Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
New York City Police Lieutenant Charles Becker was arrested and convicted for the murder of gambler and bookmaker Herman Rosenthal and was put to death in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison in 1915.
Charles Becker was born in a small town near the Catskill Mountains in Sullivan County in 1870 and when he was twenty years old, Becker went to New York City seeking fame and fortune. He had several menial jobs but people who had connections in the police department took notice of him when he was a bouncer in a German Beer Garden on the Bowery. In 1893, he joined the New York City Police Department and would eventually head a secret police squad dubbed the Strong-Arm Squad by the local newspapers.
The strong-arm squad consisted of twenty police officers from different precincts in the five boroughs of New York City. These policemen dressed like ruffians, longshoremen, etc. and went around to beat down members of the local gangs that were wreaking havoc around the city and then arrested them. They would also shut down brothels and gambling houses. However, then police lieutenant Charles Becker would use this to his advantage extorted these places for money and in return he would leave them alone and also warn them when they were going to be raided.
According to the book called Satan’s Circus by Mike Dash, Becker personally raked in an average of $10,000 a month between October 1911 and July 1912. He even had some 15 bank accounts peppered throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Most of the accounts were in his name alone. Some were joint accounts with his wife and the rest were under fictitious names. Charles Becker also had several safe deposit boxes in several different banks with as much as $2,000 dollars in just one of those boxes.
Enter Herman Rosenthal. Rosenthal reported to the press that Becker was shaking him down for money. Two days after the story was printed in New York City newspapers, Herman Rosenthal was leaving the Hotel Metropole and was gunned down by Jewish gangsters. Those who knew Rosenthal and were close to him said that Charles Becker ordered the hit. On the 29th of July 1912, Becker was arrested by special detectives of the district attorney’s office for the murder of Rosenthal. He was convicted in his first trial but the conviction was later overturned on appeal when the defense stated that the presiding judge was biased against Becker.
Charles Becker was again convicted in another trial in 1914 and was sent to Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York and was put to death in the electric chair in 1915.