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Joseph Sullivan was a Mafia hit man who was the only known person to escape from Attica. He is currently serving three life sentences.
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Born on March 31, 1939, in Queens, New York, Joseph "Mad Dog" Sullivan would go on to become a Mafia hit man, being incarcerated at Attica prison and noted as the only person to escape in 1971. He was recaptured and, after being released on parole, was imprisoned again on three murder convictions, including the killing of Teamsters vice president John Fiorino. Sullivan is serving three life sentences.
Born one of six children to New York City police detective Joseph Sullivan Sr. on March 31, 1939, in Queens, New York, Joseph "Mad Dog" Sullivan Jr.'s life was turned upside-down at the age of 13, when his father died. To ease some of his mother's burden, Sullivan was sent to live with relatives after his father's passing. But the new arrangement did not work out, and Sullivan returned home. The situation at home, however, wasn't any better. By this time, his mother become an alcoholic, turning to drinking as a way to manage her grief.
Sullivan ran away in 1953 and ended up at a reform school in Warwick, New York. Sullivan made several attempted escapes from the school, landing in and out of other reformatories for the next few years. He was finally released at the age of 19. In desperate straits, he ended up enlisting in the U.S. Army. Sullivan was caught for leaving without permission, and sent to Governors Island. According to his autobiography, he didn't stay for long. Sullivan escaped from the facility and swam his way back to Manhattan.
Sullivan was quickly captured, but he faked a mental illness to avoid a court martial and jail time. Instead he was sent to the Valley Forge Army Hospital for a time.
Sullivan started committing robberies around the age of 12, eventually graduating to murder. He killed a man during a bar fight, and was arrested in 1965 for the crime. Two years later, Sullivan was convicted of manslaughter and given a 20- to 30-year sentence. He ended up serving his time at the legendary Attica Correctional Facility. Sullivan allegedly earned the unflattering nickname "Mad Dog" from fellow inmates during this time, due to a lifelong undiagnosed salivary gland disorder.
After four years in Attica, Sullivan accomplished a seemingly impossible feat. He was able to escape from the prison, which was thought to be escape-proof. On April 7, 1971, Sullivan made his way outside the prison walls and got a ride to the local bus station from someone waiting in the Attica parking lot. He was captured a few weeks later while walking down a street in New York City's Greenwich Village neighborhood. Sullivan was caught carrying a sawed-off rifle at the time.
A few years after his return to prison, Sullivan had help forming his next escape plan. Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark worked as his lawyer and aided him in winning parole in December 1975. Release from prison did not mean Sullivan returned to society a reformed man. Working for the Genovese crime family, he executed two members of an Irish mob group headed by Mickey Spillane during the summer of 1976.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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