What do you get when a deconstructionist joins the mafia ?

An offer you can't understand.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Rocco Perri Excerpt: 1912 Murder trial

1912: The Veronis and Rocco Perri

"Death follows Shooting in Guelph's Little Italy."
Shot in Joe Carere's Alice St. home on Oct. 26, Michael Fazzari, 28 lay dying in hospital for four days. Joe Veroni (known then as Varoni) had been shot by the dying man, as was treated for cheek and arm wounds. Robbery was the alleged motive.
In King of the Mob, James Dubro and Robin Rowland note that after a 1926 arrest
"The Hamilton Police records show no further arrests of
Rocco Perri in that city, but a covering letter from Chief
of Police, William R. Whatley, attached to Perri's record, notes 'information was received that he had been in some serious trouble at Guelph under some other name, and that he had a criminal record prior to that."
The 'other name' was Giuseppe Rocco Portatelli; the serious trouble was the murder of Michael Fazzari. A photo published in the Guelph Mercury April 13 1913 proves it was Perri when compared with a 1926 photo of him.
After Fazzari died the chief crown witness was Fazzari's 49 year-old uncle. Uncle Michele boarded at George Carere's on Alice St. In the census of 1911 he is listed as a "father-in-law" living at Joe and Marie Carere's next door. The evening of the shooting Uncle Michele, Michael, Peppino Rasso, Joe Morabito and Rocco Portatelli walked uptown.
Uncle and nephew came back to the Ward at 7. They went to 'Jockimo" Carere's, where Uncle Michele stayed indoors drinking until 10. Returning home to George Carere's he went out at 11:30 to find his nephew. He found Michael quarreling with Joe Varone at Joseph Carere's, Rocco was with them.
Uncle Michele put his nephew in the next room and tried to intercede but 'Varoni' called the nephew a coward and told him to come out of the room. Michael did, firing as he came. Uncle Michele said six or seven shots were fired; his nephew escaped to the street.
When Uncle Michele got outside Michael was running down Alice and
Rocco was firing at him. Or least that was Uncle Michele’s story at the inquest and trial. Originally, he told the police that he’d been too drunk to remember what had happened. He later denied being drunk, and claimed the reason he’d lied was he was afraid. He was still afraid at the trial, six months later.
Joseph Carere was the first witness. He told the court that he'd known Michael Fazzari since he'd come to Guelph. He’d heard hollering on the street near morning and went out to see what was going on. He met 'Mr. Varoni" between his house and 'Jockimo's'. Varoni had been shot, he helped him over to Mike Valerioti's store to phone an ambulance. He said he’d heard no shooting the night before, although the police found a bullet hole in his door. He claimed the first he'd heard that Fazzari had been shot was when an 'Englishman' told him.
Matthew Adams found Michael groaning on a porch on Morris St., but couldn't understand what Fazzari was saying other than 'his stomach hurt'. Adams took Fazzari’s revolver from him, then went to Joseph Carere's and then to Frank Longo's; neither man seemed to understand what he was saying. No one went to Fazzari's aid.
Adams then met three young Italians and he gave them Fazzari's revolver. The man he gave the gun to was Joseph Morabito, who lived at Longo's. Morabito had heard shots the night before. It was Morabito who went with Adams to look at Fazzari, and together they took him to George Carere's. When they got there, Michael asked for his revolver and Morabito gave it to him. Morabito went for Uncle Michele.
Constable Greenaway, got to the Ward at 5 am, found a trail of blood leading away from Joseph Carere's and a bullet hole in the door from a .32 calibre revolver. Later, he returned to the house, the blood on the street had been cleaned up and the bullet hole filled with plaster.
Greenaway received a pistol from Mrs. Veroni in her house; it was the only gun he found. He couldn’t find Fazzari's. Apparently, Morabito had accompanied Fazzari in the ambulance, and had been given the gun again by the dying man. Morabito took it to Welland, then eventually gave it to Frank Longo who gave it to Charles Dunbar, a lawyer. Dunbar brought it to the trial.
Joe Varoni appeared in court as an innocent shop keeper/baker. He said he had returned to the bakery at about ten in the evening to put coal in the oven, after then started for home. When he reached the street, there were two men he didn't know, one shot him in the mouth. While he fell he saw the men take off down Morris Street; they fired two more shots as they went. He’d last seen Fazzari at his house at about six in the evening. He last seen Portatelli about nine that night, when Rocco was 'feeling pretty happy'.
Varoni says he sent Rocco to bed and swore that Rocco didn't go out again that night. Varoni also swore that he not only had not fired a pistol that night, but had never carried one. He also said that Peppino Rasso had gone to Toronto with him when Joe was trying to decide if he should sell a mine he owned. (The object of the defense was to present the missing Rasso as the shooter, despite the evidence of Uncle Michele.) Rasso, whom Joe had known ‘three or four years’ stayed at Varoni’s when they returned. He says he told Rasso that Michael Fazzari from 'his home town" was in Guelph, but Rasso said the Fazzaris they drank too much, bolstering the argument that Uncle Michele was too drunk to know what had happened.
Tommy Varoni and a baker named Domenic Cuccinatti were Rocco Perri's alibis, since they both claimed that Rocco had slept in their room that night. Cuccinatti originally told the police that Frank Cordi, another Italian boarder of Varoni’s, shared the room with him that night. (Cordi, along with Frank Longo was one of Rocco Perri's most important allies in later years. Cordi was also one of Veroni's 1922 pallbearers.) Cuccinatti claims he first lied about Cordi because the police chief pulled his hair and threatened to hit him. Chief Randall later claimed not to have even been at the house.
Cordi appeared and supported Cuccinatti's story, although he too originally told Greenaway that the only people home were Mrs. Varone, Cuccinatti, and the children.
Mrs. Varoni (Maria Calarco) then took the stand, she insisted Rocco had been drunk and she had got her husband to get him to bed, which is where he stayed. She also claimed that a few days after the death of his nephew Uncle Michelle told her he wanted to apologize to Rocco for the oath he had taken in court.
A 'missionary to the foreigners' named Alexander Salson says he spoke to Fazzari in the hospital but Michael didn't know who’d shot him.
And then a smiling Rocco Portatelli took the stand. Rocco, who’d known Varoni for a 'couple of years' came to Guelph a few days before the shooting. He testified he’d been drunk and woke up in Cordi's bed, and only then learned of the shooting.
Rocco first spoke to the police about the shooting when he and Mike Sorbara were at the post office. He claimed not to have owned a gun in two years.
A 'crack shot' named John Ogg testified that the bullet hole in Joe Carere's door was fired from inside the house, not outside.
In the closing statements, the gist of the Defense was that Uncle Michele was trying to protect Peppino Rasso.
Crown Prosecutor H.C. Gwynn, KC claimed that 'a veritable reign of terror existed in St. Patrick's Ward and that Varoni was the king." He also noted that Fazzari had been shot in the back. He said that while Varoni had claimed he was found on the sidewalk in front of the lane, Joe Carere said he’d found him outside his house. The blood patterns on the ground also contradicted Varoni's claim, since they showed a man had walked westward spitting blood.
The jury returned a not guilty verdict. Rocco was met outside the courtroom by "50 of his fellow countrymen… there was a great jubilation..." Presumably, the Fazzaris were not among the celebrants.

The winter before coming to Guelph Perri had boarded in Toronto
with Bessie Starkman and her husband Harry Tobin. Perri was jailed from early November 1912 until the trial in April 1913. Rocco then returned to Toronto to get Bessie, since he reappeared with her in St. Catherines later in 1913. In 1916 they moved to Hamilton, where they began their rise into legendry.