To Jake the Barber he was still Roger the Terrible
New York News Bureau. (Australia 1954)
Bulb - nosed, pink - cheeked Roger ("The Terrible") Touhy wolfed a piece of apple-pie, gave a victory grin and talked of his happy times as a millionaire prohibition-beer-king.
Touhy, 56, grey-haired, had just been freed after serving 21 of a 298-years prison sentence for a crime which Federal Judge John P. Barnes declared had never been committed.
The main characters and plot in this Chicago gangster story that began in the boot- legging days and ended as the Alcatraz prison gates'' opened:
British - bom John ("Jake, the Barber") Factor, colourful international confidence man whom Touhy was conected of kidnapping.
Factor, who boasted that he rose from a bootblack to play roulette with a king of England, was about to be extradited to England, in 1933, on charges of swind- ling British investors out of nearly £2 million.
Then, while Factor's law- yers were trying to delay the extradition,- the alleged kid- napping story broke. Factor turned up after a week, an- nounced that he had paid the ransom money for his release.
The Touhy gang was arrested and, because Factor was needed as the State's chief witness, the extradition order was suspended. Eventually Factor settled the British claims, totalling £.2 million, for £500,000.
Later he pleaded guilty to an American charge of swindling a million dollars in a fake whisky bootlegging scheme and went to gaol for seven years.
Bluff, bearded Judge John P. Barnes, 73, often mistaken for Monty Woolley, who startled Chicago legal circles this week with a 774-page opinion calling the whole kidnapping story a frame-up by Factor to gain public sympathy and avoid extradition.
Of Factor, Barnes declared, "He has learned all that a boy and man can learn as a bootblack, wash- room attendant, newsboy, barber, high-pressure stock salesman and confidence man-everything except how to be honest."
Judge Thomas Courtney, who was State prosecutor in the original trial, and is accused by Judge Barnes of knowingly using perjured testimony to convict Touhy.
Retorted Courtney, "No- thing Judge Barnes ever says counts 10 cents with me. If Touhy is entitled to be free, then everyone in Alcatraz prison ought to be let out."
And finally Roger Touhy himself, who was sentenced to 99 years for the alleged kidnapping and later got 199 years more for having attempted to escape.
Roger and his brothers were sons of an honest Chicago policeman, James Touhy.
But, after their mother was burned to death in an oil stove explosion, the boys started getting into trouble with the law.
Young James Touhy was shot to death in a robbery attempt at the age of 17; brother John's head was blown away in a sawn-off shotgun battle between the Touhys and the Al Capone mob; Joe was bumped off similarly two years later while Eddie, to everyone's surprise, died a natural death in 1945.
But Roger, 5ft 6in tall slight in proportion, was the leader of the gang which ruled the Chicago suburbs, specialising in bootlegging, kidnapping and robbery.
Actually Roger Touhy was known as a somewhat quix otic character who gave money to the poor and refused to deal in prostitutes or narcotics.
The New York "Herald Tribune" recalls that "he also gained a reputation for running beer that was fit to drink."
Throughout his 20-year legal fight for freedom, Touhy insisted that Factor had conspired with the Capone crowd to frame him for the kidnapping.
When first gaoled, he vowed he would kill Factor if he ever got out, but this week, enjoying his first non prison meal for 21 years, Roger ("The Terrible") Touhy purred: "Poor old Factor. No, I'm not thinking about revenge. When you've been in the pokey as long as I have you get sort of mellow. I'm just looking for peace of mind."
Unconvinced, John ("Jake the Barber") Factor hired a couple of former G-men as extra bodyguards, shut him- self in his luxurious £25,000 Hollywood home while his strawberry-blonde, ex-model wife told reporters, "Please keep away. Mr. Factor is very nervous."
The anti-climax carne when, after two days of freedom, Touhy wes put tearfully behind bars again on the grounds that he was a public menace-while the State frantically appeals against Judge Barnes' free- dom order.
Said Factor, "I'm still not convinced-if you know what I mean."