Not So Lucky

So Lucky Luciano, unlucky at last, was shipped out of Sing Sing to the Clinton State Prison at Dannemora, near the village of Malone in upstate New York. Dannemora was known the "Siberia" of all American penitentiaries. There Luciano, Inmate No. 92168, diagnosed in a second psychiatric interview as a "normal criminal type," was put to work in the laundry.

Dannemora, the third oldest maximum-security institution in the state, was a cold, neglected, unfeeling, inhuman place in which men like Lucky Luciano were supposed to think on their sins and repent them while being kept apart from society. He was confined in his cell for fourteen to sixteen hours day after day, week after week, month after month, from the second of July in 1936 until the warm, wartime spring of 1942. Out of sight, out of mind. Or so it was assumed.

Luciano and his Syndicate associates back in New York City were influential enough to ask the warden for one important favor. Let Lucky have unrecorded visits from friends and family. The requests were granted.

It was business as usual and Lucky was able to continue to run his empire from the walls of Dannemora. On one particular visit, two narcotics agents dropped by thinking that Luciano might be ready to talk. As soon as he saw the agents he said, "Take me out of here. I won’t talk to these people." Another visit brought none other than his sentencing judge, Phillip J. McCook. In an interview attributed to Luciano in a book whose authenticity has been questioned, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, by Martin A. Gosch and Richard Hammer, Judge McCook is alleged to have fallen to his knees, pleaded for forgiveness, and begged Luciano to remove a Sicilian curse that was ruining his life. Nobody who knew the rugged, no-nonsense judge believed this—and it never happened. Actually, McCook was visiting Luciano to check out a rumor that turned out to be unfounded -- that Luciano had been threatened with underworld violence.

World War II was grinding on in 1942 and the United States had entered it in 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Luciano was ready in the spring of 1942 for almost any idea that would help get him out of dreary Dannemora. As it was, he was not even eligible to apply for parole until April 24, 1956. Meyer Lansky, in trying to help his friend get out of prison, sent out feelers that suggested that Lucky could help the United States war effort in Sicily and at home. Some serious thought was made to enlist Luciano’s help in securing the waterfront docks in New York from Nazi saboteurs.

Naval Intelligence got wind of the idea, and eagerly decided to approach Luciano with their proposal. But first, they needed to get him out of Dannemora and send him to a more secure location. The place they had in mind was Great Meadow Prison in Comstock, New York. Luciano was ecstatic and jumped at the opportunity to leave Dannemora to what he felt like was a country club. On May 12, 1942, he was headed for Great Meadow Prison.

1. Cosa Nostra

2. A Gangster is Born

3. The Long Ride

4. Castellammarese War

5. My Friend Meyer

6. Murder, Inc

7. Living Large

8. Not So Lucky

9. Lucky Factor

10. Bibliography

11. The Author
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