November 17, 1908
"Mr. William A. Graves was a visitor in our city last evening. He paid a very welcome visit to the rectory and at a special service sang 'The Holy City' in the Methodist church. Mr. Graves is an accomplished gentleman of much Oriental travel, and is always a delightful guest."
So says a newspaper clipping, part of a bundle two inches thick, relating to Arthur P. Spencer, alias a dozen other names, among them Harry Reardon. There was not much in the proceedings in the federal court yesterday afternoon to identify the "Holy City" singer as being Harry Reardon, on trial for impersonating an officer, so that he can be held to give the state authorities time to see if he is the man who killed the Chinaman last week near Liberty.
Reardon acted as his own lawyer and made a botch of the whole business. The government put six or eight witnesses on the stand who testified that Reardon had gone to their laundries or stores, had spoken to them in Chinese, had said he could "fix" residence certificates for from $150 to $400 and had collected from $3 to $6 from each of them in the way of loans. Every witness examined told the same story, and Reardon was unable to break down one of them. This morning he will take the stand in his own behalf and will have several white people by means of whom he will try to establish a reputation.
"You came to my house and said that you could fix up residence papers for a boy in my kitchen, who had none," said Dr. Mon Gong Young.
"I did, did I! And what did you say?"
"I said I would not pay it. It was too much," the doctor answered, whereat Assistant United States District Attorney George Neal, conducting the case, had to laugh. The simplicity of the witness was too much for his decorum.
Reardon or Spencer, or whatever his name is, is an animate example of a misspent life. Master of the difficult Chinese language, he could command $100 a month steadily, according to the government interpreter who was sent here to help in the case now on trial. In addition to English and Chinese, he speaks Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.
With all these accomplishments and without a dollar to his name, after living forty or forty-five years, he has a record of having done five years in the New York penitentiary, three years in the Pennsylvania state penitentiary, two terms of three years in the California Penal Institute and three years in the state penitentiary in Washington. In addition he was sentenced to do three months in jail in Pennsylvania for beating a woman out of a board bill, but was paroled. He was fined "to pay 6 1/4 cents to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania" at another time and to undergo three months in jail for representing himself as a lawyer long enough to collect $5 from one Frank de Laurentis, and there is a sentence of three years hanging over him in New York for a last offense.
To merit all this punishment Reardon has done no more than blackmail small sums of money out of contraband Chinese, commit perjury, forgery once and represent himself as a government inspector. In being sent up in Pennsylvania the federal judge declared that Reardon was doubly guilty for not taking advantage of his accomplishments. Now he is in Kansas City trying to prove that he was here organizing a Sunday school, and trying to disprove that he killed the Chinaman found dead a week ago near Liberty and with having borrowed money from laundrymen here under penalty of turning up unregistered Chinamen to the government.
The records show Reardon to be a man of amazing nerve. He borrowed $5 from a Pennsylvania chief of police after explaining to the chief that he was in his town looking for contrabands. At another time he actually went to a government immigration officer, in Waterville, Pa., and told that he was a lawyer representing the Six Companies, adding that the Chinese company always required him, when in the vicinity of immigration officers, to work with federal authorities. Thereupon Reardon, sailing under the name of Spencer, asked for a dozen John Doe warrants so he could make an arrest. Armed with those -- which he did not get --Reardon could have made a hot time of it in Waterville Chinatown.
Witnesses on the stand here yesterday said that Reardon had told some of them that he was a government immigration officer, detailed to look after the Chinese, but that for $400 he would let any Chinaman into the United States. Reardon is up to the minute on the Chinese exclusion law, which has made him formidable in the laundries, where, as one witness said yesterday, through an interpreter"
"He came in and asked if I had any papers and any boys without papers. He said he was an inspector and wanted to see mine. I was not sure that he would not destroy them if I handed them to him, so I gave him $3 he asked for and got rid of him that way."
"It is all a conspiracy," said Reardon to United States Judge Pollock. "The Chinese hate a white man who speaks their language. They have tried for years to have me locked up. I am being persecuted, and I want the court to protect me."
"The court will," Judge Pollock replied.
Reardon showed his legal training when at one time he said hastily:
"I object, your honor. That is misleading."
"It is a little so," the court admitted. "Objection sustained."
Reardon, while in Kansas City during his three weeks, had addressed a ladies' study club, addressed a church society, had undertaken to organize a Sunday school class of fifteen Chinamen, got mixed up in a murder and now is nabbed on the word of eight laundrymen and storekeepers, on a charge of representing himself as a government inspector of Chinese certificates.
In swearing the witnesses, the usual form prescribed for use in this country was followed. Reardon, familiar with Chinese customs and himself knowing the trivial light of the United States oath in the eyes of a Chinaman, offered no objection. This was supposed by the government authorities to be his ruse for a fight later on to throw out testimony. The evidence is being given before a jury.
"They could not take a binding oath no matter what form it was administered in," said Reardon. "To make a Chinaman tell the truth, he has to break a saucer over the grave of an ancestor, have a baked fowl there, and walk all around the grave. They have no graves here. This trial is ridiculous. They are determined to keep me locked up, and are here now doing their best."