It must have been a strange feeling that day for Andrus because unlike countless other times before the court, this time the District Attorney was seated at the defendant’s table. He had been indicted on charges of neglect of duty, bribery, and corruption. His trial would be extraordinary on many levels.
To begin with, Andrus was being prosecuted by Special Deputy Attorney General Wyman Bascom, appointed by Governor Alfred Smith. Bascom was assisted by former New York State Senator and longtime Saratoga Republican power broker Edgar T. Brackett. Brackett had once been the attorney for the “Prince of the Gamblers” Richard Canfield. He was now firmly in the anti-gambling camp and a bitter political enemy of Andrus.
Andrus was defended by attorney William Fallon. Known as “The Great Mouthpiece,” Fallon specialized in obtaining acquittals for his clients (sometimes by bribing jurors) and was an attorney for the notorious gangster Arnold Rothstein.
Among the witnesses against Andrus were low-level gamblers and associates of Rothstein and his partners in the gambling at the Arrowhead Inn near Saratoga Lake, Cornelius Fellows and Benny Russell.
Fellows and Russell, along with local man Jules Formel and City of New York gambler John Ward were partners in a gambling venture with Rachel Brown at 210 South Broadway in Saratoga Springs in July 1919. After spending the summer of 1919 gambling in Saratoga Springs, Rachel Brown headed over to Chicago and got mixed up in the Black Sox Scandal in which several Rothstein associates, including Brown, were indicted for trying to fix the World Series.
On July 27th, 1919, the game at 210 South Broadway had been raided by police. The following afternoon, Rachel Brown and friends made a trip to the police station and stole the evidence from one of the jail cells with the help of police sergeant Edward Carroll. Three weeks later, police raided another game on Circular Street and seized back some of the evidence that had been taken. Within six months, Sergeant Carroll was promoted to Chief of Police. All this prompted Governor Smith to appoint Bascom whose investigation led to the charges against District Attorney Andrus accusing him of being in league with the gamblers at 210 South Broadway.
During Adrus’s trial, John Ward testified that he, Formel and Russell had met together in the spring of 1919 and to receive approval from the District Attorney to open the gaming den. He said Andrus had been paid over $2,500 in protection money for the gambling at 210 South Broadway during the summer of 1919 before the raids put an end to the operation.
Wyman Bascom attempted to introduce a ledger into evidence that showed the payoff for one night’s gambling at 210 South Broadway. Ward did not need the paper to explain the payoff system. The top line showed that twenty-five percent of the night’s take was to be given to “The Boss.” The remaining split of the profits was; thirty-three percent each to himself and Formel, fifteen percent to Rachel Brown, twelve percent to Russell and seven percent to Fellows.
Other witnesses testified that Andrus was upset that Formel had made $3,800 in payoffs but still owed $4,000 and therefore had orchestrated the 1919 raids, and that Brown once held up $4,300 and yelled “This is for the District Attorney!” in a crowded gambling hall. Andrus had negotiated a settlement between Russell and Formel when Russell backed out of the plan, and open gambling had been allowed by the District Attorney in no less than fifteen places throughout the city, including one practically next door to Andrus’ office on Broadway.
Andrus never took the stand to deny the specific allegations and his lawyers never bothered to deny them either. Rather, the defense merely claimed that it was the job of the police to make arrests, not the District Attorney, and that the whole investigation was politically motivated.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, a hung jury by a vote of 11 to 1 was returned on May 17th, 1921.
In response to the good news, some of Andrus’ supporters rioted in celebration. Racing up and down Broadway, pulling fire alarms, vandalizing the porches of citizens who supported the prosecution, and lighting a bonfire on Senator Brackett’s front lawn while breaking out the windows of his home.
Seven months after his acquittal, Charles Andrus was re-elected to the office of District Attorney for Saratoga County.
Photo: the “divy sheet” showing the split of gambling profits at 210 South Broadway on July 20, 1919 (Courtesy Saratoga Springs History Museum).
Greg Veitch is the retired Chief of Police in Saratoga Springs and the author of two books about the history of gambling, crime, corruption, and the mob at Saratoga Springs. All the Law in the World Won’t Stop Them and A Gangster’s Paradise are available at www.gangstersofsaratoga.com or www.northshire.com.