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John Jay College of Criminal Justice
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Lloyd Sealy Library

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Library News Blog

Any of the 3,200 examples in our Trial Transcripts Collection is sure to be an interesting read, including the few we have so far digitized.


In May, 2009 Newsday reporter Anthony DeStefano came in to the Lloyd Sealy Library to read one interesting transcript in which the defendants are charged and convicted of kidnapping and murder of 5 year old Joseph Varotta. Further research shows that they were linked by newspaper accounts to the famous "Black Hand".

DeStefano's article in Newsday today reports on the case based on his Transcript Research, but also mentions the New York Times reporting on the story.


As with most transcripts, the crime, investigation, trial and aftermath is further illuminated by these articles, as well as the fact that consistency in spelling of names was not a priority at that time. As DeStefano reports, research in the New York Times online archives or New York Times Historical File shows that the case was not over when the trial ended, and it's no surprise that it still resonates today:

Jun 12, 1921. FIND BODY IN RIVER GARBED IN CLOTHES VEROTTA BOY WORE; Father Identifies Apparel on Child Discovered by Boatman Off Piermont. DISCREPANCY IN HEIGHT Body Is Reported to Be Eight Inches Taller Than Victim of Kidnappers.WAS BURIED AT ONCE New Black Hand Letter Threatens Parent and Detective Fiaschetti With Death. New Black Hand Threat. Prays for Son's Return. BODY IN RIVER HAD LOST BOY'S CLOTHES Five in Tombs Silent. Will Exhume Body Today.

Jun 24, 1921. VAROTTA'S LIFE MENACED.; Black Hand Letter Is Sant to Father of Murdered Boy.


Jun 25, 1921 KIDNAPPING BEFORE JURY.; First-Degree Indictments Are Asked Against Five Varotta Suspects.


Aug 6, 1921. Varotta Murder Trial Tuesday.


Aug 18, 1921. VAROTTA IDENTIFIES KIDNAPPER IN COURT; Declares Raffaele Is One of Band That Demanded $500 Ransom. JUDGE CLEARS COURTROOM Precaution Taken to Protect Witness From Self-StyledBlack Handers.


Aug 19, 1921. DENIES VAROTTA CHARGES.; Raffaele Repudiates Confession in Kidnapping Case.


Aug 20, 1921. VAROTTA KIDNAPPER GUILTY OF MURDER; Jury Returns a First Degree Verdict After Considering Case for Seven Hours. PRAISED BY JUDGE TALLEY Decision Against Raffaele Is Reached After Jury Sees Photograph--Other Trials to Follow. Ransom of $500 Offered. Jury Considers Case 7 Hours.


Aug 23, 1921. VAROTTA KIDNAPPER SENTENCED TO DIE; Roberto Raffaele, First of the Band Tried for Murder of Boy, Protests Innocence. TO BE EXECUTED IN OCTOBER Prisoner, Half Blinded by Cataracts, Is Led by the Hand from Court Room to Cell.


Apr 17, 1922.  ...Varotta Kidnapping Recalled. (bottom of article)


Apr 17, 1922. VEROTTA GETS NEW BLACK HAND THREAT; Warned Against Carving Details of Crime on Monument to His Murdered Son.


Jun 16, 1922. WOMAN FRIES EGGS TO TRAIL MARINO; Mrs. Nicoletti, Police Aid, Says He Promised Return of Boy Afterward Slain.


Jun 26, 1922. VAROTTA GETS ONLY $500; Father of Kidnapped and Drowned Boy Settles $25,000 Award.


Nov 30, 1922. PUTS OFF DEATH SENTENCES; Governor Reprieves Two Until March --One Is Varotta Boy Slayer.

Jun 29, 1923 VEROTTA KIDNAPPERS RECEIVE DEATH STAY; Marino and Cusamano Get Three Months' Respite -- Slayer Gets Last-Minute Reprieve.


Posted Thursday, June 11, 2009 - 3:11pm

Elaine Carey, Lloyd Sealy Library Fellow (and of St. John’s University) will be presenting her research Selling is the habit: Women and drug trafficking in North America, 1900 to 1970.
This Lloyd Sealy Library Fellow Lecture will be held on Wednesday, May 13, 2009, at 3:30 p.m. Location is Room 630T, followed by a reception.

Selling is the habit

Posted Thursday, May 7, 2009 - 11:19am

An unpublished biography of high-flying financial fraudster Charles Ponzi caught the eye of New York Times journalist Ralph Blumenthal, as he searched through the Lloyd Sealy Library's Special Collections. Blumenthal's article Lost manuscript unmasks details of original Ponzi has now been published in the New York Times. The mysterious manuscript was written by the man Ponzi hired to be his publicist, William McNasters - a spectacularly bad hiring decision, as McMasters decided to expose the criminal mastermind. Blumenthals's article has all the details...

Posted Tuesday, May 5, 2009 - 12:38pm

Reserve librarian Kathleen Collin's new book Watching what we eat has just been published! Kathleen will be reading this evening at Book Court in Brooklyn. "Collins scours the archives to show how cooking programs throughout the decades reflect America’s changing cultural mores. From James Beard to Rachael Ray, TV cooking hosts have brought this intimate brand of entertainment into the home, moving from educating the general public on the finer points of home economics to coaching us on developing our inner creativity."

Posted Tuesday, May 5, 2009 - 12:09pm is the world's largest subscription-based database of proprietary, royalty-free world, continent, country, and state maps. Included in the 4,000+ maps are: political maps, physical maps, outline maps, population maps, precipitation maps, climate maps, and other thematic maps. New maps are added to the collection every month.

We have access through June 2009. If you like this database and think we should keep it beyond May, please let us know! Email Gretchen Gross, that's ggross at jjay dot cuny dot edu or post a comment below.

Posted Monday, May 4, 2009 - 10:02am

Litfinder contains the full text of literary works from over 80,000 authors, with broad coverage of canonical, contemporary, award-winning and emerging authors. In addition to the 6,000+ works of short fiction in LitFinder, major novels and works of drama are also included. Litfinder also includes a number of secondary materials, including: Biographical Essays, Topic Overviews, Work Overviews, and Images. We have access to Litfinder through August 2010.

Posted Thursday, April 30, 2009 - 4:15pm

We have just added Proquest Platinum to our list of databases. PQ Platinum is an index with full-text, of articles published in over 2,000 journals and magazines, plus some newspapers. It is similar in terms of coverage to the Academic Search Premier database on the EBSCOhost platform. General broad coverage, not discipline specific. New York State is paying for it, through the NOVELNY consortium. Another new comer is Grolier Online, a small database composed of Encyclopedia Americana and 2 other small reference works.

Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009 - 11:20am

Image of gallows. Image of electric chair

Dr. Paige H. Gordier, Lloyd Sealy Library Fellow for spring 2009, will present her lecture Capital Murder Trials in the Late 1800s: A Reflection of Public Opinion on the Death Penalty. This presentation will focus on the capital murder trials which took place in the county of New York in the late 1800s. Trial transcripts and newspapers of the times were used to determine what crime, offender and victim related characteristics would most often result in a death sentence. Dr. Gordier's study also focuses on the influence of public opinion on the criminal trial process. Public opinion on capital punishment, immigration and the role of women are reflected in the trial process and in particular, in the jury selection process.

Please join us for this exciting event! Monday, March 30, 2009, Room 630T, at 3:30 p.m. A reception will follow the lecture.

Posted Monday, March 23, 2009 - 2:24pm

In partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, the library has arranged a short series of information literacy workshops for John Jay faculty. Click here for more information.

Posted Thursday, March 5, 2009 - 3:26pm

Ron Arons is appearing in a panel discussion at the Tenement Museum on March 11 at 6:30 PM, entitled Jews behaving badly. Appearing with Ron Arons will be Rich Cohen and Rose Keefe, to discuss gangsters and other notorious law breakers. Their books include The Jews of Sing-Sing, Tough Jews and The Starker: Big Jack Zelig, the Becker-Rosenthal Case, and The Advent of the Jewish Gangster. More information about the event can be found here. Ron Arons is a scholar who has spent a lot of time in the John Jay Special Collections carrying out research for his recent book, The Jews of Sing Sing: Gotham gangsters and gonuvim (call no: Stacks - HV6194 .J4 A76 2008 ). Information about the book can be seen on Aron's website.

Posted Thursday, March 5, 2009 - 3:18pm