In the Line of Duty

March 16, 1927
Los Angeles

yummydownonthisIf the drys are gonna catch the wets, they’re gonna have to wet themselves. So to speak.

At the trial of John H. Wyncoop, former chief field agent for the boys of the California/Arizona Federal Prohibition Enforcement Department, Wyncoop said “I knew that if I had liquor in my possession I could more easily get bootleggers to believe that I was handling booze and therefore make it easier to arrest bootleggers.â€Â

Uh-huh.

Wyncoop is on trial because he turned twenty-nine bottles of liquor to his own use, instead of turning it into the government warehouse. Can’t those government know-nothings see that you need that hooch to go under deep cover? That he only took home that demon rum in the solemn performance of his duty?

(Convicted by a jury of illegal conversion, he was given a short term in the county jail.)

I Did Not Have Sex with that Woman!

Jacobson Headline

August 6, 1927
Los Angeles

Councilman Carl I. Jacobson was arrested in a morals raid at 4372 Beagle Street in the company of a woman who said her name was Mrs. Councilman JacobsonHazel Ferguson, but who later admitted her real name was Mrs. Callie Grimes.

The married councilman insisted that he was framed and that the raid was the underworld’s retaliation for his much publicized crusade against vice in the city.

Jacobson, who lives in a small bungalow at 3014 Terry Place with his wife of thirty years, told cops that he had called upon Mrs. Ferguson to discuss a matter of street assessments with her. He said Mrs. Ferguson had telephoned him at his home and asked him to look over her property to see if it was worth paying the assessments.

When he arrived for their meeting Mrs. Ferguson poured two cocktails, and then moments later all of the lights in the house went out. It was then that police announced themselves and placed Councilman Jacobson and Mrs. Ferguson/Grimes under arrest.

The four arresting officers, Captains of Detectives Wallis and Williams, and Detectives Lucas and Raymond related a version of events substantively different from Jacobson’s account. They stated that they went to the Beagle street house, watched through a window and then observing what they felt constituted criminal behavior, crashed down a door to arrest the couple on morals violations. The arrest of Jacobson and Grimes begs the question: why were four high-ranking LAPD officers creeping around in the shrubbery with their noses pressed to a window like four Peeping Toms?

The case against Jacobsen would drag on. Jacobson would be tried twice on morals charges. In the first trial the jury would vote 9 to 3 for acquittal; in the second trial the jury would be evenly divided and the DA would decide against trying him for a third time. Mrs. Callie Grimes would confess to her part in the frame-up, and then recant. Grimes along with the four officers who conducted the raid would be tried for conspiracy, and the charges against them would be dismissed in 1929.

One of the detectives, Harry Raymond, would leave the LAPD and become a private investigator. He’d turn up again in the news as the victim of an attempted assassination by car bomb, in a 1938 corruption scandal involving Los Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw, members of his administration, and the LAPD.

Vice in Venice

August 30, 1907invadelair
Venice

Get talked up by a booster…wend your way through the hall…step on the special stair which emits a loud buzz, warning those you approach.  You’re one your way into the Venice Club, Windward Avenue, Venice, California.

The windows are covered in black oilcloth to keep out light and sound and prying eyes.  Inside there’s a roulette wheel, stacked high with gold and silver, emitting its seductive clicky whir, counterposed by the atonal, plangent clack of chips.  Verdant young society men huddle around the faro layout.  You may or may not notice—they’re all losing.  Certainly your luck can’t be as bad!

Your luck would be bad indeed this night, as Deputy District Attorney John North kicks in the door and announces that everyone is under arrest.  This would not phase the roulette dealer:  “He looked coldly at the officers and his slender gambler fingers toyed idly with the stack of chips at the edge of the table; his little, ratty, sharp face was a slight sneer, half of amusement.”

The Venice Club, run by an aggregation of Arizona sure-thing men, is as crooked as they come.  It is said that the reason the faro dealer has one eye is due to time spent having to look crooked at the bent ends of marked cards.

As the room was pinched, a sudden epidemic of sick wives befell Los Angeles.  But the cops would have none of it, and everyone was hauled in.  The gamblers were allowed to kitty their boodle—some $1486 ($30,498 2006 USD).

The club kept a register of all the tenderfoot gilded youth they’d fished, and, amusingly, the paper printed it in full:
listofbadmen
Ah, would that the story should end there.  The bust of the Venice Club opened wide a scandal that shed no new good light on the already suspect “beach towns.” 

crooksgive 

The Venice police were as fixed as the card games, and got fat from the brace games that lined the seashore.  (During Fiesta week, the same underworld figures who ran the Venice Club ran a crooked [and police protected] gambling hall downtown on Broadway between First and Second.)  Venice men “higher up” had cemented relationships with blind pigs, dens of ruination for young girls, and that special element adept in fixing elections.  Abbot Kinney and (Ocean Park magnate) G. M. Jones battled it out and the cops pledged their various allegiances in the war.

The corruption scandal lingered long and luscious…September 11, 1907: 
knifehilt