Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hauled into court (Part 1 of 2)

1918 wasn’t off to a good start for local businessman Paul Grosse.

On Jan. 4, he found himself before United States Commissioner Jackson for arraignment on a charge of violating the espionage act.

Passed by Congress in 1917, the measure made it a crime to interfere with the operation of U.S. armed forces or to promote the success of its enemies. A conviction could bring a maximum punishment of $10,000 and 20 years in prison.

The government asserted that Grosse, president of the Houston Grain Co., indulged in pro-German military talk.

One witness for the government, the Chronicle reported, said Grosse told him that he didn’t think John “Black Jack” Pershing had many men nor could he get many men to fight in Europe.

The witness said Grosse allegedly told him that he would like to see the Germans clean up the Allies before the U.S. got in.

Regarding the Halifax disaster a month earlier: “He said they may as well be killed that way as any other way.”

In his defense, Grosse, a German-born immigrant who had lived in Houston for many years, never said anything directly against the United States. Defense witnesses said Grosse was, in fact, a loyal American.

A statement he read (prepared by his attorneys) told of how he escaped German militarism and came to America.

“I have been faithful to my family and friends and the right, and any wrong has been unconsciously done,” he said.

C.W. Nugent, Grosse’s attorney, told the court:

“We know how vital it is to look out for everything that is for the welfare of the people and the principles involved. However, human minds are all the same and in moments of enthusiasm, zeal gets us at times.”

But the two-day hearing ended with Grosse’s case being referred to a federal grand jury, the Post reported. He was released on $8,000 (about $122,000) bail.

More to come…

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