Published in The New York Times, September 11, 1900
GREEK ACCUSES POLICE
Magistrate Cornell Hears Story of Assault and Extortion
HOLDS POLICEMAN FOR TRIAL
Disclosure of Alleged Tribute Collected
from All Peddlers – Oak Street
Station Men Involved
Charges of extortion were made against the police of the Oak Street Station in the Centre Street Court yesterday by a Greek peddler, Karalabos Kololouros. He was brought before Magistrate Cornell during the morning session. His face was badly cut, his clothing torn nearly to pieces, and one of his eyes was entirely closed.
The man had been arrested by Policeman John McGrath of the Oak Street Station, and he said that the same policeman had assaulted him as he was being led from the Tombs to the courtroom across the “Bridge of Sighs.” Magistrate Cornell at first fined the prisoner $2 on McGrath’s charge that he had violated the corporation ordinance regulating pushcarts at William and Fulton Streets.
As the Greek was leaving the room he kept talking loudly in his own language, and an interpreter told the Court that he was accusing Policeman McGrath of having arrested him because he refused to give him $2. Magistrate Cornell immediately had the peddler brought back, and listened to his story.
Kololouros said through the interpreter that McGrath had demanded $2 of him, and that he had declined to pay it because he had already given his “monthly taxes” to a policeman whom the pushcart men know as “Alec.” This “Alec,” he asserted, is a Greek and meets the Greek peddlers under the Brooklyn Bridge once a month regularly, extorting from each of them the sum of $6.
Magistrate Cornell at once remitted the prisoner’s fine and sent him back to the Tombs to await the afternoon session, so that an expert interpreter might be summoned for the continuation of the case. After recess the peddler’s story was repeated, and Policeman McGrath was held under bond of $500 for trial in Special Sessions on the charge of extortion and assault.
Both Capt. Vredenburgh of the Oak Street Station and John Palmieri, the policeman’s lawyer, protested that McGrath could not be tried in Special Sessions, but that he was entitled to a jury trial in General Sessions. Their argument was not sustained, and the policeman was paroled in Capt. Vredenburgh’s custody pending arrangement of his bail.
When Capt. Vredenburgh was asked in court what he thought of the matter he said to the Magistrate:
“I think he (Kololouros) is a liar. All them Greeks are liars. When your Honor has as much experience with them fellows as we have you won’t believe them so readily.”
The Magistrate replied, in effect, that he would accept the word of a Greek pushcart man quite as readily as that of the Police Captain or any of his subordinates.
After the case had been adjourned Kololouros came back and said he wanted his cart, but was afraid to go after it, because the police would make him pay $1 before giving it to him. He said that this dollar was to “buy the policemen drinks.”
“What about this charge?” said the Court to Capt. Vredenburgh.
“Oh, I suppose I’ll have to go and get him his cart,” replied the Captain.
“Do you mean that as disrespectful to this Court?” demanded the Magistrate.
Capt. Vredenburgh quickly responded in the negative. Then he said:
“It makes me mad to see so much trouble over a Greek. They’re a lot of liars, your Honor. You can’t believe them. They’re liars.”
Then he repeated his assertion that the Court would learn more about Greek veracity as he grew older, whereupon the Court again said that he would believe a Greek as readily as a policeman.
Kololouros, meanwhile, departed, after declaring that he could easily induce a score of his fellow-peddlers to file complaints with the Police Commissioners against the policemen of the Oak Street Station.
During the hearing of the case the Greek said that some one in the Tombs had taken $1 from him when he was under the impression that he had been fined $2. This occurred, he said, between the morning and afternoon sessions. An investigation failed to throw any light on the subject, but later in the day the peddler said that the missing dollar had been returned to him by a person he did not know.
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