Edward Guthridge's Bribery Investigation

 

 

By the Chairman:

Q. Have you any other statement to make in regard to your investigations in North Carolina?—A. No; not anything more in regard to North Carolina. I believe the only matter that we have not gone over now is the Texas matter.

Q. To what did your Texas investigation relate?—A. It was charged that the district attorney in the eastern district of Texas had taken a bribe of $500 to recommend to the Solicitor of the Treasury a compromise of the Bonfoey case, which was a judgment of $50,000.

Q. Against whom ?—A. Against the sureties of Bonfoey living at the time of the suit, who were William Umbdenstock, now collector of internal revenue, and W. T. Scott.

Q. Please read that report as part of your statement.

The Witness read the report as follows :

Washington, D. C., September 3, 1883. The Attorney-general ::

I have the honor to report to yon upon the matter of the charges of bribery against Edward Guthridge, esq., late United States district attorney for the eastern district of Texas. which was referred to me for investigation.

The first charge against Mr. Guthridge was, that he had taken a bribe of $500 to recommend the compromise of the suit of the United States against Davis B. Bonfoey and his sureties. I first called on William Umbdenstock, collector of of internal revenue at Marshall, Tex., who was one of said sureties and mainly instrumental in having said case compromised. Mr. Umbdenstock made a sworn statement to me (hereto annexed and marked Exhibit A), in which he says, that Win. T. Bonfoey was the collector of internal revenue after the war of the fourth district of Texas, and as collector and as such collector gave a bond to the Government in the sum of $50,000, with William Umbdenstock,  Wm.. T. Scott, Reuben Knight, Wm. C. Bristow, Wm. E. Miller, and Bearnan H. Martin as sureties; that afterwards Bonfoey in a quarrel with his deputy killed him and was put in jail; that when the office of Bonfoey was investigated he was founded to be a defaulter to the Government for $167,000,   the sureties were called on to pay said bond, which they refused to do believing that they had a good defense; that suit was instituted by the Government, and a judgment was recovered .against them on the 11th of December, 1873, for $50,000; the Government then granted the defendants one year's stay of execution, after the expiration of which time a number of executions were issued and levies made. The legal proceedings up to this time were conducted by Andrew J. Evans, esq., United States district attorney for the western district of Texas; that after this a change was made in the districts of Texas, and Edward Guthridge, esq., United States district attorney for the eastern district, assumed control of said case; that Umbdenstock and Scott were the only sureties then living, and they sent the Solicitor of the Treasury a proposition to compromise said case for $5,000, which was declined; that afterwards Umbdenstock and Scott made a second proposition of compromise to the Government of $5,000; that while this proposition was pending Mr. Guthridge came to Marshall, where Umbdenstock and Scott lived. Mr. Umbdenstock states that while Mr. Guthridge was at Marshall, one Joe McBride came to him and said that he was authorized by Mr. Guthridge to say, that if Umbdenstock and Scott would pay Guthridge $2,500 he would  recommend to the Government the compromise of the Bonfoey case for $5,500; that Umbdenstock was provoked at the proposition, and that afterwards McBribe came to him again and said that he had again consulted with Mr. Guthridge and that he

agreed to take $1,000 instead of $2,500; that Umbdenstock and Scott then had a consultation and agreed to pav Guthridge $1,000 for his recommendation of said compromise if he would not do it otherwise. Arrangements were then made at the banking-house of E. J. Fry, Marshall, Tex., that as soon as the Government accepted the proposition of compromise the bank should pay McBride $1,000. A week or two after this Mr. Guthridge came again to Marshall, Tex., to see Mr. Umbdenstock and told him that he needed $500, and would sooner have that amount then than $1,000 afterwards. The arrangements were then canceled at the bank, and Umbdenstock and Scott, through one Leon Kahn, paid Mr. Guthridge $500, Guthridge at the same time giving his note secured by a lien to pay back the money in case the compromise was not accepted by the Government.

On the 9th of July, 1831, Edward Guthridge made his report to the Solicitor of the Treasury, advising the  Government to accept $5,500 in compromise of said case. The case was afterwards compromised by the Government as Mr. Guthridge recommended.

During the month of February last Mr. Guthridge sent Mr. Umbdenstock a draft for $500. Upon the solicitations of Mr. Guthridge the draft was collected by Mr. Umbdenstock. Thereupon Mr. Guthridge requested Mr. Umbdenstock to treat the matter of the $500 as a loan from the first. Mr. Umbdenstock says that he then declined to do so, and that he declines to do so now, and that the $500 were paid to Mr. Guthridge with the express understanding that he was to recommend the compromise of the Bonfoey case, and was not a loan.

I then saw Leon Kahn and he made a statement (hereto annexed, marked Exhibit B) in which he corroborates Mr. Umbdenstock's statement.

I also saw Joe McBride, who declined to make a statement, but intimated that if he received the appointment from the Government as a pension agent he would then make a full statement of the matter.

I also obtained a statement from Edward Guthridge, esq. (hereto annexed and marked C), in which he substantially states the facts as detailed by Umbdenstock and Kahn, but says that when he took the money he thought he was entitled to $1.000 as his attorney's commission, at 2 per cent., on the original judgment of $50,000.

I desire also further to add that I am reliably informed that the status of the Bonfoey case when compromised by the Government was not fully and fairly represented by Mr. Guthridge to the Solicitor of the Treasury, and I would respectfully suggest that Andrew J. Evans, esq., United States attorney for the western district of Texas. be asked to furnish a history of the case up to the time of the compromise. I have the honor to be, your obedient servant.

E. B. WIEGAND,

.Examiner. 

By Mr. MlLLIKEN :

Q. What is the date of that report ?—A. September 8, 1883.

Q. Is Guthridge in the employment of the Government now ?—A. No, sir. After he had admitted to me that he had taken the bribe, I asked him for his commission, and he sent in his resignation.

Q. Was he removed as soon as the Government discovered what he had been doing?—A. Yes, sir; he sent in his resignation before I came back.

By the Chairman :

Q. Did you state that Guthridge had been removed?—A. Yes.

Q. Was suit entered on the record of this judgment against the sureties of Bonfoey?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did yon investigate the question as to whether those sureties were responsible for the full amount of that judgment?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Were they responsible ?—A. I was informed by Judge Evans, who had brought the suit and prosecuted it to judgment, that the defendants had made an effort to rid themselves of their property (they were rich men), but that he had the case in each a shape that the money would have been recovered for the Government had not this compromise been made.

Q. The full amount ?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. What was the false representation made by Guthridge in regard to the responsibility of those defendants, which led to the compromise ?—A. In his letter to the Solicitor of the Treasury, when he recommended the compromise, he said that at first, when he had refused to recommend a compromise, he had not been fully informed of the nature of the case, and that Judge Evans had filed a bill to remove the cloud from the title of these defendants ; that the bill was dismissed, and the court directed the district attorney to pursue the usual methods. He deceived the Solicitor through that statement. he said that the bill filed by Judge Evans had been dismissed in the court, and that this compromise was the best thing that could be done, and would give the Government all the money that could be got out of the case. He misrepresented the facts in that statement, because I believe that the Government now has a levy on a very large tract of land there, and ought to have had it at the time this compromise was recommended. Mr. Umbdenstock is a man of very considerable means, and so is Mr. Scott. During this interval, when the stay of execution was made, they conveyed their property to some of their relatives, but the conveyance would not have stood in the courts, because it was a fraudulent conveyance in order to evade their legal responsibility.

Q. The judgment was a lien upon their realty in the State of Texas?— A. Yes, sir.

Q. At whose instance was this stay of execution allowed ?—A. I suppose it was at the instance of the defendants.

Q. Who was the prosecuting attorney then?—A. Andrew J. Evans, esq., the United States attorney for the western district of Texas, but it was not granted through him.

Q. It was not?—A. Oh, no. He was diligent and earnest in prosecuting that case.

Q. Did yon learn whether the execution had been levied upon lands or realty sufficient to satisfy the whole of the judgment?—A. That is the way I understood the facts, but the case covers a good deal of ground, and, as I stated in the report, I desired Judge Evans to make a report of the case, because I believed that the money could still be made for the Government.

Q. Did you understand that the persons against whom the judgment was obtained were those who had given the bribe to Guthridge?—A. Yes; they admitted it. Guthridge admits it himself, and so does Umbdenstock

Q. Has any prosecution of Guthridge been recommended ?—A. Yes, sir; Mr. Brewster Cameron recommended the prosecution of Mr. Guthridge.

Q. Where is Guthridge now?—A. I don't know.

By Mr. Hemphill :

Q. Have you stated all that you did in Texas?—A. No; I did still more in Texas.

By the Chairman :

Q. You took pains to inquire as to the responsibility of these defendants, I understand, and you are satisfied that the full amount of the judgment can be recovered?—A. Yes, sir. A full statement can be got at any time from the attorney of the western district of Texas, Judge Evans, The case really belonged to him, and under the act of Congress Mr. Guthridge had no right to interfere with the case, even though it was covered in part by his district. The law provides that the district attorney in whose district a civil suit is begun shall continue the prosecution of that suit, even though the portion of his district in which it is instituted is attached to another district, unless the Attorney-General otherwise direct. Judge Evans never received any such direction from the Attorney-General. Mr. Guthridge just trespassed on the case, and took it out of Judge Evans' hands, in the way I have stated.

Mr. Milliken. If those parties are now good, and if that bond is satisfactory, I do not believe that a plea in bar of a compromise procured in that way would be a good one.

The Chairman. No; I think the court on judgment would set aside the compromise and order a new execution.

The Witness. The property that those parties had at the time would be responsible. They may convey it away as much as they please, but it is a fraud to convey away property under such circumstances.

Mr. Milliken. The question of the conveyances is another question.

By the Chairman :

Q. But they are still responsible parties, as you understand ?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. You understand that they have property there ?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. What other investigations did you make in the State of Texas ?— A. There was a memorial signed by colored citizens and sent to the President, in regard to which I made some investigation.

Q. Did it have any reference to the expenditures of the Department of Justice ?—A. No, sir. I investigated also in relation to the murder of Judge Haughn.

Q. Did he hold any commission from the Government of the United States ?—A. No, sir ; not at that time. It was charged that he was murdered because he was an important witness in the United States courts.

Q. What did you find in regard to that case f—A. Well, I found that he had been murdered, but found as a fact that he had not been murdered because he was a United States witness, but because his political conduct was obnoxious to the people, and under the excitement which prevailed in the community. A woman had been raped in that country just at that time and there was great excitement prevailing, and it was reported that he had made some very indiscreet remarks in regard to the matter, and just at the time of the lynching he was assassinated.

Q. Did you state that a large number of persons had been summoned as witnesses in certain United States cases there in that part of Texas ? —A. Yes, sir ; I think there were from 1,500 to 1,900 witnesses summoned. Indeed, I believe a train had to be chartered to get them to the place.

Q. Where did those witnesses reside, and from what place or places were they brought t—A. In one case they were brought from the county in which Marshall is, and afterwards in another case from the county in which Jefferson is.

Q. How far were they brought?—A. That is more than I can tell you now. The people of those counties were pretty generally gathered together and summoned as witnesses.

Q. Who had caused such large numbers of witnesses to be subpoenaed, and what was the occasion for it?—A. Judge Haughn and Edward Guthridge, the district attorney, had both been candidates for office and had been defeated, and they took those proceedings.

Q. What was the nature of the suits in which these people were witnesses?—A. They were about stuffing ballot-boxes—election cases.

Q. Were those parties to be examined before a United States commissioner?—A. No; they were to be tried in court.

Q. Were indictments found against citizens for violation of the United States election laws?—A. Yes, sir; they were all indicted on the information of a deputy living at Galveston.

Q. In what court were those indictments found?—A. In the United States court.

Q. Where ?—A. At Jefferson, Tex.

Q. How many indictments were found?—A. There were 30 or 40 defendants and about 1,700 witnesses.

Q. Did you make a report to the Attorney-General upon those cases ?— A. Yes, sir; on the charge of bribery. The district attorney was charged with having been bribed to dismiss those cases.

Q. Then those cases were dismissed f—A. Yes, sir. Some of the defendants in the cases plead guilty. It was a matter that was agreed on in advance.

Q. You made a report to the Attorney-General on those cases; please read it.

The witness read the report, as follows:

 

Washington, D. C., September 1, 1883. The Attorney-general :

I have the honor to report to you in the matter of the charges of bribery against Edward Guthridge, esq., United States district attorney for the eastern district of Texas, which were referred to me for investigation.

Mr. Guthridge was charged with having received a bribe when the Harrison County election cases were disposed of in the United States court, at Jefferson, Tex., in February, 1881.

I called on W. T. Armistead, esq., one of the attorneys for the defendants. He gave me a statement of said cases (hereto annexed and marked A), in which he says when said election cases came on for trial there were 30 or 41' defendant», and about 1.700 witnesses in attendance upon the court ; that great excitement and indignation prevailed among them, especially with the agricultural classes, in consequence of both whites and blacks being detained from their business ; that he called upon Mr.Guthridge and asked him if the defendants should plead guilty did he think Judge Morrill would assess their punishment at a fine or imprisonment in the penitentiary ; that Mr. Guthridge replied that he did not know, but that he thought the judge would be satisfied by imposing a fine on them, because that was the punishment imposed on a defendant at a recent term of the court at Tyler who was accused of a like offense—the violation of the election laws. Mr. Armistead said that he made the facts known to the defendants and the attorneys associated with him in said cases. and that a consultation was held to determine whether the defendants should plead guilty or fight the cases to the bitter end ; and that on account of their pecuniary interests it was determined to enter pleas of guilty ; that the next morning the clerk, marshal, and district attorney were called on for an estimate of the probable costs of each, which they furnished ; that after another consultation it was determined one of the defendants should plead guilty, as a test case, to see what punishment the judge would give him ; that this was accordingly done, whereupon the judge, after pronouncing a severe criticism on such an offense against the laws of the United States, assessed his punishment at a fine of $25 and costs ; that other pleas of guilty were then entered, and upon a strong appeal made to the judge for leniency, on account of the poverty of the defendants, the judge replied that the defendants were used as the cats-paw for the capitalists and demagogues of Harrison County, and finally fixed the fines in each case at $1 and costs ; but that no announcement was made from the bench that the witness fees should be taxed as costs, and no such judgment was then entered; that the fines and costs were paid, and the defendants and witnesses were discharged ; that about two weeks after said court adjourned it became known that Judge Morrill had himself entered, or caused to be entered, a judgment taxing the witness fees against the defendants, and that this was a great surprise to the defendants and their attorneys, and that a motion was heard at the succeeding term to have that judgment set aside, but Judge Morrill overruled the motion.

I would here respectfully invite your attention to a certified copy of the records of the United States district court (hereto annexed and marked B), which show that said defendants after pleading guilty were sentenced on the 15th of February. 1881, to pay $1 fine and all costs,and that on February 19, 1881, an order was entered by Judge Morrill that in taxing said costs, the cost of issuance of the subpoenas and service, together with the per diem of the witness, be included, which amounted to $2,389.10. Most of the costs in said cases were paid through subscriptions raised by the friends of the defendants who were too poor to pay them. J. P. Alford, of Marshall, Tex., was appointed treasurer of said subscriptions. I obtained his statement (hereto annexed and marked C), in which he says that he paid Mr. Armistead $2,800 in settlement of said case»; that after the marshal, clerk, fines, district attorney's fees, and Mr. Armistead's fees were paid there is a balance of $1,040 unaccounted for Mr. Alford swears that he paid all this money to Mr. Armistead, but that he does not know what disposition he made of the balance, $1,450

Mr. Armistead, in his statement above referred to, says that he " never bribed nor offered to bribe Guthridge, directly nor indirectly, in the Harrison County election cases, nor do I know of any one who did."

I also obtained a statement from Edward Guthridge (hereto annexed and marked D), in which he gives a full account of the Harrison County election cases and of their disposition. He states that he never received anything on account of said cases but his lawful fees, $110. Mr. Guthridge also furnished me with a statement taken from the books of the Citizens' Bank at Jefferson, where Mr. Alford kept his account while acting as treasurer of said fund. This statement is as follows :

                                                                                            

February 16 to 19, 1883.....                                           $1,450

                                                                                                500 

                                                                                                800

Total -                                                                              2,750

1881.                                                                                      

February 16. Check of J. P. A. to self                                500

                   To E. H. Galloway or bearer                      1,000

            17. W. T. Armietead                                             250

                   J. P. Martin                                                     490

           18. W. T. Armistead or bearer 510

Total .-                                                                               2,750

It does not appear from the evidence developed that any of said missing money reached Mr. Guthridge. Mr. Armistead does not say whether or not he himself received it; while the books of the bank show a check of $500 was drawn to Mr. Alford's own order and another check of $510 was drawn to the order of Mr. Armistead : which checks, together with the money paid for court costs, accounts for all the money, to wit, $2,750. Mr. Guthridge admits that when the matter of the subsequent order entered by Judge Morrill in reference to the taxing of the witness fees became known, that defendants' attorneys came to him and asked him to give them a form by which to address late Attorney-General MacVeagh asking to be relieved from the same, and that he drafted said paper. (See copy hereto annexed, marked K. ) That the fears of Mr. Guthridge were worked on when said cases were up for trial is clear from his statement above referred to, and that his sympathies were with the defendants in the matter of the subsequent order of Judge Morrill in regard to the matter of the witness fees is apparent from the document last referred to, although it was never sent. By drafting said paper he was false to the judge whose order it was his duty to sustain, and he was false again to the Attorney-General in writing a letter to him under the guise of defendant counsel.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

E. B. WIEGAND,
Examiner

Q. Did you inquire as to the necessity of subpoenaing so many witnesses in those cases?—A. There was no necessity for it. In the election cases which followed these, and which were the last in which Judge Haughn was interested, they had subpoenaed an equal number of witnesses. The witnesses reached very nearly 2,000 in number. None ot those cases could be tried. They were too unwieldy in the court. The business could have been accomplished by subpoenaing from ten to twenty persons and using them as witnesses to test those ballot-boxes, but instead of that they undertook to gather in all the voters, so that they could all go on the stand and say how each voted, and it ended in a mob.

Q. How far were the witnesses compelled to come in order to attend that court?—A. They came from all over Harrison County, and they had to go up to Jefferson—quite a little trip on the ears.

Q. Can you state the distances that they had to travel?—A. I really cannot give you the distances they had to travel:

Q. Was the court in the adjoining county ?—A. Yes, sir ; I am not familiar with the geography in that part of the country, but I know the distance is considerable. The matter came on, too, at a time of the year when the crops needed the attention of those people.

Mr. Brewster Cameron. The distance is about 15 miles.

By Mr. Milliken :

Q. What was the purpose of summoning all those witnesses if they were not needed ?—A. It was his method of trying the cases.

Q. It was not done, then, for any corrupt purpose, but was simply his method of trying the cases?—A. That is the question that came up. It was alleged that it had been done for corrupt purposes.

Q. What gain could it be to anybody to summon all those people?— A. They contended that he had all those people arrested and did not mean to try the cases, but meant to have the cases compromised and to extort money from the defendants and their friends. The plan was to raise subscriptions. The defendants as a rule were poor men.

Q. What were the charges in those indictments against those defendants—A. Stuffing ballot-boxes and general election troubles—fraudulent voting.

Q. Did they ail plead guilty?—A. Thirty or forty did. The other cases never have been tried.

У. How many more were there?—A. Well, they arrested nearly all the men who were elected and in office.

Q. You say that in thirty or forty of these cases the parties pleaded guilty?—A. Yes, sir. Under this arrangement as stated here, they took a nominal fine and paid the costs. The other cases are still standing over. There has been no court held there since. Judge Morrill as obliged to leave his court and to leave that part of the district on account of this very election.

By the Chairman:

Q. Will any part of the costs for the service and attendance of the marshals in those cases be charged to the United States?—A. The account will be made in the usual form, and if the costs cannot be gotten out of the defendants the marshal will get them out of the Government.

Q. And you say that in the other cases there are about two thousand persons who have been summoned as witnesses ?—A. Yes, sir. They are in the county where Jefferson is situated—Marion County.

By Mr. Milliken:

Q. Are those cases pending now?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Do you remember how many defendants there were?—A. There is a large number of them, because nearly every white man of any consequence in the county is indicted.

Q. For stuffing ballot-boxes?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. When were those last indictments found?—A. I think it has been within a year.

Q. At what election did these alleged offenses take place ?—A. I think it was at the last Congressional election in the State of Texas. There was a Congressman elected at that time, and in that way the suits were brought into the United States court.

Q. If the charges contained in the indictment against these parties could be proven at all, would not a very few witnesses be sufficient to establish them ?— A. Very few, indeed. I take it that those cases could 

have been tried by subpoenaing not to exceed 20 people. Any number within that would be sufficient to test a box.

Q. Then what reason was given for the summoning of so large a number of people, when so few would have been satisfactory ?—A. The only excuse given was that the witnesses were necessary in order to try cases, as the district attorney viewed the matter.

Q. Didn't the district attorney know that it would be impossible to introduce two thousand witnesses in any case within any reasonable time?—A. I should think so. Judge Evans had tried similar cases, as I was informed by him, and he had never used more than from 10 to 12 witnesses. That was about the number that he had subpoenaed.

Q. What other investigations did you make in Texas than those to which you have already referred to here ?—A. I investigated also the memorial from the colored people, and the matter of the murder of Judge Haughn, and these two matters against Mr. Guthridge.

Q. Have you made any other examinations ?—A. Those four comprise all that I made in Texas.

Q. Have you made any examinations in other States in regard to court expenses?—A. No, sir.

Q. Then you have now completed your statement of your examination f—A. Yes, sir.

Washington, D. C., February 9, 1884.

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