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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
April 19, 1914

Ex-Highways Engineer and Five Contractors Convicted After Trial on Long Island.

RIVERHEAD, L. I., April 18.—The jury that had been considering the case against Spencer J. Stewart, ex-Division Engineer of the Highways Department, and five others accused of grafting in connection with the building of Long Island roads, brought in a verdict to-night of guilty against all the defendants.

The verdict was returned after four hours of deliberation by the jurors.  Supreme Court Justice Kapper, before whom the road graft cases were tried, said in thanking the jurors for their verdict, that it was a distinct and valuable service to the State, and would go far toward breaking up the idea that grafting on the highways is safe.  Those found guilty with Stewart were Leigh Roberts, an engineer of the Highways Department; Daniel E. Lynch, President of the Suffolk Contracting Company, and John Huper, Michael Scanlon, and Fred J. Kinney, members of the company.

All of the defendants except Stewart were in court when the jurors reported.  Their bearing indicated that the verdict was not unexpected.  They heard the foreman of the jury, in reporting the verdict, call the attention of Justice Kapper to the fact that they were all very young men to whom it would not be amiss, in the opinion of the jury, to extend mercy.

Justice Kapper announced that the recommendation for mercy impressed him, since it was true that the men found guilty were very young.  He postponed sentence for a week.

In addition to the technical charge of "conspiracy to defraud," on which the road grafters were tried, they were indicted, with the exception of Stewart, for grand larceny, and they may still be tried on this charge if the prosecuting attorney is not satisfied with the sentences imposed on the present convictions.

The courtroom was crowded to-day from the time the taking of testimony began until the jury gave its verdict.  It was held on all sides that the case was important because a verdict against the defendants would mean the investigation of work on other roads in addition to the highway from Coram to Patchogue, on which the indictments in the present case were based.

The final clash of counsel for the defense and the prosecuting attorney was over, the question of whether the jurors should be taken over the road to see for themselves whether it was narrower than the specifications called for, and built of boulders and mud, covered over with tar, rather than of rock properly broken.

The defense refused to consent to an inspection of the road by the jury, admitting in arguing against this course that the road was not now in good condition.  The blame for this was out upon the county authorities, who it was held had not cared for it properly.

Joseph A. Curran, an investigator employed by the prosecution, have evidence against the road on which the prosecution finally rested its case.  The summing up occupied five and one-half hours, and Justice Kapper's charge to the jury took an hour and a half.

Justice Kapper called attention to the testimony of former Division Engineer Stewart to the effect that he had certified that the road was ready for final acceptance when, as a matter of fact, the gravel was only half down and none of the top dressing was in place.  He said that the jurors would be perfectly justified in accepting circumstantial evidence since in conspiracy cases direct evidence was almost always impossible to obtain.

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