Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins interviews Chicago Outfit Historian James Cosenza about the second trial of Outfit gambler, fixer, and killer Bobby Salerno. We learn Salerno worked with a Cicero shakedown and hit team that went too far when they murdered bookmaker Hal Smith. An Outfit associate named B. J. Jahoda turned witness after the Hal Smith murder because they used him to set up Smith without his cooperation and foreknowledge. Salerno was represented by his son, defense attorney Alex Salerno. James reports that during the trial, the prosecutor elicited from Jahoda that Salerno and others killed Smith because he refused to pay any extra tribute to the crew. He felt he had paid enough “street tax.” When a crew member named Solly DeLaurentis asked for more, Smith refused, and they got into a loud argument in a public place.
James Cosenza did not perceive that B. J. Jahoda was a believable witness. He spoke with Bobby Salerno at the water fountain during a break. Salerno said he was so proud that his son, Alec Salerno, was one of his two lawyers at the Defense table. He said, “I told my son that if he lost, don’t feel too bad because I have been around, and I can take it.”
In this trial, the government used William B.J. Jahoda, who had been Solly DeLaurentis’ driver, as their star witness. Jahoda owned the Long Grove, Illinois home where the crew murdered Hal Smith. Jahoda testified that he was ordered to bring Smith to his house for a “talk.” Instead, Bobby Salerno, Robert (Bobby the Gabeet) Bellavia, and Louis (Louie Tomatoes) Marino murdered Hal Smith.
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GARY JENKINS, James Cosenza
During B. J. Jahoda’s testimony now he was the star witness against Bobby Salerno. He was a kind of a tough witness to listen to. And they called the break outside in the hallway near the water cooler. For some reason, Gary, I was so aggravating, a little little disturbed by B. J. Jahoda’s testimony that I made a couple of comments out loud that I normally don’t do. And to my surprise, Bobby Salerno actually replied and spoke to me. And he told me I’ll never forget it. He said that you can see my son Alex, who’s representing me is a very fine attorney. And I told Alex, before this trial started, if we lose, I don’t want you to hang your head low. I want you to continue to be a top defensive lawyer. Don’t let this trial affect your career in any way. Don’t worry about me. I’m an old fighter. I’m a boxer. I can handle it. Then he went on to say And I’ll never forget this. He said, you can see I have my son. Alex is a very fine attorney. He was very proud of his son representing them. He’s like my second kid. She’s going to law school right now. And I’m listening. Then he put his head down. He’s like, my third kid, he dropped out of school in the ninth grade. And he kind of smiled. He’s like, Jimmy, two out of three ain’t bad. And that was that. That was my little conversation with Bobby that two of his kids are successful. And the third one dropped out of school.
Well, that’s interesting. We’ll welcome you guys back here in studio ganglion. We’re got James M. Black back on again. He’s my friend in Chicago, who has gone to a bunch of the Bob trials out there. We’ve already done a couple. We did family secrets trial. And we did the large guy, Mike Sarno’s trial. And they were great. And I know a lot of people like him, especially in Chicago. So here we go. Another one with the trial of Bobby Salerno that James went to. So James, welcome. I’m really happy to have you back on here.
Thanks for having me, Gary. It’s a pleasure. I want to take gratulations on your 10,000 subscribers. That’s
it. Thank you. Thank you. Just a little aside, that we will get right back to my Dave, there’s two different audiences out there. There’s the audio audience and there’s the video audience. And they don’t really overlap very much just like I was telling you about or no show I did. Then you said, Oh, you did? I didn’t know you did that? Well, it was only on the audio platform, I can tell you had really been on the audio platform. So I was first started big time into the video. I thought God, I’ll be losing people. But I think it really is added to the audio. People like to listen and not have to look because you’re doing something else or working or jogging or driving or something else. I can’t really look at the video. So anyhow, that’s enough about the podcast. Let’s talk about the Bobby Salerno trial that was held in the main courthouse down there in downtown Chicago and Cook
here. All the major federal trials are at the Dirksen Federal Building, which is right there in the Chicago Loop, which is kind of like the financial district.
Right. So tell us about when you went in there. What background did you have about this trial? What did you know about Bobby’s learned, oh, and this star witness BJ Jahoda and the defendant and the other people who are involved in it.
Okay, about a year and a half prior to Bobby Salerno second trial was a major racketeering Rico case at the Dirksen federal building. The government called it the Good Ship Lollipop trial. Now, unfortunately, I did not attend that trial. But I followed in the news in the papers every day. And that was a major racketeering case. loan sharking, gambling and one of the charges was a murder. This crew Rockies crew murdered Hal Smith, which was one of the largest bookies in the country. That was Rocky Infelice, right. Rockie Infelice at the first trial, the good ship lollipop trial. You had Rocky Infelice Louis tomatoes Marino, Solly D’Laurentis, Bobby Bellavia and Bobby Salerno. These are like the top guys in his crew. Every one of them is a made member of the Chicago outfit. And at the end of the good ship lollipop trial, all the defendants were found guilty, except Bobby Salerno, the jury hung on Bobby Salerno, and I remember on CHANNEL SEVEN NEWS in Chicago, they showed Bobby Salerno coming out of the courtroom. He was ecstatic, even shocked. In his mind. I think he thought he’d beat the case. Now at that first trial, he has a top defensive lawyer in Chicago called Terry Gizepi. He is guy represented all the mob guys in Chicago, Mike Sarno, Bobby Salerno and several others. Bobby Salerno son Alex Salerno was co-counsel. So fast forward, all the defendants are found guilty. The jury hung on Bobby Salerno. He was so proud that his son Alex sat at the defense table. 17 months later, the government tried Bobby Salerno again for the murder of Hal Smith. And some of us may or may not know this, but anytime the government tries you a second time, your chances of beating that case have really diminished because it allows the prosecution and the defense. It allows them time to really sharpen up their case, by name mistakes they made in the first trial, they’re definitely going to tie up on the second trial. So I went to the second trial of Bobby Salerno, he was the only defendants of the government called five witnesses. Four of them were like associates, criminals of the rocky and police crew. But the main witness against Bobby Salerno was BJ Jahoda.
Who was Jahoda, who was he?
BJ Jehoda was basically a career criminal and associate of Joe Ferriola and the Rocky Infelice crew. He wasn’t a made guy, but he was definitely a part of that crew. And he was also a large bookie himself. I don’t remember the dollar amount, but he was literally making millions of dollars for the outfit. BJ Jahoda was very good friends with Hal Smith, the bookie that they kill.
Tell us a little bit about Hal Smith paint a picture of Hal Smith. He’s kind of a character if I remember right.
How Smith, according to the prosecution was one of the largest bookies for the Chicago office back in the day, and literally one of the largest bookies in the entire country. And this guy will call him an associate of the rocky police crew. He was paying his monthly dues every month on time like clockwork, never once missed a payment. Fast forward Joe ferry Hola, Boston, Chicago outfit Iraqi and Felice decided we’re going to squeeze every single booking in Chicago. We want them to pay an extra $6,000 a month. According to Rocky Infelice who was caught on tape. The reason they wanted this extra $6,000 A month was to pay for their lawyers and all the cops, sheriffs and politicians that they were bribing. So when Hal Smith found out he had to pay an extra 6000 a month. He was livid. He’s there’s like no way in hell, I’m paying this. I’ve been paying you guys every month. You’ve never once had a problem with me. So he balked at it after numerous threats. One night, he was at a restaurant a famous restaurant here in Chicago called the Como Inn right off Grand Avenue. He bumped into Solly D’Laurentis they had words and basically Solly D’Laurentis told them You my friend are Trunk Music. Shortly after that, Rocky Infelice as BJ Jadoda, “Where does Hal Smith live?” BJ Jahoda testified as soon as Rocky asked him that he knew how Smith was in trouble. So they used BJs home in Long Grove, Illinois, which is a very wealthy suburb of Chicago. Rocky’s crew use BJs home kinda like as a headquarters. This is where they were planning the casein in the tailing of house Smith. Also in the Wrigleyville area near Wrigley Field in Chicago on the north side, BJ Jahoda owned a luxury condo in a building called the New York New Yorker, and BJ testified that that condo had an open door policy, meaning rocky BJ the crew could come and go into that condo, they could bring their girlfriends there that was like their little place to gamble have car games, kind of like a little social club for the voice. So I forget how many months they were tailing Hal Smith, But fast forward Rocky Infelice got a little impatient and he switched to Plan B. He now asked BJ Jehoda, “I want you to bring them back to your house.” So fast forward how Smith. He was good friends with PJ Jahoda to the top bookies at the time for the outfit. So how Smith he trusted BJ Jahoda they met at a restaurant not too far from BJ Jahoda’s house. They had a nice dinner. They had some drinks. And B J testified he was trying to get them drunk to loosen them up a little. After they had dinner and drinks, BJ suggested Hey, let’s go back to my house for more drinks. Now here’s where Hal Smith should have caught the play. But he didn’t. So prior to this, Rocky told them parked the car in the garage. Do not come into the house you stay outside. So one BJ Jahoda and Hal Smith pulled up BJ Jahoda’s house BJ pretended like he was going to check the mail. He told how Smith go on in through the kitchen sliding doors open. When house Smith open up the sliding door he was jumped by Rocky Infelice, Bobby Bellavia, Louie Marino. And according to BJ Jahoda, Bobby Salerno was the man dressed in black. They jumped them, they stabbed him a couple times, strangle them and killed them. Now, prior to back to BJJ, his testimony, he testified that from the mailbox, he could see through the kitchen window, a couple of the men in the kitchen. He testified that one of those men dressed in black was Bobby Salerno, after they killed how Smith BJ Jehovah testified that he did go in the house. And when he got there, he said it again I saw Bobby Salerno, we Marino and rocky and Bobby Bellavia, all standing around an unconscious house Smith, who was laying on the floor, and rocky said to him, the next person that walks through the door is getting the same thing. So the crew ended up killing how Smith, BJ Jehovah left, he came back to the house, and he noticed that somebody tried to clean up the kitchen area a little bit. He got a call from Rocky Felice. Louis Marino couldn’t find his cigar bar and reading glasses. He thought maybe he left them at the crime scene. Yeah. So BJ Jahoda testified he looked through the kitchen, he looked through the house. He never found the cigar, never found the glasses. Later on. The government found Louis Marino’s cigar butt with his DNA on it and his reading glasses and how Smith’s car. So that was another piece of evidence that went Louis Merino to the murder scene. The very next day BJ Jahoda wents to Mexico, he took off. He’s down there a couple of weeks. He gets a call from Rocky Infelice saying there’s a lot of heat. I need you to come home. I forget how many months after the killing, but they found Hal Smith’s body in the trunk of his car in Elmwood Park and Elmwood Park is a neighborhood where a lot of the Chicago Outfit guys live. So the authorities were kind of surprised to find housemaids dead body in the trunk of his car in Elmwood Park. But for some reason, that’s where they left it. They said when they pop the trunk Hal Smith was stabbed repeatedly. And they use the word tortured and strangle. So he ended up trunk music like Solly D warned them
really now, how did the defense try to counteract this eyewitness testimony other than the ask about his glasses, how well they could see what was their line of questioning? Do they had to discredit that testimony? That was paramount.
Well, they were diving into BJ Jehovah’s past being a career criminal. He had an upcoming racketeering IRS case he was looking at 10 to 20 years in prison. They brought in an actual model, a replica of Bj house. And they showed where the mailbox was they showed where the kitchen window is. And they said it’s literally impossible. From where you said you were standing at the mailbox to look directly into the kitchen window. It’s impossible to see that. So they accused him of Lyon being a degenerate gambler, basically really trying to discredit him and call him every name in the book. But as I mentioned earlier, during the first trial, this is the first time BJ Jehovah ever testified in court. And at the first trial, you had Bobby Salerno, Louis Marino, Sally DiLaurentis, Bobby Bellavia, and rocky and Felice all in the courtroom, so BJ was a little nervous the first couple of days on the stand, rocking those guys staring at him. But in a second trial, Bobby Salerno Rocky, those guys weren’t in the courtroom. By this time BJ was more relaxed, was more confident his testimony, and he came across a little bit better than he did the first time.
So what did you think of Bj? Was he making stuff up? Was he frantically trying to please the government or
I didn’t like BJ at all. I didn’t like his arrogance. I didn’t like nothing about him. That’s why he made that comment during a break in the quorum, but like I said, at first, he said, when he wants to get the mail, he saw Bobby slender through the kitchen window. Then he came back and said, even though rocky told me to stay out of the house, he said that he actually went in the house and saw Bobby standing over him. So I was a little by maybe there’s a little bit of reasonable doubt there. But what really got me Gary, he set up his friend to get murdered. He lied and said, I thought Hal Smith was going there for a big meeting. He knew damn well, who was in that kitchen. They were all there with gloves on. He knew what was going to happen to house Smith when he walked in that meeting, but he tried to sugarcoat it and downplay his role in setting up that murder. Without BJ Jahoda the crew had a hard time getting all the house men. And then also he showed no remorse at all, that his friend was not only beaten, strangled, but tortured.
Wow, the cold dude, I guess it’s survival of the fittest subculture there that she got to go out, man, and really all he had. He was looking at about 10 to 15 years maybe and it was an IRS case. Right? Money Correct. Even if he had gone to trial, he might even got by with less. And certainly, if it had gotten a lot of time, he would have done a they’re pretty easy prison and would have probably been able to get out reasonably early. He was not what would call a stand up guy was a
no not at all. But it was quite obvious that he was really good friends with these guys. That’s why brought up as a luxury high rise building in Wrigleyville called the New York New Yorker. They had a condo there. And Vijay was in the great detail that like I said they had an open door policy. All the guys in the crew could use that condo for their own personal reasons. Now I forgot to mention BJ Jahoda also wore a wire on these guys. They had over 200 recorded conversations in the best offensive attorneys in the world. It’s kind of hard to counter when they hear your voice on a wire. And after the murder. Bobby Salerno and Bobby Bellavia. They didn’t know BJ had a wire, but they were talking about the casing and tailoring of how Smith they didn’t reference killing them. But it was part of cooperating everything. Hey, why Bobby Salerno talking about tailing and casing. How Smith if he never knew him, or wasn’t part of it. So when they play those videotapes, I don’t remember the rest of the tapes, but I specifically remember the one of Bobby Salerno and Bobby Bellavia, talking about how Smith probably had a hard time telling him
it’s a videotape BJ Jahoda. They turned him after the murder, but then he had him over his house or someplace where the government had the whole room wired up with video and audio like got like Red Wemette did?
no no different than that not video BJ wore an acutal wire taped to his chest. Okay. And I can’t emphasize to you how dangerous Rocky and his guys were these were some serious guys in the outfit all made men. All these guys done a lot of heavy work. So it was pretty ballsy of BJ Jehoda not only to testify against these guys, but to actually wear a wire. I mean, if they would have suspected any second that BJs weren’t aware they would have killed him on the spot.
And casing and tailing as they used to call it laying on of their victim house Smith. Did they go into much detail? Do you remember much detail about that? Did they use like two or three cars, they can like a police surveillance or have been details on that.
This was way back in the 90s. I remember they had a hard time pinning him down. They had a hard time telling him he didn’t really have a set pattern. This guy was kind of like all over the place. He traveled a lot. So that’s why at first they were going to hit him coming home or leaving his house either late at night or early in the morning but they couldn’t really get a good time to get them. So that’s when rocky switch to Plan B and says he told BJ I want you to bring them to his house. Okay. All right. I forgot to mention in BJs kitchen. They also lay down a tarp, a painter’s tarp to absorb some of whatever
that’s right down the TV I guess I’m seeing that on different TV shows or somebody walks in and there’s like a big sheet of plastic that you look at and they go.
But at the end, unfortunately for Bobby, he was found guilty. The jury they believe BJ Jehovah, and one thing I learned about going through these trials is a lot of these outfit guys. They hang out in pal around and do business with a lot of real lowlifes. These aren’t like world class men that they’re hanging out with criminals hanging out with other criminals. Like for example, in a lot of these guys like BJ Jehovah, because they’ve known rocky and the crew for many, many years, they have so much detail Garry where, even though some of them are killers and criminals, they have so much detail, and the prosecution does such a good job cooperating everything that most juries find them guilty. Yeah. This was a sad one, though, because after Bobby was found guilty, his son Alex got up there and tried to keep his composure and basically said, you know, I know my dad more than anybody. I know. My dad’s not an angel. But he had nothing to do with this. He was not there in the kitchen, but again, just trying to save his dad. But it was interesting because Bobby Salerno, of course, he was devastated that he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison. But again, he was so proud that his son was sitting there at the defense table. And then fast forward, Gary, while Bobby Salerno was locked up. I think it was right around 2016 Alex Salerno died some years
before his father. Wow.
Yeah. And then Bobby Salerno. He lived to be 88 years old. He did not die in prison. He got out, let’s just say a year, year and a half. And he ended up passing away with his family in Arizona.
Okay. Yeah, I was that was my next question is did he ever get out as he did?
And then throughout my research and everything, I didn’t know it at the time. But I found out later that Bobby Salerno was like a mentor, like a father figure to Mike large guy Cirno. Like he kind of brought him up through the ranks. Yeah. And then I remember during the Sarno trial, Alex Salerno sat in court every day, kind of like to support the central family.
Well, so that is quite a story that kind of showed that interaction of families and showing the kind of the duality, if you will, of a mob guy is he has a family, he’s proud of his family. He takes care of his family, his blood family, but yet he goes to work and does these horrid awful things for his other family. It’s just I don’t know that part of the attraction of the Bob I always say
and as you know, there’s no winners, you either end up dead or you end up in prison for some of the guys in the Grand Avenue neighborhood. Legitimate guys. They had nothing but wonderful things to say about Bobby Salerno not the mob guy, Bobby Salerno, the businessman, the boxer the trainer, the price fighter, like you said when I first started talking to you that some of these outfit guys they’re not all like mad Sam Destefano or their families and friends still
have good personalities a lot of them too but kind of salesman types on both it is amazing. Now did he had people come and testify as a character witness like he’s upstanding guy here upstanding guy there.
That part? I don’t remember that. i I’m sure he did. I don’t really remember if the character witnesses. But I remember their enjoyment family secrets show Joey Lombardo had a couple of character witnesses up there. And that was really entertaining. One was a boxer Johnny Lyra who’s like a Lightweight Championship boxer here on Grand Avenue. And then it was funny Joey actually had his mistress get up there and testify what a great lover he was.
Oh, my God, I think you forgot that we did the family secrets. But you made up for it. Now that’s a good one.
Unfortunately, no, there’s not too many major trials anymore. Most of the guys are all gone. Or they cooperate or take a plea before they go to trial. But back in the 90s there was major cases every couple months. Yeah,
it used to be everybody went they wanted to have a full jury trial. Nobody copped a plea. That was a rule here in Kansas City. You don’t got to play you have a trial. Now when Bobby Salerno had his trial, were there other mobsters that showed up? Just sat in the gallery? Not watch No, buddy?
No, none. Hardly ever will you see a mobster walk into the Dirksen Federal Building if he’s not a defendant? They stay clear on that. I had a couple guys in the Grand Avenue neighborhood told me not mob guys but friends of these mob guy and they said as soon as you walk Can additional federal building your rights get thrown right out the window? I also know as you know, they very seldom lose the case. Yeah. No, I don’t think they ever do. And I forgot to mention Mitch Mars was the lead prosecutor against buttons were no.
Yeah. And he was family secrets prosecutor and he’s deceased now. Correct?
Yeah. Yeah. A very sad during the family secrets trial. He had a cough, a sore throat, and he kept drinking a lot of water. But we were so involved in the case. Most of us we had no idea that this man was sick. And then shortly after all the defendants were found guilty he passed away of lung cancer. never smoked a cigarette in his life. That was a real shock to all the lawyers and prosecutors at the Dirksen federal building. I’m sure a lot of the mob guys were probably laughing it up though, because ever he put them all away. They hated that man. But he was the best of the best.
Yeah. Yeah, we’ve had a couple like that here. And they do not like Paul Becker, or David JJ, hell free. They did not like them because they were Bulldogs man. I mean, you did not want them after you. I still I had a guy asked me recently. Well, is Paul Becker still around? He’s got to involve you on the periphery of it. Well, I know Paul Becker was still around. Yeah, he’s still around. He’s still prosecuting. Okay.
And I’m sure they do this all over. But one good thing the Chicago prosecutors did is how do I say this? They schooled and trained all the upcoming young prosecutors right out of law school. Yeah. So they pass on a lot of their knowledge and experience to the upcoming prosecutors. Yeah, I mean, very solid team.
And for the most part, those federal prosecutors are good on reason. They didn’t go to a white shoe law firm and make more money a lot more money is because they just they wanted to be the Assistant US Attorney and it’s hard to get that job. You got to be top notch to get that job. For the most part. There’s always a couple of three political appointees that you can you run into once in a while, but they don’t get the big cases. Those guys that the majority of them they get the big cases are good. They’re smart. I remember.
And we’ll talk about this. Next time during my very first trial was Gus Alex’s trial. You had the two prosecutors were Chris gear, and Ron safer. These guys were just just amazing prosecutors. Now they’re both top defense attorneys.
Yeah. Well, Helfrey is too, Paul Becker still down to you as attorney but Helfrey did a lot of white collar crimes after he defendants after he left. And he defended some Mob guys too and did some appeals for some elbow.
I made a comment to one defense attorney, one of my externals attorney, he also represented Twan that the crooked cop with a family secret trial, sometimes not so much now. But early on, Gary, there was probably about five to seven, senior citizen, old retired gentlemen that were corps puffs. I was the youngest one of them. And these guys were 7080 years old. One of them was an IRS tax agent, call with him know some of these guys. And sometimes the lawyers would ask the court boss Hey, what do you think of that? What witness? What do you think about that one juror kinda like to get a kind of get their opinion on things. But in my opinion, the prosecutors I always thought were a lot sharper, a little bit more polished than some of the defense attorneys. Yeah, no disrespect to the defense attorneys. And I actually said that. This one guy Damien, Charles, I said, No, no offense, it seems like the prosecutors are a lot sharper. He’s like, Jimmy, we’re all good lawyers. But they have all the evidence. You tried to represent a guy like Frank Calabrese? You made a good point. Yeah, yeah. But I still agree with what I said earlier, in my opinion. The prosecution lawyers are a little sharper, I think yeah,
though, they’re gonna dress a little better, a little more squared up. And just like I said, they get the best of the best out of law school, if you either go to a white shoe firm or you try to go into US Attorney’s Office or you prove your worth out there in the small courts in the associate circuit courts in the circuit courts, and then you may if you love that criminal law, then you’ll go into the prosecutor’s office. All right, well, James M light. This has been great. Another story of a Chicago mob crowd. Let’s talk a little bit before we leave about your YouTube page. Tell everybody about that. James has his own YouTube page.
I wanted to share all my stories with people so I started my own little YouTube page. I’m not really doing it for money. I’m still kind of even learning In a post content, but it’s called Chicago mob trials by J. Cosenza as my mom’s maiden name. And it’s basically just my stories of attending all these major trials, stories about Larry Hoover, he ran the wack gangster disciple gang, one of the largest street gangs in the country. He ran this jail, he ran this game from his prison cell. So when he would talk to his guys on the street, the government put an ultra thin transmitter in the visitors paths, and picked up hours of conversations. Now these two guys were talking in code, the average person in the courtroom had no idea what they were talking about. But the government hired a black Ivy League FBI agent, and she broke down the code. When they talked about cocaine, they would use the word chicken, when they would talk about a certain game that owe them money, they would use sport terms, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, so to hear their code was pretty interesting. Sam Carl ECI trial I went to family secrets trial. So my little shows a little different because I’m talking about actual stories and evidence that went on in the courtroom, but it’s called Chicago mob trials. All right,
you guys check that out. I always say a rising tide lifts all boats. So James and tried to make any money out of it. I don’t really make any money at it. I do have ads on there, because I have enough followers, but I are going to get rich off of that ad revenue off of my YouTube channel. So James, I really appreciate you coming on. And I look forward to doing another guest Alex trial one of these days. That’s a really good one. So guys, don’t forget, I like to ride motorcycles and look out for motorcycles when you’re out there on the streets. And if you have a problem with PTSD, be sure and go to the VA website if you’re a veteran and get that hotline. And if you have problem with drugs or alcohol or addiction of any kind our friend Anthony ruggiano and you know, I interviewed him he’s the son of fat enemy ruggiano of the Gambino family. He is in the treatment center business and works with recovering people and he has a hotline that’s on his site reform gangsters.com Or just go to YouTube and Google Anthony ruggiano Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks. Great. Thank you, James. I appreciate it. And and and and