Wells - Rufus - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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Wells - Rufus

Source: Sunday Star, Feb 4, 1901 p2

While Rufus Wells was being tried for selling his vote, his son,  Charley, the next defendant to be tried, sat near a heater where he was  warm and comfortable, watching his father's conduct on the witness  stand. There was a loud report in that part of the court room and the  sheriff looked around to see who it was that had discharged a revolver  in the building. Charley was seen to ram his hand down in an inside  pocket and clutch something that sizzled and hissed.  Then he ran out  into the corridor.  A stale bottle of beer that he had picked up  somewhere and secreted in his pocket had fermented by the warmth of the  heater and exploded the cork. He lost the beer, and great was his sorrow.

Source: Sunday Star, Feb 4, 1901 p6

When it came to trial the floaters had not a peg to stand upon in court and long before the week had any age upon it the cattle were sending in word that they wanted to plead guilty.  The court was lenient to th eones who pleaded guilty, giving them uniform sentences of disfranchisement of 12 years each.  Hope of again voting some sweet day was not so long deferred for these fellows and many fell over each other in pleading guilty.  

On Wednesday night one floater excitedly telephoned to the court and said, "Say, judge, I guess you can just check me up as guilty, and I'll get off as light as you can please make it."  He saved the tax payers a wad of court costs and got himself off the docket with a 12 year disfranchisement.

Rufus Wells, aged 65 years, was the first defendant tried on Monday.  He went on the stand himself and made no attempt to eny that he got a dollar and sold his vote, with the excpectation of getting four more dollars on election day from the Democratic committee.  The jury wer eout 10 minutes and on the first ballot voted guilty and then agreed to let him have 19 years. They could have given him 20.  Rufus was disgusted when he heard the verdict and hunted up an epty beer keg behind some saloon with which to hide his grief.  His son Charley Wells, who can't read nor write and who said to the court that he didn't know what township he lived in nor how many cents there are in a dollar, was tried by the court and got 20 years.  The court remarked that a man who had no more education nor ambition should have no right to franchise anyway.  Experts were brought in to show that Charley Wells is an imbecile but they failed.  He was shown to be an uneducated animal, but he can sell his vote no more.

County Attorney Dwiggins made an earnest effort to acquit the clients he was obligated to defend under the pauper act but saw the futility of it as the damning receipt for money paid came out every time and there was no defense to make from the evidence offered.

M.E. Clodfelter appeared for Wells, Bill Rogers, Ben Cunningham and others. His clients made poor wintesses on the stand.  Cunningham did not testify at all in his case and there was no defense nor any argument. It was only an effort to break the story of Taylor Thompson and Charley Benjamin.  He got 16 years.  

It came out in the examination of Charley Benjamin, and on cross-examination at that, that he was impelled to file the affidavits causing these suits against the vote sellers under the Caraway act under a strange condition of affairs.  He said that two of the men who have since pleaded guilty to selling their votes cam eto him and told him that Clodfelter & Fine had been preparing suits of similar kind and engaging them for witnesses, expecting to claim the $100 for each conviction given the informer by the county under the Caraway Act, also that other men of the opposing political party had been at work on the same sort of cases, and he felt that if he was going to be dragged into the case as a witness most unwilling he had as well file the suits himself and claim some of the reward.  Mr. Clodfelter himself sought audience with Mr. Benjamin, so Mr. Benjamin claims, to get on this side of the case - typed by kbz
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