Two veteran Chicago reporters spin a searing tale of mobster crime and official corruption, vividly detailing how a witness for the prosecution sees his life fall apart when pay-offs pervert the judicial system.
As much a cautionary tale about the realities of the Witness Protection Program as a gripping narrative of pervasive corruption, Possley and Kogan first review the history of the Chicago Mafia and its continuing power even in the 1970s and ’80s. The authors then introduce the two protagonists, Harry Aleman, a mob hit man and model father, and Bob Lowe, a working man devoted to his family, who happened to witness a murder. In 1972, on Chicago’s West Side, on his way to visit neighbor Billy Logan, who was interested in buying Lowe’s dog Ginger, Bob saw a car idling in the street and then, as Billy emerged from his house, shots were fired, and he saw Billy die. As Ginger bounded to the car, Bob followed and there saw Harry with a gun. Bob, escaping further gunshots, ran away. Though his father counseled him not to, Bob insisted on going to the police and there identified Harry from a book of mugshots. Nothing happened, but in 1976, an Assistant State Attorney, concerned with the rising number of gangland slayings, decided to prosecute Harry. The police tracked down Bob, who again offered to testify. He was now advised, with his wife Fran and their children, to adopt new names and enter the Witness Protection Program—a bumblingly executed and insensitive exercise that nearly destroyed the family as they were repeatedly forced to move and Bob found he couldn’t get work. Bob appeared in court, was humiliated by the aggressive defense, and in a glaring miscarriage of justice, watched as Harry went free. While mob money and muscle protected Harry over the next 20 years, Bob became an alcoholic, served time himself, recovered, and in 1997 testified as Harry was again tried for the murder of Billy Logan.
A riveting reminder of the high cost of justice being served in a place where the supposedly good guys were indistinguishable from the villains.