WHEN Robert A. Ammon, a member of the New York bar, was convicted, after a long trial, on the 17th of June, 1903, of receiving stolen goods he had, in the parlance of his class, been “due” for a long time. The stolen property in question was the sum of thirty thousand five hundred dollars in greenbacks, part of the loot of the notorious “Franklin Syndicate,” devised and engineered by William F. Miller, who later became the catspaw of his legal adviser, the subject of this history.
Ammon stood at the bar and listened complacently to his sentence of not less than four years at hard labor in Sing Sing. A sneer curved his lips as, after nodding curtly to his lawyer, he turned to be led away by the court attendant. The fortune snatched from his client had procured for him the most adroit of counsel, the most exhaustive of trials. He knew that nothing had been left undone to enable him to evade the consequences of his crime, and he was cynically content.
For years "Bob" Ammon had been a familiar figure in the Wall Street district of New York. Although the legal adviser of swindlers and confidence men, he was a type of American whose energies, if turned in a less dubious direction, might well have brought him honorable distinction. Tall, strong as a bull, bluff, good-natured, reckless and of iron nerve, he would have given good account of himself as an Indian fighter or frontiersman. His fine presence, his great vitality, his coarse humor, his confidence and bravado had Avon for him many friends of a certain kind and engendered a feeling among the public that somehow, although the associate and adviser of criminals, he was outside the law, to the circumventing of which his energies were directed. Unfortunately his experiences with the law had bred in him a contempt for it which ultimately caused his downfall.
“The reporters are bothering you, are they?” he had said to Miller in his office. “Hang them! Send them to me. I’ll talk to them!”
And talk to them he did. He could talk a police inspector or a city magistrate into a state of vacuous credulity, and needless to say he was to his clients as a god knowing both good and evil, as well as how to eschew the one arid avoid the other. Miller hated, loathed and feared him, yet freely entrusted his liberty, and all he had risked his liberty to gain, to this strange and powerful personality which held him enthralled by the mere exercise of a physical superiority.
The “Franklin Syndicate” had collapsed amid the astonished outcries of its thousands of victims, on November 24, 1899, when, under the advice and with the assistance of Amnion, its organizer, “520 per cent. Miller,” had fled to Canada. It was nearly four years later, in June, 1903, that Ammon, arraigned at the bar of justice as a criminal, heard Assistant District Attorney Nott call William F. Miller, convict, to tire stand to testify against him. A curious contrast they presented as they faced one another; the emaciated youth of twenty-five, the hand of Death already tightly fastened upon his meager frame, coughing, hollow-cheeked, insignificant, flat-nosed, almost repulsive, who dragged himself to the witness chair, and the swaggering athlete who glared at him from the bar surrounded by his cordon of able counsel. As Ammon fixed his penetrating gaze upon his former client, Miller turned pale and dropped his eyes. Then the prosecutor, realizing the danger of letting the old hypnotic power return even for an instant, quickly stepped between them. Miller raised his eyes and smiled, and those who heard knew that this miserable creature had been through the fire and came forth to speak true things.
The trial of Ammon involved practically the reproving of the case against Miller, for which the latter had been convicted and sentenced to ten years in State prison, whence he now issued like one from the tomb to point the skeleton, incriminating finger at his betrayer. But the case began by the convict-witness testifying that the whole business was a miserable fraud from start to finish, carried on and guided by the advice of the defendant. He told how he, a mere boy of twenty-one, burdened with a sick wife and baby, unfitted by training or ability for any sort of lucrative employment, a hanger-on of bucket shops and, in his palmiest days, a speculator in tiny lots of feebly margined stocks, finding himself without means of support, conceived the alluring idea of soliciting funds for investment, promising enormous interest, and paying this interest out of the principal intrusted to him. For a time he preyed only upon his friends, claiming “inside information” of large “deals” and paying ten per cent, per week on the money received out of his latest deposits. Surely the history of civilization is a history of credulity. Miller prospered. His earlier friend-customers who had hesitatingly taken his receipt for ten dollars, and thereafter had received one dollar every Monday morning, repeated the operation and returned in ever increasing numbers. From having his office "in his hat," he took an upper room in a small two-story house at 144 Floyd Street, Brooklyn—an humble tenement, destined to be the scene of one of the most extraordinary exhibitions of man’s cupidity and foolishness in modern times. At first he had tramped round, like a pedler, delivering the dividends himself and soliciting more, but soon he hired a boy. This was in February, 1899. Business increased. The golden flood began to appear in an attenuated but constant rivulet. He hired four more employees and the whole top floor of the house. The golden rivulet became a steady stream. From a “pan-handler” he rolled in ready thousands. The future opened into magnificent auriferous distances. He began to call himself “The Franklin Syndicate,” and to advertise that “the way to wealth is as plain as the road to the market.” He copied the real brokers and scattered circulars and “weekly letters” over the country, exciting the rural mind in distant Manitoba and Louisiana. There was an instantaneous response. His mail required the exclusive attention of several clerks. The stream of gold became a rushing torrent. Every Monday morning the Floyd Street house was crowded with depositors who drew their interest, added to it, deposited it again, and went upon their way rejoicing. Nobody was going to have to work any more. The out-of-town customers received checks for their interest drawn upon “The Franklin Syndicate,” together with printed receipts for their deposits, all signed “William F. Miller,” by means of a rubber stamp. No human hand could have signed them all without writer’s cramp. The rubber stamp was Miller’s official signature. Then with a mighty roar the torrent burst into a deluge. The Floyd Street quarters were besieged by a clamoring multitude fighting to see which of them could give up his money first, and there had to be a special delivery for Miller’s mail. He rented the whole house and hired fifty clerks. You could deposit your money almost anywhere, from the parlor to the pantry, the clothes closet or the bath-room. Fridays the public stormed the house en masse, since the money must be deposited on that day to draw interest for the following week. The crush was so enormous that the stoop broke down. Imagine it! In quiet Brooklyn! People struggling to get up the steps to cram their money into Miller’s pockets! There he sat, behind a desk, at the top of the stoop, solemnly taking the money thrown down before him and handing out little pink and green stamped receipts in exchange. There was no place to put the money, so it was shoved on to the floor behind him. Friday afternoons Miller and his clerks waded through it, knee high. There was no pretense of bookkeeping. Simply in self-defense Miller issued in October a pronunciamento that he could not in justice to his business, consent to receive less than fifty dollars at one time. Theoretically, there was no reason why the thing should not have gone on practically forever, Miller and everybody else becoming richer and richer, until there was no longer any money in the world left to be deposited. So long as the golden stream swelled five times each year everybody would be happy. Flow could anybody fail to be happy who saw so much money lying around loose everywhere?
But the business had increased to such an extent that Miller began to distrust his own capacity to handle it. He therefore secured a partner in the person of one Edward Schlessinger, and with him went to Charlestown, Mass., for the purpose of opening another office, in charge of which they placed a man named Louis Powers. History repeated itself. Powers shipped the deposits to Miller every day or two by express. Was there ever such a plethora of easy money?
But Schlessinger was no Miller. He decided that he must have a third of the profits (Heaven knows how they computed them) and have them, moreover, each day in cash. Hence there was a daily accounting, part of the receipts being laid aside to pay off interest checks and interest, and the balance divided. Schlessinger carried his off in a bag; Miller took the rest, cash, money orders and checks, and deposited it in a real bank. How the money poured in may be realized from the fact that the excess of receipts over disbursements for the month ending November 16 was four hundred and thirty thousand dollars.
Hitherto Miller had been the central figure. Col. Robert A. Ammon now became the deus ex machina. Miller’s advertising had become so extensive that he had been forced to retain a professional agent, one Rudolf Guenther, to supervise it, and when the newspapers began to make unpleasant comments, Guenther took Miller to Ammon’s office in the Bennett Building in Nassau Street. Ammon accepted a hundred dollars from Miller, listened to his account of the business and examined copies of the circulars. When he was handed one of the printed receipts he said they were “incriminating.” Miller must try to get them back. He advised (as many another learned counsellor has done) incorporating the business, since then the stock could be sold and exchanged for the incriminating receipts. He explained the mistakes of the “Dean crowd,” but showed how he had been able to safeguard them in spite of the fact that they had foolishly insisted on holding the stock in their company themselves instead of making their customers the stockholders. Nevertheless, “you do not see any of the Dean people in jail,” boasted Ammon. From now on Miller and he were in frequent consultation, and Ammon took steps to incorporate, procuring for that purpose from Wells, Fargo & Co. a certificate of deposit for one hundred Thousand dollars. Occasionally be would visit Floyd Street to see how things were going. Miller became a mere puppet; Ammon twitched the wire.
It was now well on in November, and the press of both Boston and New York was filled with scathing attacks upon the Syndicate. The reporters became so inquisitive as to be annoying to the peaceful Miller. "Send the reporters over to me!" directed Ammon.
The Post (of Boston) said the whole thing was a miserable swindle. Ammon, accompanied by Miller carrying a satchel which contained fifty thousand dollars in greenbacks, went to Boston, visited the offices of the Post, and pitched into the editor.
“The business is all right; you must give us a fair deal!”
The pair also visited Watts, the chief of police.
“You keep your mouth shut,” said Ammon to Miller. “I’ll do all the talking.” He showed Watts the bag of money, and demanded what he had meant by calling the enterprise a “green goods business.” If the thing wasn’t all right, did Watts suppose that he, Col. Robert A. Ammon, would be connected with it? The chief backed down, and explained that he had jokingly referred to the color of one of the receipts—which happened to be green.
In spite of Ammon’s confidence, however, there was an uneasy feeling in the air, and it was decided to put an advertisement in the Post offering to allow any customer who so desired to withdraw his deposit, without notice, upon the following Saturday. This announcement did not have precisely the anticipated effect, and Saturday saw a large crowd of victims eager to withdraw their money at the Boston office of the Brooklyn Branch of the Franklin Syndicate. Powers paid the Pauls, of Boston, out of the bag brought on by Miller containing the deposits of the Peters, of Brooklyn. Meantime, Ammon addressed the throng, incidentally blackguarding a Post reporter before the crowd, telling them that his paper was a “yellow paper, had never amounted to anything, and never would.” Some timid souls took courage and re-deposited their money. The run continued one day and cost Ammon and Miller about twenty-eight thousand dollars. Ammon took five thousand dollars cash as a fee out of the bag, and the pair returned to New York. But confidence had been temporarily restored.
The beginning of the end, however, was now in sight—at least for the keen vision of Bob Ammon. He advised stimulating deposits and laying hands on all the money possible before the crash came. Accordingly Miller sent a telegram (collect) to all depositors:
“We have inside information of a big transaction, to begin Saturday or Monday morning. Big profits. Remit at once so as to receive the profits.
“WILLIAM F. MILLER, "Franklin Syndicate."
A thousand or so were returned, the depositors having refused to pay the charges. The rest of the customers in large measure responded. But the game was nearly up. There were scare-heads in the papers. Miller saw detectives on every corner, and, like a rat leaving a sinking ship, Schlessinger scuttled away for the last time with a bag of money on the evening of Tuesday, November 21, 1899. The rest of the deposits were crammed into Miller’s desk and left there over night.
The next morning Miller returned to Floyd Street and spent that day in the usual routine, and also on Thursday remained until about twelve o’clock noon, when he placed thirty thousand five hundred dollars in bills in a satchel and started for Ammon’s office, where he found Schlessinger— likewise with a satchel.
“The jig’s up,” announced Schlessinger.
“Billy, I think you’ll have to make a run for it," said Ammon. "The best thing for you is to go to Canada.”
It still remained to secure the money which Miller had deposited in the banks, in such a way that the customers could not get hold of it. Ammon explained how that could easily be done. The money should be all turned over to him, and none of the creditors would ever see it again. He did not deem it necessary to suggest that neither would Miller. Accordingly the two, the lawyer and the client, went to the office of Wells, Fargo & Co., Ammon obligingly carrying the satchel containing the thirty thousand five hundred dollars. Here Ammon deposited the contents to his own account, as well as the certificate of deposit for one hundred thousand dollars previously mentioned, and a check for ten thousand dollars, representing the balance of Miller’s loot. In addition to this he received an order for forty thousand dollars United States Government bonds, which were on deposit with Wells, Fargo & Co., and later, through Miller’s father, sixty-five thousand dollars in bonds of the New York Central Railroad and the United States Government. Thus Ammon secured from his dupe the sum of two hundred and forty-five thousand five hundred dollars, the enhanced market value of the securities bringing the amount up to two hundred and fifty thousand five hundred dollars, besides whatever sums he had been paid by Miller for legal securities, which could not have been less than ten or fifteen thousand dollars. The character of the gentleman is well illustrated by the fact that when paying Mrs. Miller her miserable pittance of five dollars per week, he explained to her that “he was giving her that out of his own money, and that her husband owed him.”
There still remained, however, the chance of getting a few dollars more and Ammon advised Miller “to try to get Friday’s receipts, which were the heaviest day’s business.” Acting on this suggestion, Miller returned the next morning to Floyd Street at about half past nine, finding a great crowd of people waiting outside. About one o’clock he started to go home, but discovering that he was being followed by a man whom he took to be a detective, he boarded a street car, dodged through a drugstore and a Chinese laundry, finally made the elevated railroad, with his pursuer close at his heels, and eventually reached the lawyer’s office about two o’clock in the afternoon. Word was received almost immediately over the telephone that Miller had been indicted in Kings County for conspiracy to defraud, and Ammon stated that the one thing for Miller to do was to go away. Miller replied that he did not want to go unless he could take his wife and baby with him, but Ammon assured him that he would send them to Canada later in charge of his own wife. Under this promise Miller agreed to go, and, Ammon procured a man named Enright to take Miller to Canada, saying that “he was an ex-detective and could get him out of the way.” Ammon further promised to forward to Miller whatever money he might need to retain lawyers for him in Montreal. Thereupon Miller exchanged hats with some one in Ammon’s office and started for Canada in the custody of the lawyer’s representative.
How the wily colonel must have chuckled as poor Miller trotted down the stairs like a sheep leaving his fleece behind him. A golden fleece indeed! Did ever a lawyer have such a piece of luck? Here was a little fellow who had invented a brilliant scheme to get away with other people’s money and had carried it through successfully—more than successfully, beyond the dreams of even the most avaricious criminal, and then, richer than Midas, had handed over the whole jolly fortune to another for the other’s asking without even a scrap of paper to show for it. More than that, he had then voluntarily extinguished himself. Had Ammon not chuckled he would not have been Bob Ammon. The money was stolen, to be sure, but Ammon’s skirts were clear. There was nothing to show that the two hundred and forty-five thousand dollars he had received was stolen money. There was only one man—a discredited felon, who could hint that the money was even “tainted,” and he was safely over the border, in a foreign jurisdiction, not in the custody of the police, but of Ammon himself, to be kept there (as Mr. Robert C. Taylor so aptly phrased it in arguing Ammon’s case on appeal) “on waiting orders. Ammon had Miller on a string, and as soon as Ammon (for his own sake) was compelled either to produce Miller or to run the risk of indictment, he pulled the string and brought Miller back into the jurisdiction."
Needless to say great was the ado made over the disappearance of the promoter of the Franklin Syndicate, and the authorities of King’s County speedily let it become known that justice required that some one should be punished for the colossal fraud which had been perpetrated. The grand jury of the county started a general investigation. Public indignation was stirred to the point of ebullition. In the midst of the rumpus, there came a knock on the office door of the Hon. John F. Clark, District Attorney of King's County, and Col. Robert A. Ammon announced himself. The two men were entire strangers to each other, but this did not prevent Ammon, with his inimitable assurance, from addressing the District Attorney by his first name.
"How are you, John?” he inquired nonchalantly, “what can I do for you?”
Mr. Clark repressed his natural inclination to kick the insolent fellow forcibly out of his office, invited him to be seated and rang for a stenographer. Ammon asserted his anxiety to assist the district attorney by every means in his power, but denied knowing the whereabouts of Miller, alleging that he was simply acting as his counsel. Mr. Clark replied that in Miller’s absence the grand jury might take the view that Ammon himself was the principal. At this Ammon calmly assured his host that as far as he was concerned he was ready to go before the grand jury at any time.
"That is just what I want,” returned Mr. Clark, "the grand jury is in session. You come over.”
Ammon arose with a smile and accompanied the district attorney towards the door of the grand jury room. Just outside he suddenly placed his hand to his head as if recollecting something.
“One moment,” he exclaimed. “I forgot that I have an engagement. I will come over to-morrow.”
“Ah!” retorted Mr. Clark, “I do not think you will be here tomorrow. ’ ’
Two weeks later Miller was safely ensconced without bail in Raymond Street jail.
Schlessinger, who got away with, one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars in cash, fled to Europe, where he lived high, frequenting the race tracks and gaming tables until he was called to his Final Account last year. The money which he took has never been traced. Miller was tried, convicted and sent to Sing Sing. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court then reversed his conviction, but later on appeal to the Court of Appeals it was sustained.
Of the enormous sums turned over to Ammon he received nothing save the money necessary for his support in Montreal, for the lawyers who defended him, and five dollars per week for his wife and child up to the time he turned State’s evidence. It is interesting to note that among the counsel representing Miller upon his trial was Ammon himself. Miller's wife and child were not sent to Montreal by Ammon, nor did the latter secure bail for his client at any time during his different periods of incarceration. The colonel knew very well that it was a choice between himself and Miller and took no steps which might necessitate the election falling upon himself.
The conviction of Miller, with his sentence to ten years in State’s prison did not, however, prevent the indictment of Ammon for receiving stolen money in New York County, although the chance that lie would ever have to suffer for his crime seemed small indeed. The reader must bear in mind that up to, the time of Ammon’s trial Miller had never admitted his guilt; that he was still absolutely, and apparently irrevocably, under Ammon’s sinister influence, keeping in constant communication with him and implicitly obeying his instructions while in prison; and that Miller’s wife and child were dependent upon Ammon for their tdaily bread. No wonder Ammon strode the streets confident that his creature would never betray his own betrayer.
“Now, Billy, you don’t want to be shooting off your mouth up here,” was his parting injunction to his dupe on his final visit to Sing Sing before he became a guest there himself at the expense of the people.
Miller followed his orders to the letter, and the stipend was increased to the munificent sum of forty dollars per month.
Meantime the case against Ammon languished and the district attorney of New York County was at his wit’s end to devise a means to procure the evidence to convict him. To do this it would be necessary to establish affirmatively that the thirty thousand five hundred dollars received by Ammon from Miller and deposited with Wells, Fargo & Co. was the identical money stolen by Miller from the victims of the Franklin Syndicate. It was easy enough to prove that Miller stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, that Ammon received hundreds of thousands, but you bad to prove that the same money stolen by Miller passed to the hands of Ammon. Only one man in the world, as Ammon had foreseen, could supply this last necessary link in the chain of evidence and he was a convict — and mute.
It now became the task of the district attorney to induce Miller to confess the truth and take the stand against Ammon. He had been in prison a considerable time and his health was such as to necessitate his being transferred to the hospital ward. Several of the district attorney’s assistants visited him at various times at Sing Sing in the hope of being able to persuade him to turn State’s evidence, but all their efforts were in vain. Miller refused absolutely to say anything that would tend to implicate Ammon.
At last the district attorney himself, accompanied by Mr. Nott, who later prosecuted Ammon, made a special trip to Sing Sing to see what could be done. They found Miller lying upon his prison pallet, his harsh cough and blazing eyes speaking only too patently of his condition. At first Mr. Nott tried to engage him in conversation while the district attorney occupied himself with other business in another part of the ward, but it was easily apparent that Miller would say nothing. The district attorney then approached the bed where Miller was lying and inquired if it were true that he declined to say anything which might tend to incriminate Ammon. After some hesitation Miller replied that, even if he should testify against his old accomplice, there was nothing to show’ that he would be pardoned, and that he would not talk unless he had actually in his hands some paper or writing which would guarantee that if he did so he would be set free.
The spectacle of a convicted felon haggling with an officer of the law over the terms upon which he would consent to avail himself of an opportunity to make the only reparation still possible angered the district attorney and, turning fiercely upon the prisoner, he arraigned him in scathing terms stating that he was a miserable swindler and thief, who had robbed thousands of poor people of all the money they had in the world, that he showed himself devoid of every spark of decency or repentance by refusing to assist the State in punishing his confederate and assisting his victims in getting back what was left of the money, and that he, the district attorney, felt himself humiliated in having consented to come there to visit and talk with such a heartless and depraved specimen of humanity. The district attorney then turned his back upon Miller, whose eyes filled with tears, but who made no response.
A few moments later the convict asked permission to speak to the district attorney alone. With some reluctance the latter granted the request and the others drew away.
“Mr. District Attorney,” said the wretched man in a trembling voice, with the tears still suffusing his eyes, “I am a thief; I did rob all those poor people, and I am heartily sorry for it. I would gladly die, if by doing so I could pay them back. But I haven’t a single cent of all the money that I stole, and the only thing that stands between my wife and baby and starvation is my keeping silence. If I did what you ask, the only money they have to live on would be stopped. I can’t see them starve, glad as I would be to do what I can now to make up for the wrong I have done.”
The district attorney’s own eyes were not entirely dry as he held out his hand to Miller.
“Miller,” he replied, “I have done you a great injustice. I honor you for the position you have taken. Were I in your place I should probably act exactly as you are doing. I cannot promise you a pardon if you testify against Ammon. I cannot even promise that your wife will receive forty dollars a month, for the money in my charge cannot be used for such a purpose; all I can assure you of is that, should you decide to help me, a full and fair statement of all you may have done will be sent to the governor with a request that he act favorably upon any application for a pardon which you may make. The choice must be your own. Whatever you decide to do, you have my respect and sympathy. Think well over the matter. Do not decide at once; wait for a day or two, and I will return to New York and you can send me word.”
They shook hands, the prosecutor and the convict, and the best of each shone in their eyes as they said goodby. The next day Miller sent word that he had determined to tell the truth and take the stand, whatever the consequences to himself and his family might be. He was immediately transferred to the Tombs Prison in New York city, where he made a complete and full confession, not only assisting in every way in securing evidence for the prosecution of Ammon, but aiding his trustee in bankruptcy to locate some sixty thousand dollars of the stolen money, which but for him would never have been recovered. At the same time Ammon was re-arrested upon a bench warrant, and his bail sufficiently increased to render his appearance for trial probable. As Miller had foreseen, the monthly payment to his wife instantly stopped.
The usual effect produced upon a jury by the testimony of a convict accomplice is one of distrust or open incredulity. Every word of Miller’s story, however, carried with it the impression of absolute truth. As he proceeded, in spite of the sneers of the defense, an extraordinary wave of sympathy for the man swept over the court-room, and the jury listened with close attention to his graphic account of the rise and fall of the outrageous conspiracy which had attempted to shield its alluring offer of instant wealth behind the name of America’s most practical philosopher, whose only receipt for the same end had been frugality and industry. Supported as Miller was by the corroborative testimony of other witnesses and by the certificates of deposit which Ammon had, with his customary bravado, made out in his own handwriting, no room was left for even the slightest doubt, not only that the money had been stolen but that Ammon had received it. Indeed so plain was the proposition that the defense never for an instant contemplated the possibility of putting Ammon upon the stand in his own behalf. It was in truth an extraordinary case, for the principal element in the proof was made out by the evidence of the thief himself that he was a thief. Miller had been tried and convicted of the very larceny to which he now testified, and, although in the eyes of the law no principle of res adjudicata could apply to the detriment of Ammon, it was a logical conclusion that if the evidence upon the first trial were repeated, the necessary element of larceny must be effectually established. Hence, in point of fact, Miller’s testimony on the question of whether the money had been stolen was entirely unnecessary, and was merely a sine qua non of proving that Ammon had received it. Hence the efforts of the defense were directed entirely to making out Miller such a miscreant upon his own testimony that perforce the jury could not accept his evidence when it reached the point of implicating Ammon. All their attempts in this direction, however, only aroused increased sympathy for the witness and hostility towards their own client, and made the jury the more ready to believe that Ammon had been the only one in the end to profit by the transaction.
Briefly, the two points urged by the defense were :
(I) That Ammon was acting only as Miller’s counsel, and hence was immune, and
(2) That there was no adequate legal evidence that the thirty thousand five hundred dollars which Ammon had deposited, as shown by the deposit slip, was the identical money stolen from the victims of the Franklin Syndicate. As bearing upon this, they urged that the stolen money had in fact been deposited by Miller himself, and so had lost the character of stolen money before it was turned over to the defendant, and that Miller’s story being that of an accomplice required absolute corroboration in every detail.
The point that Ammon was acting only as a lawyer was quickly disposed of by Judge Newburger, who presided so ably throughout the trial.
“Something has been said by counsel,” he remarked in his charge to the jury, “to the effect that the defendant, as a lawyer, had a perfect right to advise Miller, but I know of no rule or law that will permit counsel to advise how a crime can be committed.”
As to the identity of the money, the court charged that it made no difference which person performed the physical act of placing the cash in the hands of the receiving teller of the bank, so long as it was deposited to Ammon’s credit.
On the question of what corroboration was necessary on the theory that Miller was an accomplice, Judge Ingraham, in the Appellate Division, expressed great doubt whether in the eyes of the law Miller, the thief, could be regarded as an accomplice of Ammon in receiving the stolen money at all, and stated that even if he could so be regarded, there was more than abundant corroboration of his testimony.
Ammon’s conviction was affirmed throughout the courts, including the Court of Appeals, and the defendant himself is now engaged in serving out his necessarily inadequate sentence — necessarily inadequate, since under the laws of the State of New York, the receiver of stolen goods, however great his moral obliquity may be, and however great the amount stolen, can only receive half the punishment which may be meted out to the thief himself, “receiving” being punishable by only five years or less in. State’s prison, while grand larceny is punishable by ten years.
Who was the greater criminal—the weak, ignorant, poverty-stricken clerk, or the shrewd, experienced lawyer who preyed upon his client and through him upon the community at large?
The confession of Miller, in the face of what the consequences of his course might mean to his wife and child, was an act of moral courage. The price he had to pay is known to himself alone. But the horrors of life in prison for the “squealer” were thoroughly familiar to him when he elected to do what he could to atone for his crime. In fact Ammon had not neglected to picture them vividly to him and to stigmatize an erstwhile client of his.
"Everything looks good," he wrote to Miller in Sing Sing, in reporting the affirmance of Goslin’s conviction, “especially since the squealer is getting his just deserts.”
With no certain knowledge of a future pardon Miller went back to prison cheerfully to face all the nameless tortures inflicted upon those who help the State —the absolute black silence of convict excommunication, the blows and kicks inflicted without opportunity for retaliation or complaint, the hostility of guards and keepers, the suffering of abject poverty, keener in a prison house than on any other foot of earth.
It is interesting to observe that Miller’s original purpose had been to secure money to speculate with—for he had been bitten deep by the tarantula of the market, and his early experiences had led him to believe that he could beat the market if only he had sufficient margin. This margin he set out to secure. Then when he saw how easy it was to get money for the asking, he dropped the idea of speculation and simply became a banker. He did make one bona-fide attempt, but the stock went down, he sold out and netted a small loss. Had Miller actually continued to speculate it is doubtful whether he could have been convicted for any crime, since it was for that purpose that the money was entrusted to him. He might have lost it all in the street and gone scot free. As it was, in failing to gamble with it, he became guilty of embezzlement.
Ammon arrived in Sing Sing with a degree of eclat. He found numerous old friends and clients among the inmates. He brought a social position which has its value. Money, too, is no less desirable there than elsewhere, and Ammon has plenty of it.
In due course, but not until he had served more than half his sentence (less commutation), Miller, a broken man, received his pardon, and went back to his wife and child. When Governor Higgins performed this act of executive clemency, many honest folk in Brooklyn and elsewhere loudly expressed their indignation. District Attorney Jerome did not escape it. Was this contemptible thief, this meanest of all mean swindlers, who had stolen hundreds of thousands to be turned loose on the community before he had served half his sentence? It was an outrage! A disgrace to civilization. Reader, how say you?