Robert Cooley testifies
In this 4th and final episode chronicling the life and times of feared Chicago outfit enforcer Harry “The Hook” Aleman, Gary, and David Byrne of the Facebook page The Chicago Outfit Old and Current news and articles, discuss the witness Robert Cooley who will testify that the judge in Aleman’s first trial took a bribe. This revelation destroys Aleman’s double jeopardy protection and how the government was able to force Aleman to stand trial a second time after being found not guilty for the same murder.
Operation Greylord, exposed corruption and bribery in the Cook County courts.
Because of Robert Cooley and his exposing corruption in Chicago, FBI agents exposed many clerks, judges, and police officers as corrupt. We hope to get the FBI agent Terence Hake in soon to talk about this investigation. In 1986, 3 years after Operation Greylord was concluded a Cook County criminal defense attorney named Robert J. Cooley walked into the FBI office and offered to work. He knew where a lot more bodies were buried. He had seen the success of Operation Greylord and felt guilty about his past use of bribery for the Outfit but felt powerless. The final straw was when he was forced by his mob contacts to bribe a judge to find for a defendant who had severely beaten a Chicago policewoman, he had enough. Cooley had started his career as a young Chicago cop before law school and came from a long line of Chicago cops who were not corrupt, and he had seen enough.
Robert Cooley testifies
Robert Cooley was not innocent in all this and had been a go-between for bribes. He was a heavy gambler and confident of many Outfit guys. Cooley’s main contact in the outfit was Marco D`Amico, who was in the Elmwood Park crew and ran a major bookmaking organization and juice loan business. He even intimidated a bookie to forgive a $50,000 gambling debt owed by the lawyer Cooley. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and later Cooley will wear a wire on him after he and his FBI friends set up D’Amico on a robbery, gambling, and extortion conspiracy which became the predicate acts for a racketeering charge. He was close personal friends with Aleman’s old partner, Butch Petrocelli.
Robert Cooley told many stories during his debriefing and named many court officials who were involved in bribery. These were men who had escaped the dragnet of Operation Greylord. The FBI realized they should mount another long-term undercover investigation and they named this Operation Gambat short for Gambling Attorney. Because Cooley had also been acting as a bookmaker and held high-stakes poker games in his office, he was close to the Outfit’s gambling enterprise. So in addition to exposing more Cook County court corruption, the FBI also used him to gather information on Outfit gambling.
During his debriefing he told the agents that back in 1977, he had delivered a $10,000 bribe to Judge Frank Wilson at the Outfit’s request, to deliver the not guilty verdict in the Billy Logan murder case. Cooley described exactly how this happened. He was called to a meeting with Cook County Outfit fixer Pat Marcy at a downtown restaurant called Counselors Row. Cooley reported that march and another outfit fixer named John D’Arco always sat at this same table to meet and discuss court cases, gambling business, and other Outfit business. The FBI will place a hidden mike here only to have it found by a busboy. It was at this table that Pat Marcy told him that Aleman’s case must be fixed and asked his advice. Cooley told Marcy that this was very sensitive and must be handled delicately because Aleman drew a lot of attention. He knew that for a judge to find a murder defendant not guilty, he must have some disputing fact or facts to enable him to say the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Cooley was a close personal friend to Judge Frank Wilson and often visited him in his chambers. He knew that Wilson had heavy expenses maintaining a country club membership and private school tuition. in 1977 Wilson had a reputation as a “hard-nosed, state-oriented judge who had no empathy” for criminals. Cooley approached Wilson at a downtown bar and mentioned that he had been approached to handle a big murder case. Wilson seemed to know because he replied, “The Aleman Case?” Judge Wilson was unfazed by this talk about Cooley handling the case and he went back to Marcy and told him he may have a judge, but Aleman’s lawyer had already requested that Wilson not be a judge on this case. Marcy replied to not worry about that and if Wilson will play ball to offer him $10,000.00. Ironically, how Frank Wilson finally got the case is a mystery. It was originally assigned to a Judge James Bailey, but Aleman’s lawyers filed a motion for substitution of judge, naming Bailey and the aforementioned Frank Wilson as unacceptable because they were allegedly biased. The case was then reassigned to a judge named Fred G. Suria Jr, but Aleman’s lawyers also objected to Suria contending he was biased, too, but the motion was filed beyond the deadline. Then unexpectedly, Suria recused himself because the motion contained information that could have been the basis for a reversal had he continued to hear the case. Suria then called Chief Judge Richard Fitzgerald office to get the case reassigned and was told the new judge would be Wilson even though Wilson had already been rejected by Aleman’s lawyers as unfair. In the meantime, Cooley met with Judge Frank Wilson one more time in the bathroom of a downtown bar. He told him that he had $10,000 to handle the case. Wilson nodded agreement and Cooley warned him that if he took this money he must do what he has bargained to do because these are serious and dangerous people. Wilson asked what the evidence was, and Cooley said they had an Outfit guy, our old friend Louis Almeida who was driving the car but he had many problems of his own and could be easily discredited. He said they had a neighbor as an eyewitness, but this guy had waited to come in and could be discredited easily. That was all the prosecution had. Wilson then said that if they could get the case to his court, they had a deal. Cooley pulled out $2500. In cash and said the judge would get the rest after an acquittal. Wilson also demanded that Aleman’s first lawyer withdraw from the case because he had been the pone who rejected Wilson early in the process. This lawyer had already asked for a bench trial and Cooley knew that it looked bad if the lawyer who asks for a bench trial, rejects a certain judge and then accepts that same judge for the trial. The original lawyer withdraws, and a new lawyer takes over. The new lawyer meets with Cooley and he is assured that Cooley has Judge Frank Wilson in his pocket.
A few weeks later, Cooley gets a call from Aleman asking for a meeting. Upon arrival, Aleman tells Cooley that his brother has found a neighborhood girl who will take $10,000.00 to go into court and testify she was outside the night of the murder and that it was not Harry Aleman who shot Billy Logan.
Judge Frank Wilson
Two days into the trial, Cooley receives a panicked call from Judge Wilson. It seems that Bob Lowe is a very convincing witness and the new lawyer was doing a crappy job of cross-examination. Somehow it had come out in chambers that the girl had been paid $10,000 and the judge had to dismiss her as a witness. He stated to Cooley, “This is what you give me? They are fucking burying me. I am going to lose my judgeship over this” Cooley clams him down and then the judge asks for more money. It seems that the judge’s real problem was that they had paid this girl $10,000.00 to be a witness and had only paid him 10 K to guarantee a dismissal. He goes back to Pat Marcy and Marcy reminds him who they are dealing with and refuses to give out any more money.
Cooley reported that the day the verdict was to be delivered, he packed his clothes into his car and was ready to leave town. When the not guilty verdict came down and harry Aleman leaves the courtroom happy as a clam, he goes to Pat Marcy and gets two envelopes. One with the remaining $7500.00 for the Judge and one with $3000.00 for Cooley. Remember Cooley had already paid $2500.00 out of his own pocket so he got $500.00 for this huge risk he took for Aleman. Below is a link to some news footage of Aleman leaving the courtroom and greeting his family and making a statement. https://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/harry-the-hitman-aleman-franky-forliano-211501971.html
Before the government announced the end of Operation Gambet, Robert Cooley visited now-retired Judge Frank Wilson at his Arizona retirement village. He tried to get Wilson to collaborate this bribe. He was unable, but Wilson saw the handwriting on the wall and committed suicide shortly after the visit.
In 1997, because of Robert Cooley, Harry Aleman was tried a second time for the Logan murder. Bob Lowe and Louis Almeida are still live and willing to testify. Lou probably had not choice because he was in witness protection and had agreed as part of his deal to testify in this case. Bob Lowe had to go through the same intimidation again. A man visited his work looking for him and told him he knew the names of his wife and daughter and where they lived. Aleman was in jail without bond and he was overheard to claim that the witnesses would be “taken care of.” The first pretrial motion was a claim of double jeopardy. The prosecution replied with an argument that double jeopardy could not apply because of the bribe to the judge. In other words, because of the bribe, Aleman was never in jeopardy of being convicted. The first case was built on fraud and was null and void as if it never happened. That argument won and September 22, 25 years after Harry Aleman killed Billy Logan, the trial began.
This was the first time ever in U.S. history that a citizen acquitted of murder would go on trial for the same murder a second time.
Harry Aleman and his second trial
The second trial had its own drama. One day into the trial, it was also declared a mistrial when a juror, described only as a suburban woman who works as a flight attendant and nurse, called the prosecutor and said she feared for her life and would like to be excused from the court. Here is an exact quote from that juror, listen to this and you will understand why she was dismissed.
“Well, to be honest, I was just worried about this case and where it’s going and what could happen to me as well as, you know, family members,” “I just wanted to know if there was anything that I could do to take myself out of it. When they say there are many witnesses who are not here to be able to testify these days,” “I mean, I don’t know if that’s all because of natural causes.” “Just basically, you know, I hope we’re around after this. We’ll exchange Christmas cards and hopefully, we are all around at Christmastime.’ Just things like that. We just kind of lightheartedly, you know, talk about it.”
First Aleman’s new lawyers cleverly muddied the waters by suggesting that noted mob killer William “Butch” Petrocelli had actually gunned down William Logan in 1972.
To solidify the point, the defense called Phyllis Napoles, Logan’s ex-wife, who told the jury that six months before he was murdered, Logan was involved in a fistfight with Petrocelli during which Petrocelli threatened to kill Logan.
Petrocelli, a longtime friend of Aleman’s, couldn’t argue the point. He disappeared on December 30, 1980. His body was found in March of 1981 in the trunk of his car parked on a Southwest Side street. The reasons given for Petrocelli’s killing vary. Some in law enforcement believed he was murdered for stealing mob money, some suspect he was trying to take over gambling operations that belonged to someone else, and still others suspect Aleman ordered his death for reasons unknown.
Logan’s wife said that in March of 1972, six months before Logan was killed, that Petrocelli came to her home to pay his respects because her mother had died several weeks earlier.
“It was a very sad marriage,” said Napoles “He (Logan) drank a lot. He was abusive to me and the children.” After divorcing Logan in 1967, she said she became “intimate” with Petrocelli and that Petrocelli asked her to marry him, although he was still married himself. “I had a great deal of respect for his dark side” She said about Petrocelli He had a very violent nature in him.”
Napoles testified that one time Billy Logan had been drinking heavily and he started to kick in the door,” when “Butchie Petrocelli asked him to leave, they went to the alley and fought.
She was totally discredited under cross-examination, especially when it came out that one of her children by a prior marriage had visited Aleman in prison.
Aleman’s lawyers complained that much of the evidence from the 1977 trial was missing including the defense trial file; shotgun wadding and pellets recovered from Billy Logan’s body were gone, as was Logan’s bloodstained clothing; diagrams and photo displays used in the first trial were also gone. Worst yet, many of those who could have provided testimony beneficial to Aleman were dead.
The judge had barred any references to organized crime and as a result, Aleman background as a noted Mafia killer suspected in 15 to twenty mob murders, was unknown by the jury, as was Petrocelli’s. Nor were they allowed to learn that Petrocelli died because his face had been burned beyond recognition and he had been stabbed twice in the throat. His death, however, was caused by suffocation due to tape covering his nose and mouth, authorities said at the time.
Aleman’s lawyers didn’t object to the introduction of Robert Cooley’s testimony about the bribe to Judge Wilson even though Wilson had committed suicide in 1990.
Bobby Lowe testified again that he saw a car with its engine idling, then a shotgun protrude from a back-seat window. He heard gunfire. He saw Logan fall and then a man opens the car door carrying a pistol and fire the killing round. Lowe said he and the killer stared at each other for a fleeting 4 seconds, and then he ran back to his house. He pointed out harry Aleman as that killer.
On October 1, 1997, twenty years after his acquittal in the same case, Aleman was found guilty of murdering William Logan. He was found guilty and given 100-300 years in jail.
Aleman said of his 100- to 300-year prison term “Serial killers get that. I caused no problems for anybody, and I’m no threat to anybody.
Harry Aleman will die in prison at the age 71 on May 15, 2010 . He was at a state prison called the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Ill.
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