on the Causes of Municipal Corruption
in San Francisco, as Disclosed by the
Investigations of the Oliver Grand Jury,
and the Prosecution of Certain Persons for
Bribery and Other Offenses Against the State Part 4 of 4.
KIDNAPPING OF FREMONT OLDER.
"Evening Bulletin" continued the same vigorous support of the
prosecution as it showed in its earlier attacks on the Ruef-Schmitz regime.
Mr. Fremont Older, as the manager, was primarily responsible for the execution
of this policy, and he gave to it the whole force of his energetic personality.
In the course of publishing the news of the prosecution, the paper printed
a story which showed one of the detectives in the employ of the United
Railroads to have been in a compromising position. There was another detective
in their employ of the same name, but with different initials, and through
an error the wrong name was printed. It was clearly a libel, and the paper
at once made amends, in so far as it could, by publication of the truth
and explanation of the mistake.
libeled man had Mr. Older indicted in Los Angeles, over four hundred miles
from San Francisco, and warrants issued for his arrest to deputies who
were the detective's personal friends. These men came to San Francisco
and, late in the afternoon of September 27, 1907, Mr. Older was lured by
a false telephone message to a quiet street, where he was seized and hurried
into an automobile. The law permits a person so apprehended to be taken
before a judge in his own county to be admitted to bail. This Mr. Older
demanded. His demand was refused, and he was carried, by a roundabout route
of many miles, to a station on the railway to Los Angeles, where the whole
party boarded a train for that destination. Fortunately, Mr. Older made
no attempt to escape, although the offense of abduction began as soon as
he was refused the right to go before a judge, and no violence was done
ruse was discovered before morning, and he was released on an order of
court at Santa Barbara. There was an attorney for the United Railroads
and the libeled man in the abducting party.
the motive for this strange procedure was, other than the hope that Mr.
Older might attempt to escape and thus give an excuse for violence is hard
to discover. His admission to bail in San Francisco in no way could have
jeopardized the chance of bringing him to trial. The subsequent failure
to press the case against him, and its abandonment and dismissal, seem
to indicate that the motive of the abduction was something entirely disconnected
from a desire to secure justice for the libel in a court of law. If it
was an attempt to change the policy of the paper, it failed signally.
Ruef pleaded guilty to the first charge against him that was brought to
trial. In his second trial, it became apparent to the government that attempts
were being made to have improper persons placed upon the jury and to bribe
those who were finally empanelled. A.E.S. Blake was subsequently convicted
and sentenced for offering a bribe to J.M. Kelly, who was empanelled on
that jury. Mr. Kelly had reported this attempt to the District Attorney
at once, and assisted in procuring Blake's conviction.
SHOOTING OF FRANCIS J. HENEY
AND THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF HIS ASSAILANT.
other persons, concerning whom the government had information that they
were attempting to qualify as jurors for improper purposes, was Morris
Haas. Haas had been a keeper of a saloon of the lower order, and had been
convicted for embezzlement, but had been subsequently pardoned and had
no other conviction of crime against him. His name appeared upon the jury
list in Ruef's second trial, and the government detectives informed the
District Attorney that, although Haas had a wife and family, he was living
with another woman, and that his paramour had said that he had boasted
that he would retrieve his fortunes by selling his vote for Ruef's acquittal.
In order to get him off the jury, his conviction for forgery was publicly
exposed by Mr. Heney while Haas was sitting in the jury box. As neither
Haas' public nor private record seemed to warrant any special leniency,
no attempt was made to hide his past career.
this time the papers opposing the prosecution, particularly the "Examiner,"
"Globe" and "Chronicle," were making savage personal
attacks on Mr. Heney. The so-called "Mutt" cartoons of the
"San Francisco Examiner" sought by a broad, but clever ridicule,
to convey the impression that Mr. Heney was a coarse and unprincipled charlatan,
and that the entire prosecution was founded in injustice and carried on
to satisfy a personal malice. One of these cartoons, which subsequently
became notable, depicted him as a bird flying in the air, about to be brought
down by a fowler's gun. It would not have incited any balanced person to
commit violence, but to a weak or inflamed mind it might have been suggestive;
though no doubt it was not deliberately so intended.
every channel of personal vilification, from armed thugs in the courtroom
to the daily and weekly publications, he was abused and threatened until,
to the misinformed, he might well be considered a proper target for personal
would appear that Haas' mind was in that undeveloped type likely to take
seriously these pictorial representations. At any rate, whether through
the impressions gained through the press, or incitement of the same persons
who secured the dynamiting of Gallagher's home, or otherwise, Haas nursed
his grievance against Mr. Heney until he came to regard his murder as a
public benefaction. His plan for killing his victim was not the result
of a sudden passion, for he subsequently made the significant admission
that he had concluded that it was best to postpone his attack until after
the election. This meant a delay for a period of many weeks.
the 13th of November, 1908, Mr. Heney was conducting the third case against
Ruef, when Haas, who had been for a number of days a spectator in the court
room, slipped up behind him and fired a pistol bullet into his head, just
forward of his right ear. By a chance more miraculous than the escape of
the people in Gallagher's house, the bullet passed between his skull and
jaw and exhausted its strength in the soft lining at the back of his mouth,
finally lodging in the bone of the jaw on the opposite side. No vital organ
was touched, and, apart from the shock to his nervous system and the loss
of hearing in one ear, no permanent injury was inflicted.
was seized and searched by two officers and no other weapon was found on
him. The government's detectives put him through a partial examination
for the purpose of discovering the instigators of the crime, if there were
any. The examination was to have been continued the following day, but
he was found dead in his cell, with a pistol bullet through his forehead,
before the next session.
weapon used was a small derringer, which might have escaped the search
of the officers, and it was also possible that the comparatively slight
powder mark around the wound was due to his holding the weapon a long distance
from his face. Whether he took own life, and, if so, whether he brought
in the derringer or had it handed to him in jail, or whether he was killed
to prevent his telling of his accomplices, will probably never be known.
It is entirely possible that he committed suicide. It is equally possible
that the same influence that paid Claudianes to place the bomb to kill
Gallagher was responsible for Haas' death.
STEALING OF THE GOVERNMENT'S PAPERS
AND SECRET INFORMATION.
only did the government have to contend against the bribing of jurors and
the attempted murder of its witnesses and officers, but also against the
betrayal of its secret information, thus keeping its enemies advised as
to its intended movements. From the month of July, 1907, to August, 1908,
copies of the reports of the government's detectives were nightly taken
and furnished one of the attorneys for the United Railroads. In most cases
the original reports were copied and the transcriptions furnished, in some
the original itself was taken.
the discovery of these thefts, the government obtained warrants and searched
the offices of the United Railroads. Over seven hundred copies of the reports
and various other documents belonging to the government were found on the
San Francisco Police Department.
total number of crimes for which indictments were found by the Oliver Grand
Jury was one hundred and seventy-five, participated in by nearly forty
persons, representing practically every walk in life. Not one of them was
unearthed by the Police Department of San Francisco, and the Chief of Police
himself was indicted for perjury before the Grand Jury and for conspiring
to prevent the detection of crime. It is apparent that such a department
must have been rotten to the core.
not a single officer or detective, commissioned or otherwise, has been
removed for concealing or failing to discover any of the crimes, and as
there have been practically no resignations from the department, it is
apparent that its personnel is still of the same character. It would appear
that another Schmitz-Ruef administration would find the same organized
support standing ready to do its bidding.
clearing up of the department is largely a matter of courage on the part
of the Board of Police Commissioners, as the trial and removal of an officer
for grafting or incompetence does not involve any of the technicalities
of procedure and proof which have grown up around criminal prosecutions.
It is not even necessary to show that the accused officer connived at crime.
It is enough to warrant his removal for incompetence, if an illicit enterprise
is found in his jurisdiction, or if there are strong indications that a
crime may have been committed there, and he has failed to discover and
report the facts.
present commission has not permitted the open continuance of some of the
more flagrant evils of the old system. It is still licensing the attractive
and alluring debauchery of the French restaurants, and has not made any
attempt to remove the men who gathered or permitted the gathering of the
tribute of vice and crime for the support of the former administration.
Election of the Fall of 1909
Heney accepted the nomination of the Democratic party, and of the Good
Government League, for the District Attorneyship, to succeed Mr. Langdon.
He was opposed by Mr. Charles M. Fickert, who received the Union Labor
and Republican nominations. Mr. Fickert was elected, receiving 36,192 votes
to Mr. Heney's 26,075.
the course of the campaign, the old-standing class antagonism was
made an issue. The cry "vote a straight Labor ticket and be true to
the cause" gave a considerable Labor vote to Mr. Fickert, and his
nomination by the Republican party gave him a similar partisan support.
This, combined with the tenderloin and saloon element, brought the Fickert
vote up to no less than 25,000. The balance of his supporters was made
up of those who were in sympathy with the doctrine of a wide open town
and its accompanying loose morals, both in its political and commercial
life, and those who were honestly convinced that government was not sincere
in its efforts and who failed to realize the tremendous obstacles that
had been placed in its way by the beneficiaries of the graft system. The
latter class of Fickert's votes were the direct product of three years
of vilification and abuse to which certain of the daily papers and nearly
all of the weekly papers had subjected Mr. Langdon, Mr. Heney, Mr. Burns
and Mr. Spreckels.
of Mr. Heney's speeches lent color to the claim that he was attempting
to try the accused man at the bar of public opinion rather than in the
courts of justice, and he permitted himself to be drawn into personalities
from which a calmer judgment would have saved him. The bulk of well-intentioned
citizens understood the strain to which the three years of most bitter
and arduous courtroom service, coupled with the shock of his shooting,
had subjected him and, judged in their true light his statements that it
was the People of the State of California who had been offended by the
briberies, and that it was the People who were prosecuting the cases, and
that the District Attorney was merely the agent of the community, as a
political entity, lost Mr. Heney many votes. Your committee see no reason
to question the continuance of the sincerity of the prosecution, and has
the highest appreciation of Mr. Heney's splendid services and of the results
accomplished, not only in unmasking the real forces behind the corruption
in San Francisco, but in overthrowing the Ruef-Schmitz administration;
nevertheless, it cannot pass by the campaign of 1909 without pointing out
what, in our opinion, was its chief weakness.
the other hand we cannot but feel that had the ballot been free of the
straight-ticket device, and the people been voting directly on the
qualifications of the candidates for their respective positions, the vote
would have been very different. The number of persons who will accept a
party label as a substitute for their own conviction regarding the candidate's
merits, is still very large. No better evidence of this is needed than
the bitter opposition of the machine politicians to any attempt to abolish
the "party circle" on the ballot.
could be more illogical than the determination of the qualifications of
the man who is to administer the law impartially, by his allegiance to
a partisan organization. The same is true of all the officers of a municipality,
but it applies the more forcibly to the Police Judges and the District
Attorney who exercise judicial or quasi-judicial functions.
laws have already recognized the want of logic in partisan elections of
municipal officers who are supposed to exercise impartially their official
functions, and Los Angeles, Fresno, Alameda and other cities now elect
their city officers on ballots which simply show the names of the candidates
under the office to be filled, without party or any other designation.
Recommendations The foregoing is but a partial review
of some of the factors which tend to maintain the corrupt conditions in
our municipality. Whatever advantages a contemporaneous record may have
must be taken along with the disadvantages arising from the want of historical
perspective. It is little more than a series of findings on the more important
matters of fact which have been brought to our attention in the fourteen
months over which our sessions have extended.
the vista of time is necessary to view these in their just proportions
and relationship, we feel that there are some remedies which may help protect
the community, till a maturer and more vigorous public sentiment itself
keeps in suppression the evil tendencies and influences we have pictured.
to the request in your Honor's commission to us, we submit the following
Non-Partisan Municipal Elections. The charter should so be amended
as to prohibit partisan nominations for election to municipal offices,
the ballot, when printed, to show nothing more than the name and the office
of the candidate.
A Judicial Tribunal for the Determination of Charges for Public Utilities.
A separate tribunal of permanent character should be established for the
judicial determination of the rates and charges for public utilities.
Further Punishment for Bribery. The laws creating the crime of bribery
should so be amended as to provide for the punishment of corporations in
their corporate capacity. Very heavy fines should be imposed, and the forfeiture
to the State or City of prior acquired franchises should be made part of
Cancellation of a Franchises' Procured by Fraud. Laws should be
enacted for the cancellation of franchises procured by fraud or crime of
the owners of the franchises, or of their predecessors in interest. These
laws should be of a civil nature, cognizable in a court of equity, so that
the extreme technicality of our criminal procedures will not embarrass
their enforcement. The Mayor and the District Attorney, each on his own
motion, should have the right initiate such proceedings in the name of
the municipality upon which the fraud has been committed. Their power should
be concurrent with that of the State to take similar action in quo warranto
Corporations Should be Compelled to Give Evidence Against Themselves.
The law of evidence in criminal cases should be so amended that a corporation
accused of crime cannot claim immunity from producing or giving evidence
against itself, and the testimony of its officers, and all its documents
should be admissible in criminal proceedings against it. As a corporation
can commit a crime only through an officer or an employee, in a prosecution
of such crime the officer or employee should not be permitted to remain
mute on the ground that his testimony would tend to incriminate him.
Accounts of Quasi-Public Corporations. Laws should be enacted requiring
all quasi-public corporations to keep their books in collaboration
with the committee they serve, and according to a system prescribed by
The Undisclosed Sale of News Columns to be a Crime. Laws should
be enacted making it a crime for a newspaper to publish as news any matters
for which compensation is directly or indirectly paid, or agreed to be
paid, unless the fact that such compensation has been paid or agreed to
be paid is indicated by some plainly distinguishing mark next to the news
so printed. The jury or judge should be given liberal power of inferring
complicity from considerations indirectly given. A person paying such compensation
should be permitted to recover the consideration given by him, and immunity
granted him, if he disclose the crime. A part of the punishment should
consist in forbidding the publication of the paper for a period fixed by
The School System. The trial of Mr. Calhoun disclosed a considerable
number of citizens who, when examined under oath as to their qualifications
for jury service, complacently declared that they would not convict a man
for bribery, however convincing the evidence, if, since his crime, he has
successfully broken a strike which was threatening his investments. A system
of public education which produces such men m be radically defective in
both its ethical and political teaching. It is our believe that no child
should be permitted to leave the grammar school until he has had thoroughly
instilled into him a strong sense of his obligation to the State to set
aside all prejudice or private interest and act as juryman in any case
in which he may be summoned. He should be taught that this obligation is
sacred, that its performance is the highest kind of public service, outranking
the mere physical courage and devotion of a soldier.
is our opinion that the schools have not kept pace in their ethical instruction
with the many complex changes in our commercial organization, due to the
universal conduct of business through corporations. Every child should
be taught that in all probability he will, for a large period of his life,
be an agent for some corporation. He should be taught the elemental facts
concerning the workings of the corporate organization, and particularly
the location of the immediate responsibility for any wrongdoing with the
directors who elect the manager, and the ultimate responsibility of the
stockholders, who, in turn, elect the directors. He should be taught that
if a disclosure of any impropriety in the relations of the corporation
to the State does not receive the attention of the directors, he can make
a direct appeal to the stockholders through the agency of the press.
should be taught that the corporation is a mere creature of the State,
and that it as much the duty of the citizen to cry "stop thief"
to its attempt to seal a public franchise, as it is to raise the cry when
he discovers the treasurer, or any other official, robbing the public of
child should be permitted to leave the grammar school without a keen appreciation
of the rights of every citizen to good service from public service corporations.
He should be instructed what he is to expect from transportation, water,
gas, electric, telephone and telegraph companies, and how to make effective
his complaint if he does not receive his just due.
high schools should deal more specifically with the problems of corporate
organization and each year give their quota of trained minds to cope with
the sophistries offered to justify fictitious valuations, inadequate service
or criminal relations with public officials who have the gifts of franchises.
it be true, as has been suggested, that the overwhelming preponderance
of women among our teachers makes such an addition to the curriculum impracticable,
then we submit that the matters are of such important as to warrant the
employment of a sufficient number of male teachers of political and business
ethics. We do not believe, however, that these problems present any difficulties
to the intelligence of women which a proper normal school training cannot
struggle against greed and social injustice will not be ended with our
generation. Those who come after must continue the battle for the preservation
of sane democratic government, and the "vigilance" which is the
price of our liberty must be intelligent and organized as well as eternal.
WILL J. FRENCH,
HENRY GIBBONS JR.,
My Dear Mr. Denman:
have just gone over the report of your committee and heartily approve of
the recommendations made at the end thereof.
is with great regret that on account of my sickness and absence from the
city and many of our meetings I am unable to sign the findings. It is not
because I disagree with any of them, but because I am unable to either
agree or disagree with several, on account of my failure to hear the evidence
on which they rest. You do not need to be assured that as far as my connection
with the committee is concerned, I have never felt out of harmony with
the ideals and aims of my confreres, nor any doubt as to the integrity
or sincerity of their purpose.
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