Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Uncharged, man insists on fine anyway

An altercation over money on a Pendleton street in 1919 resulted in a conviction and fine, but not exactly in the manner the assaulter had hoped.

Judge Thomas Fitz Gerald, enjoying a quiet afternoon in his office at the Umatilla County Courthouse, was disturbed at 3 p.m. on July 28, 1919, when a young couple entered and asked where they could find a policeman. “A fellow swatted me,” the young man said, “and I want him pinched.” The judge told them they could find an officer somewhere on the city street, and they left.

An hour later, Fitz Gerald was again required to remove his boots from his desk when another young man entered his office and asked if he was the police judge. When Fitz Gerald replied that he was, the man confessed to hitting another man in the street earlier in the afternoon and wanted to turn himself in. “If he has me pinched it’ll cost me $10 or so. Can’t you let me pay up now?”

Fitz Gerald told the man, who said his name was J.O. Hales, that no charges had been brought against him, and that until the victim acted he could do nothing. But Hales insisted that he be allowed to pay a fine and have the matter settled, saying that money matters between himself and his victim were the cause of the strife.

The judge was stumped. Finally, he asked Hales if he wanted to have a charge of assault and battery lodged against himself. Hales agreed, and pleaded guilty immediately.

“Ten dollars,” said the judge.

“Ten dollars?” gasped Hales, who had obviously hoped his preemptive actions would result in a lower fine.

“That is our fine,” Fitz Gerald told him. “Assault and battery, guilty, $10.”

The self-convicted man fumbled through his pockets and ponied up the cash, then left the courtroom. Fitz Gerald never saw either the original accusers or Hales in his office again.

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