Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lasted two days, with the understanding that the other gentlemen would return to Washington, and that the Prescott and Santa Fé case was to be got ready; that Mr. Walsh was to be communicated with as to the question I had raised about his consenting to become a defendant, and to be named as a co-conspirator, and that that case was to be proceeded with by indictinent. As to the Dorsey case, it was to be next taken up and got along with as fast as possible, and the question of proceeding by information in that case was to be inquired into, and, if possible, we were to proceed in that way. Subsequent to that, I went back to New York, and I there took up very carefully the question of proceeding by information, and I found it involved in more difficulties than I had anticipated. While in New York, I learned by telegraph that the grand jury of that term of court here bad been adjourned. It was a surprise to me. I knew nothing about the circumstances under which it occurred, and I know nothing about the disputed facts as to how it came about, but at all events we found ourselves with the grand jury having adjourned. The question of the statute of limitations was at all times one that we had to keep in view. The contracts on those routes had been made to commence in July, 1878. Many of Mr. Brady's orders, or most of the orders which were considered suspicious, bad been made within a year or a year and a half of the making of the contractssay in the first two years of the contracts. In one point of view the overt act which undoubtedly governed the question of the running of the statute of limitations was Mr. Brady's order for increase or expedition, and therefore we kept in view all through the cases the three years from that time, and were desirous of getting our indictments, it possible, within tliose three years; though I never felt and do not now feel that the statute of limitations barred proceedings in such cases. I think that in most of the cases the statute of limitations has not yet barred proceedings, be. cause it seems to me that whenever any one of these parties, in pursuance of the prior fraudulent order of increase or expedition, took his quarterly pay, as he did once in three months, in that action of his you had then and there a new overt act which you could count as in connection with the conspiracy, and from which the statute of limitations could be dated. But, of course, there was something to be said upon the other side of the question, and therefore we endeavored to avoid being thrown down upon that theory. When I got to New York, as I have said, I devoted myself at once to careful examination of the question of procreding by information, and on the 19th of September I wrote Mr. JacVeagh the following letter:

SEPT. 19, 1881. Hon, WAYNE MCVEAGH,

Attorney-General : DEAR SIR: It should be a very grave matter which would lead me to intrude upon you in the present complication. But I have made up my mind that it is very doubtsal whether we can proceed by information. If so, and as the Statute of Limitations tuds as to our best case-in one view of it-early in October, it seems to me that there akould be a speedy conference and agreement as to what should be done. Colonel book writes me that our engagement for to-morrow is postponed because of Mr. breaster's engagements. I write now to say that as we got at him only through you, I think we should meet him as soon as possible, and that I will go anywhere to do it.

After we get together and under weigh it will not, I think, be necessary to trouble with such details. Your ob'd't servant,

GEORGE BLISS. I pursued that examination and went into it very elaborately, getting one or two rare English books upon Conspiracy, and came to the conclu.

H. Mis. 38, pt. 2— 11*

which the Government was paying a large sum of money to bave it expedited or increased—then, as you increase the number of routes, which you find to correspond with each other in these particulars, the aggregation. it seems to me, carries with it an increased presumption or inference of guilt which makes a case of that kind very much stronger than any case based on a single route could be, and makes a case which I think you have fairly a right to ask a jury to pass upon and convict the parties. I took that view of these cases very strongly, be cause (though not of counsel) I bad had occasion to know a great deal about the Tweed case in New York. There had been attempts there to convict what was known as the “ Tweed ring” on single transactions, but they had almost all failed. Mr. Tweed himself was tried once or twice. Finally the prosecuting counsel took up a case where they alleged that Mr. Tweed on successive days had passed, or permitted to be passed, sixty or seventy fraudulent warrants. Each one of those warrants taken by itself, as was argued at that time, was perfectly consistent with the idea that Mr. Tweed was innocent in passing them; but when you found him on succeeding days going in with these sixty or seventy or eighty fraudulent warrants, the coincidence of all these facts coming together carried conviction to any unprejudiced mind of guilt on his part, and also in that case (though there was other evidence) carried conviction to the jury. My view with reference to the Dorsey cases was precisely of that general nature. I therefore said that that was a strong case. I say now that it was a strong case, just as far as we had any strong case. Of course, when you can prove actual payments of money, that presents another and stronger feature; but you can rarely expect to be able to prove anything of that kind by anybody wbo does not stand in the position of being almost in pari delicto, or at any raté in a suspicious position. Where one man swears that he paid money to an official, there being no other evidence of the subject, you can hardly expect to secure conviction; while such testimony as that in connection with other evidence such as I have described is important and very frequently conclusive. I felt, and still feel, that the Dorsey case was just in that position. We could get this aggregation of cases and show this coincident action on the part of the accused officials as to a number of routes, and then when we had succeeded in thus establishing the conspiracy, we would be able to put in evidence the only proof that we had of the actual payment of money, to wit, Mr. Walsh's statement.

Now, passing from that, I will answer further your question as to what I did. At Long Branch Colonel Cook raised the question of proceeding by information. He had a case, I think from the 5th of Dillon, at least a decision of Judge Dillon's, on tbat subject. It was rather a new idea to me, though I had proceeded by information myself in other cases in New York. The idea was not, as I recollect it now, to apply the information to the case of the Prescott and Santa Fé route. That case was supposed to be in such a shape that it could come promptly before the grand jury, and the witnesses were near at hand and could be got without much delay or expense to the Government. The question of the information came up more particularly at that time with reference to the Dorsey case. In that case it was clear that the witnesses, who were scattered all over the country, could be brought here only at considerable expense and after considerable delay, and the question was whether we should proceed by information in that case. At first my ideas were against it. Subsequently, on reading. Judge Dillon's decision and talking the thing over and recollecting some of my own experience, I was rather inclined to favor it. We left that conference, after it had

lasted two days, with the understanding that the other gentlemen would return to Washington, and that the Prescott and Santa Fé case was to be got ready; that Mr. Walsh was to be communicated with as to the question I had raised about his consenting to become a defendant, and to be named as a co-conspirator, and that that case was to be proceeded with by indictment. As to the Dorsey case, it was to be next taken up and got along with as fast as possible, and the question of proceeding by information in that case was to be inquired into, and, if pos. sible, we were to proceed in that way. Subsequent to that, I went back to New York, and I there took up very carefully the question of proceeding by information, and I found it involved in more difficulties than Thad anticipated. While in New York, I learned by telegraph that the grand jury of that term of court here had been adjourned. It was a surprise to me. I knew nothing about the circumstances under which It occurred, and I know nothing about the disputed facts as to how it came about, but at all events we found ourselves with the grand jury having adjourned. The question of the statute of limitations was at all times one that we had to keep in view. The contracts on those routes had been made to commence in July, 1878. Many of Mr. Brady's orders, or most of the orders which were considered suspicious, had been made within a year or a year aud a half of the making of the contractssay in the first two years of the contracts. In one point of view the overt act which undoubtedly governed the question of the running of the stat. ute of limitations was Mr. Brady's order for increase or expedition, and therefore we kept in view all through the cases the three years from that time, and were desirous of getting our indictments, it possible, within those three years ; though I never felt and do not now feel that the statute of limitations barred proceedings in such cases. I think that in most of the cases the statute of limitations has not yet barred proceedings, be. cause it seems to me that whenever any one of these parties, in pursuance of the prior fraudulent order of increase or expedition, took his quarterly pay, as he did once in three months, in that action of his you had then and there a new overt act which you could count as in connection with the conspiracy, and from which the statute of limitations could be dated. But, of course, there was something to be said upon the other side of the question, and therefore we endeavored to avoid being thrown down upon that theory. When I got to New York, as I have said, I devoted myself at once to careful examination of the question of proceeding by information, and on the 19th of September I wrote Mr. MacVeagh the following letter :

SEPT. 19, 1881. Hon. WAYNE MCVEAGII,

Allorney-General: DEAR SIR: It should be a very grave matter which would lead me to intrude upon you in the present complication. But I have made up my mind that it is very doubttal whether we can proceed by information. If so, and as the Statute of Limitations Inns as to our best case-iu one view of it-early in October, it seems to me that there sbould be a speedy conference and agreement as to what should be done. Colonel Cook writes me that our engagement for to-morrow is postponed because of Mr. brewster's engagements. I write now to say that as we got at him only through you, I think we should meet him as soon as possible, and that I will go anywhere to do it.

After we get together and under weigh it will not, I think, be necessary to trouble with such details. Your ob'd't servant,

GEORGE BLISS.

I pursued that examination and went into it very elaborately, getting one or two rare English books upon Conspiracy, and came to the conclu.

H. Mis. 38, pt. 2— 11*

sion that we could proceed by information unless there was something in the local law of the district which forbade it. That turned upon the question whether conspiracy was an infamous crime. That question I looked up carefully, historically and otherwise, and I prepared a very elaborate brief upon the subject, of which I have a copy here, and which, as the committee will see, contains 32 printed pages.

From time to time I consulted with Mr. Brewster on that subject. I wentover to Philadelphia several times, saw himn and Mr. MacVeagh, and discussed that question with them. In connection with that, it became necessary to determine whether the law in the District of Columbia presented any other question than was presented in the ordinary forum or in the forum where I was in the babit of practicing, and that ques. tion I referred to Colonel Cook as the local counsel here, and was as. sured by him that he thought that under the local law there was no difficulty whatever with reference to proceeding by information We went on. We got notice of a motion to strike the information from the files of the court and we prepared ourselves to meet it, and after I had prepared my brief, though it was rather outside of the scope of my portion of the case, I looked somewhat into the local laws of the District and became a good deal alarmed at what I found there as bearing upon the information, and’I wrote Colonel Cook on the 31st of October as follows:

Oct. 31, 1881. DEAR SIR: Our motion is for Thursday, and I will be ready. Have telegraphed Brewster.

Unless there is something in your local laws to the contrary, we are all right. I am afraid of this. How do you get along with U. S. v. Cross, 1 McArthur, 149! Isn't the syllogism police court has jurisdiction of all crimes not misdemeanors? If this is not an infamous crime the police court has primary jurisdiction. If it is infamous, then an information cannot be granted. Yours, truly,

GEORGE BLISS. Col. W. A. Cook.

I also wrote Mr. Brewster the following letter on the same day:

OCT. 31, 1881. DEAR SIR: I have telegraphed you our bearing is fixed for Thursday. I expect to leave here on the “limited" Wednesday, and hope to pick you up and go on together.

I have heard from time to time that we were to be beaten by some local laws in local decisions applicable only in the District of Columbia, and have become anxious about it.

Look at United States v. Cross, 1 McArthur, 149, and see if it has elements of trouble for us.

Cook has always told me there were no local difficulties or decisions, and I have put the examination of them upon him. Yours, truly,

GEORGE BLISS. Hon. B. H. BREWSTER.

We came down here to the argument. We had a very elaborate ar. gument, and were beaten, on the ground that there was a peculiarity in the local law of the District of Columbia which made a conspiracy within the statutes here an infamous crime, aud that an information could not be filed in such a case, however it might be in other cases. Of course we were subjected to considerable criticism because of the result of that proceeding. I did not think anybody was to blame; I thought it was a fair thing to try; but, however that may have been, if there was any blame anywhere it did not rest upon anybody but the local counsel, and I never felt that that was a matter of proper criticism upon him. During all this period, so far as time allowed, pending this examination about the information, and the preparation of the argument, I was led to give such attention as I could to looking into the evidence in the cases, and considering it more carefully, aud after the information was thrown out of court the question came up as to whether we should pro. ceed in the Prescott and Santa Fé case. I was very decided in the opinion that it was not wise to proceed in that case or to put it forward as a pioneer case.

Q. Who were the defendants in that case?-A. Mr. Brady, Mr. John L. French, the chief clerk, Mr. William H. Turner, a clerk, and I think there was a Mr. Brown in the case, and some others. As I have already stated, we were dependent in that case upon Walsh's testimony. Now, Mr. Walsh was but a single individual, and unless he would come to time, and would prove beyond all question the payment of money to Brady, we were gone. In other words, if we relied upon that case as a test case, we were relying upon a single link in our chain. After the decision as to the proceeding by information, which of course had a bad effect upon public opinion, and a bad effect upon us in a measure, I thought it was not advisable to put ourselves in that position. I may say further, that I saw things from time to time which led me to fear that if Mr. Walsh got the money which he claimed had been wrongfully taken from him he would not be for us an available witness; so that we might be in the position of baving an indictment procured solely upon that testimony and then find Mr. Walsh dropping out. I was, therefore, very decidedly of the opinion that the Prescott and Santa Fé route should not be proceeded with as the next case. I understand that there has been a letter read here written by Mr. Gibson to the AttorneyGeneral in January, 1882, upon that subject. My impression is that I never saw that letter. The Attorney-General usually showed me every. thing of that sort, and if he should say that he did show me that, he would undoubtedly be correct, but my impression is that I never saw the letter. At any rate, I have no hesitation in saying that, whether I had seen it or not, my mind upon that subject would not have been cbanged one particle. I did not then consider it wise to proceed with that Prescott and Sarita Fé case, resting as it did upon the testimony of a single witness, and I do not now consider that it would have been wise. If there is any responsibility to be taken in connection with the failure to proceed with that case by indictment, I desire to accept it in the strongest measure, and to say that it was my judgment that it should not be proceeded with at that time, and that I still remain of that judgment and am prepared to defend it anywhere. I then turned, as soon as possible, to the Dorsey case. But, before doing that, I devoted some days to going over all the other cases which had been regarded as suspicious; going over them simply to the extent of looking to see whether there was any danger of the statute of limitations running against us in any of them, for I was keeping a weather eye on that all the time, and I made memoranda as to the earliest cases.so as to keep clear of that difficulty. I found that we were in no danger on that point, and then I went on with the Dorsey case. I found that many of Mr. Gibson's statements, as I have said, were not correct, and that as to others, they could not be proved, if correct. I found an infinitade of detail which occupied me almost exclusively down to the 1st

« AnteriorContinuar »