The Charlotte News

Thursday, June 30, 1949


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that in Washington, Judith Coplon was found guilty of both counts on which she had been indicted, taking secret documents from FBI files with the intent to injure the U.S. and benefit a foreign government, and removing and concealing the documents. She would be sentenced to ten years in prison for the convictions, with three years under the second count running concurrent with the sentence under count one. The jury deliberated for 27 hours before rendering its verdict.

A subsequent case, pending in New York for conspiracy to commit espionage arising from the same facts, charging her with intent to provide the documents to a Russian, Valentin Gubitchev, would also later result in her conviction.

Both cases would be reversed on appeal, however, as in the second case, in a pretrial hearing, it would come to light that wiretap evidence was gathered before, during, and after the trial in the instant case. Moreover, the wiretap had potentially intercepted confidential communications between Ms. Coplon and her attorney after her arrest March 4. A motion for new trial in this case was then made by the defense based on newly discovered evidence, not available during the trial. The District Court denied the motion, ruling that even had there been such an interception of confidential conversations with her attorney, it was not prejudicial to her case unless the matter thus obtained was used against her in some manner and that such had not been shown by the defense. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed and remanded for a new hearing on the new trial motion, to determine whether there was such interception of confidential communications, directing that if it did prove to be the case, a new trial would need to be awarded the defendant, free from any taint of such interception of attorney-client communications. The Court held that under the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to effective assistance of counsel, there was implicit a right to have private consultation with the defendant's attorney and that once it was demonstrated that there was intrusion on that privacy right by surreptitious interception of the conversations, the defendant did not need to show actual prejudice arising therefrom to warrant reversal, the rights being so fundamental to the assurance of a fair trial under Due Process. Ultimately, a new trial was granted and Ms. Coplon remained free on bail pending the new trial, which the Government decided not to pursue. Her bail was exonerated finally in 1967 and the case formally dismissed.

The appeal of the second case, for similar reasons, also resulted in reversal, its decision having preceded the decision of the appeal in this case, because of the delay in this case occasioned by the new trial hearing. Similarly, no retrial was ever sought by the Government in the second case. The appeal in the second case, before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, also had held, however, that the FBI should have sought a warrant prior to conducting an arrest and search incidental thereto after viewing Ms. Coplon on three different occasions meet with Mr. Gubitchev, and arresting both defendants on the third occasion on March 4, prior to any passing of documents. That finding led the Court to rule that the evidence procured from the search of her purse was the fruit of the poisonous tree and thus had to be suppressed, crushing the heart of the case against Ms. Coplon. The D.C. Circuit in the first case expressly held otherwise, finding that there was probable cause for arrest without a warrant and that a Federal statute governing FBI agents, relied on by the Second Circuit, only applied to arrests regarding prior conduct involving a felony not committed in the arresting agents' presence, requiring a showing only in that instance that there was a reasonable likelihood of escape to justify not obtaining a warrant. The Second Circuit, thus finding that the statute applied to felonies also committed in the agents' presence, remanded for a new trial, at which, it noted, might come forth additional evidence of the likelihood of Ms. Coplon's escape at time of arrest and evidence which might be free from taint of the evidence procured by the wiretap, which the Second Circuit also cited as grounds for reversal. As to the wiretap evidence, the Court ruled that there was the possibility that the confidential informant who gave the Government information which formed the basis for the original investigation of Ms. Coplon might have acquired his information via wiretap, a matter to be determined on remand, as the trial judge had cut off inquiry into this matter before the defense could establish it at a hearing. (See Drew Pearson's column below re his inside track that an FBI informant had obtained the information leading to the Coplon investigation from an overheard conversation aboard the Polish ship Batory.) The Court held that evidence procured by violation of the law and the fruits of that information had to be excluded, and that such included wiretap evidence under then existing law. Again, following this determination on appeal, the Government determined not to prosecute anew.

The reason for the two separate cases, though both Federal, was that the arrest was made in New York for the inchoate attempt to pass documents, while the taking of the documents had occurred in Washington at the Justice Department, thus the taking offenses being properly under the jurisdiction of the Federal District in Washington and the conspiracy to commit the espionage offenses properly under the jurisdiction of the Southern District of New York. The taking offenses were easier to prove than the conspiracy offenses and so it was deemed prudent to lead with the prosecution of those offenses.

In New York, in the Alger Hiss perjury trial, the defense rested after the judge excluded from the defense case the proffered testimony of a psychiatrist regarding the mental condition of Whittaker Chambers, based on the psychiatrist's impressions gleaned from observing his testimony during the trial.

After the jury would hang in this case, the trial court would reverse itself in the second trial and allow the psychiatrist to testify.

In Kagoshima and Kumamoto, Japan, a storm had taken 42 lives and injured 61 persons.

The Senate passed the labor bill of Senator Taft, continuing the closed shop ban of Taft-Hartley. Once the Taft amendment passed Tuesday, providing authority to the President to seize plants or seek an 80-day injunction against strikes which imperiled the nation's welfare, the CIO and AFL had turned against the Administration measure designed to repeal Taft-Hartley.

John L. Lewis directed UMW miners east of the Mississippi to work a three-day week after July 4, abandoning his traditional policy of not working without a contract, the present one set to expire at midnight this date. He advised that the miners work three days each week thereafter until a new contract was formed.

The House accidentally passed the Administration version of the housing bill, allowing for 1.05 million units, when it intended to cut the number to 810,000. A technical error had caused the original version of the bill to resurface in the vote and it would be rectified in the Senate-House conference to reconcile the bill with the Senate version which contained the limitation.

Attorney General Tom Clark filed suit to break up the du Pont industrial empire as a violation of anti-trust laws pursuant to the Sherman and Clayton Acts. Among the major demands was to divest du Pont from both General Motors and the controlling interest in U. S. Rubber Co. Mr. Clark described it as the largest single concentration of industrial power in the country, forcing out of the market many medium-sized manufacturers.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 7 to 6 to cut excise taxes to 1942 levels. Theater and other amusement tickets would have taxes cut in half from twenty percent to ten percent, taxes on electric lightbulbs, from twenty percent to five percent, taxes on jewelry, furs and toilet preparations from twenty percent to ten percent, the tax on luggage and handbags, by a like decrease, etc.

In Trenton, N.J., the State Supreme Court unanimously ordered a new trial for six black men, dubbed the "Trenton Six", convicted of murdering an elderly storekeeper and sentenced to death. The case had aroused great public attention nationwide. The Court held that potentially exculpatory evidence had been suppressed by the prosecution. Three of the appellants were represented by O. John Rogge, former Assistant Attorney General.

In Chicago, a 19-year old girl who shot Philadelphia Phillies star first baseman Eddie Waitkus was adjudged insane and committed to the State hospital at Kankakee. She had shot Mr. Waitkus in a hotel room on June 15. He appeared in a wheelchair at the brief hearing. The young woman said that she was "thrilled" to see him and still cared for him, was sorry for what she had done. She was said to suffer from a schizoid personality. Mr. Waitkus had previously played for the Cubs.

Will he still be there for her when she gets out? Will true love conquer all parlous difficulties?

At the White House the previous night, a man sat down at one of the gates, placed a long white hood over his head and then said, "Sh-h-h-h." Through a hole in the hood, he puffed a cigarette and examined his watch through another. He carried a long sheathed knife on his hip. He sat peacefully for awhile until police took him away. The President and his family were staying across the street at Blair House while the White House was undergoing extensive renovation.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., two men, one a former deputy sheriff, were indicted under the 80-year old anti-Klan statute and charged with terrorizing the citizens of nearby Dolly Pond on May 7 while wearing white hoods and robes. The conduct involved blackjacking of several men and frightening others with pistol fire.

In Charleston, S.C., Federal District Court Judge J. Waties Waring sent a letter declining an invitation to attend a Democratic Party dinner designed to produce harmony between Dixiecrats and regular Democrats, at which Vice-President Alben Barkley was scheduled to speak. Judge Waring said that he would not be party to "the sacrifice of principles for expediency."

In Union, S.C., 75 men of a posse searched for the body of a cab driver reported to have been slain and his body hidden in a nearby ravine. The man's taxi had been found in Pennsylvania being driven by two men captured at a roadblock. The two men were charged with robbing a service station in Pennsylvania the previous night. The cab driver had picked up two fares in Myrtle Beach on Sunday and had not been seen since.

In Raleigh, the State Highway Commission voted to ask for immediate issuance of 50 million dollars in rural road bonds for beginning work on the rural roads program. The voters had approved June 4 the issuance of 200 million dollars worth of bonds over a period of four years.

Dick Young of The News reports of H. P. Harding, City Schools superintendent, retiring at age 75 after 45 years of service. Local dignitaries and Senator Frank Graham spoke at ceremonies honoring him.

On the editorial page, "Bus Study in Order" praises the decision of the City Council to intervene and recommend to the State Utilities Commission an investigation before approval of the request by Duke Power Co. for a fare hike on buses from a nickel to a dime. Numerous complaints had been filed with the Council regarding the bus service and they needed more investigation. The Council wanted improvements in the service along with any fare increase necessary to achieve a profit.

"A Good Day's Work" praises the Senate action Tuesday in approving the Taft amendment to the labor bill to authorize the President either to seize a struck plant or seek an 80-day injunction of a strike which imperiled the nation's welfare. The action, if approved by the House, would doom the repeal of Taft-Hartley sought by labor.

It was thought likely that Senator Taft's other amendments would also be adopted by the Senate—as they had been this date after the editorial was written.

It remained uncertain whether the House would go along and, if so, whether the President would sign the new bill. But, it suggests, it was necessary for the Government to have teeth to combat a crippling nationwide strike in key industries as coal and steel.

"Non-Political Post Office" praises the President for urging the Congress to remove patronage from the appointment of postmasters and place them under Civil Service. He had already begun that process by appointing a former mail carrier, Jesse Donaldson, as Postmaster General, departing from the tradition of having the party chairman in the position.

Presently, half the postmasters were already under Civil Service, but some 21,000 were still subject to appointment by the President and confirmation by the Senate, allowing patronage to flourish.

The President had also suggested that the Post Office be made subject to an act which would bring under control its complicated accounting procedures, and urged higher postal rates to eliminate annual deficits.

It remained to be seen whether the Congress would approve the proposals, largely in line with the Hoover Commission, or whether it would cling to the past practices of patronage.

A piece from the Gastonia Gazette, titled "Loss of Moral Power", favors improvement of medical care at lower costs through the voluntary prepaid medical plans, which, it opines, would afford the necessary care without placing health care in a figurative jail cell, as described by Senator H. Alexander Smith of New Jersey, allowing ingenuity to flourish as it always had in American history, as championed by an editorial in Life.

Yeah, and the country also had a depression because of that grand reliance on laissez-faire "ingenuity", which, unfortunately, also includes a fair historical measure of greed and corruption which, if left unchecked, tends, over the long haul, to negate any recognition of public benefaction out of free enterprise, always tending toward monopoly.

Drew Pearson relates of Secretary of State Dean Acheson having warmed up to Foreign Minister Andrei Vishinsky in Paris by relating every story and joke of Vice-President Alben Barkley which he could bring to mind. The strategy had worked and Mr. Vishinsky, after a chilly start to the conference, had been in tears with laughter by the end of the evening. Mr. Acheson told Mr. Barkley of his valuable contribution therefore to the Paris meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers.

The Vice-President had recently told of a friend from Kentucky who had supported him in his runs for the House and the Senate, and each time told him he wanted nothing from Mr. Barkley. But after he told him of supporting him to become Vice-President, he said that he did want something: help with his citizenship papers.

Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier of Mach I in fall, 1947, had flown the Air Force F-86 in tests at Muroc, Calif., against the B-36, trying to shoot it down with camera guns. Thus far, the tests showed that the B-36 was vulnerable to the jet, but the B-36 had not yet been allowed to shoot back, at which point, because of superior stability of its guns during flight and because of a longer firing range than the F-86, the result might be different.

At one point, the Justice Department had nearly dropped the investigation of Judith Coplon. The initial tip on the case came from a conversation overheard by an FBI informant planted aboard the Polish steamship Batory—the same ship on which Gerhardt Eisler, reputed by HUAC to have been the top Communist in the U.S., had stowed away and gained exit from the jurisdiction of the U.S., avoiding extradition in Britain after being caught. After the FBI got information on Ms. Coplon, they performed a routine check of the name, discovering her employment by the Justice Department, and then placed her under surveillance shortly prior to the previous Christmas. The surveillance showed that she was spending nights in the apartment of a Justice Department attorney. She brought her suitcase with her to work each day and probably carried away documents in it. The Justice Department attorney was investigated for loyalty and approved, at which point the Department nearly decided to drop the case on Ms. Coplon, but continued surveillance for two or three more days, during which time she met initially with her friend, Valentin Gubitchev, a Russian employee of the U.N. Secretariat.

Ernest Wilhelm Bloch, former member of the SS, was the only Nazi defendant to plead guilty and provide evidence for the prosecution. He was acquitted of war crimes but sentenced to five years for being a member of the SS. Because he was under threat from other former SS prisoners, he was initially housed in solitary confinement until complaints resulted in his assignment to hard labor. War criminals had been treated more leniently. Complaints from the ACLU to the Army regarding the treatment had gone unheeded.

Secretary Acheson had told Mr. Vishinsky at the Paris meeting, at a point when Mr. Vishinsky was stalling, that he did not come to Paris "to dance a diplomatic minuet". Immediately thereafter, Mr. Vishinsky got back to real work.

Robert C. Ruark, in Athoston, Ky., tells of visiting I.C. Nuckols, an old man who for long had laid claim to the peculiar talent of being able to drive nails, regardless of size, into one-inch thick oak boards with his bare hands. Mr. Ruark wanted to see the deed performed and, sure enough, Mr. Nuckols was able to do the feat in his presence.

Mr. Nuckols, not willing to give away his technique, said that he counseled young people that they could accomplish what they would through self-confidence and determination.

Mr. Ruark is reminded of Bernard Baruch having recently said that the problem with the nation was lack of certainty, mass hesitation because of a fuzzy future. He believes that Mr. Nuckols's advice dovetailed with this criticism of Mr. Baruch and that a person could do whatever he determined to do even if the problem was as Mr. Nuckols had said, "as tough as a bull's forehead."

That's nothing. We drive red-hot rivets into steel via telekinesis.

Marquis Childs tells of former Housing Expediter Wilson Wyatt having resigned the post earlier because he could not convince the War Assets Administration to lease to the prefabricated housing company, Lustron, the plant ultimately leased to Preston Tucker for his automobile manufacturing firm—for the activities of which, or lack thereof, Mr. Tucker and seven other co-defendants were now under indictment for fraud.

After Mr. Wyatt left the Government, the WAA leased another factory to Lustron and the RFC gave it a 15.5 million dollar loan, followed by two other loans for ten and seven million each, with another three million being sought shortly. During part of that time frame, the brother of the Lustron attorney was on the RFC and since had left to take a position at Lustron at $18,000 per year.

In two other instances, similar situations had occurred.

Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas had introduced a bill to bar for five years any RFC employee from taking a position with a private firm which had benefited from a loan, if the employee had participated in making the loan while at RFC. Mr. Childs believes that this bill was a needed step in the right direction.

A letter writer comments unfavorably on the June 18 editorial, "Hysteria from Fear", regarding the Red scare in the country. He believes that had the newspapers published a speech by John Foster Dulles in Cleveland on March 8, an excerpt of which had been published in the column of Thomas Stokes on March 11, the cold war could have been ended. Mr. Dulles had said that he did not believe that the Soviets contemplated use of war or military aggression as its national policy. The writer laments that most newspapers had ignored the statement or given it scant coverage—except those many publishing the syndicated column of Mr. Stokes.

He says that in the wake of the death of President Roosevelt, thirteen liberal radio commentators had been pushed off the air, starting with Quentin Reynolds and John Vandercock, followed by William L. Shirer, Orson Welles, Robert St. John, Max Lerner, and former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., all of whom had carried a large part of the ball against Nazism and Fascism.

The editors respond that there was nothing deliberate in the newspaper failing to publish the speech of Mr. Dulles, stating that he had probably been provided more space over the previous two years than he deserved. There was no news in his statement, as it was qualified as his personal belief and judgment. They suggest that the letter writer was naive if he thought that Mr. Dulles's statements would end the cold war or that the people would necessarily accept what he said as gospel. Many people—including Mr. Dulles in 1939—had believed that Germany had not intended war. Many also believed that Japan intended no aggressive action beyond China and Indo-China. Many believed that Russia would collapse after the Nazi invasion of 1941. The editors conclude that the country had since learned better.

A letter writer finds herself confused as to which side of the socialism issue the newspaper was taking. It had editorialized against socialism on June 27 in "Halting the March of Socialism", but on June 21, in "Separation of Church and State", had supported the Barden aid-to-education bill, which she believes was a first step toward socialism.

The editors respond that the newspaper opposed federal aid to education but supported the Barden bill insofar as it would deny Federal aid for transportation and health services to both public and private schools and deny all public funds to private schools as otherwise a violation of separation of church and state.

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