James T. Ellison

James T. "Biff" Ellison (born 1862) was an early New York City gangster.

A long time member of the Five Points Gang, he was later closely affiliated with gang leader Jack Sirocco (or Cirocco) while a member of the Five Pointers during the gang wars against the Eastman Gang during the 1900s.

He had first come into prominence in the gang after assaulting police officer Jeremiah Murphy while in Sharkey's, a Fourteenth Street saloon, and was so severely beaten that he was left in a hospital for four weeks. As a result, Ellison was convicted of first degree assault in 1902.

After Sirocco defected to the Eastman gang, Ellison came into conflict with the leader of the Five Pointers, Paul Kelly, and in turn defected to the Gopher Gang. Then, on November 23, 1909, he and three other men including Razor Reilly and Jimmy Kelly, attempted to assassinate Paul Kelly at his club the New Brighton, where he was drinking with bodyguards Pat "Rough House" Hogan and William J. Harrington. Although Kelly was able to escape from Ellison and Hogan, his bodyguard Harrington was killed in the crossfire.

Ellison was tried before the Criminal Branch of the New York Supreme Court. The trial itself, in which gang members Pat Hogan and George Wetzel testified against Kelly, saw around fifty members of the "James Kelly" gang and seventy-five members of the Five Points Gang were in attendance. Concerned whether their presence might influence the verdict, they were later forced to leave. During the trial, Ellison made threats to a court officer regarding Hogan as well as prosecutors, stating that if he were found guilty he would not rest "...until those prosecuting guys has got theirs." He was convicted of first degree manslaughter on June 8, 1911. Ellison went mad in prison and was committed to an insane asylum where he died in the 1920s (the exact date is uncertain).

Ellison is a minor character in the 1994 novel The Alienist by Caleb Carr.


* "Ellison Convicted Of Manslaughter". New York Times 09 Jun. 1909

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