When Corruption Was King

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When Corruption Was King
When Corruption Was King.jpg
North American first edition cover
Author Robert Cooley, with Hillel Levin
Country United States
Language English
Genre Memoir
Publisher Carroll & Graf
Publication date
August 10, 2004
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 336 pages
ISBN 0786713305

When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down is a memoir written by Robert Cooley, a lawyer who worked for Mafia criminals in Chicago, U.S.A., but eventually turned in his former clients.[1] The book is co-written by journalist Hillel Levin[1] and was published by Perseus Publishing in 2004.[2] It details Cooley's friendships with Pat Marcy, Harry Aleman and Tony Spilotro, as well as telling the story of the nine trials in which Cooley helped the U.S. Organized Crime Strike Force convict several key Mafia figures.[1]


Robert Cooley was the Chicago Mafia’s “Mechanic”—a fixer of court cases. During the 1970s and 1980s, Cooley bribed judges, court clerks, and cops to keep his Mob clients— hit men, bookies, racketeers, and crooked politicians— out of jail. Paid handsomely for his services, he lived fast and enjoyed the protection of the men he served.

He had enough money to blow on all the vices the Windy City could offer, and enough standing among mobsters to know he would never be caught. Yet, through the 1990s, Cooley became the star witness in a series of trials that took down the Chicago Outfit, arguably the most powerful Mafia family in the history of organized crime.[1]


This is the story of a Mob lawyer turned mole with a million-dollar contract on his head who has clanged back and forth between sin and sainthood like a church bell clapper—a turbulent youth, a stint on Chicago’s police force, law school, and then the inner sanctum of Chicago’s leading mobsters and corrupt political officials. With wild abandon he chased crooked acquittals for the likes of Pat Marcy, originally an Al Capone protégé who had become the Mob’s key political operative; ruthless Mafia Capo and gambling czar Marco D'Amico; and notorious hit man Harry Aleman. He dined with Mob bosses and shared “last suppers” with friends before their gangland executions. Cooley watched as Marcy and the Mob controlled the courts, the cops, and the politicians. Then, in a startling act of conscience, he walked into the office of the U.S. Organized Crime Strike Force and, without a pending conviction or a hit man on his tail, agreed to wear a wire on the same Mafia overlords who had made him a player.

Cooley’s tapes and testimony would be at the center of nine landmark trials that together exposed and then broke the Mob’s unprecedented stranglehold on Chicago’s government and court system. With stunning detail and brutal honesty, Cooley now tells the personal story behind the federal government’s most successful Mafia investigation known as Operation Gambat (from Gambling Attorney).[1]

Film adaptation[edit]

In March 2011, Paramount Pictures announced in Variety Mark Wahlberg's attachment to produce and possibly star in the movie adaptation of "When Corruption Was King," along with "Twilight Saga" producers Temple Hill.[3][4][5]

Variety reported that Frank Baldwin is adapting the script based on Robert Cooley's memoirs "about a southside Chicago lawyer who becomes the mob's most trusted attorney until, as a state witness, he brings the organization down."