It should not be surprising that the cat-and-mouse intrigues that played out behind the scenes of the Luciano vice trial began long before the jury’s verdict was returned on June 7, 1936.
Take, for example, the testimony of star prosecution witness “Cokey Flo” Brown (aka Florence Newman, Frances Martin, Mildred Nelson, Fay Marston, Gloria Moore, and Florence Stern). Cokey Flo was a grifter, a madam, a heroin addict, and a sometimes prostitute who, when the Luciano trial began, was in the agonizing throes of opiate withdrawal in the Women’s House of Detention, awaiting sentence on a recent solicitation conviction and trial on three earlier offenses on which she’d jumped bail. It was from this desperate position that Cokey Flo volunteered to give state’s evidence against Luciano, and it was her dramatic trial testimony that would, in the final analysis, turn the tide for the prosecution.
Immediately before her solicitation arrest on May 8, 1936, Cokey Flo had been employed as a caretaker/typist for an aspiring writer named Dorothy Russell Calvit, the daughter of legendary stage actress Lillian Russell. During the course of her three days on the witness stand in the Luciano vice trial – May 21 through 23 – Cokey Flo disclosed this previous employment, compelling George Morton Levy, eager for any means by which to cross-examine Cokey Flo, to seek the intervention of Calvit’s long-time attorney, a man named Samuel Kornbluth.
While Levy learned little of value from Calvit via Kornbluth, both men received a shocking lesson in the lengths to which Dewey (and Justice McCook) would go to protect the prosecution’s case and, in the process, attempt to mold public opinion.
A first-hand account of Samuel Kornbluth’s Kafkaesque ordeal: