descent, no matter where, to take an interest in Africa. Dusé Mohamed Ali was an “African nationalist”, and Garvey took that to its logical conclusion: blacks needed to go back to Africa, kick out the colonial powers and run things for themselves. Garvey was so eloquent and his ideas so moving that Garveyism is still around today.

But Garvey wasn’t without his critics. He actually preferred the open racism of American whites to what he considered the more subtle racism of English whites. He even attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting in Atlanta in 1922 and said that he regarded

“the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together. I like honesty and fair play. You may call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every white man is a Klansman, as far as the Negro in competition with whites socially, economically and politically is concerned, and there is no use lying.”

Garvey held several lectures where he bashed his home country, leading Raphael Morgan, a black Jamaican Greek Orthodox priest (who knew?) to write a letter to a Kingston newspaper, published on October 4, 1916. He asked Garvey to tone it down a bit, as he felt Garvey was damaging Jamaica’s reputation; he also included a point-by-point reasoning about why Garvey’s preference for any form of racism was silly. Garvey replied a month later, calling it a conspiracy.

But Garvey’s harshest critic was W. E. B. Du Bois, who called Garvey “the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world” and “either a lunatic or a traitor”. Du Bois was afraid that Garvey’s bellicose speeches and writings would undo all the progress Du Bois and others had made. This led to a lifelong feud between Garvey and the NAACP.

But Garvey was more than just talk. On June 23, 1919 he formed a shipping company called the Black Star Line (an obvious dig at the White Star Line). He had plans for the company to ship goods to Africa, and later repatriate fellow blacks back to Africa. The idea was very popular: Garvey was easily able to sell 100,000 shares of company stock at INUA conventions for $5 each, or around $67 adjusted for inflation. To the surprise of critics, just three months later, Black Star announced the purchase of its first ship, the SS Yarmouth which was to be rechristened the SS Frederick Douglass.

It should go without saying that if black leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois didn’t like Garvey, many white leaders really didn’t like Garvey. After his meeting with the KKK, many black leaders wrote to Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, asking him to lock Garvey up. He referred the matter to J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), the predecessor of today’s FBI. But Hoover could not, at that point, find a reason to lock Garvey up or kick him out of the country.

But that didn’t mean that Hoover didn’t try. He hired five black men – Thomas Leon Jefferson, Arthur Lowell Brent, James Edward Amos, Earl E. Titus and James Wormley Jones – to infiltrate Black Star, making these men the first black FBI agents. They were instructed to sabotage Garvey’s growing navy in any way, although the most they ever did was to put “foreign matter” into a ship’s fuel, causing the engine to fail.

The thing was, Hoover’s BOI agents didn’t really need to sabotage the ships. I don’t know enough about Garvey to know if he didn’t know anything about ships, or hired incompetent people to run the line, or was just screwed over by boat sellers… but all of Black Star’s ships were in really bad shape. One ship set out on a publicity tour up the Hudson River and sank a few months later because of a leak. Another’s engine was so poorly maintained that a boiler exploded, killing a sailor. It would seem that, when it came to buying boats, Garvey was more into quantity than quality.

But even when the ships managed to sail they failed: Black Star shipped a boatload of whiskey to Cuba – in record time, actually – but didn’t bother making docking arrangements in advance. So the ship sat in Havana harbor for weeks losing money. On another voyage, an entire shipment of coconuts rotted before reaching port because Garvey demanded that the ship make ceremonial stops at “important” ports.

Like so many others in this article, the government eventually caught Garvey on a technicality. Garvey had approved a Black Star investment prospectus which prominently featured a ship called Orion on the cover. Black Star had a contract to buy the ship and was working through the final details of the purchase. Black Star didn’t actually own the ship when the brochures were distributed, but it claimed that it did, and that the ship had been renamed the Phyllis Wheatley, after a famous African-American poet. Since some of the brochures were sent via US Mail, that constituted – in the eyes of the US government, at least – mail fraud.

There’s an old saying that “a man who represents himself has a fool for a client”, and that couldn’t be more true in the Garvey case. Four other men were also charged in the fraud case, and their attorneys eloquently claimed “naive mistake” instead of criminal conspiracy. Garvey, on the other hand, was belligerent to the judge, witnesses and the jury. His three-hour closing argument was more “rant” than “argument”, and probably alienated the jury for good. While the others were found not guilty, Garvey was, and sentenced to five years in prison. He spent some time in The Tombs – officially known as the Manhattan Detention Complex – before being transferred to Atlanta after his appeals were exhausted.

Garvey was released in 1927 after serving 4 years. He was then deported back to Jamaica via New Orleans. Although Garvey’s ideas never went away – they enjoyed a spectacular renaissance in the 1960s with Malcolm X and the Black Panthers – Garvey himself became a tainted brand, and his UNIA faded in to obscurity. In Jamaica, he formed the country’s first modern political party – the People’s Political Party – and was elected councilor for the Allman Town district of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation. In 1929, the Chief Justice of Jamaica ordered the seizure of all UNIA property, and when Garvey asked the public not to bid on the items, at a subsequent auction, he was charged with contempt of court and sent to prison.

He moved back to London in 1935, and died there on June 10, 1940. Because of WWII travel restrictions, Garvey was interred at St. Mary’s Catholic cemetery. 20 years later, his body was returned to Jamaica, where he was declared the country’s “first national hero”. He was reburied in National Heroes Park in a tomb shaped like a black star.

 *     *     *

On May 29, 1979, a federal judge was murdered in front of his townhouse. His name was John H. Wood, Jr., but his nickname was “Maximum John”, as he was known to hand down maximum sentences for drug trafficking. This obviously didn’t sit well with drug dealers, especially one named Jamiel Chagra, who had been scheduled to appear before Wood that very day on drug charges. Chagra had paid a hitman $250,000 to take out Wood. That hitman was Charles Harrelson, and he was the estranged father of actor Woody Harrelson.

Charles worked as a professional gambler and encyclopedia salesman in California but disappeared in 1968, leaving his wife to bring up Woody and his two brothers all by herself. Woody and his family had no idea what had happened to Charles until 1981, when he was finally caught for Wood’s murder. Harrelson and Chagra were both sent to USP Atlanta, but Harrelson was transferred to Administrative Maximum Facility, Florence (ADX Florence) after trying to escape from Atlanta. ADX Florence is possibly the most secure prison in the country, and is currently home to domestic bombers Theodore Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph and Terry Nichols, the notorious spy Robert Hanssen, and Ramzi Yousef, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammed Salameh and Eyad Ismoil (of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing). Harrelson died in Florence from coronary disease on March 15, 2007.

I decided to close with Harrelson because I actually remember when it happened. I came home from school one day, and, as was my custom, I poured myself a big bowl of cereal and sat down to watch cartoons. But news reports of Wood’s murder were the only thing on TV. It was BIG NEWS at the time: Wood was the first federal judge to be killed in the 20th century… only two others were assassinated in that hundred year span.

One Reply to “The Atlanta Pen”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.