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60 Years Later, A Report Says Sacco Was Guilty, But Vanzetti Innocent

March 10, 1986 GMT

BOSTON (AP) _ Bartolomeo Vanzetti was innocent in the celebrated Sacco-Vanzetti anarchist case that has been argued over for 60 years, but codefendant Nicola Sacco, who was definitely guilty, refused to let him off the hook, says the author of a new study.

Author Francis Russell says in a new book about the case that a member of the anarchists’ inner circle insisted that Sacco was guilty but Vanzetti was innocent.

Sacco and Vanzetti died in the electric chair Aug. 10, 1927 following their convictions for first-degree murder in the April 15, 1920 deaths of a paymaster, Frederick A. Palmenter, and his guard, Alessandro Berardelli, who were robbed of a $15,000 payroll by five men.


The executions of Sacco, a shoemaker, and Vanzetti, a fish peddler, triggered an international outcry and for years the guilt or innocence of the Italian immigrants has been argued.

Russell, who first wrote about the case in 1962 in ″Tragedy in Dedham,″ has added the new information in ″Sacco-Vanzetti: The Case Resolved,″ to be published next month by Harper & Row of New York.

He said he heard a tape recording made by a man named Giovanni Gambera saying shortly before he died in 1982 that Sacco was guilty but Vanzetti innocent.

Gambera was a member of the anarchist group, Il Gruppo Autonomo di East Boston, to which Sacco and Vanzetti belonged.

″He went to the jail more than once and asked Sacco to plead guilty, as they often did, and get Vanzetti off,″ Russell said. ″But he wouldn’t do it.

″And I don’t think Vanzetti wanted him to. He felt it would be betraying their cause. ...

″They would never steal anything for personal gain. But they had the militant belief that the just society will only come through a bloody overthrow of government. And they were ready to participate with their lives.″

Gambera’s son, Ideale Gambera, now a teacher in San Francisco, played the tape recording for Russell, the author said.

The son wrote Russell that secrecy was required by the Sicilian anarchists and ″was virtually unbreakable except at the expense of one’s life.″

Russell said Gambera’s papers contain interesting details about the case, but the key was the recording in which the elder Gambera said, ″Yes, Sacco was guilty, Sacco was guilty.″

Ideale Gambera did not return telephone calls from The Associated Press to his San Rafael, Calif. home, where he made his disclosure to Russell.

The author said Ideale Gambera was sworn to secrecy, but was released from those promises by his father’s death.

David Kaiser, co-author, of ″Postmortem - New Evidence in the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti,″ which was published last year, says, however, that the Gambera story is suspect.

For example, he said of the younger Gambera, ″his father apparently claims to have been present at a meeting with a woman named (Angelina) diFalco. We have written accounts, depositions about that meeting taken at the time. People don’t mention Mister Gambera. That gives me pause.″

Kaiser also said Russell has ignored much original evidence, including a statement by a man called Celestino F. Medeiros who said that he and four other members of a gang were responsible for the crime. His account was brushed aside.

″The key is that he, unlike Mister Gambera, did provide a detailed account of the crime,″ he said. ″And he provided two very important details which later investigation showed to be true. He could not have made them up.″