“I Have No Proof of Bribery in Phagan Case,” Says Chief

by Archivist on August 16, 2016

I have no ProofAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Monday, May 26th, 1913

Chief Detective Declares He Has No Direct Evidence of Attempt to Influence Witnesses, as Published

CONLEY STICKS TO STORY UNDER SEVERE GRILLING

His Statement That He Wrote Notes at Frank’s Dictation a Disturbing Element—Search for Evidence Continues

Chief of Detectives Lanford positively denied to The Journal Monday afternoon that he has secured any proof of efforts to bribe witnesses in the Phagan case proper.

The official made this statement, when questioned about the numerous rumors and reports of bribery of witnesses, some of which have been published and given general circulation.

Chief Lanford states that he is in possession of no affidavits relating to attempts to bribe Phagan witnesses, nor has he proof of any sort, he says, which would show that friends of the man indicted for the murder or anyone else, had sought to bribe any witness.

Chief Lanford says, however, that he personally believes that efforts to influence witnesses have been made, and that he is vigorously probing the rumors.

The indictment of Leo M. Frank, on a charge of murdering Mary Phagan has not halted the several investigations of the case. Monday morning neither the city detectives, the Pinkertons nor the Burns forces ceased their efforts to unearth new and cumulative evidence in the case.

The principal efforts of the detectives are now as they have been since from the beginning, directed towards securing evidence to building up the state case against the factory superintendent.

Harry Scott, of the Pinkertons, who was first employed by the National Pencil company to search for and prosecute the murderer of Mary Phagan, now states that he has secured sufficient evidence to convict Frank.

When the case comes to trial the Pinkertons will join in the prosecution and the evidence they have gathered will be submitted to the courts.

Chief of Detectives Newport A. Lanford shares the opinion of the Pinkerton man that evidence sufficient to convict has been gathered against the factory official.

A DISTURBING ELEMENT.

The sensational statement of James Conley, the negro sweeper, that he wrote at Frank’s dictation notes believed to be the ones found by Mary Phagan’s body, is proving a disturbing element in the case, and detectives have made every effort to break the negro’s story.

If his story is not true, they say that they want to know it now. However, they say that they are becoming more and more convinced that the story told by Conley Saturday morning is the absolute truth.

“Conley certainly wrote the notes,” said one of the detectives Monday. “It doesn’t take an expert to realize that beyond a shadow of a doubt his hand penned the words on the two bits of paper. The only question is to make sure that he is telling the truth as to the time of the writing and circumstances, and he tells a might straight story.”

Conley tells the detectives that he only realized some days after the crime that he was the writer of the all important notes in the mysterious case.

Then, Conley says, a negro in his cell got hold of a copy of The Journal in which the notes were reproduced in a photograph with specimens of Newt Lee and Leo M. Frank’s handwriting.

Conley claims, according to the officer, that he then kept quiet in hopes that he would receive financial reward from the man, whom, he says, dictated the words to him.

Frank had told him, according to the detective’s version of the negro’s story, that he wanted him to write in order that he might send his (Conley’s) letter to Mrs. Frank in Brooklyn, who wanted to give a good job to a bright and honest negro boy.

Frank left him with the impression, the negro is said to have told the officers, that an easy job with good pay awaited him with Mrs. Frank, Sr., in Brooklyn.

The detectives declared that never has a witness been put through such a severe cross examination as they have given him in an effort to break down his sensational story.

J. B. Pope, well known county policeman, and near neighbor of the Colemans, denies the report that Mary Phagan received a message over his telephone Friday before the tragedy to report at the factory that afternoon for her money. Officer Pope states that his phone was often used by members of the Phagan girl’s family, but no such message came over it that Friday, he says.

PINKERTON DENIES STATEMENTS.

The Journal has received a letter signed by Allen Pinkerton, of Pinkerton’s National Detective agency, written in reply to a statement by Colonel Thomas B. Felder which appeared in Sunday’s Journal.

This statement was headed. “Lanford is controlling genius of conspiracy to protect the murderer of little Mary Phagan,” and contains several references to Pinkerton’s agency. The letter from Mr. Pinkerton reads in part as follows:

“These statements, in so far as they refer to Pinkerton’s National Detective agency, are absolutely without an iota of truth, as Pinkerton’s National Detective agency had absolutely not previous knowledge of information concerning or to the issues between certain Atlanta city officials and Attorney-at-Law Thomas B. Felder, and the agency’s first knowledge of these issues or in connection therewith came to our notice through newspaper publications of May 23, 1913.

“We respectfully request that you give this, our denial in connection with the statements referred to, as equal prominence as that which you gave the published articles in question.”

Solicitor Dorsey on Monday stated that reports that two telephone girls went before the grand jury to give testimony relatives to an alleged telephone conversation on the evening of the tragedy, is incorrect.

Mr. Dorsey says that he knows of no such witnesses.

* * *

Atlanta Journal, May 26th 1913, “‘I Have No Proof of Bribery in Phagan Case,’ Says Chief,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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