Herman Rosenthal Is Murdered in 1912

     Herman Rosenthal had the distinction of being hated equally by fellow gamblers and policeman.  Rosenthal began his gambling operation in 1910.  Rosenthal refused to make payoffs to the police nor did he play by the established norms of the New York City gambling community.  As a result, his gambling house on West 106th Street in Manhattan was raided often by the New York City Police.


Herman Rosenthal from the Public Domain

     In 1911, Rosenthal further alienated his peers, when he had “Big” Jack Zelig beat up “Bridgey” Webber.  Rosenthal closed the W. 106th Street gambling house and transferred his operation to West Forty-Fifth Street.  His new establishment was bombed twice with the hope of ending the Herman Rosenthal problem for good.

     The bold Rosenthal decided that he might need to play the game a little bit, so he took NYPD Lt. Charles Becker, the head of the gambling or strong-arm squad, on as a partner in his operation.  Rosenthal paid Becker 20 percent of the profits through “Bald” or “Billiard Ball” Jack Rose.

     The partnership would last about two months.  On March 14, 1912, Charles Becker’s press agent, Charles B. Plitt, was charged with shooting Waverly Carter, a porter, during a gambling raid.  While Plitt was acquitted, he and Becker defended themselves against both criminal and civil suits.


” Billiard Ball” Jack Rose – Becker’s Bag Man and the Arranger of Rosenthal’s Murder

     Becker wanted all of his partner to contribute to the defense of Plitt.  Rosenthal flat refused to contribute.  He told Becker to take it out of his 20 percent.  Lt. Becker told Rosenthal he would be raided if he did not contribute.  Rosenthal told Becker that he would erase their partnership if a raid occurred.

     On April 15, 1912, Becker and his men raided Rosenthal’s house and gambling establishment.  Mrs. Rosenthal walked up to Becker as he entered and asked, “Charlie, what are you doing here?”  Becker waived her away, took possession of the gambling devices and stationed a police officer in their house twenty-four hours a day.  Becker thought his tactics would teach Rosenthal a lesson.

     Instead, Rosenthal made an appointment with Charles S. Whitman, the new District Attorney.  Whitman wanted to expose the corruption in the NYPD.  He was a very interested listener to Rosenthal’s accusations.

     Lt. Charles Becker released “Big” Jack Zelig from jail on July 2, 1912 with the understanding that he would arrange the murder of Rosenthal.  Becker provided Jack Rose with $2,000 to carry out the murder.  Jack Zelig gave the commission to Louis “Lefty Louie” Rosenberg, Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horowitz, Francisco “Dago Frank” Cirofici and Whitey Lewis.


Herman Rosenthal Funeral from the Public Domain

     On July 15, 1912, Herman Rosenthal met with Charles Whitman for several hours.  He described the system of payoffs, named Becker as his partner and named several police officials as bribe takers.  Rosenthal left Whitman’s office to have dinner at the Hotel Metropole.  Around 10 p.m., someone called Rosenthal outside.  When he exited the building, the four gunmen pumped him full of bullets.  Rosenthal died on the sidewalk.

     Over the next few weeks, all four gunmen and Lt. Charles Becker would be arrested for Rosenthal’s murder.  The subsequent trial would lead to the first United States police officer receiving the death penalty.

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