Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Wheels of Justice, Part One

There is no telling—at least from newspaper reports—what transpired in the new friendship between Arthur J. Daugherty and Burley R. Chaney, once they arrived in Los Angeles in 1925. Certainly, their traveling partner—the one who introduced the two, Arthur's brother Marion Daugherty—had chosen to return all the way back home to Ohio shortly after their arrival out west. And Arthur landed the job at the air field that he was so eager to get.

Other than that, we have no way to document the events between that 1925 arrival and the day of April 30, 1927, when A. J. Daugherty instantly lost his life in a "trap" set by federal immigration authorities. Whether the friendship during those two years included shady connections with strangers who turned out to be smugglers may possibly only be revealed by inspecting official court records—if even then.

Court proceedings—or at least the journalists covering them—shifted their focus, once deliberations began regarding the guilt of men arrested for supposed involvement in the suspected smuggling ring. Moving from determining whether the federal agents were acting appropriately when they shot at Chaney's plane, the task was now to examine whether specified arrestees were guilty of various charges.

Even these charges were handled through different cases. At first, when the news came out on the Associated Press newswire on July 15, it named two aviators—Emmett Longbrake and John J. O'Brien, but not Burley Chaney himself—and declared they were "acquitted in Federal Court of smuggling Chinese into Los Angeles from Mexican points by airplane."

The acquittal came out that evening, following less than six hours of deliberation. However, that was on only the first of two counts. Right on the heels of that news came a second trial, which began the very next morning.

While the charge for the first trial was that the two aviators were returning from Tijuana, Mexico, with "a cargo of Chinese" on the morning of the shooting, the following day's charges would be for conspiracy to break U.S. immigration laws. In that case, Chaney's name would be added to the roster of those being tried.

If the question on Day One was, "so, did you do it?" the question on the following day would be, "so if you didn't do it, did you mean to do it?"

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