Thug Life

The Shocking Secret History of Harold Giuliani, the Mayor’s Ex-Convict Dad

Hall refused.

Giuliani grabbed Hall's pants and yanked them down to his ankles. He told Hall to sit down. He grabbed the man's hands, pulled them behind his back and bound them with cord. Squatting, his back to the wall, Giuliani leaned over his victim and began tying his feet together. Before he was finished, a police officer, Edward Schmitt, burst in the front door of the building.

"Throw them up!" yelled Schmitt. Giuliani obeyed.

Illustration by Tim Gabor

His accomplice, who, at this point, had the gun and the money, fled down the stairs to the basement and escaped onto the street.

Schmitt collared Giuliani and took him to the 23rd Precinct. The officer later told the judge assigned to that case that he had been "tipped off by a citizen that a couple of fellows were hanging around 130 East 96th Street for about half an hour, and he finally saw them going into the hallway. After they went in, a milkman went in, and the citizen suspected that there was something wrong and he called me and told me about it."

Although Giuliani's family didn't have the means to help him, he had friends with resources. Three days after he was arrested, a man named Valentine Spielman put up $5000 to bail him out. Spielman listed his address as 351 East 60th in Manhattan.

On April 19, a week after the indictment was filed, Hall changed his statement, telling a markedly different story. This time, he said it was Giuliani's accomplice who had pressed the gun to his stomach and said, "You know what it is."

During a hearing on May 23, Louis Capozzoli, an assistant district attorney, told the judge that Hall altered his story only after he was threatened. "This milkman tried to change his statement," noted Capozzoli, "after he was visited at about four o'clock that morning by several people who threatened him. Then he said he thought this fellow [Giuliani] ought to get a break."

Hall's coerced reversal may have been effective in reducing his assailant's prison time. On May 9, before Judge Owen Bohan in the Court of General Sessions, Giuliani switched his plea to guilty. He was allowed, in light of Hall's altered statement, to plead to one count of armed robbery in the third degree. While still a serious felony conviction, armed robbery drew less prison time than a guilty plea on any one of the original charges.

At Giuliani's sentencing hearing, his attorney, Robert J. Fitzsimmons, appealed for leniency. "I believe this is the case that warrants extreme clemency," said Fitzsimmons, who later explained: "The defendant realizes his mistake. His home life has been of the finest and he comes from a wonderful family."

Judge Bohan firmly replied, "I am a very sympathetic judge, but I have no sympathy for robbers with guns."

Fitzsimmons, yielding, acknowledged that his client "should get some punishment to make him realize the seriousness of his act."

The judge then addressed Giuliani, bluntly asking, "Who is the other man that was in this thing with you?"

Officer Schmitt spoke up, telling the judge that Giuliani "gave a fictitious name and address" and "refused to give us the name and address of the other man."

Suddenly, Fitzsimmons announced the name of Giuliani's supposed accomplice, Joseph Podemo. (No one named Joseph Podemo, however, was charged in connection with this, or any other, crime between 1929 and 1935.)

The judge was suspicious of Fitzsimmons's remark. "I will commit this defendant," he said. "If he wants to help himself, let him tell us the name of the man who had the gun."

On May 29, Judge Bohan sentenced Harold Giuliani to two to five years at Sing Sing state prison.

According to Giuliani's "Receiving Blotter," obtained from Sing Sing Prison, he started serving his time on May 31. The blotter form requires answers to standard questions, such as height, weight, and address. His address is listed as 313 East 123rd Street, across the street from his parents' building at 354 East 123rd. The criminal act for which Giuliani was sentenced is described as follows: "Held up man, hallway,daytime, gun, money." The form indicates that his "habits" are "temperate" and include "tobacco." He speaks "good" English, the interviewer observed, and is also semifluent in Italian. His religion is noted as Catholic, and his church attendance is described as "occasional." His alias is listed as Joseph Starrett.

When asked by the interviewer to what he "attributed" his criminal acts, Giuliani answered "unemployment." He listed two employers under "Employment Record." The first mentioned was Koch Plumbing, where he earned a weekly wage of $30 as a "plumber's helper." But his 1934 employment at Koch lasted only two weeks. The second employer, John N. Kapp, also a plumber, hired Giuliani at a weekly wage of $24 and kept him on from 1929—around the time he met Helen—until 1932. Giuliani described no other employment.

Two weeks before he was committed to Sing Sing, Giuliani underwent a psychiatric exam. Benjamin Apfelberg, a psychiatrist with the city's Department of Hospitals, sent his report to Judge Bohan on May 18. Although Apfelberg found that Giuliani was "not mentally defective" and displayed "no psychotic symptoms at the present time," the report painted a troubling mental portrait.

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