Conley is Removed from Fulton Tower at His Own Request


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

Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, June 1st, 1913

Friends of Leo Frank Have Tried to Intimidate Him, Negro Sweeper Tells Detective Chief as Reason for His Transfer to the Police Station.


“He Appears to Be Placing Obstacles in Our Way,” Asserts Chief, in Speaking of Attempts to Interview the Suspected Superintendent. Mangum Denies Intimidation Attempts.

Chief of Detectives Newport Lanford is authority for the statement that James Conley, the negro floor sweeper of the National Pencil factory, who, in his latest affidavit, has admitted his complicity in the Mary Phagan murder, after the killing, but lays the crime at the door of Superintendent Leo M. Frank, was removed from Fulton county Tower to police barracks for imprisonment at his own request to put an end to the attempts of the friends of the superintendent to intimidate him.

Conley was carried to the police barracks Saturday afternoon after he had been removed from the Tower to the courthouse, where he was put through two hours of questioning by Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey and his counsel, Attorney W. M. Smith.

Wanted to Avoid Frank’s Friends.

Chief of Detectives Lanford declared to a Constitution reporter last night that Conley had asked him to be taken away from the Tower to escape the harassments of the visitors of Leo Frank, declaring that they stopped at his cell and tried to make him drink liquor, and had tried to intimidate him by making jeering remarks to him and implying threats.

“I could shoot you through the bars of your cell right now,” and, “Don’t you think you ought to be shot?” are some of the statements visitors are quoted as making.

“Besides,” said Chief of Detectives Lanford, “I want to be sure I can have Conley where I can talk to him whenever he is needed, of which I would be by no means certain were he allowed to remain in the Tower.

“I don’t want a repetition of the circumstances under which we have to deal with Superintendent Frank. Sheriff Mangum allows friends of Frank to visit him by the score, but flatly refuses to allow men working on the case to see him or talk with him. The sheriff says that Frank does not want to see the detectives and that he will not admit any one to see Frank without his consent.

Three Attempts to See Frank.

“We have made three attempts to obtain an interview with Frank for Conley, who says that he is sure he can make Frank admit the truth of his (Conley’s) affidavit, but have been refused upon the same grounds—that Frank does not want to see Conley.

“It seems to me that the important question is not whether Frank wants to see any of the detectives or Conley, but whether the men who are making every endeavor to clear up the mystery of this horrible murder should be hampered in their work by being cut off from the most important man in the whole case.

“Contrary to assisting us in this case, which, as I understand it, is the duty of the sheriff of the county, it appears to me that Sheriff Mangum has placed obstacles in our way.

“So far as my knowledge goes, the extent of the sheriff’s investigation has been an interview with Frank, who stated that he was not guilty, following which statement, Sheriff Mangum has been quoted as saying, ‘I do not believe he is guilty.’”

Sheriff Explains His Position.

Sheriff Mangum stated last night that he does not believe there was any attempt to intimidate Conley while he was in the Tower, or that he was disturbed in any way by visitors.

In regard to not admitting detectives or Conley to the Tower to see Frank, Sheriff Mangum said:

“The prisoners in the Tower will be convicted in the courts and not in the jail. If Mr. Frank will not give his consent to seeing any persons who may ask admittance, that person shall not be given an interview with Mr. Frank with my consent. If the judge or any one else who has the authority cares to admit interviewers without Frank’s consent. It is another matter.

“If any blame is placed on my shoulders they are broad enough to bear it.”

Conley Tells Story Again.

Once more on Saturday—this time to Solicitor Hugh Dorsey and his counsel, W. M. Smith—Jim Conley, the negro floor sweeper of the National Pencil factory, who has admitted his complicity in the murder of Mary Phagan after the crime, but places the actual commission of the crime upon the shoulders of Leo M. Frank, the incarcerated superintendent of the pencil factory, told the details of how he had helped conceal the dead girl’s body in the basement of the National Pencil factory, just as he has told it over and over before, and it is believed that before daybreak this morning the detectives working on the case may compel him once more to repeat the horrible tale to them.

Since the final affidavit, which the detectives take as true, Jim Conley, though questioned from every possible angle, has never wavered in any particular of his story.

Story Rehearsed Again.

Early Saturday afternoon Conley was taken from the Fulton county tower by Deputy Newt Garner to the office of Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey, in the court house, where the solicitor and Attorney Smith had Conley rehearse his story to them in detail at the time.

After the interview with the solicitor, Conley, contrary to all expectations, was replaced in jail at the police barracks instead of the tower whence he had been removed to the court house.

Conley has been removed from the Tower to the police headquarters, where he will be under the immediate supervision of the city police, in order, it is stated, that he may not be improperly approached or tampered with in any manner which might destroy his value as a witness.

Many Friends Visit Frank.

Contrary to the advice of the detectives, there have been but few minutes since Frank’s imprisonment in the Tower when he has not been surrounded by anywhere from one to a dozen of his intimate friends, while the detectives themselves have been denied admission by the county authorities.

This they consider as a very dangerous policy and are trying to find means of putting a stop to it.

The proposition of confronting Frank with Conley, which has been the object of a two days’ fight of the detectives, has been practically abandoned.

Sheriff Wheeler C. Mangum, of Fulton county, has refused to allow the two men to be brought together except by consent of Leo M. Frank and his counsel, Attorney Luther Rosser, Conley is not only agreeable to the ordeal of facing the man, whom he has openly charged with the murder of Mary Phagan, but is extremely anxious for the opportunity.

“If we stand together and look each other in the eye,” Conley is quoted as saying, “one of us will go down—and it won’t be me.”

Efforts Meet With Failure.

Two determined efforts on the part of the detectives to bring the men together have been flatly turned down by Frank, the detectives say, and they now regard further effort as useless.

They believe, however, that these refusals of Frank to see Conley will have material bearing on the case.

Frank is said to base his refusal upon a lack of advice from his counsel, Attorney Rosser.

Conley’s interview with the solicitor and Attorney Smith Saturday afternoon was characterized by all the firmness and accuracy of every statement he has made since he voluntarily informed the detectives that he had decided to tell the whole story of the crime as far as he knew it.

Solicitor Dorsey and Attorney Smith went over the negro’s entire affidavit with Conley step by step, overlooking not even the minutest detail, and got from him the identical story that he told, before and nothing more. Solicitor Dorsey would issue no statement further than that the evidence gained from Conley was in no way different from what he had given before.

Easy Money Offer.

Conley told how he had gone to the factory with Frank on the morning of the murder at Frank’s request and had waited until 1:04 o’clock that afternoon, when Frank called him into his office and asked him if he wanted to make some easy money. He told how Frank had directed him to go to the rear of the building and remove the body of a girl whom he (Frank) had “picked up and dropped.”

Conley said that when he reached the girl’s side she was dead. He recounted the gruesome details of how he and Frank had struggled with the heavy corpse as they carried it to the elevator, dropping it and picking it up again. He told of how they carried it to the basement in the elevator, and of how they had concealed the body and both returned to Frank’s office exhausted.

Conley’s story of Frank’s concealing him in a wardrobe while visitors came to his office, and of the superintendent’s gift of several hundred dollars, and his subsequent refusal to let him keep it, was recounted.

Chief of Detectives Newport Lanford and Detective John Black, with the Pinkerton man, Harry Scott, who have worked up the evidence in the case, declared Saturday afternoon that they are ready to take the case to the jury. They accept the negro’s tale in every detail, and declare that the last link in their chain of evidence has been welded.

Just when the grand jury will take the case up is still a matter of speculation. Foreman L. H. Beck has called a meeting of the grand jury for next Tuesday, but Solicitor Dorsey on Saturday declared that the Phagan case would not be considered at that meeting. When asked whether Conley would be indicted, he said: “That is a matter that will come up later.”

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Atlanta Constitution, June 1st 1913, “Conley is Removed from Fulton Tower at His Own Request,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)