Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Scandal of 1922: Part VII

We are now into the second day of testimony in the trial of Chief John Cruise, charged with dereliction of duty by the Commission of Public Safety for allowing the "sale of intoxicants and prostitution" to exist in Hudson. Before reporting the testimony offered during this session of the hearing, the Columbia Republican introduces the cast of characters and gives an account of some of what went on before the witnesses were heard. Below are excerpts from that report, which appeared in the Columbia Republican for May 9, 1922.
The hearing was called to order shortly after 4 o'clock. Commissioners Whitbeck, Van Deusen and Petry took places on the bench of the Council room. Miss Laura Hickey was the stenographer. Miss Florence Gaffney, Secretary to the Commission by virtue of her office as City Clerk, was present also. Chief of Police Cruise entered the City Clerk's office with Judge John J. Moy and R. Monell Herzberg, his attorneys. The Commissioners held a short conference with Corporation Counsel and some others in the office of the Chief of Police and then came into the City Clerk's office. As the Commissioners passed by Chief Cruise who was there talking with reporters, they spoke with him and he passed the time of day with them and saluted.
As the Commissioners entered the Council Chamber they found it packed with spectators, men from all walks of life and including many city officials. Chief Cruise and his attorney took the west side of the chamber, occupying the chairs and desks of the Aldermen. Corporation Counsel De Lamater and Mr. Coffin took their desks on the east side of the chamber.
As soon as a few details of arrangements had been made, President Whitbeck of the Commission, acting as the presiding officer, announced "The hearing is called to order." The appearance on both sides were then noted for the purpose of record. The Corporation Counsel appears with Mr. Coffin as his counsel; Judge Moy appears as chief counsel for Chief Cruise with Mr. Herzberg as counsel. . . .
Then the defense opened up on the first contention. Judge Moy asked the presiding officer the status of Mr. Coffin. Mr. De Lamater announced that Mr. Coffin appeared as counsel to the Corporation Counsel. Then Mr. Herzberg took the floor, where he was to remain the greater part of two hours. He desired to know under what authority he appeared for the Corporation Counsel. He contended that no counsel can be retained at the expense of the city without the authorization of the Common Council. To the objection to Mr. Coffin's appearance Mr. De Lamater said the question was an impossible one: that is might be a subject for argument on the payment of a bill but not a bar to his serving.
President Whitbeck overruled the defense's objection to Mr. Coffin's appearance and the defense proceeded to the next question.
Mr. Herzberg desired to know by what authority of the charter the Chief of Police had been suspended. After some argument along this line President Whitbeck ordered further procedure by pointing out that he failed to see where arguments on this phase were material when the accused was present and on trial. Mr. Herzberg stated that Chief Cruise had been suspended and for over a month had remained so without charges being filed against him. President Whitbeck said he had no desire to enter into argument with counsel.
Then Mr. Herzberg stated that on behalf of Chief Cruise he wished to submit answer to charges filed against him and proceeded to read a lengthy prepared statement alleging bias on the part of the Commission to sit in that case and render judgment, citing records from the proceedings of the Commission in regular meeting sessions relative to requests being made for Chief Cruise to resign. He cited the meeting of September 13. He read from an alleged record of the meeting the conversation between Commissioner Van Deusen and Chief Cruise. Mr. Herzberg then charged bias and prejudice, alleging the Commission was accuser, prosecutor and court and alleged that the charges made against Chief Cruise were neither verified or signed. He said that he spoke of these things now to give "fair warning" of what was coming later.
Mr. Herzberg then called attention to a reference case, that of the Chief of Police of Amsterdam the decision in which case was reviewed by the Appellate division and the decision of this court reversed by the Court of Appeals. Then he challenged the jurisdiction of the Commission to hear the case.  
Mr. Coffin interposed then to ask Mr. Herzberg if there was any authorities as to whether it was the proper thing to try the bias contention in this case first. Mr. Herzberg said that this was a clearly defined issue. Mr. Coffin thought that this would mean the court would try themselves.
As to the allegations of bias President Whitbeck stated that the Commission had pledged itself to get no one when it took office and would judge entirely on the testimony presented in this case. The motion to have the bias contention taken up was denied. . . .
Then Mr. Herzberg submitted the answer of the defendant to the charges demurring to many of the sections and specifications and pleading not guilty to all of the others. . . . 
The answer closed with asking that the charges made against Chief Cruise be dismissed, he be reinstated to his position as Chief and that he be paid for back salary.
Mr. Herzberg and Mr. Coffin had a short tilt and then Mr. Herzberg and President Whitbeck had one. The President objected to the statements by counsel that the Commission had already judged the case. Mr. Herzberg thought however that he would continue to so state "whether it displeases or not." The tilt however was quickly passed by when the President ordered counsel to proceed and pointed out that much time was being wasted and that the trial was not getting anywhere. Mr. Herzberg then resumed his quarrel with the charges and pointed his attack in a veiled manner at the Corporation Counsel stating that "It was a child of his brain." Mr. De Lamater did not see anything frivolous except the attitude of counsel in the charges. . . . 
It was suggested that a recess be taken and President Whitbeck granted this, ordering a recess until 8:30 in the evening.
There were fully 150 persons packed from wall to wall and from the back to the railing during the proceedings. Once some spectators started a bit of applause and demonstration following a retort of Mr. Herzberg to Mr. Coffin. President Whitbeck warned that unless order could be maintained the chamber would be cleared of spectators. This warning sufficed and there were no further outbreaks.



  1. They had a short tilt? Do we have short tilts these days? Or are they long tilts?

  2. Given the persons involved in the "tilt" I would say it refers to a face-to-face confrontation between Mr. Herzberg and his opponents, apparently limited to a non-verbal form of communication.

    1. Let's not overthink this. In the context, "tilt" simply means a dispute or contention--something that still happens regularly in the Council Chamber.