2012-09-06 / Editorial

Scattering Seeds

BY JOHN A. MURPHY

The 37th anniversary went by this August with virtually no public mention or note whatsoever. There is a lesson in that lack of attention. We learn that significant events, even those that contemporaneously received intense and sustained media attention, are largely forgotten once those that personally experienced the event have grown old or passed away.

Thirty-seven years ago, the state of Rhode Island experienced what was then, and remains now, its largest armed robbery. Largest in terms of the amount stolen, and largest in terms of the size of the gang of perpetrators, co-conspirators and enablers.

This crime was the largest also when measured by the length of the police and judicial proceedings that involved the prosecution of some, but not all, of its perpetrators. The pretrial proceedings and jury trial of six of the 12 who conspired to or actually committed the crime consumed much of 1976. Post-trial proceedings, culminating in a dramatic ruling by the United States Supreme Court, lasted for many years after that trial.

This crime, its planning and its aftermath expose, for those who care to look, how organized crime then affected many areas of life within our state, and what law enforcement officials had to do to combat those impacts.

Now, many of the principal participants in these events have died. The youngest of those that survive is now pushing 70 years of age. When the last survivors are gone, the opportunity to learn key details of a truly fascinating story of 20th century life in Rhode Island will likely be lost forever.

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