Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mickey Cohen


One thing Mickey Cohen didn't do well was prison time. He was a fastidious dresser who liked to keep clean so prison togs and weekly showers were torturous for him. When he went to prison for a second tax evasion conviction in the early 1960s, he made up his mind that he was going straight when he got out.

Passing up an opportunity to buy his freedom by ratting on Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo, Mickey was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1961 and immediately was sent to Alcatraz.

Alcatraz prison (AP)
Alcatraz prison (AP)
This Alcatraz is unbelievable in the United States of America, he wrote. It was a crumbling dungeon. At the time I was in Alcatraz it was only for personal enemies of Bobby Kennedy.

After Alcatraz closed, Mickey was sent to Atlanta, where he took over the electrical shop from Vito Genovese, a friend of his. In 1963, a crazed inmate named Estes McDonald clobbered Mickey from behind with an iron pipe, damaging his brain and partially paralyzing him. From there, he was sent to Springfield, Missouri, to the federal prison hospital.

On January 6, 1972, an aging Mickey Cohen was released from Springfield and returned home to California. He was mobile, but barely so and only able to walk with the help of a walker. His release started what would be fair to call a farewell tour, because he went from Springfield to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to pay his respects to the widow of Owney Madden and from there to New Orleans where Mickey spent time with Carlos Marcello. He said hello to some friends from the Cleveland mob and finally stopped in Vegas.

Bookcover of Mickey Cohen's In My Own Words
Bookcover of
Mickey Cohen's
In My Own Words
Then it was back home and retirement. He stayed out of the spotlight, eating with friends, occasionally speaking to the media on this or that and following the fight game. Mickey hadn't stepped foot in a ring in almost fifty years, but he never lost his love of boxing. Until the Patty Hearst incident brought him back into the public eye, he laid low and tried to keep out of trouble. The last thing he wanted was more trouble with the IRS.

"I live like I lived before, but I'm not into what you would call any action," Mickey wrote. "I don't know if I'm living on my reputation or what, but very seldom can I go to any kind of affair where I'm not asked for my autograph."

Mickey Cohen died peacefully in his home in 1976.



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