Where the voices of Alcatraz come to life...

Mickey Cohen at Alcatraz

Cohen Case File, Page 3 of 3 | « Previous

His personality has been summarized by his wife and sister as one who takes pride in doing the job well, that he would rather take the beating didn't see another person being hurt in any way. If he witnessed crowd violence or a fight or group activity he would not make a scene by being different or making an issue, but rather keep hands off. He is not quick to report errors of others. His wife cited that one time she was having dinner with him at a restaurant when the waiter spilled food on a new suit he was wearing. Rather than have the man lose his job, he had the suit cleaned. Is also been charitable toward the needy, his wife stated he sent a considerable sum to Palestine and states that the church officials there have asked him to come to Palestine which she indicates she would like to do and that they make so. The family feels that he is not handicapped because of his lack of education or that Cohen himself feels handicapped because of it, but that he has studied privately to better himself. If he is felt about this he has succeeded well in covering up this wish. They consider his personality winning, that he makes a good salesman and that everybody likes him because he is kind and considerate. He wants most to be liked by others in seems to have succeeded in gaining this desire.

The agency reports it is fortunate for him and he has a family who will stand by him and help him upon release. The wife is now being assisted by relatives and that he can come home to the apartment which the sister Pauline and her husband have furnished. The agency reports the furnishings are elaborate but lend a homey atmosphere.


Present Circumstances

Cohen's wife states she has plans for herself in the sales field and is eager to start work so her husband can carry upon his release. She is interested in him studying while at this institution and that he should be given some work assignment involving keeping accounts because he would have a great deal to contribute in that field. Possibly plans include returning to the clothing business or Cohen may consider assisting Billy Graham in his evangelistic work. Mention was made to the agency of the fact that Cohen has close ties with his brother, Harry who is planning to move to Chicago soon. Cohen relates that his gunshot wound has caused him considerable trouble and that he was under the care of Doctor Zeiler in Los Angeles, receiving treatment. He relates his arm occasionally becomes numb due to a nerve injury.

He has received encouraging letters from his family and a small amount of fan mail is also been received which is been returned to non-correspondence because of the eccentric nature. Cohen states he is been fearful because of the attempts on his life, will endeavor to keep himself in the background while here. He states he has had some difficulty in warding off the attention of others at the same time trying to avoid offending. He has written his wife and his sister Pauline to contact his attorney, Morris Lavine, in appealing to the sentencing judge for sentence reduction by dropping his pending appeal. He believes that if he doesn't get bond, his appeal would be foolish.

Life After Alcatraz

Cohen was transferred to the United States Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta in January of 1963, only a couple of months prior to the closure of Alcatraz. During his time the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, another inmate attempted to kill Cohen with a lead pipe while Cohen was undergoing training in radio and television repair.

On August 14, 1963, fellow inmate Burl Estes McDonald, scaled escaped as secure prison compound, entered an electronics repair training facility and wielding a three-foot iron pipe, snuck up from behind, and bludgeoned the unsuspecting Mickey into unconsciousness. Cohen sustained a critical head injury resulting from shards of skull fragments that had to be removed from brain tissue which had hemorrhaged. Mickey underwent extensive neurosurgery and following a two week coma, doctors inserted a steel plate to replace the mangled bone fragments in the rear skull region.

In 1972, Cohen was released from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, where he had spoken out against prison abuse. He had been misdiagnosed with an ulcer, which turned out to be stomach cancer. After undergoing surgery, he continued touring the U.S., including television appearances, once with Ramsey Clark. Though he survived the brutal attack without any known mental deficits, he would be completely disabled for the remainder of his life and spending his final years in solitude. Mickey Cohen died in his sleep in 1976 and is interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.


Mickey Cohen in 1961


Mickey Cohen sitting in a U.S. Marshal vehicle at the Fort Mason boat pier waiting for the Alcatraz ferry. He is seen reading the book "The Big Bankroll," a inspired by life the late gambler Arnold Rothstein. Dock workers heckled Cohen as he boarded the ferry yelling: "No Champaign for this trip" and "Look at Mickey's last yacht."


A photo of Cohen walking to freedom off the Alcatraz ferry (the Wadren Blackwell) after being released from Alcatraz on a $100,000 bond in October 1961. He would return to Alcatraz in May of 1962.


Burl McDonald an inmate at U.S.P. Atlanta escaped from his security compound (scaling this wall), entered the electronics repair training facility and brutally attacked Cohen. He would suffer critical injuries and remain disabled for the rest of this life.


An investigation photo taken at U.S.P. Atlanta showing the chair (marked YES) where Cohen was sitting when McDonald snuck behind him and stuck him with a 3-foot iron pipe.


After suffering a serious brain injury following his brutal attack in prison, Cohen remained disable and only able to walk with a cane.