I don’t normally watch the local news and when I do it’s to see the highlights from the Bills, Sabres, or Bisons depending on whose season it is. So anyway it’s last Friday night and the evening news has just started. It’s at this point that I notice that one of the upcoming stories has an intriguing headline, farewell to a felon. Oh I have to watch this!
The reporter is at an event organized by the Niagara Falls Republican Committee, with support of a Laborers Union local. Pretty tame stuff till the reporter gave us the details. Seems the toast of the party was for one, John J. Gross Jr, a local contractor, who was sentenced to his 3rd trip to the big house in January for rigging bids and income tax evasion while running his son’s plumbling business. The guy is 74. Are you kidding me? I don’t pay my taxes and Uncle Sam is knocking at my door tout suite.
Seems Mr. Gross is no stranger to federal prison. He previously was sentenced to 3+ years for racketeering, stealing, bribing officials and cheating on his taxes. He also did time in ’74 for grand larceny and conspiracy in addition to being a star informant for the FBI in a bribery investigation in the 80’s. And the laborers union local that chipped in on the party has a past history of similar activity. 18 members were sentenced to prison terms for crimes that included death threats, firebombing as well as extreme vandalism against non-union workers and contractors. Nice bunch of guys.
But what really got me was some of the quotes in the paper the next day regarding said event. This from the Republican chairman, “All right, he got convicted of tax evasion. But the people of Niagara Falls consider [John] like a Robin Hood type of guy. He was friendly to us, so we’re friendly back.” He continued later, “we just want to say goodbye to John Gross. John is not an axe murderer. But yeah, he deserves to go to jail.” Uh, you think so Mr. Chairman??
Now I know that this type of thing is not very unique in our world today. Crooked people and politics are almost an American institution. The city of Chicago for example is notorious for unlawful types both in the mayors office and at the state level. But Chicago is an iconic city what with the waterfront, Wrigley Field, the Cubbies, da Bears, art musems, commerce, et al. They easily deflect negative influnences like our Mr. Gross. Not so Niagara Falls (and by extension Buffalo). We don’t need anymore bad raps. Have you seen Niagara Falls, NY recently? The only reason people flock to the American side is you have to so you can get to the Canadian side where all the action is.
The final comments of Mr. Gross were particularly poignant to me. He was quoted as saying that “it’s time to retire and relax. I’m tired and I can use the rest.” What a guy that Johnnie!
only in Buffalo…