Attempted Influence by a Bail Bond BrokerKing
Getting back, now, to Warren's appointment, you were telling me about how you joined the office.
Well, following this time, as I said, Mr. Warren knowing me, asked me one day to come over from San Francisco, and talk with him to find out if I would be interested in a position in the office. He told me, at this time, that if he got the appropriation that he hoped to get, and that he thought he would get, that he was going to put on some more men to help George Helms, his county detective, and that he would like to put me on, if I would like to come over.
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Of course I just jumped for joy! It was the thing I was looking for. I didn't tell him at the time that I wanted to study law. I wanted the job. I was getting $175 a month as a government agent, and this was paying $180 a month. I was living at home in Oakland, and I wasn't traveling all over the state, and I wasn't making all these liquor raids and getting involved as a witness in courts. I would be in a similar situation, but at home. This meant a lot to me, and I valued it very highly. Mr. Warren told me not to tell anybody.
Well, a situation developed that pretty near cost me, I would say, this appointment. At the time I was terribly upset about it.
We had these bailbond brokers, Meyers, Rohan and Osgood, and they were much in control and influence through their associations with underworld characters, and were involved in one thing and another. However, you couldn't probably prove these things.
One day I was coming down from the Seventh Street local station from San Francisco, and I walked down Washington Street to the old court house and the district attorney's office--this was before I got the job--I did this many times. I would have to pass by Rohan's office. Jack Rohan was known as "Full Sack Jack" in the ads that he had on the trucks for Rohan's Coal Company. His office was on Washington Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets. He called me into his office for a discussion.
Some months before [that] an Oakland police officer was shot in north Oakland, and it developed that this fellow was shot over a raid of a liquor storage place--some smuggling deal--and he got, somehow or other, a little too far into this outfit. Not criminally, but was investigating, and he was shot. I don't know whether they ever convicted the man who shot him or not. They probably did, though. He was shot, it was claimed, as a suspect, as a burglar, or some other thing they happened to frame up.
The fella that was active as a smuggler in this was named Serpa Sam Terry. Serpa Sam Terry was a one-armed man. Now I knew Terry--I knew him from smuggling days when I was on the smuggling detail as a government agent. I had raided him.
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Shortly after this shooting, we went to his place and got all the liquor. I don't think we arrested Terry at that time. I don't think we could prove he was the owner. But anyway, he had another place down near Emeryville, and we raided this also, and seized a lot of smuggled liquor.
Just following this, I think it was, only a month or so, I got a mysterious `phone call about two o'clock in the morning. It was an anonymous call--a man calling and asking me who I was. I told him my name and he said "I've just talked to Shurtleff, another agent, and I'm not getting any assistance. I have some information about a landing of liquor." He used this other agent's name, who was later convicted--associated with Becker. He said, "I know that you're on a smuggler's detail, and if you go right down to the foot of Fourteenth Street, the Union Construction Company, you can catch a landing of liquor." He made some mention [of] who the outfit was--I don't recall now. But anyway he said, "But you have to go right away."
Well, I immediately called up the agent in charge and told him what I'd heard. He said, "Well, I haven't any way of getting anybody to help you." His name was Padget. "Why don't you see if you can get some help from the police department and go down there?"
I telephoned the Northern Police Station and talked to Lieutenant Bert Curtis--this man that I had mentioned before--and he said, "Well, you go down to the Central Station and I'll get the captain down there, and we'll have somebody for you."
So I went down there. They had a man there by the name of Dan Fleming waiting for me. Dan was a patrolman, a big Irishman.
I said, "I don't think we're enough to go down and knock this landing off, there's just two of us." He said, "That's all right. They put out a call." He said, "We'll go down to the Sixteenth Street station, and there'll be a patrolman named Kobab waiting for us. I'm sure they'll get him." We went down, and sure enough Kobab was there.
They got in my car and we drove down, out this old wharf near the Sixteenth Street depot and out Fourteenth Street to the Union Construction Company, and drove in there. The first one we arrested was a fellow by the name of Rollins--he was the night watchman. Now they couldn't land in there without this watchman being in with the smugglers, so we took Rollins into custody. I took his gun away from him, and he got all excited. We saw some trucks there, so we felt pretty much assured that the arrest would be a good one.
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We put him in the back of the car and Kobab sat in the car as a guard. We blocked the road with the automobile. Dan Fleming and I knew the layout of the ship yard, having been several times before. The yard had four building ways. No ships were being built, and the ways were open and clear. We went down in the middle part of the four ways, two ways on both sides of us. In this area were boxes of nuts and bolts and boxes of many other items. So we had plenty of cover.
There was a truck down at the end of this area near the water and the lights weren't on, but you could hear talking down there. You could hear the engine of a boat near the truck. So we went down there in the direction of the truck and the boat, and sure enough we cornered and arrested three men.
We pretty near had a shooting there. I shined my flashlight on the truck and a man in the truck, and Dan Fleming went down waving his flashlight, and saying, "Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!" I had a Springfield rifle, and I was standing covering Dan, as we were going down. They turned the truck lights on, and they saw this police officer with his star on his uniform. There was a lot of commotion then, men running and the boat engine speeding up.
We called for them to halt. I hollered out, "Hey you men over there, we have them over here." I hollered at nobody, but just to make it appear that there were other officers surrounding the ways. Calling for them to cut off the avenues of escape, cut them off on the other side. I gave a lot of commands to different imaginary people running around, and I said, "You fellas, (the smugglers) don't move, because if you do, you're surrounded. If you fire a shot you're gonna get killed." And so we cut them all off. We heard the boat going out of the harbor. There was just the two of us!
We then went down and arrested these three people, and locked them up. Their names were Kelly, Sasso, and Lucas. They and Rollins, the guard, were later tried in the federal
― 53 ―court and convicted. And we seized three hundred and eighty sacks of Canadian liquor, besides the trucks.
You never found out who the mysterious 'phone call was from?
Yes I did later. That's what I'm coming to.
I didn't know at the time who that call was from. Now I'll connect the story and tell you how I found out who it was. On this particular day while I was on my way down from the train and Jack Rohan was standing out in front of the store, he called me in. I'd already raided these other places that belong to Sam Terry.
Now, a smuggler is in a position to know what other smugglers are doing and when the mother ship is arriving to make deliveries to one group or another. They would know what boats the others are using and could give details as to time and places where they were landing. I felt some of the agents operating in San Francisco had contacts that advised them as to smugglers' landings and how to catch them, but I never knew who these contacts were.
I was a little suspicious of some agents and how they operated. They would take us on a wild goose chase. They would get us out of the San Francisco area. They would lead us some place else, and the first thing you know the smugglers would land some place else in the San Francisco area.
It appeared that they knew each other, and they would know what and where the landings were going to be made, and how much stuff was to be landed. The big liquor ships that would come down from Canada, they had different ships outside the twelve mile limit. These boats would be out there, and they knew who they belonged to. They'd know just where they were gonna unload.
So on the occasion that Jack Rohan asked me if I wouldn't come into the office, he wanted to talk to me. He said, "Where are you going?" I said, "I'm going over to the district attorney's office." I had some things to do over there.
"Well," he said, "Mr. Jahnsen, I want to tell you that Mr. Osgood and Mr. Meyers and I think you're a pretty honest man, and we like you and we don't want to see you get in any trouble.
― 54 ―If you should get into any trouble, we want you to know that we'd be glad to put up bonds for you and it wouldn't cost you anything--wouldn't cost you a cent. We'd be glad to help you out."
Rohan was a very shrewd guy. "I just wanted to let you know that we're your friend. You've made a lot of arrests here, and appeared in a lot of cases, and we've seen no reason to doubt your honesty, your ability, and your integrity, and we want you to know we're on your side. That's just between us."
So I said, "Well, I sure appreciate that, Mr. Rohan, but I hope I never have to call on you. I don't intend to get into any trouble; that's not my way of thinking, and I don't want to become involved in anything that would get me in trouble." So I said, "I have other ideas for the future. I want to study law and be a lawyer."
He said, "Incidentally, do you remember getting a call one morning about the raid that you made down at the Union Construction Company?" Now they (Rohan, Osgood and Meyers) put the bail up for those people. "Seizing all that liquor down there some time ago?"
I said, "Yes."
He said, "Do you know who called you?"
I said, "No, I don't. I haven't the least idea. I've often wondered."
He said, "Well, I know this fella very well and he can give you a lot of information and you can knock off a lot of the opposition to his group."
Now the idea was, as I was saying, the people in San Francisco could decide to put you on a wild goose chase--this happened to me! At one time they sent us to Half Moon Bay. We came back to San Francisco with nothing showing up, and we, the other agents with me, went down at the Golden Gate ferry dock and we arrested some smugglers right there.
So these agents, who were in the know, and who knocked off the opposition to the sources that give them the information,
― 55 ―had the influence to get the agents out of San Francisco, could draw all the agents--we only had thirty-five agents. They could draw all the agents out of the area where the landings were to be made by their contacts. Some agents had contacts with bootlegging wineries who made wine deliveries to the Bay Area. They could draw us all out of town, and they could leave San Francisco wide open. They landed right down in the area of the Ferry Building.
They landed right at the Golden Gate Ferry, at the foot of Hyde Street, when we made this arrest and seizure of the liquor and boat. They, the other agents, had taken us out of town. I later became suspicious that they knew what they were doing so this landing could be made. There were few agents we could trust on the smuggling detail and we would take the information given to us by the other agents, but we would not tell them where we would be working. That is how we came on the Golden Gate Ferry seizure.
So on this occasion he [Rohan] told me about this fellow [who] could give me a lot of information. I asked if I knew him. He said, "No, I don't think you do." Well, I didn't ask him if he was a smuggler, but I don't know how he could get the information unless he was a smuggler.
So Rohan said, "This man is going to call you again, and I'd like to have you talk to him." Now, Rohan was just going to go my bonds for me if I get into trouble, and he knew I was honest, and everything else, but he still wanted me to talk to this fellow, but he didn't give me his name or tell me who he was or his business.
I got the phone call. The fellow told me that he would like to talk to me but he didn't want to come to my house. He said, "I don't want to be seen associating with you. I don't want to get involved in anything, but I'll be glad to give you the information that comes to me.
Now, I knew the Ku Klux Klan was doing this, too. I knew they'd give you very good information. I knew other people who had reason to give me very reliable information, so I couldn't be sure just who this man was.
― 56 ―He wanted to know where he could meet me, and I said, "Well, I'm not too far from this College of Arts and Crafts where Broadway and College Avenue goes together. I'll meet you up in front of the College of Arts and Crafts, but how will I know you?" He says, "You stand out there," and he says, "If I blink my lights two or three times and park, you just stand right out by the entrance and be there in half an hour, and I'll go by and I'll blink my lights, and I'll park and you can come up and if I call you by name you'll know me, and it'll be fine."
Sure enough, I stood there and this fellow went by, parked his car, and blinked the lights. I went and got in the car, and I looked in the car first, sized the car all up, because I didn't know whether I was going to get in and get knocked off right there! I saw nobody else in the car. I opened the door and looked in the back, and he said, "Nobody--I'm alone. Get in." I got in, and he drove around, and then I noticed he only had one arm. So then I knew he was Serpia Sam Terry. I never said a word.
He told me that he'd phoned me and he gave me this information about the Union Construction Company. He said, "Now, I'm in a position to know where all these people are going to land. I know that if I tell you, and you can knock off those I tell you about, it's going to help my business. It's going to make it tougher to get liquor and I'm going to have more clients, and going to bring in more stuff. Then you'll have the influence--like I know some of those fellows over there in San Francisco are being handled by Parenti and the Swedes and these other groups, and I know they're feeding this information to other agents and I know they fed it on me. If they can control the agents by this means, then they can control the landing ports. If you can say you know at a certain time, at a certain place, there's going to be a landing--fine! You'll get it. I'll give you factual information. You can let me know where they're gonna go, and I'll land."
I said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute." "Well," he said, "You don't have to tell me anything. I'll take my chances, see?" He said, "I'll tell you, we land 10,000 cases a month, and we'll give you a dollar a case." I said, "That's a lot of money, but I'm not interested. Mr. Terry, I'll be willing to take the information, and you take your chances. But I'm not interested in your money offer. I'm glad to know you gave me that information--where it came from, but I'm not interested at all in your
― 57 ―proposition. Will you let me out?" He let me out at the corner of Fifty-sixth and Telegraph by Idora Park.
He said, "Well, you're married and got a couple of kids. Here." You know, unconsciously, if I do this to you [gesture of tossing something], you'll reach your hand out. He said, "Here," and he handed me a roll of bills. I said, "You son-of-a-bitch," and I threw the bills back at him into the car. I said, "Now I will be after you. Now I will be on you, and I'll make every effort to knock you over. You're going to take your chances, boy, and they're gonna be chances. We'll get information on you, and don't you worry, you'll get it!"
This is the last I saw of the fellow. About a week or two later I walk down Washington Street again, and Mr. Rohan was out there again. It was his habit to stand out in front of his place of business to sun himself. He used to wear a grey sweater and a little black hat with the crown down and the brim turned up. He always sounded [like] a very pleasant sort of a fella, and he said, "Hey, Oscar--I want to talk to you. I think you made a big mistake." I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Well, I think you made a mistake. This fellow didn't want to bribe you." I said, "Not very much!" He said, "Oh, no, no, no. You wouldn't have had to worry. Nothing would happen to you. There'd be no way anyone would know he helped you." I said, "I told the man I'd take the information, but I didn't want nothing to do with him. I didn't want any part of him."
Terry had his home all fixed up with an electric burglar alarm system around the windows and doors. These men were-- you could call them the Mafia if you wanted. They could do whatever they wanted to, they were Italian, and he was a tough guy, and a rough guy, too. So I didn't want any part of these people. Arresting them, sure, I didn't worry about that. But I wasn't going to have them pay me or give me anything of value, and then I'd be double-crossed and get involved and go to jail or maybe killed. I had a wife and two children, and I didn't want to go to the penitentiary. I wasn't raised that way.
So, I told Mr. Rohan. I wasn't gonna be in this business too much longer. I was going to try to get into the district attorney's office. I said, "I'd like to be in there as I want to study law, and I want to get out of the enforcement business.
― 58 ―So it wouldn't do any good anyway, no matter what happened, I don't want any part of this." I said I'm sorry if I hurt his feelings, but it's all right--I don't want any part of it.
He said, "You want to get over here with Pinky Warren? I got some good connections." Mr. Warren had already told me I had the job when it opens up, but I didn't mention this to him. "Well," he said, "Come along with me." I said, "Mr. Rohan, I've got to go over here to the office and there are people waiting for me." He said, "It'll only take a minute. I want to take you and introduce you to a friend of mine." I thought, "Oh, what can I say now. I was told by Mr. Warren not to mention this."
Well I went along to see who his friend was. I didn't see where it could do any harm to go over. I didn't have to do anything, and I was going to tell Mr. Warren everything that happened. I opened my big mouth by saying I hoped to get in the district attorney's office. I didn't say I had the appointment, or anything else, or I was promised any job. He said to me, "I want you to meet the man that's responsible for putting Earl Warren in that job. He is Johnny Mullins. He's obligated to me."
Now Rohan was a Mike Kelly man, and Mullins was a Mike Kelly man. So he took me over to the board of supervisors' offices. He went into the board of supervisors' room and they were in session. He went over and asked Mr. Mullins to come outside a minute. I stood out in the hall. He come out and he said, "Johhny, I want you to meet Oscar Jahnsen, a good friend of mine. He is an honest, sincere, dedicated person. I'd like to have you put him in the district attorney's office. Now, you know Pinky Warren, and he's obligated to you. You'd do us a big favor if you'd put him in the office."
I said, "Well, Mr. Mullins, please, I don't think it's necessary. I just would appreciate meeting you, but I just don't want you to do anything. I don't want to get involved in any politics." Mullins never said a word. He said, "Okay, Jack!" like that. So we left. He [Rohan] said, "Don't worry. He'll take care of it. He owes me plenty."
I went across to the district attorney's office and the first thing I wanted to get ahold of Mr. Warren. Well, I couldn't see him. He was in trying a case, and I had a job
― 59 ―to go on. I couldn't wait. I made up my mind the next time I come over I'd make an appointment to see him.
But in the interim I got a call from George Helms who said he'd like to see me. I went over and then he said, "The chief would like to see you." He called the district attorney, "the chief." "He'd like to have you go in and see him." I went in.
Mr. Warren said, "Sit down." I sat down and he said to me, "Gee, I thought I'd cautioned you and told you not to tell anybody about offering you this position. It all hinges on whether I get this appropriation or not. But it wasn't necessary for you to go to Jack Rohan and ask Jack Rohan to help you. I'm the one that makes the appointment, not Jack Rohan."
I said, "Well, Mr. Warren, I tried to see you right after this incident--" and so I told him the story. I said, "I was upset about it, and it bothered me and it worried me, and I came to see you and you weren't available and this is it! I don't know what to say."
"Well," he says, "He probably will call you up, if we get the appointments I ask for. He'll probably tell you he landed the job for you. But all I want you to do is to tell him what a no good so-and-so he is and that he had nothing to do with it, and that you didn't want to have anything to do with him, and that he better just forget the whole deal--that you had this appointment long before, and that if he wants any verification of this he can call me and I'll be glad to tell him!" He told me to tell him in some other language--and Mr. Warren very seldom swears--the kind of a man he thought he was and the type of influence he had, and so forth.
The appointment came through when they got the appropriation, I think it was about the 24th day of July in 1925.
By this time Warren has started to--
At this time he had the appointment, he was now reorganizing the office; he kept everybody in that was in there. This was the new budget, and the new money in the 1925 fiscal year.
Yes. Well when does he go after the bail bonds people? Is it the following year?
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It's after that.
It's the following May.
Yes. Then, just as Mr. Warren said, the phone rang, and it was Mr. Rohan. "Well, Oscar," he said, "I landed the job for you! Mullins came through fine, you got the job, and what I'd like to have you do now is the first chance you get come in and sit down. I'd like to talk to you. I'll give you a few pointers about how things are run around here. I want you to know that we want to help you and everything else, and I'm sure glad you got it. This shows you what influence is, and the politics are, and so forth, and I'll be able to help you."
I said, "Well, Mr. Rohan, just a minute, just a minute. I hate to tell you this, but I told Mr. Warren what took place and how this happened, you taking me to see Mr. Mullins. I'd already been promised that job and that's the reason I told you I didn't want to go over to see Mr. Mullins, and that's the reason I told Mr. Mullins not to do anything about it. I just want to tell you that Mr. Warren told me to tell you that you had no influence in his office, and that any time you thought you did, you better see him. That his appointments are his own, not Mike Kelly's or not yours or anybody else's. He had some choice words for you, and he would suggest that you call him up, if you want anything more about it!"
So he hung up the 'phone. This was okay. I told Mr. Warren. He laughed about it.
Well, I went to work there, on the 25th day of July. During this time Mr. Warren had to make some sort of a record for himself in a short period of time. This appointment wasn't too long before the next election and his first run as district attorney.
Because he had to run for election.
Yes, he had to run. He had to do a lot to get public attention, and to change public thinking from the previous administration.
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