Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eddie Cudahy and Pat Crowe

'Slipshod Hobo' Collared

A break in the case finally came in March when James Callahan, an Irishman with a criminal record, was arrested for drunkenness. He served a night in jail, then surprised court officials by paying his fine with a shiny new $20 gold piece, just like the Cudahy ransom money.

Cops described Callahan as a member of the Q Street gang, referring to a boulevard lined with rough-and-tumble saloons near the South Omaha packing houses.

Callahan was known to pal around with Pat Crowe. One cop described him as a typical hobo ... with a swagger and a slipshod shuffle.

Chief Donahue assigned Officer Frank Dueberry to tail Callahan. The cop observed Callahan go from one tavern to the next, paying with eight different gold pieces.

Callahan was arrested on March 21, 1901, on a warrant charging that he unlawfully, feloniously and forcibly robbed Edward Cudahy of $25,000.

The trial began April 23, and it seemed an open-and-shut case.

Eddie Cudahy took the witness stand to identify Callahan based on his brogue. The boys father added testimony about how he had paid the ransom.

Mrs. Jesse Wittum, a neighbor of the Grover Street hideout, testified that she recognized Callahan as one of two men she saw at the house on the day of the kidnapping.

Callahans attorney called several alibi witnesses. Two said they saw him playing cards at Henry Arfs saloon on Center Street on the night of the kidnapping. The defendants sister testified that he spent that night at her house not far from Arfs place.

Callahan testified that hed been drinking but was certain that he hadnt been involved in any kidnapping. He couldnt account for his pocketful of gold coins that were like those used in the ransom payoff.

In their summations, Callahans attorneys, Charles Haller and John McFarland, used the novel argument that the defendant had not committed robbery since Cudahy had given the money freely and did not expect it to be returned. His motive for giving the money was not pertinent, the lawyers said, since the kidnapping of a 16-year-old was not illegal under Nebraska law.

Judge Ben Baker told the jury it must convict Callahan of robbery if jurors believed Cudahy had paid because the kidnapers had put him in fear about his son.

At 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 28, jury foreman A.S. Joseph announced the verdict: not guilty.

Callahan beamed and strode toward the jury box, saying, Your honor, my attorneys are not here and I would like to say a word in my own behalf and thank the jurors.

Judge Baker barked, Sit down! These jurors dont deserve any thanks.

Baker turned to the jury and said he could not conceive of 12 intelligent men...(returning) a verdict of this kind. He added that juries should protect society and uphold laws, not make heroes of men who prey upon people and upon their property.

Chief Donahue said he was very much chagrined by they verdict. Cudahy Sr. called the decision incomprehensible.

Thirty-five years later, after he had retired from the bench, Judge Baker told a reporter, There was no legitimate reason for Callahans acquittal. The man was proven guilty. I can only account for it on the ground that the jury was prejudiced against wealthy people as represented by the Cudahys.

Callahan was not released. He was charged with seven counts of perjury and was held until a trial in November 1901. But that jury was of the same mind: It acquitted on all counts.

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