Handwritten Letter from Dorothy Russell Calvit

The Kornbluth letter also enclosed a handwritten letter from Dorothy Russell Calvit to Kornbluth, corroborating the latter’s innocence.  To read that letter, see below

In the final analysis, the Kornbluth incident says more about the scorched-earth approach that Dewey (and McCook) brought to the Luciano prosecution than it does about any alleged witness tampering by the defense.  Dewey appears to have been willing to smear the name of an innocent and reputable attorney in order to advance a fictional narrative in which dark forces were at work behind the scenes trying to undermine his prosecutorial efforts.

Ironically, however, there was a thread that ran through the Kornbluth affidavit which, if pulled, might have yielded material benefit for both Levy and Luciano.  I refer specifically to Dorothy Calvit’s statement to her attorney that Cokey Flo had given Calvit “some information for the purpose of enabling [Calvit] to write a story” based on Cokey Flo’s life which Calvit had submitted to Macfadden Publications – the publisher of Liberty magazine – but that had been rejected as “too much like fiction.”

The significance of this statement – made while the trial was still in progress – would not become apparent until after the verdict, when both Cokey Flo and Mildred Balitzer/Harris sold their life stories to Macfadden Publications in a deal brokered by Dewey and his chief assistant, Barent Ten Eyck.  Helen Horvath/Kelly, in her affidavit, suggests that both Mildred and Cokey Flo were promised a film and magazine deal with Liberty as consideration for their perjured testimony against Luciano.  Dewey and Ten Eyck would deny these allegations, insisting that the Macfadden opportunity did not present itself, and was never discussed with the women, until after the trial was over.

We now know, however, thanks to the Kornbluth affidavit, that Cokey Flo, when she was negotiating the terms of her testimony with Dewey and Ten Eyck, was aware of Macfadden Publications and had already attempted, through Calvit, to peddle her life story there.  Is it coincidence, then, that the selfsame opportunity just happened to present itself to Cokey Flo after she’d testified?  Or is it just as likely that Cokey Flo, like Mildred before her, had used the sale of her life story as a bargaining chip in her negotiations with Dewey and Ten Eyck?

History, not incidentally, will reflect that the stories attributed to Mildred and Cokey Flo did appear in Liberty magazine, under the heading “Underworld Nights,” over a period of several weeks beginning with the December 12, 1936 issue, and that Warner Brothers did acquire film rights from Macfadden before releasing the movie Marked Woman in 1937, in which a crime-busting district attorney (played by Humphrey Bogart) convinces a reluctant “nightclub hostess” (played by Bette Davis) to testify against the city’s biggest gangster.

Truth, it is said, can be stranger than fiction.