Chicago Tribune

Court Declines to Hold Professor and Woman On Charge

The disorderly conduct charge against Prof. William I. Thomas and Mrs. R. M. Granger, wife of an officer now in France, was dismissed yesterday in the Morals court. Judge Frank H. Graham ruled that taking a woman to a hotel and registering as man and wife, even if they were found in a room, and even if they admittedly were guilty of immoral conduct, does not constitute a breach of the peace.

The decision may have a far reaching effect on future cases of a similar nature, particularly regarding raids on hotels within the “five mile zone.” Federal and city officials take this view. They admit that when defendants fight the charge there is little chance of conviction. Section 2012, the ordinance covering disorderly conduct, does not touch on immoral relations in a hotel. It governs only offenses in public places. Judge Graham contends that a hotel room is not a public place.

Case Is Ended

With their acquittal there seems little chance that Thomas and Mrs. Granger will be arrested on new city, state, or federal warrants. They probably will escape further prosecution of any kind. The city is through, no evidence has been presented to the state, and federal officials admit they have no proof that the couple violated the Mann act. The five mile zone order, they say, does not technically cover cases of the Thomas kind, which accounts for the fact that a federal charge of that nature was not brought against the couple in the first place.

Judge Graham Explains

Judge Graham last night explained his reasons for dismissing the case. He said:

“I don’t believe that there is any statute or ordinance covering cases similar to the Thomas-Granger affair. In other words, there is nothing in the law to prevent a man from take a woman to a reputable hotel and registering with her as man and wife. On the other hand, if he goes to a questionable hotel, where there is a possibility of providing that it is a disorderly house, he may be arrested and convicted. But before he can be convicted it first is necessary to prove the hotel is disorderly.

“The proprietor of the Brevoort aided the police in causing the arrest of the couple. Thus a disorderly house charge could not be brought against the Brevoort. The city prosecutor wanted to test the ordinance. He selected a portion of the ordinance, reading: ‘Improper noise or breach of the peace, or diversion tending to breach the peace.’ That was the word — ‘diversion,’ He asked the question:

“How should diversion be construed? What does it mean? A study of section 2012 will show that the whole ordinance refers to the open, to acts in public. It cannot be construed to mean behind closed doors.”

On Five Mile Order

Judge Graham was asked how his decision affected the federal “five mile zone order.” He said:

“Where federal cases come under the city ordinance, we handle them. Usually they are prosecuted on a disorderly house charge. A federal case brought on a disorderly conduct charge would have the same ending as the Thomas case. There is no distinction. Yet, if we fail to convict, the government still has the privilege of carrying its cases to federal court. Usually, however, they drop prosecutions.”

The judge was asked if Prof. Thomas and Mrs. Granger could be tried on a charge of adultery through the state’s attorney’s office. He replied:
“No, they are not guilty of adultery. Adultery must be open and notorious. In other words, a man and a woman must pose as man and wife for some time before it can be proven.”

“The decision in the Municipal court has no bearing whatsoever on any federal action that may or may not be taken in the Thomas case,” said Charles F. Clyne, United States attorney last night. “The matter is still being investigated. When the investigation is completed we will know what we will do.”

“Whether a Municipal court convicted or freed a defendant would have no influence with us. The United States courts act on the evidence their own agents develop, not on the findings of inferior courts.”

Case Not Dropped.

“The case has not been dropped. The investigation is going on. What the results will be can only be told when the investigation is over,” said Hinton C. Clabaugh of the department of justice.

Acting Chief of Police Alcock yesterday suggested the need of an ordinance covering immoral relations and said that the disorderly conduct charge was woefully inadequate.

Alcock expressed the opinion that the professor and Mrs. Granger might have been liable under a charge of adultery. He explained that evidence first would have to be presented to the state’s attorney. He said that so far as he knew there was no intention to press such a charge.

Returns to Thomas Home.

Mrs. Granger returned to the Thomas flat at 6132 Kimbark avenue and spent the night there. She was accompanied by the professor and his wife. Mrs. Thomas was the calmest and most collected one of the three. The professor, too, was bland and smiling. Mrs. Granger seemed on the verge of collapse and became hysterical when newspaper photographers “bombed” her with flashlights.

William Jr. didn’t go to court, and Della Raines, Mrs. Granger’s sister also failed to appear. She vanished several days ago and has kept her whereabouts secret.

Mrs. Thomas was belligerent and verbally belabored the reporters at every opportunity.

The courtroom was so crowded that the spectators hardly could move. Bailiffs cleared a passage way in front of the judge’s bench. Spectators stood on benches, tables and chairs. But when the attorneys commenced argument there was complete silence.

State Submits Case

Judge Graham at first contended that he wanted to hear the evidence. Assistant City Prosecutor Harry Starr sketched his case briefly. He told how Prof. Thomas and Mrs. Granger were found in a room at the Brevoort hotel. There was delay in admitting the officers, he said, but Thomas and the woman were scantily clad.

Attorney Darrow waved the evidence to one side.

“Suppose we admit that they were at the hotel for immoral purposes, “ he said. “Admitted that they were found in a compromising position. The charge is disorderly conduct or breach of the peace. The law says that breach of the peace must be committed in public, as on a public highway or in a public place. The ordinance does not cover the defendants.”

“I agree with you,” said Judge Graham. “Case dismissed.”

Mrs. Granger was so upset after the ordeal in court that she had to be carried from the courtroom. Restoratives were administered in the judge’s chambers. There she broke down and wept while Mrs. Thomas tried to comfort her.


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