Tragedy in Dedham: The Story of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case

By Francis Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
MORE HISTORY, WRITTEN
AND OTHERWISE

The sea-change decades of depression and war did little to alter the pattern of Joe Morelli's life. On his return from Leavenworth he moved from Providence to the scarcely more scenic environment of adjacent Pawtucket. In that gray three-decker jungle city he was to spend the rest of his days--when not in prison--in a house at 70 Toledo Avenue, a convenient half-mile beyond the attentions of the Providence police.

In 1928 he was picked up by the Pawtucket police in connection with a clothing theft, the next year for smuggling liquor into the Providence county jail. In 1932 Secret Service agents arrested him for possessing counterfeit bills and engaging juveniles, including a thirteen-year-old female state ward, to pass them. He managed to get himself acquitted. Later that year the Secret Service raided his house and uncovered a cache of bogus five-dollar bills. The agents also found parts of a book he was writing about his gangland career.

At his trial Joe tried but failed to put the blame for the counterfeit money on his son, John. Sentenced to five years in the new federal prison at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Joe had the distinction of being the first Rhode Islander to arrive there.

In 1941, he was arrested for keeping a house of prostitution in his home, setting up slot machines, and selling liquor without a license. A neighbor, James Prete, who had complained to the police about the goings-on at 70 Toledo Avenue had his house wrecked by dynamite.

While Joe was out on bail he was again arrested for counterfeiting. Not until March 1946 was he paroled. Nine months later he was

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