Selwyn Raab

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Selwyn Raab
Born (1934-06-26) June 26, 1934 (age 88)
New York City
OccupationJournalist, writer, investigative reporter
Alma materCity College of New York
Years active1956–present
Notable works
  • Justice in the Back Room[1]
  • Mob Lawyer[2]
  • Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires[3]
SpouseHelene Lurie

Selwyn Raab (born June 26, 1934[4] in New York City) is an American journalist, author and former investigative reporter for The New York Times.[5] He has written extensively about the American Mafia and criminal justice issues.[6]

Early life and career[edit]

A native New Yorker, Raab grew up on Manhattan's Lower East Side.[7] He attended Seward Park High School[8] and later graduated from the City College of New York, where he received a B.A. degree in English literature in 1956.[7] At City College he was campus correspondent for The Times and an editor of Observation Post, a student newspaper.[7] His first jobs as a reporter were with the Bridgeport Sunday Herald newspaper in Bridgeport, Connecticut and The Star-Ledger newspaper in Newark, New Jersey.[9]

New York World-Telegram and Sun (1960–1966)[edit]

From 1960 to 1966, he joined the New York World-Telegram and Sun. He was originally assigned as an education reporter.[10] On the education beat he covered declining reading and mathematics test scores, attempts to unionize teachers and racial integration disputes until he discovered that mob-connected contractors were behind a major scandal concerning improper construction and renovation which endangered the safety of thousands of students in the school system.[3] In 1964, he discovered that Dr. Chester M. Southam of the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn was injecting sick patients with cancer cells, while telling them that they were normal human cells.[11] Southam was eventually convicted of fraud, deceit and unprofessional conduct.[12]

Later as investigative reporter[7] at the New York World-Telegram, he was instrumental in finding evidence that exonerated George Whitmore Jr. of false charges for having slain Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert in the notorious Career Girl murders in 1963.[13] He also uncovered evidence that led to the dismissal of a third murder accusation against Whitmore.[14][15]

NBC News (1966–1971)[edit]

While producer and news editor for WNBC television news, (1966-1971),[16] Raab also wrote a book about the case, Justice in the Back Room, published in 1967.[1] The book was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for Best Fact Crime Book in 1968.[17] Universal Studios bought the television rights, transforming Raab into a fictional detective named Theo Kojak, portrayed by Telly Savalas in the series Kojak.[18] The series ran for five years. The series was spun off from the CBS television movie, The Marcus-Nelson Murders, which won two Emmy Awards in 1973.[19]

The 51st State – WNET-13 (1971–1974)[edit]

In 1971, he became a reporter-producer at the public broadcasting television station WNET-13 on the news program The 51st State, where he continued working on the Whitmore case. He proved that Whitmore was elsewhere on the day of the killings and helped clear him. It took seven more years to locate a witness whose testimony exonerated Whitmore in 1973 from an unrelated attempted rape conviction.[20] Whitmore was released from prison after serving nine years for a "wrong man" conviction for attempted rape.[21] Raab received a New York Press Club Award for Outstanding Television Journalism for his work on the case.[7] His work was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in News Feature Reporting Within a Regularly Scheduled News Program for the feature Shooting Gallery aired on December 18, 1973 (WNET).[22] He became Executive Producer of The 51st State until he left for The New York Times in 1974.[23]

The New York Times (1974–2000)[edit]

In 1974, Raab became a metropolitan staff reporter for The New York Times where he covered criminal justice and government corruption stories, particularly those that involved the American Mafia. During this period, he exposed perjured testimony and police and prosecutorial misconduct surrounding the triple murder convictions of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and his co-defendant, John Artis, which led to the ultimate dismissal of all accusations against them.[5] Both men were cleared after serving lengthy prison sentences.[24]

Five Families (2000–present)[edit]

Raab left the Times in 2000. His book, the New York Times Bestseller, Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires[3] was published in 2005.[25] He is a consultant on organized crime for TV documentaries, primarily on the History and Biography channels. He was involved as a consultant for the six-part series Inside the American Mob, being interviewed with prominent Cosa Nostra members as well as current and former FBI agents, US Attorneys and detectives who were heavily involved with the pursuit of the Mafia and giving first-person accounts of major events involving the mob. He was an adviser on scripts for the 10-part television series, The Making of the Mob: New York,[10] based partly on Five Families, which premiered on June 15, 2015, on AMC. He was also featured in the 2018 Audioboom podcast Mafia.

Awards and honors[edit]


  • Justice in the Back Room (1967)[1]
  • Mob Lawyer with Frank Ragano (1994)[2]
  • Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires (2005)[1]


Title Year Role Notes
Kojak (TV series) 1973–1978 Book 95 episodes[30]
Kojak (TV series) 1973–1978 Book 23 episodes[30]
Kojak: Flowers for Matty 1990 Book TV movie
Kojak: It's Always Something 1990 Book TV movie
Kojak: None So Blind 1990 Book TV movie
Kojak: Ariana 1989 Book TV movie
Kojak: Fatal Flaw 1989 Book TV movie
Kojak: The Price of Justice 1987 Book TV movie
Kojak: The Belarus File 1985 Book TV movie
Genovese: Portrait of a Crime Family 2001 Himself TV series documentary
American Justice: Defending the Mob 1995 Himself TV series documentary
Mobsters 1997–2010 Himself 7 episodes in TV series documentary
Mafia's Greatest Hits: Donnie Brasco 2014 Himself 7 episodes in TV series documentary


  1. ^ a b c d Raab, Selwyn (1967). Justice in the Back Room. Cleveland: World Pub. Co. p. 261. OCLC 647343.
  2. ^ a b Raab, Selwyn; Ragano, Frank (1994). Mob Lawyer. New York: Maxwell Macmillan International. ISBN 9780684195681.
  3. ^ a b c Raab, Selwyn (2015). Five families: The rise, decline, and resurgence of America's most powerful Mafia empires. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. pp. 800 pages. ISBN 9781250074034. OCLC 60326528.
  4. ^ "News People Birthdays". Retrieved 25 September 2015. 'Selwyn Raab -- b.6/26/1934'
  5. ^ a b "Selwyn Raab". Macmillan. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Warden, Rob (Jun 11, 2009). True Stories of False Confessions. Northwestern University Press. p. 512. ISBN 9780810126039.
  7. ^ a b c d e "CCNY Communications Alumni Hall of Fame Selwyn Raab '56". Alumni Association of the City College of New York. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Selwyn Raab Class of 1951". Classmates. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  9. ^ Krawetz, Michael (April 21, 1973). "Newsman Helps Whitmore Go Free". Vol. 13, no. 64. The Evening News. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  10. ^ a b Cline, Elizabeth. "The Making of the Mob: New York Q&A – Selwyn Raab". AMC Network Entertainment. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  11. ^ Hornblum, Allen (December 13, 2013). "NYC's forgotten cancer scandal". New York Post. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  12. ^ Skloot, Rebecca (2010). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Crown/Archetype. pp. 127–135. ISBN 9780307589385.
  13. ^ Raab, Selwyn (August 29, 1993). "30-Year-Old Echoes From Slaying of 2". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  14. ^ Raab, Selwyn (October 2, 1988). "Parole Action Could Close Landmark Murder Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  15. ^ Mulford, R.D. (1967). "Experimentation on Human Beings". Stanford Law Review. 20 (1): 99–117. doi:10.2307/1227417. JSTOR 1227417.
  16. ^ "Books Noted". Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 279. 9. 1967. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  17. ^ "The Edgars Database". Mystery Writers of America. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  18. ^ "The Press: The Original Kojak". Time Inc. November 25, 1974. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  19. ^ "The Marcus-Nelson Murders The CBS Thursday Night Movie". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  20. ^ Krawetz, Michael (April 21, 1973). "Newsman Helps Whitmore Go Free". The Evening News. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  21. ^ Day, James (1995). The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television. University of California Press. p. 208. ISBN 9780520086593. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  22. ^ "1973-1974 New York Area Awards" (PDF). New York Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  23. ^ "The 51st State". Thirteen/WNET New York. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  24. ^ Raab, Selwyn (April 20, 2014). "Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, Boxer Found Wrongly Convicted, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  25. ^ Burrough, Bryan (September 11, 2005). "'Five Families': Made Men in America". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  26. ^ "7 Awards Given in Journalism Here". The New York Times. May 8, 1971.
  27. ^ "Uncapped Crusader". Newsweek. Newsweek. April 23, 1973.
  28. ^ "Broun Award Won by Times Reporter". The New York Times. January 28, 1975. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  29. ^ Raab, Selwyn (November 6, 2009). "McCarthyism and Student Journalism at City College". The New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  30. ^ a b "Selwyn Raab". IMDb. Retrieved 26 September 2015.

External links[edit]