May 3, 1907: Fleenor, Accused ‘Barefoot Bandit,’ Says LAPD Got Him Drunk to Gain Confession


Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

On the witness stand, accused “Barefoot Bandit” James G. Fleenor complains that police got him drunk to gain a confession. Fleenor, who was black, had been part of an attempted jailbreak several weeks earlier.

“They took me down to Capt. Flammer’s office,” Fleenor said, “and asked me for a description of the two men I had got the box of jewelry from. Then they took me to my office in a hack. Before we started, the captain said to [Detective] Jones, ‘Here is $5 for the expenses of your trip with Fleenor.’

“We stopped on the way and had two or three drinks. In one of the saloons they charged 50 cents ($10.26 USD 2005) for my drink because I am a colored man. When we got to the office I tried to find the telephone number of the men I had got the jewelry from. I thought I found it and gave it to them.

“The next day [Detective] Boyd came to my cell and said we were going to the office again. He gave me a sample bottle of whiskey. We went to the office and hunted among my papers. I found another telephone number which I thought might be the one the men had given me. On the way back we stopped at Winston and Main streets and got a drink. I had a glass of whiskey and a glass of beer.

“On the fourth day of my arrest they came together and brought me a bottle of whiskey. They said they found the house where that telephone number was and they were going out there.

“Next morning they came to see me again. They didn’t bring any whiskey. Jones said: ‘Old man, it looks dark for you. They’ll stick you for this. We believe what you told us but you couldn’t make a jury believe that. You’ve got to find these people or stand for it yourself.’

“They took me down in the office again and said to me: ‘You stand for this like we tell you and you won’t get near so long.’ Jones was laughing and I asked him what he was laughing at. He said: ‘I’m laughing at the way you strung us. There’s no white man and colored man lives in that house. There’s a woman lives there, that we know.’

“Boyd said he was darned tired of it and that I had to [come] clean on it or take it on myself. ‘If you take it on yourself, there’ll be only one or two charges put against you, but if you don’t they’ll keep sticking them on you. That jewelry you had came from 15 or 20 jobs. Plead guilty and you’ll get a light sentence.’

“After I came up here and pleaded not guilty, they told me I’d done the thing wrong and that if I’d plead guilty like they told me I’d have got only four or five years. They said they would have gone to the county attorney and very little would have been done to me.

“But I wanted to have a chance to tell how it was.”

The Times reported: “Detectives Boyd and Jones admitted that they had bought Fleenor drinks on two or three occasions but denied that they had taken any to his cell.”

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in African Americans, Crime and Courts, LAPD and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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