Joe "Pegleg" Morgan
April 10, 1929|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||November 9, 1993
California State Prison, Corcoran, U.S.
|Other names||Pegleg (The nickname that law enforcement gave him)|
|life with the possibility of parole|
|Criminal status||charged and convicted, penalty served|
Joseph Morgan (April 10, 1929 – November 9, 1993) was the co-founder of the Mexican Mafia, despite not having Mexican ancestry. He received the nickname "Pegleg" by authorities because of his prosthetic leg.
Morgan was born in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, California, to a Croatian family and grew up in a Croatian & Mexican neighborhood. Later, he was raised by his mother in a Hispanic neighborhood in East Los Angeles. In the late 1930s, he joined what was believed to be the first Maravilla street gang.
In 1946, Morgan beat to death the husband of his 32-year-old girlfriend and buried the body in a shallow grave. While awaiting trial, he escaped using the identification papers of a fellow inmate awaiting transfer to a forestry camp. He was recaptured and sentenced to 9 years at San Quentin State Prison. He was only 17 at the time.
In 1961, he led 11 inmates in a jailbreak from Los Angeles County Jail through a pipe shaft and using hacksaw blades he hid in his prosthetic leg.
Morgan was well respected within the ranks of the Mexican Mafia and became a high-ranking member. His connections with cocaine and heroin suppliers in Mexico helped pave the foundation for the Mexican Mafia's narcotics distribution throughout California.
Morgan as a member of the Mexican Mafia committed the first prison gang street execution in Los Angeles in 1971.
On October 27, 1993, he was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer while serving a life sentence at California State Prison, Corcoran. His wife requested that he be released on compassionate release, but he died on November 9th, before the process began. "When I visited him about six months ago, he appeared to be losing some weight and his color didn't look good, but Joe is a very private person and he didn't complain", said his attorney, Shirley MacDonald, after his death.
In 1992, the film American Me was released, which was based on the history of the Mexican Mafia. A principal supporting character is "J.D." (played by William Forsythe), a non-Mexican member who has an artificial leg. Edward James Olmos (the movie's writer/director/star) attempted to visit Morgan in hopes that he would gain his approval of the movie. Morgan refused to see him and filed a lawsuit against Olmos and Universal Studios alleging inaccuracies in the film. It has been alleged that at least two people were killed on account of Mexican Mafia displeasure with the script, including former Mexican Mafia members and affiliates who had served as advisers during the making of the movie. (p. 115-120)
At the time of his death, his wife filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Edward James Olmos and the filmmakers, claiming the film did not request her permission for basing one of the characters on Morgan. The result of the lawsuit is not known at this time.
- Katz, Jesse (1993-11-10). "Reputed Mexican Mafia Leader Dies in Prison at 64". latimes.com. Retrieved 2013-01-13.
- Blatchford, Chris (2008). The Black Hand. ISBN 978-0-06-125729-2.