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William C. Dodge: Wikis

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William Copeland Dodge (September 6, 1890-???) was a New York County District Attorney and a Tammany Hall politician. He is probably best remembered for empaneling the runaway grand jury of 1935 which made Thomas E. Dewey famous.

Contents

Early life

Dodge was born in Manchester, New Hampshire and grew up in Chicago. He studied at Stevens Institute and received a law degree from New York University, and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1906.[1]

In 1918 he was elected to the New York State Senate as the Senator from the Bronx. As a State Senator he was active in urging an investigation of William Hamilton Anderson of the New York Anti-Saloon League. He resigned his Senate seat to protest Democratic strong arm tactics, joining the Republican party for a time. He switched back to the Democratic party later, then was appointed assistant district attorney in 1924. In 1927 he was named city magistrate by James J. Walker.

District Attorney

In 1933 he was elected New York County District Attorney with promises to clean up the office by eliminating leaks. Leaks in the prosecution of racketeering cases had earlier led to intimidation of witnesses, thereby allowing more notable criminals to escape prosecution. His plan was to only provide the minimum information to the jury in order to receive an indictment.

His Tammany patron was James Joseph Hines.

Runaway Grand Jury

In 1934 a grand jury was held for 11 months with minimal prosecutions to investigate gambling in the city. Charges were made that politicians were regularly fixing gambling cases. A memo by Mayor Fiorello Laguardia's office showed that between February 1 and September 30, 1934, 91 percent of the gambling cases brought by police never even came to trial and of those that did come to trial one third ended in fines usually under $50.

On March 4, 1935, he convened a grand jury to investigate gambling, and in particular the actions of Dutch Schultz. The grand jury spent its time with other cases and information on witnesses was being leaked. Grand jurors complained that only junior investigators were assigned to them. Gambling kingpins were quoted in the newspapers that they would never be indicted. [2]

The jury complained in open court about the problems on May 7, 1935, which was widely report by the city newspapers. On May 22, 1935, Dodge agreed to appoint a special prosecutor from a list prepared by the New York County Lawyers Association. He balked at Republican appointees because they were political, and appointed a compromise candidate H.H. Corbin proposed by former Republican Governor Nathan Miller despite objections by the jurors.[2] When the juror objections were made public Corbin refused the appointment. The runaway grand jury disbanded in June complaining that the cases were not adequately being investigated.

On June 24, 1935 Governor Herbert H. Lehman said a new investigation would occur. Of the four names that would be put forth only Thomas Dewey would agree.[2] Dewey rocketed to fame with his successful prosecution and defeated Dodge in 1937.

Patsy or criminal?

The record remains unclear whether Dodge criminally profited in the events. It was revealed that Gangster Dutch Schultz paid $15,000 for his election.[3] His patron Hines was quoted in his trial as saying Dodge was "stupid, respectable and my man." [4] Dodge was never formally charged with any wrongdoing.

References

Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas C.T. Crain
District Attorney - New York County, New York
1933 – 1937
Succeeded by
Thomas E. Dewey
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