On a chilly day in late November, 1905, thirty-six year old Benjamin F. Chadsey was taken to the Raymond Street Jail in Brooklyn. He had been brought back to New York from Indiana after being on the run for two years. In 1903, he faked his suicide, and disappeared on the evening before he was to go to trial on a charge of grand larceny. Chadsey had been one of Brooklyn’s up and coming legal talents, an aggressive and arrogant pitbull of a lawyer who loved his fancy clothes and his diamond jewelry. That was all showmanship, because he was also highly efficient and had a large private practice with a lot of clients. He was also a rising star in the jungle of Brooklyn politics, and was called upon often to stir up the Republican faithful with his gifts of oratory and persuasion. Benjamin Chadsey was the last person anyone would expect to be dishonest, or to run from his troubles. But here he was.
The man who had once sported bespoke suits with diamond stickpins and fingers glittering with diamond rings was now standing in handcuffs before a judge, surrounded by the police and District Attorneys who had to go out to the suburbs of South Bend Indiana to get him. The private detective, J. Edward Orr, who had tracked Chadsey down once before in San Francisco had found him again. But this was not the old Chadsey they knew. The man standing before them was sickly looking, emaciated and gaunt. He had shaved his signature moustache and would have looked years younger, had he not been looking over his shoulder for the last two years.
The judge stared down on him without a lot of pity. The charges against Chadsey were serious, but had he not skipped bail and disappeared, he probably would have been let off easy. Wealthy and well-connected men convicted of much larger thefts usually did not suffer the same consequences as those of lesser breeding. But faking your death, and thumbing your nose at the same authorities you once ate dinner with and invited to your home makes for bad feelings, and Brooklyn’s legal world was more than happy to throw the book at Chadsey. For the time being, though, they tossed him back in jail. (more…)