Daniel H. Coakley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Daniel H. Coakley
Member of the Massachusetts Governor's Council from the 4th district
In office
Preceded byJames H. Brennan
Succeeded byJohn M. Cunningham
Personal details
BornDecember 10, 1865
South Boston
DiedSeptember 18, 1952 (aged 86)
Political partyDemocratic
ChildrenDaniel H. Coakley Jr.
OccupationHorse car conductor

Daniel Henry Coakley[1] (December 10, 1865 – September 18, 1952) was an American political figure and lawyer. As an attorney, he took part in numerous badger game extortion schemes.[2] He was disbarred in 1922 for deceit, malpractice, and gross misconduct.[1] He later was elected to the Massachusetts Governor's Council, where he secured a pardon for mobster Raymond L. S. Patriarca.[3] He was impeached in 1941 for using his position and influence to secure pardons in exchange for financial gain.[4]

Early life[edit]

Coakley was born on December 10, 1865 in South Boston. He attended Boston College, but did not graduate due to illness. Once he recovered he went to work for his father as a teamster. He left this job to work as a conductor for the Cambridge Street Railway. Coakley was fired in 1886 when he led a strike for higher wages. He then went to work for The New York Sun as a shorthand reporter. In 1888, he returned to Boston as sports writer for the Boston Herald. He was later promoted to sports editor. In addition to sports writing, Coakley also worked as a boxing referee. In 1892, Coakley left the Herald to attend Boston University Law School and launch his first campaign for public office.[5][6]

Early political career[edit]

In 1892, Coakley was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives from Cambridge's Ward 2. He was unseated in 1896 and moved to Boston, where he worked on the reelection campaign of Boston mayor John F. Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald later appointed Coakley to the Boston Park Commission.[5] In 1909, Coakley managed the election campaign Suffolk County District Attorney Joseph C. Pelletier.[3]

Legal career[edit]

Coakley read law at his brother Timothy's law firm. He failed his first three attempts at the bar exam.[3] Coakley was admitted to the Massachusetts bar on July 9, 1897 and the federal bar on January 25, 1911.[1]

In 1909, Coakley served as the defense attorney for George H. Battis, a former Boston Alderman who was charged with larceny from the city of Boston.[7] Battis was found guilty on two charges of larceny.[8] That same year Coakley served as defense counsel for Michael J. Mitchell, the former head of Boston's supply department, who was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the city and conspiracy to commit larceny.[9][10] Coakley also served as counsel for William J. "Big Bill" Keliher. Keliher was convicted of aiding in the looting of the National City Bank of Cambridge. He and Coakley later had a disagreement, leading to an incident which the police were called to remove Keliher from Coakley's office.[11] He accused Coakley of taking money from him to bribe United States Attorney Asa P. French, one French's assistants, and the jury. French did not believe Keliher's accusations and chose not to investigate.[12]

In 1915, Coakley was hired to represent the Tylose Contracting Company before the Boston Finance Commission, which was investigating the usefulness and cost of the company's floor preservative.[13] The commission's public hearings lasted over 30 days and more than 65 witnesses were called. The commission found that tylose was a suitable floor preservative, and although it criticized the price the city paid for it, found no graft.[14]

Toodles affair[edit]

Coakley developed a strong dislike for Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald after Fitzgerald demanded the resignation of and testified in court against one of Coakley's clients, Michael J. Mitchell.[2] In 1913, Elizabeth "Toodles" Ryan, a cigarette girl at an illegal gambling establishment, hired Coakley to represent her in lawsuit against her employer, Henry Mansfield, who she said had reneged on his promise to marry her. Ryan revealed to Coakley that she had kissed Fitzgerald and Coakley turned over this information to one of Fitzgerald's political rivals, James Michael Curley. Coakley and Curley sent a letter revealing the affair to Fitzgerald's wife.[2][15] Curley then announced a series a public lectures, including one entitled "Great Lovers in History; From Cleopatra to Toodles."[15][2][9][16] Fitzgerald soon dropped out of the 1913 mayoral race (which Curley went on to win) and Curley never delivered the lecture.[15][2] During Ryan's trial, Coakley elicited testimony from another man who had been involved with Ryan that he had witnessed Fitzgerald kiss Ryan. The incident was now a matter of official court record and made front-page headlines, which started the decline of Fitzgerald's political career.[2]

Alliance with Curley[edit]

During Curley's first term, Coakley represented the Mayor during the Boston Finance Commission's investigation into Curley's finances. Coakley was able to have the investigation dropped by having the case transferred to one of his allies, Suffolk County District Attorney Joseph Pelletier.[3] In 1917, Curley made Coakley a trustee of the Boston Public Library.[5] Coakley and Curley later had a falling out after Curley attacked Pelletier, who was considering running against Curley for mayor.[3]


Coakley served as an attorney for financier Charles Ponzi. Coakley received $25,000 a year from Ponzi in legal fees.[17] Coakley turned in the money he had received from Ponzi to the receivers in Ponzi's bankruptcy case.[18] Coakley, along with fellow attorney Daniel V. McIsaac, advised Ponzi not to fight the case, which, along with the urging of his wife, convinced Ponzi to plead guilty to federal charges in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence. Coakley was later called as a witness in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' case against Ponzi.[19]


On December 16, 1918, the council of the Boston Bar Association voted to investigate the conduct of Pelletier, Coakley, and Francis Carroll in connection with a case involving Emerson Motors Company. Robert D. Weston was appointed to present evidence to the bar association's subcommittee investing the charges.[20]

In July 1919, Michael J. Hayes, an investigator who had taken a job in Coakley's office at the behest of Weston in order to gather evidence for the bar association's investigation into Coakley, stole papers from Coakley's office and turned them over to Godfrey Lowell Cabot of the Watch and Ward Society.[21]

In 1920, Coakley was a figure in the disbarment case of Alvah G. Sleeper. According to two members of the Massachusetts District Police, Sleeper told them that a client, whom they deduced to be Hollis H. Hunnewell, was being blackmailed by a woman over an alleged affair. Hunnewell had already paid a total of $150,000 over three occasions and was being asked for another $50,000. Sleeper advised Hunnewell to go to the Parker House as he had been requested to do and he would follow him. There, Sleeper observed Hunnewell meeting with Coakley, Pelletier, and another lawyer, John P. Feeney. Shortly thereafter a woman came to Sleeper's office and asked how much Coakley had received from Hunnewell. Sleeper told her that the amount was $150,000 and she stated that Coakley had not given her a fair share.[22]

Following the publicity he received during Sleeper's disbarment hearing, Coakley decided to press matter of the stolen papers.[23] On November 18, 1920, Cabot, Weston, Hector M. Holmes, and Oswin T. Bourdon were incited on charges of conspiracy to steal the property of Daniel H. Coakley. Two days later, Weston, Holmes, and Hayes were indicted on six counts with larceny of property owned by Coakley. Bourdon and Hayes plead guilty, but Cabot, Weston, and Holmes chose to go to trial. All three were found not guilty.[21]

On September 29, 1921, the Boston Bar Association filed petitions for disbarment against Coakley, Daniel V. McIssac, and William J. Corcoran, along with a recommendation to Massachusetts Attorney General J. Weston Allen that Pelletier be removed from office, alleging that the four were guilty of deceit, malpractice, and gross misconduct. The allegations against Coakley included:

  • In 1915, he convinced William De Ford Bigelow to pay him $50,000 in exchange for Coakley using his influence with Pelletier to prevent indictment.[24]
  • That between 1916 and 1917, he and McIssac conspired to extort $116,000 from a client by fomenting a contest of her deceased husband's will.[24]
  • In October 1916, he extorted $20,500 from the Emerson Motors Company in exchange for using his personal influence with Pelletier to save the company from indictment.[24]
  • In November 1916, he attempted to extort $10,000 in legal fees from Warren C. Daniel of the Metropolitan Motors Company in exchange for convincing Pelletier not to indict the company.[24]
  • In 1917, he, James Curley, Corcoran, and District Attorney of the Northern District of Massachusetts Nathan A. Tufts extorted large sums of money from Paramount Studio executives (including Adolph Zukor, Jesse L. Lasky, and Hiram Abrams) who attended a party at Mishawum Manor, a Woburn, Massachusetts brothel.[3][15][25]
  • In 1918, Coakley, while defending a client in a replevin suit brought by Dorothy Cote, threatened Cote with indictment and used the district attorney's office to summon witnesses to testify before the Grand Jury, which led her to drop the suit.[24]
  • In 1918, he, Tufts, and others conspired to extort a significant amount of money from a diver's pension.[24]
  • Beginning in 1918, Coakley extorted $300,000 from Edmund Barbour in exchange for keeping secret a non-sexual relationship with a woman 49 years his junior.[3]

On April 17, 1922, Coakley walked out of a hearing and dropped his defense, stating that he felt he could not get an impartial trial in that court.[26]

On April 21, 1922, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that Coakley was guilty of deceit, malpractice, and gross misconduct. On May 12, 1922 he was disbarred.[1]

On May 16, 1922, United States Attorney Robert O. Harris filed a petition to disbar Coakley from practicing law in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals.[1] Coakley failed to appear in court and was disbarred on July 3, 1922.[27]

Legal problems[edit]

In 1914, Coakley was sued by the widower of one of his clients, to recover the full amount of the $15,952 awarded to her in a suit against the Boston Elevated Railway. Coakley, who defended himself, received a favorable verdict.[28]

In 1923, Coakley was sued by Meyer Berman, a former client who sought to recover $50,000 which he alleged Coakley had obtained from him through fraud. The charges were dismissed on January 8, 1924.[29] Coakley was indicted for perjury in connection with his testimony in the Berman case, however the charges were dropped in February 1924.[30] In 1933, Thomas C. O'Brien, who was district attorney at the time Coakley was charged with perjury, stated that subsequent evidence had shown that Coakley had not committed perjury and that no indictment should have been raised.[31]

In 1924, Coakley and Corcoran were charged with extortion. On July 3, 1924, after nearly 27 hours of deliberation, the jury found Coakley and Corcoran not guilty on all counts.[32]

In 1926, Coakley was sued by another former client, Oda Pappathanos, who sought to recover money from Coakley that she alleged Coakley had obtained by misrepresenting the amount of money that had been received in the settlement of her claim against a wealthy Maine man. Coakley was found not guilty on July 31, 1926.[33]

On November 14, 1934, a jury awarded $77,433.33 to Francis D. Reardon of Emerson & Co. for failure to pay a $50,000 note owed by Coakley and his son-in-law, Charles L. Murdock, to the company's deceased president, Bartholomew Crowley.[34][35]

Petition for reinstatement[edit]

In 1933, with written support from a number of notable individuals includingCardinal O'Connell, Thomas Francis Lillis, Louis J. Gallagher, Edwin Stark Thomas, William Robinson Pattangall, Eugene N. Foss, Thomas C. O'Brien, Alfred E. Smith, James Roosevelt, 65 judges, and 3,470 attorneys, Coakley petitioned for reinstatement to the bar.[3][31] Governor Joseph B. Ely appeared in court on Coakley's behalf.[36] His petition was denied by Judge Fred T. Field on March 28, 1934. Field wrote that Coakley's "deliberate misstatements" regarding his disbarment and his offer to admit guilt in exchange for readmission while also asserting his innocence showed a "lack of respect for the truth inconsistent with fitness for readmission to the bar".[37]

Mayoral campaigns[edit]

In 1925, Coakley ran for Mayor of Boston on a platform of clearing the name of Joseph Pelletier, who died shortly after he was removed from office.[5] Coakley finished fourth behind Malcolm E. Nichols, Theodore A. Glynn, and Joseph H. O'Neil, but ahead of Thomas C. O'Brien, John A. Keliher, William T. A. Fitzgerald, Alonzo B. Cook, Charles L. Burrill, and Walter G. McGauley.[38] He ran again in 1929. He finished a distant third with 1% of the vote.[39] He ran a third time in 1933, but dropped out of the race, stating that he feared his "candidacy was likely to result in the election of an enemy of the plain people".[40] Coakley's purpose in all three campaigns was to siphon votes away from Curley or his proxy.[3]

Massachusetts Governor's Council[edit]

In 1932, Coakley was elected to the Massachusetts Governor's Council.[31] Following Curley's election as governor in 1934, he and Coakley reconciled, as Curley needed his assistance to secure patronage jobs.[3] During his tenure on the council, Coakley acted as a prosecuting officer in many removal proceedings brought by Governor James M. Curley against state officials. He was able to secure 2,000 patronage jobs for men from his district on the Quabbin Reservoir project. During the administration of Curley's successor, Charles F. Hurley, he was not involved in strategy and procedure. Instead his main role was as a critic of Lieutenant Governor Francis E. Kelly.[5]


In 1938, Coakley wrote the petition for pardon for Raymond L. S. Patriarca, a mobster who later became the reputed leader of organized crime in New England. The letter contained praise from three priests. One priest had been tricked into signing the letter, another had never been consulted, and the third, a "Father Fagin", did not exist.[3] The Governor's Council approved Patriarca's pardon and he was released after only 84 days in jail.[41][42]

On December 4, 1940, state representative Roland D. Sawyer called for Coakley's impeachment, alleging that Coakley had attempted to "thwart" the Special Legislative Pardon-Probe Commission by contacting witnesses, threatening them, and advising them to commit perjury.[43] On June 9, 1941, a special House committee found that Coakley had used his position and influence to secure pardons in exchange for financial gain and recommended his impeachment. The findings were based on the pardons of Patriarca, Maurice Limon, and Frank W. Porter.[44] On June 13, 1941, the House voted 144 to 75 in favor of impeachment.[4]

Coakley's impeachment trial was the first in Massachusetts since 1821. Attorney General Robert T. Bushnell and state representative Benjamin Priest conducted the prosecution. Senator Joseph B. Harrington and attorney William H. Lewis served as defense counsel. The trial lasted six weeks. On October 2, 1941, the Massachusetts Senate found Coakley guilty on 10 of the 14 articles on impeachment. The Senate voted 28 to 10 to remove Coakley from office and 23 to 15 to bar him for life from holding a place of "profit or honor or trust" in the Commonwealth.[45]

Later life[edit]

Following his impeachment, Coakley ran for the United States Senate. In the Democratic primary he finished fourth out of four candidates with 7% of the vote.[46]

During his final years, Coakley appeared less frequently in the public eye. By 1946 he was complaining about his poor financial state; however, he was still able to keep a suite at the Parker House, a townhouse in Brighton, and a cottage in Cape Cod. He spent the final five years of his life in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, where he died on September 18, 1952.[5][3]

Further reading[edit]

  • Halley, Patrick S. (2015). Dapper Dan: America's Most Corrupt Politician. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 1511542462.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Moves to Disbar in Federal Court". The Boston Daily Globe. May 17, 1922.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Nelson, Garrison (2012). John William McCormack: A Political Biography. Crown/Archetype. pp. 88–91.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l O'Neill, Gerald (2012). Rogues and Redeemers: When Politics Was King in Irish Boston. Crown/Archetype. pp. 100–113.
  4. ^ a b Harris, John G. (June 14, 1941). "Coakley Is Impeached by House, 144–75; Sure Senate Will Clear Him". The Boston Daily Globe.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Daniel H. Coakley Dead at 87; Long Political Figure". The Boston Daily Globe. September 19, 1952.
  6. ^ "Coakley Has Had A Striking Career". The Boston Daily Globe. September 30, 1921.
  7. ^ "Delay Asked for Battis". The Boston Daily Globe. May 19, 1909.
  8. ^ "Jury Declares Battis Guilty". The Boston Daily Globe. May 29, 1909.
  9. ^ a b "Conspiracy the Charge". The Boston Daily Globe. June 22, 1909.
  10. ^ "Mitchell and Maher Guilty". The Boston Daily Globe. July 1, 1909.
  11. ^ "Coakley's Men Oust Keliher". The Boston Daily Globe. October 9, 1910.
  12. ^ "Why Keliher is Hostile". The Boston Daily Globe. February 12, 1913.
  13. ^ "Coakley Hints at Politics". The Boston Daily Globe. December 8, 1915.
  14. ^ "Flays Finance Commission". The Boston Daily Globe. March 22, 1916.
  15. ^ a b c d Cunningham, Maurice (June 2, 2015). "Boston's Own Dapper Dan: America's Most Corrupt Politician". WGBH News. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  16. ^ Higgins, Jack (February 1, 1987). "The Making of a Political Dynasty". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  17. ^ "Ponzi Shows Hazy Memory of his Financial Transactions". The Boston Daily Globe. August 22, 1920.
  18. ^ "Coakley Hurls "Liar" at Receiver Thurston". The Boston Daily Globe. August 25, 1920.
  19. ^ "Coakley on Stand". The Boston Daily Globe. November 28, 1922.
  20. ^ "Investigation Begun in 1918". The Boston Daily Globe. September 30, 1921.
  21. ^ a b "CABOT, COMMONWEALTH vs., 241 Mass. 131". masscases.com.
  22. ^ "Hunnewell's Agent Denies $150,00 Paid". The Boston Daily Globe. November 9, 1920.
  23. ^ "Grand Jury to Probe Coakley Papers Case". The Boston Daily Globe. November 7, 1920.
  24. ^ a b c d e f "Removal of Pelletier Now Asked by Bar Association; Petitions for Disbarment of Coakley, McIsaac and Corcoran Filed With Supreme Court—Deceit, Malpractice and Gross Misconduct Alleged". The Boston Daily Globe. September 30, 1921.
  25. ^ "Accused in Woburn Case". The New York Times. November 8, 1921.
  26. ^ "Coakley Walks Out and Drops Defense". The Boston Daily Globe. April 18, 1922.
  27. ^ "U. S. Court Disbars Daniel H. Coakley". The Boston Daily Globe. July 4, 1922.
  28. ^ "Brings Charge of Blackmail". The Boston Daily Globe. January 21, 1914.
  29. ^ "Court Finds for Coakley". The Boston Daily Globe. January 9, 1924.
  30. ^ "Discharge in Perjury Case". The Boston Daily Globe. February 26, 1924.
  31. ^ a b c "Coakley Asks Bar Reinstatement". The Boston Daily Globe. August 1, 1933.
  32. ^ "Jury Frees Coakley and W.J. Corcoran". The New York Times. July 4, 1924.
  33. ^ "Coakley is Cleared of Fraud Charges". The Boston Daily Globe. August 1, 1926.
  34. ^ "$77,433 Verdict Against Coakley". The Boston Daily Globe. November 15, 1934.
  35. ^ "High Court Sustains Verdict for Reardon". The Boston Daily Globe. November 2, 1935.
  36. ^ "Gov Ely to Appear in Coakley's Behalf". The Boston Daily Globe. November 15, 1933.
  37. ^ "Readmission Plea is Denied". The Boston Daily Globe. March 29, 1934.
  38. ^ Merrill, John D. (November 4, 1925). "Nichols Wins Race by 22,307". The Boston Daily Globe.
  39. ^ "19,517 Victory for Curley". The Boston Daily Globe. November 6, 1929.
  40. ^ "Coakley Quits Mayoralty Race as Surprise Move in Campaign". The Boston Daily Globe. October 25, 1933.
  41. ^ "Links Coakley to Pardon Note". The Boston Daily Globe. December 23, 1938.
  42. ^ "Raymond Patriarca Dies at 76; Reputedly Ruled N.E. Organized Crime". The Boston Globe. July 12, 1984.
  43. ^ Harris, John G. (December 5, 1940). "Coakley Impeachment Asked". The Boston Daily Globe.
  44. ^ "House Committee for Impeachment of Daniel Coakley". The Boston Daily Globe. June 10, 1941.
  45. ^ Harris, John G. (June 14, 1941). "Coakley Outsted: Guility on 10 Counts". The Boston Daily Globe.
  46. ^ "Our Campaigns – MA US Senate – D Primary Race – Sep 15, 1942". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved 2017-08-06.