EXCLUSIVE: Marc Smerling, who produced and shot HBO’s classic true crime series The Jinx, is to explore the complicated history of a Rust Belt town where car bombs and mob murders became a regular occurrence in a new podcast series.
The series is the follow up to Smerling’s Crimetown, which has previously covered stories in Providence and Detroit .
It comes after Smerling’s latest docuseries, Mind Over Murder, which is a partnership with director Nanfu Wang and Vox Media, aired on HBO. Subscribers to Sony’s The Binge can listen to all 15 episodes on July 25.
It will investigate a time when thousands of steel workers crossed the Mahoning River every day to toil in the hot and dirty steel mills of Youngstown, Ohio, then blew off steam Friday nights in mob-run gambling halls, brothels and bars. Illegal gambling was so lucrative that Cleveland and Pittsburgh Mafia families killed to control it. Every part of the government was corrupt. Then, local football hero Jim Traficant ran for sheriff on a promise to clean up the city.
Crooked City recounts Traficant’s story and impact, exposing his corrupt deals with the mob, his run for Congress and his time in Washington D.C. as one by one, the steel mills closed, young people left Youngstown, and the mob became more and more desperate and brutal. Traficant became the Mahoning Valley’s eight-term, twice-indicted Congressman, walking around Capitol Hill in cowboy boots, bell-bottoms, and skinny ties. On the House floor, he preached a mantra of putting “America First.” He threatened to cut off foreign imports to bring the steel industry back, and even asked the military to send troops to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the southern border. When journalists and the FBI began to take a closer look, he complained about fake news, bullied investigators, and yelled at the end of every speech, “Beam me up Scotty. There is no intelligent life down here!”
Crooked City: Youngstown, OH is produced by Ryan Sweikert, Zach St. Louis, Alexa Burke, Katherine Sullivan and Olivia Briley of Truth.Media.
Smerling said, “The story of Youngstown, Ohio has all you would want in a sprawling crime story… mob bosses, hit men, crooked cops and politicians, car bombs and heists. At its center is a sheriff turned congressman who won election after election by enflaming disenfranchised blue-collar workers and dividing us as a nation. Sound familiar? Was Jim Traficant Youngstown’s savior, or was he just another mobster?”
Listen to the trailer here.
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