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"GRAFT" IN CANADA

AN ABORTIVE TRIAL. The trial of the ex-Ministers for the province of Manitoba, which began on July 24 and was brought to a close on September 5, had an unsatisfactory termination, the jury being discharged, having failed to reach a unanimous verdict. The persons charged with conspiracy were Sir Rodmond Roblin (ex-Premier), Mr J;»mes H. Howden, and Mr Geo. R, Coldwell, a fourth ex-Minister having died shortly after his return from the trenches and before the trial commenced. The presiding Judge was Mr Justice Prendergast ; the Crown was represented by Mr Bonnar, K.C., and Mr Andrews, K.C., defended. The speech of the Crown Prosecutor occupied four and a-half hours ; that of Mr Andrews nearly 12 ' hours, and extended into a third day; while the Judge's summing up occupied exactly 3_ hours. The jury had charge of the case for six weeks. The Judge told them that the case was "the most important one that has ever come before a court of justice in this province, and I do not think that I shall be very far wrong if I add in the whole Dominion, on account of the prominent position occupied by the accused. They have all been men who were in high positions, and one of tliem in particular has received very high honors. The case is also important on account of the magnitude of the sums alleged to have been diverted from the provincial Tcresiury." After explaining the law of conspiracy, His Honor directed the jury to ignore all the evidence relating to the bad work on the now Parliamentary Buildings at Winnipeg, and to discard the allegation of the Crown that the changes in the design of the building were expressly authorised for a coiTupt purpose. The reason given by the Judge for directing the rejection of this evidence relative to bad workmanship was that 2>hc V. W. Horwood, ex-provin-cial architect and principal Crown witness, who had acted as intei-mediary between the Roblin (Conservative) Government and Contractor Kel'y (convicted of fraud on ' a grand scale), now said that he knew noj thing about it. As for the changes in the design of the Capitol, which Mere de- [ scribed as revolutionary, they were held to be justified by the opinions of experts. Judge Prendergast also told the jury to forget the " prime costs " charge, which had been plausibly argued, but which had been disposed of by the evidence of Architect Frank W. Simon. It should not be held against the accused, the jury were further advised, that the main contiract i was let on the original plans, notwithstanding, the fact that thoroughgoing charges were already intended. This was on account of the fact that Horwood, who testified that he did not become a party to the conspiracy until the work was well advanced, said he had favored calling for tenders, on the original plans because time pressed.- . After thus summing up many points favorable to the ex-Ministers, Judge Prendergast reviewed, the rest of the evidence without expressing any opinion on it. He outlined it as relating to " facts on which there was some evidence, not strong evidence, but just evidence." In this category came the story of the caissons, the alleged excessive payments on the steel contracts, the destruction of the £160,000 contract; the bribing of William Salt, and the documentary evidence relating to bank accounts, cheques, and so forth. There was not as much evidence against Sir Rodmond Roblin as there was against James H. Howden and George R. Coldwell, the Judge pointed out. Against Howden the evidence did not cover the same range of time as the evidence against Coldwell. The evidence of Horwood was that of an accomplice, and in general it was unsafe to convict on. the evidence of an accomplice unless it was corroborated. Horwood had undoubtedly perjured himself before the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislature, although this fact did not necessarily mean tliat he was not telling the truth on this occasion. Honvoodis credibility was left for the jury to determine, as he (the Judge) declined to express any opinion upon it. It ha6 since transpired that nine of the jury were for a verdict of "Guilty" against the three accused, and three stood for acquittal. Thomas Kelly, the millionaire contractor, who was extradited from the United States and convicted of complicity in the conspiracy, applied for a new trial, which was refused, and the cable told us yesterdav that he had been sentenced to 30 months' imprisonment. At Regina, in the province of "Saskatchewan, H. C. Pierce, who represented Wadena in the Provincial Legislature, was indicted on a charge of bribery. The allegation was that he accepted a bribe of £5100 to oppose the "Banishment-of-the-Bar " Bill which was before the Legislature in the session of 1913. The chief witnesses for the prosecution were Mr Frank Brunner, who was treasurer of the Licensed Victuallers' Association in 1913, and Mi- R. J. Barry, of -Saskatoon, who was a member of the executive of that oigani- • ration. They swore that Pierce had admitted to them having received a bribe in connection with the Bill, and that he had complained to them that one Clayton i Peterson, whom thfr Crown charged with i being the medium of conveyance of the wherewithal supplied by the " trade " to influence members against the passage of the Bill, had " short-charged " to the tune of £550. Brunner also testified on the witness stand that on the morning that the Bill was withdrawn from the Legislature Pierce arranged to telephone the result to him, and that Peterson _ was to be given £100 for distribution in that event. The jury convicted Pierce, but recommended him to the elemenev of the Court. It was also affirmed by other members of the Licensed Victuallers' Association that arrangements were made by which Peterson should have what money he wanted to "fix" members of the Legislature who were supporting the Bill, and the manager of the local branch of the Bank of Ottawa produced his books, which showed that £1,800 was drawn out of (Jhe Licensed Victuallers' account and -paid to Peterson. Arising out of this trial, Peterson was arraigned on October 2 ai Retina on a charge of pei-jury in connection with the evidence •he gave , before a select committee of the State Legislature in regard to the 1913 bribery proceedings. • On that ' occasion he swore that he did not get a cheque for £800 from Bmnner in December, 1913, or that he ever received from him a cheque for £1,000, or that he was in the Bank of Ottawa when the latter sum was obtained from the licensed victuallers' account. Brunner now swore point-blank that he gave the £1,000 cheque to Peterson, and with him arranged with the bank manager for an overdraft for £1,000, and remained with him till the money wa_ paid over.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OSWCC19161128.2.40

Bibliographic details

"GRAFT" IN CANADA, Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, Volume XII, Issue 602, 28 November 1916

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1,145

"GRAFT" IN CANADA Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, Volume XII, Issue 602, 28 November 1916

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