The Discourses of Simone Rizzo De-Cavalcante, 1962 to 1965
Theft of the Nation
The Grim Reapers
“Gregory the Great tells us how the nun of a convent, walking in the garden, ate a lettuce-leaf without making the cautionary sign of the cross, and was immediately possessed by a demon. St. Equitius tortured the spirit with his exorcisms till the unhappy imp exclaimed: ‘What have I done? I was sitting on the leaf and she ate me.’ But Equitius would listen to no excuse and forced him to depart.”
—Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has yielded up to us the transcripts of its long eavesdropping upon the office hours of Simone Rizzo (Sam) DeCavalcante, boss of a Cosa Nostra Family seated in Union County, New Jersey. DeCavalcante was facing trial for conspiracy to extort; his counsel demanded that the Justice Department produce any wire taps that might have assisted it toward the indictment; and to his surprise, and probable chagrin, he was granted the public release of his client’s conversation, the private as well as the professional, all of it faithfully and indiscriminately recorded by the special agents of the FBI, and none of it, by the way, bearing upon the particular crime charged. This mass of intimacies, disjointed and expensive though it is, carries the sizeable reward of providing us with more that we can trust than we have ever before been told about an American mafioso of executive stature.
Donald R. Cressey is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and though we may think that Theft of the Nation is a title that might have better served the Sierra Club, the work itself comes to us with academic credentials more elaborate than any before offered in Mafia studies. Ed Reid began as a reporter in Brooklyn, which is to organized crime what Rome is to the Church. He won a Pulitzer Prize for investigating police corruption more than twenty years ago. The Grim Reapers is at least his fifth book in the field. Yet read alongside the real life of Sam DeCavalcante, the reports of these two authorities seem astoundingly credulous, the journalist and the academic being our chief sources of social misinformation. One of the few knowledgeable persons I can imagine believing them is Sam DeCavalcante himself; the faith of witches and of the hunters of witches survives the failure of witchcraft.
The gap between such authority and the world itself begins when we set down first Dr. Cressey’s notion of our general condition and then DeCavalcante’s description of his particular circumstance. For example:
The $6 or $7 billion going into the hands of ordinary criminals each year is not all profit…. Neither can it be assumed that the amount is divided equally among the five thousand or so members of Cosa Nostra. But the profits are huge enough that any given member of Cosa Nostra is more likely to be a millionaire than not.
We got 31 or 32 soldiers. Most of …
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Sicilians and Others December 4, 1969