Since February 14, 1929, it has been widely accepted that Al Capone was behind the machine gun murders of rival gangsters lined up in a North Side garage. So either mobologists have been mistaken all these years, or the Chicago author of a new book is dead wrong in his contention that a mobster other than Capone was responsible.
For decades, Hollywood has validated history's educated guess that Al Capone called the shots on St. Valentine's Day.
In real life 81 years ago, Capone's South Side Italian gang was in a bootlegging war against the Bugs Moran Irish gang on the North Side. When several hoods dressed as Chicago cops stormed Moran's North Clark Street headquarters and gunned down seven, it was always presumed that Capone ordered the ambush. Until this book by Chicago author Jonathan Eig.
"Well, I think we solved the Valentine's Day massacre," said Eig.
Eig says a letter from the FBI archives proves Capone had nothing to do with it. The letter written six years after the murders by state highway employee Frank Farrell was sent to director J. Edgar Hoover.
Farrell claimed a man named William White led the hit squad. Better known as "three-fingered Jack," he was motivated by revenge for the Moran gang having killed a relative.
"I think everything about this explanation. Jack White committing this crime in revenge for the death of his cousin, makes a lot of sense. It all checked out, every fact that was contained in this letter that I found in the archives, every fact checked out," said Eig.
But according to abundant records kept by the Chicago Crime Commission, Jack White was in jail that Valentine's Day.
"Jack White was in Cook County Jail for three plus years, because he was convicted of killing a police officer. And he doesn't get out until July 1929," said John Binder, mob historian.
After being presented with evidence that three-fingered Jack white was serving a jail sentence when the massacre occurred, author Jonathan Eig says there is an explanation.
"According to the letter, he was supposed to be in jail but was out because he bribed someone to let him go. Then went back in apparently...which would suggest again that Farrell is correct. He was at Cook County at the time of the massacre but got out precisely because he needed to commit this crime," said Eig.
So although not in his book, Eig says Jack White conned his way out of jail to avenge the death of his cousin-a murder committed by Bugs Moran. But a ballistics report obtained by the I-Team shows it wasn't Moran who killed his cousin. It was the McGurn gang, a different one altogether.
"A gun belonging to McGurn. That's interesting. I didn't see that," said Eig.
"I don't want to appear like I'm attacking Eig, but at the end of the day here…the underlying details are not true and then it also doesn't explain any of the known evidence so as an idea it pretty well strikes out," said Binder.
While the new biography offers wide-ranging details of a government crusade to get Capone, what has attracted the most attention is the author having fingered a new mastermind of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Those were the chapters excerpted by Chicago Magazine in May.