A Pickpocket's Tale by Timothy J. Gilfoyle

A Pickpocket's Tale by Timothy J. Gilfoyle

Author:Timothy J. Gilfoyle
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Published: 2011-11-09T16:00:00+00:00

Michael Riordan’s attack on George Appo made the headlines of the New York Tribune.

Lexow Committee investigators quickly determined that this version of the events was fabricated. For the first time committee officials acknowledged that Appo was helping to procure evidence. “He has proven himself truthful, accurate, prompt, and faithful,” reported John Goff. The counsel then admitted that this was not the first attempt on Appo’s life. Only two nights earlier, after leaving Goff’s office, Appo was assaulted outside the General Post Office at Broadway and Park Row. With blood flowing down his face, Appo desperately pursued his assailant. On finding him at an elevated train stop, he asked police officers standing nearby for help. They simply looked at him and smiled.41

Investigators quickly pieced together the chain of events. The attending physician testified that Appo’s wound was not self-inflicted. Lexow Committee investigators rejected assertions that Appo was drunk at the time, speculating instead that he was drugged as part of a plot to kill him. Appo insisted that he was attacked during the night at the hospital. A male orderly, at the behest of a guarding police officer, punched Appo in the jaw and temple, twisted cords around his left wrist, and attempted to gouge out his remaining eye. In court Appo displayed his left arm, bruised and swollen from hand to elbow, another bruise on his temple, and a swollen jaw. Appo’s charges were later bolstered when Thomas Coleman, the policeman assigned to guard Appo, gave an incoherent account of the events in the hospital.42 Despite the evidence, however, the charges against Riordan were dismissed while Appo’s case was postponed, a portent of what lay ahead for him.

In November 1894 Appo came upon Ned Lyons in front of the Brower House, a West Twenty-eighth Street hotel just off Fifth Avenue. Lyons was one of America’s most famous criminals. A tough character, he stood five feet eight inches in height and weighed a burly 180 pounds. Lyons was without the top half of his left ear, a “gift” from Jimmy Haggerty, who chewed it off in a Philadelphia street fight in 1869. At least four bullet holes disfigured his body, one of which had left a visible scar on his jaw. Lyons was involved in some of the most lucrative bank robberies in nineteenth-century America, including the $1 million heist of the Ocean Bank in New York City in 1869. In 1872, he successfully escaped from Sing Sing. By 1886, he had abandoned bank robbery for the green goods.

But on 9 October 1894 Lyons’s green goods operation in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was exposed on the front page of the New York Sun. The article claimed that Lyons was having a difficult time, earning only forty dollars weekly. Although the article was full of details only an insider could have provided, no evidence indicated that Appo was a source of information. That, however, mattered little to Lyons; Appo presented a convenient scapegoat. As they passed each other in front of the Brower House, Lyons belted Appo across the face, knocking him into the street.


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