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Alias Soapy Smith

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October 2009


Bascomb's Quandary

A new article sheds light on Bascomb Smith's fate. First some background:

In April of 1895, Soapy Smith and his brother Bascomb tore through Denver's Tenderloin, beating up bartenders, and even assaulting the chief of police. Bascomb soon found himself in the county jail, and Soapy went underground, trying unsuccessfully to extricate himself from the threat of incarceration. Soapy eventually moved on to Alaska, where he was shot and killed.

Meanwhile, Bascomb languished behind bars. An excerpt from a recently discovered letter written to Soapy in November of that year illustrated Bascomb's predicament:

The Grand Jury found a bill agent [against] Sam Blonger for obtaning Stolen goods. It was about a check I got him to get the money out for me when you had the Joint over Solmons Pawn Shop. The check was for Six Hundard dollars. Sopose you rember it. ["Rev." John] Bowers and ["Prof." Turner] Jackson won it so they want me for a witness. What would you do if you was around?

As he mentioned, Denver DA Whitford wanted Bascomb to testify against Sam Blonger in the Wolcott case. Sam was accused of helping Bascomb cash a $600 check after the Smith gang cheated S.H. Wolcott in a poker game. The DA was after Blonger blood, and willing to make Bascomb promises in exchange for his testimony.

And testify he did — but Sam went free anyway. In the aftermath, Bascomb complained that he did not receive his just desserts for his assistance, to no avail...

Rocky Mountain News, January 9, 1896

District Attorney Assures His Honor That He'll Institute Charges.
Bascom Smith, Indicted for Assault to Kill, Was Promised Office.
Was to Be Made Patrolman for Turning State's Evidence Against the Blonger Gang.
Prosecutor Charged With Turning Felons Loose on Honest Citizens.
Never before has the Arapahoe county gang been stirred up as it was yesterday by the bold words of Judge Johnson in commenting upon the corrupt practices which he found existed in the criminal division, at least, of the district court. There were conferences on all sides and all sorts of caucuses, but they availed nothing. Appeals to the judge himself elicited the reply that if an investigation was not at once instituted and the criminal practices stopped instanter the actual details would be given publicity and the result would be disastrous to the gangsters who have held bold and brazen sway at the court for a long period of time.
Probably as a direct result of the exposures Bascom Smith was the first victim. Direct charges were made in the open court that the district attorney has promised Bascom immunity from punishment if he would give certain testimony before the court on the trial of Sam Blonger. The evidence was given as promised by Smith and yesterday the indictment against the latter was brought up in court, and much to Smith's astonishment the assistant district attorney refused to carry out the plan which Smith claimed had been agreed upon. As soon as the attorneys for the prisoner saw the trend of affairs they asked for a continuance so that any possible mistakes might be rectified. This was also objected to and so the cat was let out of the bag.
Could Prove the Charge.
Judge Hilton arose and addressed the court, saying that certain information had come to him regarding the action of District Attorney Whitford in the case and that this information was susceptible of proof. Immunity from punishment was not the only bait held out toward his client, but a situation on the police force was to follow release from prison.
"Mr. Smith," said Judge Hilton, "has been approached by the district attorney and his officers during the last two or three weeks and has been informed that if he would testify to certain facts against the Blongers that in this matter a nolle contendre would be entered.
"I understand that this is a serious charge and only repeat it as it comes from the mouth of my client. Furthermore, he has been labored with persistently to the end that he should testify to certain facts if he would assist in the prosecution of the Blongers; he was promised immunity if he would testify. He did testify and we have every reason to believe that he testified in the case yesterday to facts that were only true."
Visited by Whitford.
Mr. Walkey followed and stated that he had information from a reliable source that Smith had been visited not only be the employes of Mr. Whitford, but that that official had himself visited the prisoner at the county jail on Monday night and had promised that in consideration of certain testimony a nollo contendre would be entered in the case which was pending.


October 2009



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