True-crime buffs this week can bid on memorabilia from the lives of legendary gangsters such as Bugsy Siegel, Whitey Bulger and Bonnie and Clyde.
There’s also a signed Al Capone legal document, circa 1930, denouncing allegations the criminal kingpin ran an illegal liquor house in Miami.
But mystery surrounds how the document wound up on the auction block — it appears to have been swiped from original courthouse files.
The item is part of the “Gangsters, Outlaws and Lawmen” auction being held by Boston’s R.R. Auction. Online bidding begins Thursday. The live event itself takes place Saturday, June 24, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The auction house won’t identify the private seller, but says the legal document from a gangster known as “Scarface” is legit. On its website, the company shows photos of the six-page document, contained in a distinctive blue folder marked with a handwritten date, “4/26/30.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
So was it pilfered, sometime over the past 87 years? The auction house can’t say for sure.
“We know that multiple copies of court documents are produced and get into private hands,” said Bobby Livingston, the auction house’s executive vice president. “It’s not uncommon.”
A Herald reporter reviewed the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts archive Wednesday morning and found no original or duplicate of the six-page document. The archive contains similar original court motions — all sheathed in that same blue clerk’s office folder that was standard in the 1930s and marked with the same handwritten dates.
The fact that the document is up for sale shocked retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Scott Silverman, who was the court system’s historian and knew the Capone file well.
“If this is an original document that was filed with the court, it needs to be back in a court file and preserved for future generations,” Silverman said.
Also up for bid: a subpoena, stamped “filed,” identical to ones that still exist in the original court file. The auction house estimates both documents could fetch $30,000 or more.
RR Auction is also auctioning Capone’s diamond-studded pocket watch, sheet music penned by the gangster and trinkets from his Chicago home.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time somebody swiped legal documents in a historic South Florida case.
In 1991, Sotheby’s offered for auction 43 pages from Jim Morrison’s court file; the Doors singer was arrested for indecent exposure in 1969 after a performance at Dinner Key. The original bail bond sheet, signed by Morrison, sold for $15,950.
The clerk’s office filed a complaint with police. The culprit was never found, the files never returned. The clerk’s historian, Gordon Winslow, later said he believed the thief was a now-deceased Doors historian who was the last person to view the file.
Capone’s time in Miami has long been the subject of fascination.
To much fanfare, his former Miami Beach mansion was renovated two years ago and is now available to rent for video shoots. Capone’s perjury trial was also the subject of a historical re-enactment — held in the same courtroom — to honor the centennial celebration of Miami courts system.
The Chicago kingpin had relocated to Miami Beach in March 1930, in the waning days of Prohibition. But police constantly harassed him, raiding his mansion, arresting him simply to investigate him or charging him with “vagrancy.”
Frustrated, Capone pressed charges against Dade County’s sheriff, alleging the lawman falsely imprisoned him. After those charges were dropped, prosecutors charged Capone with perjury, complaining he lied in court about the lawman’s conduct.
But the six-page “special demur” would have been filed in court because it is sworn to by Capone himself, as well as his attorneys. In the document, Capone objects to allegations of selling ”spiritous wines, malts and liquor,” calling them “scandalous” and “impertinent.” A Dade County judge later acquitted Capone.
“The ‘special demur,’ that’s something that could have been targeted because it has Capone’s signature,” Silverman said. “I don’t think Capone signed a whole lot.”