Bribery Charges False Declares Col. Felder; Calls Them “Frame-Up”

Bribery ChargesAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Saturday, May 24th, 1913

Affidavits and Alleged Dictagraph [sic] Record Are Made Public, Accusing Prominent Lawyer, of Offering Bribe of $1,000 to Secretary Febuary, of Police Department, to Secure Affidavit Made for Police by J. W. Coleman, Stepfather of Mary Phagan, in Regard to Felder’s Connection With Case.


Mayor Woodward Also Dictagraphed [sic], According to Report—Admits He Was Called Into Conference by A. S. Colyar, Who Offered Him, He Says, Evidence That the Police Department Is Giving Protection to Disorderly Houses in Atlanta—“I’ve Done My Duty, It’s Up to Grand Jury,” Says Lanford.

Developments came thick and fast yesterday following the publication of affidavits, charging that Colonel Thomas B. Felder—the man who freed Charles Morse, and who used the dictagraph on Governor Cole Blease, of South Carolina—had himself been dictagraphed, and had made an attempt to secure an affidavit in the Mary Phagan murder case now held by the police department, through bribing Secretary February by the offer of $1,000.

Stinging counter charges that the Atlanta detective department is reeking with graft and corruption were hurled at Chief Newport Lanford by Colonel Felder, who asserts that the affidavits now in the possession of Lanford are perjured and the charges prompted by the desire to forestall an investigation of the department.


“I have proved Felder to be an attempted briber,” said the chief. “My duty has been done. It’s now up to the grand jury to take action.”

It also developed that Mayor Woodward has himself been dictagraphed, this instrument being used on the mayor during the course of a conversation at the Williams house, held by the mayor, Secretary February, of police department, A. S. Colyar, who worked up the affidavits against Felder, and Ed Miles, head of the Miles detective bureau.

Felder says he has viewed with his own eyes a police “graft” list, containing the names of owners of disorderly houses in the city, which resorts are given police protection in return for money. This, he said, was shown him by G. C. February, stenographer for Chief Lanford, right hand man of that official.

Chief Beavers would not commit himself on the situation that has developed by the charges of his detective chief and the counter accusations by Colonel Felder. He seemed pleased, however, over the result reputed to have been obtained by Lanford, and said that he later would fully express his opinion.

“I cannot talk at this present time,” he stated. “I would not think it best.”

Felder Promises Probe; People Tired, He says.

Colonel Felder’s announced exposure of the detective and police department would be early he said, and exhaustive. He will have the support of a wide circle of business men and civic authorities he declared who have tired of tolerating the situation he accuses of existing. The results he declares will startle the state.

Police headquarters is in a ferment as are city hall and political circles. Colonel Felder stated at 10 o’clock last night that hundreds of telephone calls from business men and influential residents had brought him assurance of support. Chief Lanford was also assured of support from police and other circles.

Felder Wanted Affidavit, He Says

According to the charges made by the detective department. Colonel Felder was anxious to get hold of an affidavit secured by the police from J. W. Coleman, father of the dead girl, in which he denied that he had employed Mr. Felder to represent him in the investigation of the Phagan murder, declared he was satisfied with the police, and declared that Colonel Felder had made every effort to secure his consent for him to handle the investigation of the case and had promised to do so without cost to Coleman.

Lanford accuses the attorney of having striven to bribe the chief’s stenographer, G. C. Febuary, with $1,000 for the theft of this evidence. Affidavits supporting Lanford’s charges have been made and published. Strong denial is made of the accusation in full by Colonel Felder.

A. S. Colyar, Jr., an adventurer of national note, who is said to have been connected with the Atlanta attorney in his Blease investigation, is an affiant to a document declaring that he was with Felder when he approached the detective chief’s stenographer regarding the theft of the Phagan evidence in return for bribe money.

Evidence that the attorney was lured to a room in the Williams house No. 2, at Forsyth and Walton streets, Wednesday afternoon, and trapped into a conversation with Colyar and Febuary, which was reported by a dictagraph, has been published in stenographic report of the alleged conversation. Felder denies the conversation, averring he was in the room only five minutes.

Chief Lanford asserted to a reporter for The Constitution last night that premature publication of his bribery charges had foiled an effort he was making to catch the well-known attorney in the act of giving money to the man in possession of the Mary Phagan evidence.

It had been planned, he said, to have Felder meet Febuary and Colyar at some point either in or near Decatur for the turning over of the desired evidence. As the attorney handed over the bribe money, as proposed, Lanford declared, headquarters detectives, who would have been eye-witnesses to the transaction, would instantly have nabbed him.

“The plans were to get Felder in Decatur—out in DeKalb county, where he would be given speedy trial and be dealt with more severely. He had partly agreed to the meeting. Febuary would likely have met him there this coming Saturday. Colyar, however, grew mad over the delay. He did not agree to the idea of carrying the scheme to the extent of bribery. He thought that the case, in its present shape, was ripe enough for prosecution.

“We had a slight tiff with this man. As a result, he tipped off the paper which published the story, and our plans were rent to pieces thereafter. The grand jury now has it before it. It is a case for them to act. For the present, I’m through. I’ve done my work. It’s now up to them.”

How Lanford Got Colyar.

Lanford says he obtained the services of Colyar through Headquarters Detective Robert Z. Ozburn, a friend of Colyar’s. Colyar was visiting Ozburn at police station several days ago, said the chief, and showing a decided interest in the Mary Phagan mystery, hinted that he could be of valuable aid in the investigation.

He was visited personally by Chief Lanford, the latter stated, and asked to lend assistance in the case. Later, Lanford declares, he heard rumors of Felder’s alleged connection with the suspected man’s defense. Colyar, he knew, was intimately attached to Felder during his dispensary investigation in South Carolina.

The detective chief says Felder, through a source which he will not reveal, endeavored to become acquainted with some one connected with the detective department who was opposed to Lanford. Febuary, he says, was approached on the deal of obtaining all the Mary Phagan evidence possessed by the detectives.

Febuary, according to Chief Lanford, went immediately to his chief, asking instructions. Lanford ordered him to confer with Felder regarding the turning over of the evidence, and to accept any terms named by the attorney, the chief says.

Willing to Take Bribe.

“I told Febuary,” Lanford asserted, “to inform Felder that he would be willing to sell the Phagan evidence, and that he was sore on me because I forced him to work overtime too often, and did not pay him enough. Also to tell him that, beside the chief, no one beside himself was able to obtain the evidence, as it was locked in the department vault.

“Colyar, as he once was a confidant of Felder’s, was employed in the deal. He was to assist Felder, to be a kind of go-between for both Febuary and the lawyer. Everything was arranged. The conference was held in Colyar’s room in the Williams House, and a meeting was planned to bribe Febuary for the desired papers.

Gives Statement Sunday.

Caustic and bitter is the attorney’s reply. He declares that on Sunday he will issue to the Atlanta press a full and complete denial and reply, and will submit affidavits supporting his charges of corruption in the police department. They have been in his possession, he asserts, for some time, and he had been withholding them for his planned probe into the police department.

Admitting that he went to the Williams house on the afternoon on the accused bribery attempt, Felder says he visited the place only for the purpose of obtaining “graft” evidence from Febuary, who had summoned him there. When the stenographer and adventurer asked $1,000 for their possession, as stated by the lawyer, he departed.

Colonel Felder in Phagan Case.

Ever since the Phagan story “broke,” Colonel Felder has been a dominant figure in the investigation. He has a contract showing he was retained by two prominent business men of the Bellwood wood community. Stories have been circulated for several days that he was secretly in the employ of Frank. His answer to these rumors is that they were circulated by police detectives to distract attention from their practice of destroying Phagan evidence which would have been damaging to Frank’s defense.

The names of Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey, Mayor James G. Woodward, Police Commissioner Carlos Mason and Charles C. Jones, proprietor of the Rex saloon, appear in portions of the alleged sworn dictagraph record attributed to Colonel Felder. He said to a Constitution reporter that during all time of the five-minute interview he held with Colyar and Febuary he did not mention the name of any of these men.

Already civic and reform organizations have begun preparing plans for investigations that will result. But even with this new situation, the work of ferreting out the Mary Phagan mystery goes vigorously forward.

The Pinkertons and headquarters detectives announced new evidence Friday which is published elsewhere. Colonel Felder stated last night that Chief Tobie, the Burns man, will not be hampered any whatever with the new turn of affairs, but will continue his operations as industriously as before. The grand jury resumes its investigation this morning at 10 o’clock.

The dictagraph, with which Lanford charges the attorney was trapped, was ingeniously installed in Room 32 of the William house. It was concealed behind the dresser—that is, the transmitter—and the wires ran through the keyhole of the door connecting Room 32 with Room 34. In this latter apartment George W. Gentry, connected with the Southern Bell Telephone company, a shorthand expert, sat, it is charged, with the receivers clapped over his ears.

What Colonel Felder is accused of having desired more than other papers locked in Lanford’s vault, was a document purporting to have been attested to by Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Coleman, parents of Mary Phagan, who testified to the effect that they had never employed the attorney, and had not sanctioned his connection with the investigation. Colyar, in an affidavit, swears that Felder had offered him $1,000 to steal this document.

Blease to Make Statement.

Typical of the militant reputation he bears, Governor Blease has notified The Constitution’s Augusta correspondent that on today he will unloose caustic opinions of Colonel Felder, and tell the public of dealings he declares he had with the Atlanta lawyer during the South Carolina dispensary controversy. It will be recalled that Blease some time ago issued warning to Felder that if he ever ventured on Carolina ground, he would be arrested and tried for mispractice to which he is alleged to have resorted in the dispensary investigation.

Branding the adventurer Colyar as a crook, liar, degenerate and character of long criminal record, Colonel Felder says that during the investigation in Carolina he was visited by the man, who offered to place in his hands valuable evidence. Upon investigating Colyar’s record, Felder says he found it so unsavory that he did not care to use him in any form, but suggested that he display the evidence, and if it were available, he would purchase it.

Colyar, Felder states, procured three affidavits from women. The signature of each was signed on a sheet of parchment detached from the substance of the document. Upon investigation, Mr. Felder says he revealed that the papers were false, and that the signatures had been attached to an agreement submitted by Colyar to take possession of immense estate bequeathed the affiants by deceased relatives of whom they had never heard.

“He is a perjurer, a crook, a scoundrel,” blazed the attorney in speaking of the man. He thrives on such crookedness as he is striving to practice on me.”

Colyar’s Offer to Felder.

Accusing Colyar of being a character with a criminal record, a crook, a blackmailer and perjurer, Felder declares that Colyar came to him several days ago to offer to obtain the reported police “graft” list for Felder’s proposed exposure of the detective department.

“I knew he was crooked and irresponsible,” said the attorney. “I had dealt with him during my dispensary investigation in South Carolina. I discovered there that he was crooked. I told him so. He said that Chief Lanford had offered to employ him to help ‘frame-up’ against Felder, and that Lanford intended performing the ‘frame-up.’

“It was to see the “graft” list that I went to his room in the Williams house. He and Febuary showed two of them to me. One was in the handwriting of Beavers and one of Lanford. I recognized a number of names. They offered to sell both to me for $1,000. I told them I did not need them, but referred them to Mr. Miles, of the bureau of investigation, who I thought could use them.

“Both Febuary and Colyar declared they did not want to deal with anyone but me alone. I did not stay in the room more than five minutes. When they persisted in urging me to purchase the ‘graft’ lists, I left the place. I do not believe they had a dictagraph. The manufacturers of that instrument would not rent one to such irresponsible persons—to blackmailers, in fact.

Will Expose Detectives.

“I am going to expose the detective department, and I won’t be long in doing it,” Colonel Felder added. “It is redolent with vice, and graft and corruption. Atlanta has suffered the situation long enough. It is now entirely beyond endurance. The people will tolerate it no longer.

“Lanford knew of my plans along this line. He knew I was going to reveal him a grafter, a viper. That’s why he wanted to forestall my efforts. He could conceive of no better way than this absurd mode of ringing in a crook to fake up a lot of perjured evidence and swear falsely to a lot of crude affidavits.

“I have already seen his ‘graft’ list. I know most of its contents, and will soon investigate that which I do not know. I could have bought it for $1,000, had I been the ‘buying kind.’ The time has come when he and Beavers can no longer fatten on graft. I’m going to put an end to it.”

Colonel Felder said that his primary intentions were not to expose the detective department in its alleged “paid protection” system, but to its conduct pertaining to the Phagan murder. Chief Lanford, he declared, had been paid by forces representing the suspected Frank, to destroy damaging evidence against him, and was daily pursuing methods to this end.

Determined on Full Exposure.

“That was my first plan,” he said. “Later, when Lanford opposed me so vigorously, I became determined to make full exposure of his malpractice. He got wind of it. Probably through Colyar, I’m not sure. He learned of it some way. His neck was in jeopardy, his job and reputation in danger. He had to employ some means of intercepting me. And he tried this. What a miserable, stinking farce he has made of himself and department.”

He also declared that he had positive evidence that Lanford and a number of headquarters detectives had been moving to frustrate the work of Chief C. W. Tobie, the William J. Burns man, who is investigating the Phagan mystery. The sleuths, he said, had been already to a large number of witnesses, cautioning them not to talk to the Burns men, intimating that he was secretly operating for Frank.

“Another thing which convinces me Lanford is employed by Frank,” said Felder, “is a purported confession shown me by Colyar and Febuary in the former’s room in the Williams house. The confession, they said, had been extorted from the negro, Connally [sic], whom Lanford has been holding illegally ever since his arrest. Both Febuary and Colyar admitted that the confession was forced from the negro and was untrue, but had been made to escape the torture to which the detectives had subjected him.

“Destroying Evidence.”

“What I wanted from Colyar, and the prime reason of my visit to the Williams house, was to procure evidence to the effect that Lanford and his detectives were destroying damaging evidence to Frank. This confession, purporting to be from the Connally negro, was one of the first documents I was shown. Febuary declared he had formulated it, himself and that, although it was false, it had been extracted from the negro and would be used by the detectives.”

That James W. Coleman, step-father of Mary Phagan had been forced into signing the affidavit accredited to him, was declared by Mr. Felder, who stated that a number of headquarters detectives, including Chief Lanford, had gone to both him and his wife, and told them that if they did not deny their association with Felder, they would quit work on the investigation of their daughter’s murder, and leave her death un-avenged.

“I was not employed by either Mr. or Mrs. Coleman,” Mr. Felder said. “They only sanctioned my connection with the case. My real retainers are twelve or more substantial residents of the Bellwood neighborhood, in which Mary Phagan lived. They offered me $500. I accepted, and now possess a contract signed by A. C.McCall and G. H. Bradley, two prominent business men of the Bellwood community.”

Implored to Take Case.

The contract was shown to a reporter for The Constitution. It held the signature of A. C. McCall and G. H. Bradley. Mr. Felder named twelve, or more, men of Bellwood, who, he said, had implored him to come into the Mary Phagan case. He also stated that a number of ladies of the city, all of whom were socially conspicuous, had donated money for his retainance [sic].

Colonel Felder’s proposed probe of the police and detective department, he said, will be relentless and immediate. He will have the support, he declared, of many of the city’s leading business men and capitalists. Declaring that the practices of the detective department are glaring and rotten, through and through, he intimates that Atlanta is unconsciously fostering a police “system” as foul as that practiced in New York before the famous Rosenthal murder.

Affidavits to Be Used.

Affidavits from keepers of disorderly houses, it is said, are possessed by persons in sympathy with the proposed exposure. These documents, according to reports, are to the effect that the resorts operated by the affiants are afforded police protection for graft money. It is even said that a scale of prices are in effect. Colonel Felder states this is a substance of his talk with Febuary, an attaché of the detective department for the past five years.

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Atlanta Constitution, May 24th 1913, “Bribery Charges False Declares Col. Felder; Calls Them “Frame-Up,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)