The case of Mr. Von der Ahe, who was kidnapped in St. Louis Monday night, was given a hearing before Judge Joseph Buffington, of the United States Court, on the writ of habeas corpus to-day [February 9]. The Court room was filled with lawyers drawn there by the unusual points of law raised by the case. Von der Ahe, ruddy and hopeful, came early with his counsel, J. Scott Ferguson. He smiled at his friends and frowned at his captors. He seemed to be full of fight. Opposing the application for his release from custody were Charles A. O'Brien, R.B. Scandrett, A.O. Fording and Charles Washley.
The Law Points.
Judge Buffington said he would not hear testimony as to the facts in the case, but would hear the counsel as to the questions of law involved in the writ. The first argument was made by Mr. Ferguson. The burden of his contention was on the difference between following a bail absconder and one allowed to depart freely and voluntarily by the bondsman from the jurisdiction of the Court. He cited a couple of cases covering the questions.
Since the act of 1842, abolishing imprisonment for debt Mr. Ferguson held, the bail had no right to arrest a debtor and surrender him to the Sheriff. In other words, the bailor had no recourse with an absconding bailee, who could not be reached, except to pay the amount of the bond and trust to the bailee to pay him.
A Point For The Defense.
Judge Buffington remarked that if the act of 1842 took from the bail the right to arrest a bailee in a civil case, the logical result would be that the bail in a criminal case would also have no right to arrest the bailee. Mr. Ferguson reluctantly admitted that it would, which would entirely break down the bail system. He said that their main contention in the case was that there had been an invasion of a sovereign State by men of another State, and one of the citizens of the first State forcibly abducted and is being unlawfully detained.
Not Legal Procedure.
Mr. Ferguson argued that the bail bond was a contract made in Pennsylvania and could be collected only in Pennsylvania, under the act of 1842, by some process of law, issued from some court. He argued that there was no request to Von der Ahe to return to Allegheny County. "I can prove," he said, "that when Von der Ahe was arrested he offered to settle the amount of Nimick's bond, but that was refused, because Mark Baldwin wanted him brought here and placed in jail."
Von der Ahe was then called to the stand. He was asked about the letters that passed between Mr. Nimick, his bondsman, and himself. He said Nimick wrote that he would hold off as long as he could, but when he would be sued he would expect his money. He replied to that that he would send the money as soon as he was notified by Mr. Nimick. He said when he was arrested he asked Detective Bendel to go with him to Attorney Glover in St. Louis, and he would settle the case. Bendel would not allow this. That ended the testimony.
Strong In Technicalities.
Mr. O'Brien surprised the spectators by the forcible case he presented for the surrender of Von der Ahe to the custody of the Sheriff of Allegheny county. He met Mr. Ferguson at every point with decisions against his contentions. Lawyers not interested expressed the opinion that Von der Ahe is beaten and that he will have to pay the Baldwin judgment or go to jail. Judge Buffington made no remark during the hearing that would indicate what his ruling would be. It is expected he will decide to-morrow. In the meantime Von der Ahe will have to remain here under bail.
Sporting Life, February 12, 1898
I really don't believe that Mark Baldwin was behind the abduction of Von der Ahe as every piece of evidence we have shows that it was Nimick who had Von der Ahe seized. If it had been Baldwin masterminding all of this, the Baldwin Affair would be a much, much better story.
I also don't believe that Von der Ahe was willing to settle the amount of the bond the evening he was taken. It just sounds to me that Von der Ahe was trying to talk his way out of all of this and I'm not altogether certain that he even had the money to settle up.