NEW YORK (Jun. 19)
A jury instructed that intent rather than accomplishment was the essential element in a plot this afternoon began consideration of charges of seditious conspiracy and theft of Government property against 14 men arrested last January by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
After 11 weeks of testimony in Federal Court, Brooklyn, Judge Marcus Campbell gave a two-and-a-half hour charge to the jury in which he pointed out that in a conspiracy, an overt act was not necessary, nor did each defendant have to have knowledge of all of the details.
“If the agreement was to incite other classes–the Communists or the Jews–to revolt and then in the hour of emergency to come in and overthrow, that would be a violation of the law,” he said. He summed up the issue thus: “The whole question was whether the action group (the Action Committee of which the defendants were members conspired to incite the Communists to riot so they could then step in and take over the Government. Was that what they planned to do, and was that why they armed themselves? That’s the case, plain and simple.”
Judge Campbell declared that “we are not trying the Christian Front, which was only used as a recruiting grounds for this group.” In conclusion, he cautioned the jurors to weigh the evidence carefully because “this is a matter of importance to the defendants, the Government and the people of this land.”
United States Attorney Harold M. Kennedy, in his closing address yesterday, said that four steps were involved in the plot–to stir up the Jews and Communists, to convince followers of the Action Committee that the Government was in the hands of Jews and Communists, to incite riots and disturbances, and finally to step in and seize control of the Government.
The number of defendants has dwindled from 17 to 14 since the trial began on April 3. Claus Gunther Ernecke, one of the alleged leaders of the plot, was found a suicide on April 13. Later, charges against George Kelly and Edward Walsh were dismissed on defense motions for lack of sufficient evidence. The remaining defendants are: John F. Cassidy, William Gerald Bishop, John Albert Viebrock, Macklin Boettger, Michael Vill, Alfred J. Quinlan, Andrew Buckley, William H. Bushnell Jr., Michael Joseph Bierne, John T. Prout Jr., Frank Michael Malone, John A. Graf, John Franklin Cook and Leroy Keegan.