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Al Capone’s auction obscene, minimizes the harm he caused victims

Our fascination with mobsters whitewashes their crimes.

Family members say this vintage silver print of Mae and Al Capone standing on the pier with their grandchildren, taken on Dec. 25, 1946, is the last photo of him before he died. Al holds Barbara, and in the foreground are Diane (from left) and Ronnie.
Family members say this vintage silver print of Mae and Al Capone standing on the pier with their grandchildren, taken on Dec. 25, 1946, is the last photo of him before he died. Al holds Barbara, and in the foreground are Diane (from left) and Ronnie.
Sheldon Carpenter/Witherell’s Inc

I can’t believe the hoopla surrounding the upcoming auction of Al Capone’s stuff.

“A Century of Notoriety: The Estate of Al Capone” is a private affair at a country club and is expected to draw a moneyed crowd to Sacramento on Oct. 8.

When cities like Chicago are trying to dismantle the gang culture, you would think people would be outraged that Capone’s granddaughters are profiting from goods tied to his gangster lifestyle.

Witherell’s Luxury Asset Auctioneers and Appraisers will auction off approximately 174 personal items that belonged to Capone.

Among the items is a vintage framed print of Capone with his only son, Sonny; a platinum-and-diamond pocket watch; and a handwritten letter from prison.

If you wonder where rappers get their penchant for chunky diamond jewelry, you need to look no further than Capone’s stash.

It is obscene.

Capone, nicknamed “Scarface” and dubbed “Public Enemy No. 1” by the newspapers, was co-founder of the criminal Chicago Mafia during the country’s violent Prohibition era.

The most infamous crime associated with Capone was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, when seven rival gang members were gunned down at a Lincoln Park garage.

The massacre resulted from the fight between North and South Side gangs for control of organized crime during Prohibition.

Police never pinned the massacre on Capone, but he was suspected of giving the order for the mass shooting.

Yet, through the cloudy lens of history, Capone has been treated like a celebrity.

Hollywood has made movies about him. There’s a popular crime bus tour of his Chicago stomping grounds, and tourists still trek to his old home in the city’s Park Manor neighborhood.

Although a major crime figure, Capone was only convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years. He served 7-1/2 years.

He died at age 48.

Capone’s eldest granddaughter said she wants people to know her grandfather was not “all bad.”

The opening bid for Capone’s “favorite” pistol, a Colt Model 1911 semi-automatic, is $50,000.

How do you display that item in a gun collection without thinking about the descendants of the victims who were on the other side of that gun?

I could understand it if Capone’s descendants intended to use the money reaped from the auction to atone for their grandfather’s deeds.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Besides, at a time when Chicago is drowning in the blood of innocents, have we forgotten that Capone was the original Chicago gangster?

Apparently.

“In America, you have this romanticism of crime in general and organized crime in particular. [T]hey’re trying to show that these people have a family life, they can be murderers by night and good family men by day,” Howard Abadinsky, professor of criminology at St. John’s University, told The Guardian.

That level of tolerance may be true for Italian American gangsters. It certainly isn’t the case when it comes to Black ones.

Recently, when I wrote about Larry Hoover Sr., co-founder of the Gangster Disciples street gang, trying to get a sentence reduction for drug-related crimes, you would have thought I was trying to free the devil.

My emails were full of vitriol.

Hoover’s been locked up since 1973, and his wife, Winndye, couldn’t develop a clothing line to support the family.

“The feds, they would go to some of our clients and tell them they should not deal with the company because I was laundering drug money. That created a problem to the point that some of our merchants, they wouldn’t pay their bill. I had to end up shutting it down,” she told me in a recent interview.

Winndye Hoover said she’s never sold drugs in her life.

Both men ran criminal enterprises, but only one man’s notoriety was whitewashed to the point that his descendants could benefit from his ill-gotten gains.

“The landmark event will no doubt go down as one of the most important celebrity auctions in history,” according to a statement posted on the Witherell website, which refers to Capone as an “American legend.”

Capone’s three granddaughters are expected to net about $700,000 from the auction.

Shameful.