Thomas Dewey brought forward many witnesses who convinced judge and jury that Luciano had been running a network of brothels that were often managed like slave labour camps. Women had been known to end up in hospital after beatings meted out by Luciano’s henchmen. The mobster denied all charges and didn’t worry too much about the situation, believing he would get off lightly. But Dewey gave a masterful performance and summation, which resulted in the jury finding the defendant guilty on all charges. Instead of receiving a ‘light’ sentence, the 37-year-old Luciano faced a staggering forty-years behind bars.
On 2 July 1936, Luciano was sent to Clinton State Prison at Dannemora in upstate New York. It was known as the ‘Siberia’ of all American penitentiaries due to its isolation and the way it treated its prisoners, which was far from compassionate. He was confined to his cell for most of the day and often separated from other prisoners. If that wasn’t humiliating enough he was also put to work in the laundry.
Despite this rigid alienation Luciano still miraculously able ran his empire from prison. He also appeared to be getting his ‘lucky’ streak back when Naval Intelligence decided that Luciano may be able to help the war effort through his Mafia connections. On 12 May 1942 he was moved to Great Meadow Prison, a far more agreeable jail in order that he try and influence the Mafia in Sicily to help the US military get the Axis forces off the island. According to reports, he did just that.
This contribution to the war effort earned Luciano an early release, ironically presided over by Thomas Dewey - now Governor of New York - who had originally put him away. Luciano was granted commutation on the grounds that he returned to Italy.