Brady answers charge of witness intimidation, January 21, 1922

The following is Matthew Brady’s response to Edgar Gleeson of the San Francisco Call. Here he refutes the notion that he or his subordinates coerced Alice Blake and Zey Prevost. He also explains his rationale for “protecting” them from bad influences, namely Arbuckle’s lawyers and their agents. He cites precedent here: two rape victims who were reticent about testifying against the men who brutally raped them out of fear of retribution.

In the case of Blake and Prevost, two showgirls whose lifestyles and friends weren’t exactly considered wholesome, Brady thought he was doing the same thing save that “protecting” these two was more from themselves and following their best interests, which dictated that they shouldn’t have said as much as they did in first twenty-four hours after Rappe’s death on September 9, 1921.

Matthew Brady also provides his reasons for not putting Maude Delmont on the stand. If what he says is true, her usefulness ended with her willingness to sign a murder complaint against Arbuckle in lieu of anyone else. After that she was superfluous and no longer trusted or competent to take the stand. Nevertheless, he kept her subpoenaed and in San Francisco for the first two Arbuckle trials and knew where to find her during the last.


BRADY ANSWERS CHARGE OF WITNESS INTIMIDATION[1]

By MATTHEW BRADY

District Attorney Matthew Brady today replied to the charges that his office was seeking to intimidate Miss Zey Prevon and Miss Alice Blake in relation to the testimony they gave and are giving in the Arbuckle trial. The statement follows:

The article charging that Alice Blake and Zey Prevost were coerced into testifying falsely is erroneous in its statement of fact.

By chance the extraordinary and untimely death of Virginia Rappe was brought to the attention of the authorities. The circumstances were so suspicious that they demanded an immediate and thorough Investigation. This, in my absence, Duncan Matheson, captain of detectives, and Milton T. U’Ren, one of my assistants, proceeded to do, as was their duty. Every person available who either was concerned in or had knowledge of the death of this unfortunate girl was brought in for the purpose of being questioned.

The statements of Dr. Ophuls, Al Semnacher, Miss Prevost, Miss Blake, the nurses and others pointed directly to the guilt of Mr. Arbuckle. The statements of the two girls, Alice Blake and Zey Prevost, in particular, implicated Mr. Arbuckle and directly charged him with guilt. These statements were made by these girls in response to the usual questions that are put to witnesses who are called upon to give their version of any transaction. which the authorities are called upon to investigate. It must be remembered that the authorities, of course, knew nothing of the facts and were therefore compelled to rely altogether upon what the witnesses who did know had to say, and especially upon what Alice Blake and Zey Prevost, the only participants then available, had to say upon the subject. Their statements and answers were made voluntarily, without motive, without suggestion, without desire on the part of the district attorney or the police department other than to learn what the true facts were. It must also be remembered that up to this time no outside influence of sinister nature or undue pressure had been brought to bear upon the girls, and they were unquestionably at that time telling the truth.

TELLS OF BLAKE GIRL

Alice Blake accused Arbuckle by saying that the defendant and the Rappe girl were in the room together behind locked doors and that she heard cries emanating from that room and that the locked door was opened only after repeated pounding and kicking thereon by Mrs. Delmont. Alice Blake has never repudiated these statements and has repeated them on the witness stand in the trial now in progress, except that now, after opportunity has been afforded to work upon her by some Influence unknown to us, she “doesn’t remember” the fact and the very important fact that she heard cries of agony or distress coming from the room while the defendant was locked in the room with Virginia Rappe. We can fathom the cause of her lapse of memory? And which statement is true?

Matthew Brady and Alice Blake, September 1921 (Calisphere)

Which statement is the district attorney to rely upon when he is confronted with the heavy responsibility of seeing to it that the law shall be vindicated in the case of the rich and the poor alike?

The Prevost girl, too, made her statements at the very beginning of the inquiry, and they, likewise, directly implicated Arbuckle. Her statements, likewise, were made voluntarily, without coercion or any influence, in the presence of Captain Matheson, Mr. U’Ren, Howard Vernon, the official stenographer, and various others. In her statements, freely given as originally made, when her recollection was necessarily clearest, she stated among other things this most significant fact: That Miss Rappe, in the presence of Arbuckle, in a loud tone of voice, cried out, “I am dying! I am dying! He killed me, he killed me, he killed me!’’

WHY CRIME WAS CHARGED

She also stated that Virginia Rappe and Arbuckle were locked in that room for a long time together and that Arbuckle opened the door only after she and Mrs. Delmont had continuously and persistently knocked and hammered at the door, and Mrs. Delmont had called to Arbuckle to open the door. “That she just wanted to talk to Virginia.”

It was upon these statements that the chief of police. Captain Matheson and Mr. U’Ren directed that the defendant Arbuckle be charged with [a] crime.

Up to the time of the arrest of the defendant Maude Delmont had not appeared upon the scene and no statement from her was had. Hence, the fact is that the action of the authorities in ordering the arrest of Mr. Arbuckle was in no way based upon anything that Mrs. Delmont had to say. Later on, Mrs. Delmont gave testimony of a most damaging nature against the defendant, which, if believed and true, would demonstrate that he was guilty of murder of a most serious and aggravated nature.

And then it was, and not until then, with the defendant already in custody, that she voluntarily swore to a complaint charging him with murder. The next step was the investigation before the grand jury in the usual fashion for the purpose of getting the witnesses under their oaths.

GIRL IS FORGETFUL

Zey Prevost was called to the witness stand, and much to the surprise of the district attorney, she claimed not to remember what she previously and definitely and clearly remembered, namely, that the dead girl had said in the presence of Arbuckle, “He killed me; he killed me.”

What happened during the time that intervened between her first statement and her appearance before the grand jury, we, of course, have no means of knowing, except that it was a circumstance and a most potent circumstance, gravely suspicious and clearly indicating that outside influence and undue pressure had been brought to bear upon this witness. That was my conviction then. It is my conviction now, and I acted accordingly. In fact. Captain Matheson had asked Miss Prevost In the very beginning where she lived, and the girl at first declined to tell him, and he thereupon warned her that the reason he wanted to know was that undoubtedly in a case of this importance many persons would come to her for the purpose of causing her to change her statement. This has proved to be the fact. Because of my conviction that dark and sinister influences were operating, I thereupon followed, in this case, precisely the same course that I pursued in the case of the gangsters. In the case of the gangsters, fearing that, which has happened in this case, I had the girls put in the custody of the police department, where they would be free from influences of this sort That is exactly what I did in this case, save that instead of having policewomen in charge of the girls, they lived in the home of Mrs. Duffy, who is herself a mother.

FOLLOWED USUAL COURSE

No one criticised me for protecting Jean Stanley and Jessie Montgomery in the Howard street cases. No one said anything about “private lessons.”[2] Why should any one criticise me for following a course that has been followed by district attorneys all over the union.

It must always be remembered that no witness has ever been asked to change his or her testimony. No witness in this case has ever been asked to say anything save and except that which he or she originally told us. Over and over again the district attorney and his assistants cautioned the girls that all that was expected of them was the truth, and nothing but the truth, and that the district attorney had no motive in the case except to vindicate the law and to see that justice was done.

When it came to the testimony of Mrs. Delmont she repeated her story before the grand jury. That story was extremely damaging to the defendant. Her story went further than that of any other witness. She even went so far as to testify under oath that Virginia Rappe had told her that when Arbuckle locked the door and went inside that he (Arbuckle) had said to her (Virginia Rappe). “I have been waiting for you five years and now I have got you,” and that “Arbuckle grabbed me by the arm, and I thereupon lost consciousness and knew nothing until you came into the room.”

We also have in our possession signed and sworn statements of nurses to the effect that Virginia Rappe told them that Arbuckle was responsible for her condition: that she. blamed Arbuckle for everything that happened to her.

AS TO MRS. DELMONT

Now then, why didn’t we call Mrs. Delmont? The answer is simple. Investigation of Mrs. Delmont, her activities in the case and an analysis of her story convinced us that in some particulars at least she was not telling the truth. In other word», she was an unreliable witness and we were unwilling that anyone, whether it was Mr. Arbuckle or any other man or woman charged with [a] crime, should be convicted upon any testimony coming from a witness in whom we had no confidence. If there was any desire on the part of the district attorney to secure a conviction, no matter how, this was indeed a splendid opportunity.

It is my intention if the court will permit it, to establish under oath all the circumstances connected with the original statements made by Miss Prevost and Miss Blake and all the circumstances surrounding the same.


[1] San Francisco Chronicle, 21 January 1922, 2.

[2] private lessons, slang for witness coaching.

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