Chris Von der Ahe, the St. Louis base ball magnate, who was kidnapped in St. Louis last night [February 7], arrived [in Pittsburgh] on the Baltimore & Ohio Eastern express at 7:40 this evening [February 8]. To avoid any legal obstacle in the way of a writ of habeas corpus, Von der Ahe was taken from the train at Glenwood and brought into the city in a trolley car. A Deputy Sheriff armed with a writ of habeas corpus met the train when it pulled into the station, and was surprised to find that the detective had the train stopped outside the city.
Chris Is Released.
It was expected the detective would take Von der Ahe to the Allegheny County Jail, and the Deputy Sheriff rushed there and found his man in the office of the warden. After reading the writ to the detective the Deputy Sheriff took charge of the prisoner, and escorted him to the United States Circuit Court chambers, where Judge Acheson was waiting to give him a hearing. His attorney said he would have Von der Ahe released on bail until to-morrow, by which time it is expected the $2525 due pitcher Mark Baldwin will be raised.
Mr. Ferguson stated that all the people that had been responsible for Von der Ahe's arrest would shortly find themselves in the United STates Courts of Missouri for conspiracy. Judge Acheson, after hearing the statement of attorney Ferguson, ordered Von der Ahe's release on bail in the sum of $2500. Von der Ahe will spend the night at Mr. Ferguson's house. His appearance indicated rough handling en route from St. Louis. His hat was battered, his coat and vest torn and his shirt front soiled and ruffled. In the wild ride in the cab across the East St. Louis bridge he had tried to jump out the window. Detective Bendel said that Von der Ahe, in his rage, shed tears, and telegraphed promiscuously along the route between St. Louis and Pittsburg.
Von Der Ahe's Views.
After his release Mr. Von der Ahe went to a hotel and found a stack of telegrams, several from St. Louis, assuring him that his arrest was considered an outrage, and that he had "more friends" than ever. Another was from Andrew Freedman, of the New York Club, offering him all kinds of help. Then Mr. Von der Ahe took a drink at the bar, the first he had for 24 hours, and it tasted good, for he talked some more.
"I was kidnapped, pure and simple," said he, "and was kept closely to car and berth. Why, at Cincinnati the detective would not even let me go on the platform to look into the station when I told him I could get bail and had lots of friends there. At Glenwood I was hustled into a trolley car. All the way on the train the detective had me handcuffed to his side, and he sat up all last night to keep me from jumping out of a window, or something."
-Sporting Life, February 12, 1898
I also think that this article also gives us a sense of the legal nature of what was happening. I stated yesterday that the "kidnapping" was extralegal and what I meant was that while the forcibly seizure of Von der Ahe's person seems to be an illegal act in that it was not undertaken by officers of the court, it was an act that was undertaken to conform with orders of the court. Von der Ahe had been ordered to pay Baldwin and Nimick had put up bail as assurance of that payment. Von der Ahe had not paid Baldwin and the bail could have been forfeited. Nimick was protecting his interests by ensuring that Von der Ahe obeyed the orders of the court and payed Baldwin. When someone is seized by a bail bondsman or a bounty hunter or is arrested by police for failing to obey a court order, we don't say that they were kidnapped, even though they are taken forcibly against their will.
Now, Von der Ahe said that it was a kidnapping but he was arguing to the illegal nature of the seizure and staking a claim to damages. One can not normally sue the police for arresting them or bail bondsman for bringing them before the court. Those are legal acts. I think the biggest question here is the extent to which Nimick had standing to employ people to seize Von der Ahe. Regardless of the answer to the question and Von der Ahe's statement, this is simply not a kidnapping in the sense that we understand the word. The victims of kidnappings are not freed by writs of habeas corpus.
I'm going to say that again because I think it goes straight to answer of what was happening here: victims of kidnappings are not freed by writs of habeas corpus. This was a legal proceeding. It was part of the legal wranglings of the Baldwin Affair. Did the detectives who seized Von der Ahe have standing to do so? I don't know. But I have no doubt that they believed they were acting legally and Nimick believed that he was acting legally to protect his rights.
The other thing I should point out is the irony of what happened. The Baldwin Affair began when Von der Ahe had Baldwin arrested, in what the courts eventually decided was an illegal proceeding. And here, near the end of the Affair, we have Von der Ahe arguing that he was illegally seized. Some, including, I'm certain, Mark Baldwin, would argue that this was poetic justice.