Sacco and Vanzetti were always guilty
Terrorists caught red handed become victim-martyrs for a new religion
On April 15, 1920, the Slater-Morrill Shoe Company factory in Braintree, Massachusetts was robbed by a gang of what’s generally believed to be 5 men. Two men, security guard Alessandro Berardelli and factory paymaster Frederick Parmenter, were transporting the workers’ pay between buildings when the gang fell upon them. Berardelli was shot immediately as he tried to draw his gun. Parmenter, who was unarmed, was shot once in the chest and then a second time in the back as he was trying to flee. The gang sped off, easily escaping the tiny local police force as it scrambled to respond. The robbers aimed guns and fired at crowds of witnesses on their way out of town.
Investigators were able to recover six of the bullets fired into the victims. Although 5 had been fired from a Savage 1907, a 6th was fired from an unknown but different .32 caliber pistol. Among the shell casings found, the most notable discovery was that two of the shells were of a very rare Winchester type that had been discontinued from production years before and was impossible to buy commercially.
Police noticed the parallels between the Braintree robbery and a December 24, 1919 robbery in Bridgewater, MA. A group of 4 men in a stolen car had attacked a truck carrying payroll cash. Although no one was injured in that crime, the robbers sprayed gunfire at the truck and surrounding vehicles as guards returned fire. A shotgun shell was recovered from the crime scene. The perpetrators were suspected to be Italian Anarchists, then desperate to raise funds for the legal defense of their members caught up in an accelerating Department of Justice investigation into domestic radicalism.
At the time Anarchists, mostly Italian followers of Luigi Galleani (dubbed Galleanists), were engaged in a nationwide bombing campaign targeting officials who opposed radicalism or immigration. Although Galleani, who openly advocated for terrorism and assassinations, had been deported earlier that year, his remaining followers continued his work shielded by the often-impenetrable Italian immigrant community.
Detectives travelled to the home of Ferruccio Coacci, a local anarchist organizer who had been an employee of both factories that were robbed. Although Coacci was not home, police encountered Mario Buda. Buda was another Italian Anarchist who would later come to be a prime suspect in the then-ongoing nationwide Anarchist bombing campaign. Coacci was reported by Buda to have owned a pistol, though it was never recovered. A manufacturer’s diagram schematic of a Savage 1907 was found in Coacci’s kitchen.
Buda gave police a fake name and told them he was a food salesman, though at the time he was a bootlegger. Buda’s car was stored nearby in a repair shop, having not been run for several months. Detectives suspected that it had been used as a getaway vehicle for an earlier robbery. Buda fled town shortly after meeting with police and left the car at the shop. Police asked the mechanic to notify them if anyone attempted to pick up the vehicle.
Several months later, Buda returned to the shop with Ricardo Orciani, another Italian Anarchist, and Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who Buda described as his best friends. All were followers of Luigi Galleani who had met each other at various anti-war protests and strikes in the preceding years. They had recently fled to Mexico together to avoid being drafted for WWI and to prepare for a rumored communist revolution1 in Italy that never came.
The mechanic, thinking quickly, convinced Buda that he should not pick up the car until after Buda had obtained new license plates. Suspecting a trap, Buda and Orciani sped off on a motorcycle while Sacco and Vanzetti walked to a nearby trolley, where they were intercepted by local police. The men were searched. Sacco and Vanzetti both claimed that they were unarmed, but were later discovered to be carrying concealed pistols and ammunition.
Sacco was found with a loaded .32ACP Colt 1903 and about 30 rounds of loose ammunition in his pocket. Several of the spare rounds and those in the magazine were of the same obsolete Winchester type found at the Braintree murder scene, and the rest were of the same type as the more modern shell casings found at the scene. Modern ballistics tests conducted decades after the fact would later prove that the obsolete bullet recovered from the dead guard was fired by the gun found on Sacco.
Vanzetti was found concealing a revolver of the same make and model, a .38 caliber nickle-plated Harrington & Richardson revolver, that was carried by the guard who was killed in the Braintree murder. The guard’s revolver wasn’t recovered at the scene and was suspected to have been taken off his body by the robbers. Vanzetti was also carrying 4 shotgun shells that matched those recovered at the Bridgewater crime scene, though no shotgun was found and he didn’t appear to own a shotgun.
The pair were also carrying anarchist literature. Both denied they were involved with anarchists. They gave fake names and false explanations as to why they were in town. They denied ever knowing Buda or Coacci. Everything they told police was a lie. They were placed under arrested and confined without bail. After Sacco and Vanzetti’s arrest, Orciani was arrested but released after a punch card showed that someone had punched into work for him on the day of the robbery, Coacci was deported for spreading literature advocating the overthrow of the government (immigration officials were unaware of his involvement in the case), and Buda just disappeared.
Vanzetti was first charged with armed robbery over the Bridgewater incident. Sacco was not charged because he had a solid alibi—he was at work that day. Several reliable witnesses came forward identifying Vanzetti as one of the robbers, but some of their testimony was inconsistent. One witness identified him as the driver of the getaway car even though he did not know how to drive. This was explained by prosecutors as Vanzetti simply moving his head towards the front of the car from the back seat to get a better view. The shotgun shell found in Vanzetti’s pocket the night he was captured was also of the exact same type recovered at the Bridgewater crime scene. Discussion of Vanzetti’s political beliefs was forbidden during the trial.
The defense called more than a dozen of Vanzetti’s neighbors in North Plymouth, who all claimed that Vanzetti was delivering eels on the day of the Bridgewater robbery. These witnesses did not make a good impression. Most required an interpreter or spoke very broken English. They were easily confused when asked about events of the surrounding days. One of them, a young boy, admitted that his testimony had been heavily coached.
Much discussion was made of the length of Vanzetti’s mustache. The defense claimed it had never been trimmed, which contrasted with witnesses claiming that the gunman they identified as Vanzetti had a shorter or cropped mustache. The prosecution tried to discredit this line of attack using one of the defense witnesses, Vernazano, who was Vanzetti’s barber and claimed he would have noticed if Vanzetti changed his moustache. The prosecutor asked Vernazano if a well known member of his community had a moustache. Vernazano replied confidently that he knew the man by sight and that he had a small light moustache. The prosecutor then called that same man to the stand, where he stated that he had never had a moustache before.
The jury deliberated briefly but convicted Vanzetti of all charges on July 1, 1920. Vanzetti would later claim that his lawyer, who would go into private practice with the prosecutor years later, deliberately threw the case. It was also claimed that Vanzetti was brought to trial first because the case against him was weaker than the one against Sacco. An earlier conviction would discredit him at the later trial.
This conviction sparked a wave of revenge attacks from anarchists across the country. Most notably, on September 16, 1920, someone detonated a carriage filled with gunpowder outside Wall Street in New York City. 40 were killed in the explosion and more than 130 were seriously injured. It was the deadliest act of terrorism in US history at that point.
Anarchist literature demanding the release of “political prisoners” was found at the scene, almost certainly a reference to Sacco and Vanzetti. The cart used in the bombing was traced back to a dealer who said he had sold it to an unknown man Sicilian origin. Although the official investigation never identified a culprit, in 1991 historian Paul Avrich proposed2 that it was Mario Buda, Sacco and Vanzetti’s close friend who was with them the day they were arrested, who was behind the bombing. Buda was closely tied to other similar bombings across the country and was part of the same Galleanist terror network Sacco and Vanzetti were members of.
Buda is also the lead suspect in the 1917 Milwaukee Police Department bombing, in which an anarchist bomb planted at an Evangelical church detonated after it was taken a police station for inspection. Eleven were killed and many more injured. It was the deadliest single event for law enforcement until the September 11th attacks.
Bolstering their connections to anarchist terror at the time, Sacco and Vanzetti were also close friends3 with the deceased Anarchist bomber Carlo Valdinoci, who was killed when the bomb he was planting outside Attorney General Michael A. Palmer’s home exploded prematurely. The bomb scattered Valdinoci’s body parts all over the street. Valdinoci’s widow moved in with Sacco and his wife after her husband’s death.
A year passed as preparation for the Braintree murder trial began. Although Vanzetti’s first lawyer had been a well-respected local figure, the increasingly well-funded defense committee that had formed through the Northeast radical community selected Fred Moore to be the lead defense attorney for the upcoming trial. Moore was a flamboyant and energetic lawyer from California who had made a name for himself defending communists, anarchists, and labor organizers across the country. He also, as it would later be revealed, had serious ethical problems.
The trial began May 21, 1921. From the opening arguments, Moore enraged the judge with his unprofessional and deliberately confrontational behavior. Although in trials lawyers are expected to object often, Moore would object to anything the prosecutors said, often on very frivolous grounds. It was a tactic to turn the trial into a circus. Moore repeatedly tried to make politics a central issue in the case. The judge, though he repeatedly reminded the jury to be fair, could not conceal his enormous dislike of Moore. The judge once exclaimed to reporters that "no long-haired anarchist from California can run this court!"
The case against Sacco was very strong. One of the witnesses said that Sacco had aimed a gun directly at him as he passed by in the getaway vehicle. The obsolete Winchester bullets Sacco was found with, the same kind recovered from one of the victim’s bodies, were so rare that neither defense nor prosecution ballistics experts could find copies of their own to test before trial. One of the jurors wrote in his memoirs later that the ballistic evidence was what the jury found most convincing.
The case against Vanzetti was less strong, though still compelling. Though four eye-witnesses placed him at the scene, they sometimes gave contradictory statements. The strongest evidence was the revolver he was found with. It was of the same make and model owned by the dead guard, who had been found with an empty holster. Furthermore, the guard had recently taken his revolver back to its factory to be repaired. The same parts that the guard had had replaced at the factory were brand new in the revolver Vanzetti was discovered with, though none of the other parts were. The factory supervisor who had sold the gun to the dead guard also described scuffs on the grip that matched those on the gun found on Vanzetti.
Vanzetti gave several conflicting explanations as to where he came across the revolver. At first he claimed he had bought it from a shop near his home, but when that was revealed to be a lie after he testified to it on the stand, he said he had bought it from local marble cutter Luigi Falzini who had in turn bought it from Riccardo Orciani. Orciani was one of the Italian Anarchists who travelled with Buda, Sacco, and Vanzetti to recover the suspected getaway vehicle. Orciani refused to testify at the trial and at the time was employed as defense lawyer Moore’s chauffeur.
Vanzetti also gave several conflicting explanations as to what he was doing with the three other anarchists before he was arrested. At first he claimed he was in town to help retrieve anarchist literature to prevent local anarchists from being persecuted for their beliefs, he was unable to name any of these people or provide their addresses. He later admitted this explanation was a lie and said he was in town to meet a friend, “Pappi,” whose real name or address he did not know. It was not a compelling performance. Vanzetti was obviously being dishonest.
The defense brought forth a number of different witnesses to give Sacco and Vanzetti alibis for the time of the crime. The jury did not find these witnesses convincing, for what was later revealed to be good reason.
Activist writer Upton Sinclair wrote extensively about the Sacco and Vanzetti case as it was occurring, calling their convictions one of the most shocking crimes of the century. He wrote an entire novel, “Boston,” outlining the so-called farce the two were subjected to. Years later, Sinclair met Moore in Denver. Sinclair described the encounter in a 1929 letter to a friend:
Alone in a hotel room with Fred [Moore], I begged him to tell me the full truth… He then told me that the men were guilty, and he told me in every detail how he had framed a set of alibis for them.
The letter was not discovered until 2005. Sinclair never publicly spoke about this meeting, made no changes to his work, and continued to insist Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent in public and in private. Although this letter doesn’t act as proof of guilt in its own right, it does provide pretty compelling evidence that Sacco and Vanzetti’s defense was not as iron-clad as the media of the time made it out to be.
Moore also apparently told Sinclair the real reason for Sacco and Vanzetti’s dishonesty the night they were arrested: They were actually in town to retrieve dynamite4 hidden by other anarchists.
The trial was full of shady dealing on the part of the defense. One witness reveled on the stand that she had been offered a bribe of a better job by Moore. Decades later, Boston mobster Joe Sammarco (who was convicted of murdering a police officer and did 33 years in jail) said that Moore approached him at that time and asked him to confess to the Bridgewater robbery. According to Sammarco, Moore said that he would pay him $10,000 and arrange for his escape from prison if he made the false confession.
Sacco and Vanzetti would both be convicted of murder on July 21, 1921. Every single juror insisted that the men’s political beliefs had not played a role in their conviction. The response was global outrage. Sacco and Vanzetti were widely declared to be innocent by communist, anarchist, socialist, and mainstream liberal publications. Elenore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, H.G. Wells, and even Benito Mussolini declared that men had been victims of prejudice and unfairly convicted. Songs were written, bestselling books published, huge public demonstrations occurred. These protests were organized and funded largely by the Communist Red Aid International, operated by the Soviet government, as later declassified Soviet archives would prove5.
“New evidence” emerged. Celestino Medeiros, a career criminal caught red-handed committing murder and already facing the electric chair, claimed that he was the actual killer and Sacco and Vanzetti were incident. There was no evidence beyond his word to support this confession and he misstated key details of the crime, but this claim did extend his time on death row for another two years.
The defense hired a new ballistics expert, Albert H. Hamilton, who claimed that there was no way the bullets fired came from the gun Sacco was found with. Hamilton, who had a reputation as a fraud, was later caught in a strange slight-of-hand trick, disassembling the suspected murder weapon and two identical new guns next to each other to demonstrate the interchangeability of parts. The judge stopped him and demanded he put the guns back together. Hamilton complied and pocketed the “new” guns, then tried to leave the courtroom with them. The judge stopped him and demanded everything he had handled be placed into evidence. When the suspected murder weapon was examined a year later, it had a brand new barrel. The muzzle-end of the new barrel was treated with some kind of chemical6 to appear more worn. The original barrel was in one of the pistols Hamilton had tried to leave with.
Some evidence used during the trial was discredited over time. A hat alleged to have belonged to Sacco turned out to have been picked up from the street days after the crime and had a hole torn in it (claimed by the prosecution to be used by Sacco to hang the hat on a nail) by the local police chief. The prosecution claimed they had no knowledge of this and a juror said the hat had essentially no impact on their decision. The records of the factory that repaired the victim’s revolver (apparently erroneously) labeled it as .32 rather than a .38 when it was returned, though they show the victim dropped off a .38 revolver. Questions were raised about some of the witness testimony. However, the strongest evidence against the pair, the guns and ammunition they were found with, remained fundamentally undisturbed.
All while this was going on, both Sacco and Vanzetti loudly proclaimed their innocence. Sacco gave a huge speech to the courtroom decrying his unfair treatment at the hands of the capitalist and imperialist American system. Vanzetti eloquently declared himself a pacifist and endorsed Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs.
In 1926, a bomb destroyed the home of the brother of the garage owner who called the police on Sacco and Vanzetti to begin with. In Colorado, thousands of coal minors went on strike in solidarity. A mail bomb was sent to the Governor of Massachusetts, but was intercepted before it could explode. On August 15, 1927 a bomb exploded at the home of one of the jurors who had convicted Vanzetti at the first trial for armed robbery. One of the defense lawyers travelled to the home of the dead guard’s widow and falsely claimed that she now believed the men were innocent and asked for clemency. This lie was reprinted in major newspapers across the world.
On August 22 and 23, 1927, both men were executed using the electric chair. More than 200,000 people came out to see the funeral procession. The pair had maintained their innocence to their dying breaths.
It was all bullshit. I hope everyone in America 2023 realizes what this process is like by now. You have these guys who are caught with overwhelming evidence, and people just lie about everything constantly. This goes on for decades. There’s an emotional superstructure built around core facts that are completely made up. Minor details are picked apart endlessly while the actual major issues remain unaddressed and eventually forgotten. A movie is made and people become unable to separate the pictures on the screen from the pictures in their minds.
There is just no plausible story to explain how Sacco and Vanzetti came to be illegally carrying the murder weapon, the ultra-rare ammunition, and a gun taken from the scene of the crime without their being actively involved in the robbery and murders in some way. Their associations with violent radicals and the web of lies they told when first confronted make their later explanations even more laughable.
Their claims of pacifism are nonsensical, they were well-armed when they were captured. Their own lawyer admitted some their alibis were outright fabricated. The flowery language they used as their execution approached was truly shameless. In 1926 Vanzetti declared “I will try to see Thayer [the trial judge] death before his pronunciation of our sentence", and requested from anarchists "revenge, revenge in our names and the names of our living and dead." In 1932, the judge’s house was bombed as he and his family slept. Although the bomb was so powerful that nearby houses were also severely damaged, there were miraculously no casualties. The judge had to have police protection for the rest of his life.
Apparently Carlo Tresca, the anarchist who headed the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee, was telling people as early as 19417 that Sacco was guilty and Vanzetti was innocent. What exactly Tresca meant by “innocent” is still unclear. It’s very possible that Vanzetti was also at the Braintree robbery but simply didn’t fire his gun. This would still make him guilty of murder.
There was more than enough evidence presented at trial to convict both men of the crimes that they were accused of. Many people identified them at the scene. The ultra- rare ammunition caught Sacco dead to rights. At the very least, possessing the gun taken off the victim, Vanzetti must have known who the real killers were and protected them. Both he and Sacco were undeniably part of a terrorist network that killed dozens of people. Good riddance to both of them.
Why the lies? They were both revolutionaries. Vanzetti wrote “It remains to us to sweep [bourgeois capitalism] off the face of the earth. To destroy for to create.”8 Sacco gave a speech condemning inequality in America that was followed by “That is why I destroy governments, boys.” These guys were radicals. They lived for their cause and died for it too. It’s not like people with similar dispositions today have any particular compunction about not telling the truth. We all remember that doctor testifying during the George Floyd trial that the massive amount of drugs Floyd consumed and Floyd’s pre-existing medical conditions played no role in his death. It’s ridiculous on its face but they don’t give a shit. They’re all in it together.
Sacco and Vanzetti remain within America’s popular memory as bludgeon against normal Americans. “These two innocent men were railroaded by country bumpkins and corrupt rightwing officials in Massachusetts just because they were foreigners and pacifists.” This is the message people across the world have been spoon-fed for decades. If you don’t look any further into the case, it’s easy to see how someone might fall for this message. In reality, these guys were terrorists who were convicted with overwhelming evidence. The case only became stronger after their deaths.
Researching this topic, I’ve come across several articles written for mainstream publications in the last few years that claimed the pair were innocent and don’t even mention that they were found with the murder weapon and a gun taken from the scene. There have been libraries worth of lies written to this effect. “Beyond a reasonable doubt,” the legal standard for guilt in a criminal case, is often conflated in the public square with “No doubt at all.” This makes it virtually impossible to find anyone guilty of anything, unless of course they’ve drawn the ire of the mob.
Please, whenever you see a new case of the week mentioned by liberals as an example of historical or contemporary injustice, do not believe them. Do not give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume everything they say is a lie until you can actually investigate it for yourself. Ignore secondary sources written by activists. Assume that the opposite of whatever they say happened. Ignore “new witnesses” or “new evidence” that have never been scrutinized by a court. It’s probably fake. Read the trial transcript if you can actually find it. But, whatever you do, do not let them act sanctimonious about this or that lie that has been snowballing for over 100 years.
Sacco & Vanzetti : The Case Resolved, pg 77
Sacco and Vanzetti : The Anarchist Background, pg 203
Sacco and Vanzetti : The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind, pg 15
Sacco & Vanzetti : The Case Resolved, pg 105
Sacco & Vanzetti : The Case Resolved, pg 4
Sacco & Vanzetti : The Case Resolved, pg 151
Sacco & Vanzetti : The Case Resolved, pg 29
Sacco & Vanzetti : The Case Resolved, pg 216