December 1959 would be Roger's first Christmas as a free man in twenty-five years and he was upbeat despite the reality facing him. His health was gone and so was his money. His two sons had matured without a father. He was virtually a stranger to them and his wife of almost four decades was in fragile health.
The state parole board refused to lift the gag order placed on him after he told the board that he wanted to go on the record and reply to the charges that Factor was making against him in the press. The Board told him he would have to wait for at least another year before they would lift the gag. But they also told Touhy that they didn't care what he said about Factor. The gag order wasn't about protecting Factor, it was about protecting the State of Illinois from looking stupid and corrupt for tossing innocent men in jail.
Despite his failing health and depleted bank account, Roger began to prepare to face John Factor in court. This was no easy chore. Factor had grown rich, very rich, over the years. Apart from his interests in the Stardust, he had considerable holdings in real estate, commercial insurance and stocks, and with that kind of war chest behind him, Factor could afford the best legal talent in the world. To prove it, Factor was suing Touhy and Ray Brennan, his collaborator, for libel over The Stolen Years, the book Roger had written about his life, claiming that it injured his reputation as a civic leader and philanthropist.
Roger had used his spare time while in prison to write his life story. After a first draft, he decided that he would need a professional writer's help and called in Ray Brennan. Brennan was the archetype of the tough-edged, hard-drinking, newsman with a heart as big as the city he loved so much. A mid- western Irishman, he got his first big break in 1933 when Arthur Brisbane, the most influential editor in the Hearst newspaper empire, went to the Cook County jail to interview A1 Capone. Capone told Brisbane that if he were released, he would help find the Lindbergh baby. Brisbane sat on the story
and the next morning Capone spotted Brennan walking through the jail and said, "Hey kid, you want a good story?" Brennan took Capone's story and ran with it. The Hearst organization followed with Brisbane's story a day later and Brennan was the new star crime reporter in Chicago. A while later, when John Dillinger escaped from the Crown Point jail, Brennan called the jail just to check with the warden.
"So how's your star prisoner doing?" Brennan asked.
"Well, I don't know," came the jailers reply, "'cause that slippery son of bitch just escaped."
Brennan kept all of the jail's lines tied up and grabbed the year's best exclusive story.
Brennan had sat through the Hamm and Factor kidnapping trials, fascinated by the characters involved. Later he would write several stories about the case which brought him to Touhy's eye. What intrigued Touhy about Brennan was his relentless pursuit of the classified testimony that Tubbo Gilbert had given to the Kefauver committee when it arrived in Chicago in 1950. That year, Gilbert- who was still the central power behind the States Attorney's Office-was a candidate for Cook County Sheriff. He began his campaign despite the fact that most Chicago crime reporters considered him a full- fledged member of the syndicate-one who answered directly to Murray Humpreys.
Fascinated with Gilbert, Brennan wrote:
Gilbert's name came up during the hearings and he was requested, as opposed to ordered, to testify before the committee, which he did but from behind closed doors, a most unusual thing and the transcript was later impounded.
Since it was just before the election and Kefauver was a good Democrat he agreed to the terms that Tubbo Gilbert had set up.
Gilbert was questioned for two hours behind closed doors. When it was over Estes Kefauver gave a briefing that left more questions than answers.
Brennan tried everything he could to find out what Gilbert had told the Committee, but was unsuccessful and had more or less given up and retired to his favorite watering hole for a drink "when inspiration struck." He flew to Washington, posed as a member of the committee's staff, went to the stenographer's office saying that he had dropped by to pick up a copy of "some guy named Gilbert's testimony."
Remarkably, they handed him a bound copy of Gilbert's secret testimony. Gilbert's statements before the committee were riveting. He admitted to gambling in mob-run joints while enforcing the city's no gambling laws. He also admitted winning more than $7,000 in 1948, by wagering on football, baseball, prize fights and elections. His wealth was estimated to be in the millions12-an amazing savings accomplishment for a civil servant who never earned more than $40,000 in one year.
Gilbert admitted to the committee that it was true that his personal records were missing from the police department and that he was a frequent guest of gangster Owney Madden in Hot Springs. The most shocking admission was that while he was in charge of the States Attorney's Office, justice was doled out on a "cash and carry basis."
The Kefauver committee secretly concluded that Tubbo Gilbert's administration when he was Chicago's top cop, "was neglect of official duty and shocking indifference to violations of the law."
The Sun Times printed the testimony that Brennan dug up and Cook County voters turned out in record numbers for an off-year election to vote against Tubbo Gilbert. His opponent won by a remarkable 400,000 votes. A few days later, Gilbert retired from office and announced that he would take a position as chief of security at Arlington and Washington race tracks where his brother Maurice was a lieutenant. The Gilbert story continued to unravel when Brennan discovered that though Maurice Gilbert was drawing a salary from the track, he had officially been out on sick leave from the Chicago police department since 1948. After that, Gilbert packed up his millions and moved to California where he said he planned to open a detective agency in Los Angeles. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles he suffered a heart attack and went into semi-retirement.
Tubbo Gilbert never held a grudge against Brennan for bringing him down. In fact, in one of Tubbo Gilbert's last tirades against the Chicago press, he jabbed his finger into a reporter's chest and barked, "All of you are a pack of rats. The only one of youse who has any class at all is Ray Brennan...and he's a rat too." Brennan understood the back-handed compliment.
President Harry Truman, however, did hold a grudge. He threw a fit over the Democratic party's loss in Illinois, and he held Brennan responsible. As a result Brennan was indicted for posing as a federal official and, if convicted, he could have been sentenced to six years for stealing the transcript. The Justice Department brought him before several federal hearings, actually handcuffing him once, before it dropped the case with the ruling that his actions had "no criminal intent as we generally understand it."
Roger Touhy had followed this entire story from jail. After the case against Brennan was dropped Touhy wrote to him and asked him if he wanted to help write his life story. This brought about the $3,000,000 libel suit from Jake the Barber.