Ohio Newsman Gunned Down After Exposing Corrupt Cops In 1920s

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Till a buttinsky named Don Mellett got here to city, Canton, Ohio, was merrily driving out the Roaring Twenties as a smudge-faced, grubby-handed manufacturing facility metropolis the place vice was not solely tolerated however inspired.

Working fraternally, native cops and vice lords staffed a welcome wagon for bootleggers, dopers, gamblers, pimps and prostitutes.

Turpitude was good enterprise for each.

Cops who served as bagmen scooped up oodles of loot from the underworld and delivered it to chiefs who sprinkled money down the chain of command.

Officers in full uniform rode shotgun on bootlegger beer vehicles, safeguarding the cargo from hijackers. And so they helped themselves to bottomless free samples of beer and Cherry Ave. hookers.

In January 1925, Mellett was employed as editor of the financially troubled Canton Every day Information. The proprietor, ex-Ohio Gov. James Cox, urged him to make the Information aggressive with the dominant native paper, the Repository.

Mellett, born into an Indiana newspaper household, arrived in Canton at age 35 together with his highschool sweetheart spouse, Florence, and their 4 kids.

The brand new editor wielded an rigid ethical compass, and his needle trembled when he found that everybody on the town appeared to know which alleys to slide all the way down to scratch an itch for this vice or that.

If each Tom, Dick and Harry is aware of, he puzzled, why don’t the police?

The paper started hyping tales about police complicity in Canton’s world of sin, poking an accusatory finger at Chief Saranus Lengel. In a single scoop, the Information revealed gangster had given every Canton cop a present of a Thanksgiving turkey.

By July 1926, Mellett had revealed dozens of exposes and editorials about police corruption, many written by his brother, information editor Lloyd Mellett.

Chief Lengel was briefly suspended, and different cops have been fired or disciplined.

The marketing campaign resonated with readers, and gross sales trended upward.

The boys in blue weren’t so completely satisfied.

“He got here in right here snortin’ round, crusadin’,” one cop grumbled.

Bent noses acquired out of joint too.

Mellett started getting phone threats on his life after a Information expose implicated bootlegger Ben Rudner within the homicide of Paul Kitzig, a gangster who had gone to the paper to disclose the secrets and techniques of official corruption in Canton.

Lengel dismissed the threats, calling Mellett “overwrought.” The editor was shadowed by a private bodyguard however broke away for an evening out on Friday, July 16.

Mellett and his spouse went dancing with one other couple, then stopped for chocolate sodas. At midnight, he was parking his sedan within the storage behind their residence when Florence heard gunshots.

She rushed out to seek out her husband mortally wounded.

The homicide of a fellow newspaperman riled America’s ink-stained wretches from Maine to California. It grew to become nationwide information.

“THEY BELIEVE DON MELLETT NOW!” bellowed one Ohio headline.

Lloyd Mellett informed the press, “My brother’s assassination is the results of a chilly conspiracy operating direct from the underworld up into the excessive officialdom of Canton.”

Canton cops rounded up the same old suspects — “40 kind of infamous characters from the slums up the creek southeast of town,” yawned one information report.

In the meantime, town’s vice lords escaped scrutiny.

James Cox and a coalition of fellow publishers took the investigation out of Lengel’s palms by making a $25,000 reward fund and hiring Ora Slater, a former Secret Service agent from Cincinnati considered Ohio’s shrewdest personal eye.

Slater arrange camp at Canton’s McKinley Resort, the place he interviewed a procession of reward-seekers. One was a manufacturing facility grunt who stated an armed, red-haired stranger had been bragging at a Cherry Ave. whorehouse that he was “working with police on a felony errand.”

One other tipster had the stranger’s title: Patrick McDermott, 28, an ex-con from Nanty-Glo, Pa., a mining city east of Pittsburgh.

The second squealer, Steve Kascholk, a mug-for-hire from Cleveland, stated his previous crime confrere McDermott had lured him to Canton to “slug an editor” for $200. He backed out when he realized that homicide was deliberate.

Kascholk fingered others who have been in on the gig, together with gangster Rudner, his minion Louis Mazer, and a corrupt cop, Floyd Streitenberger, who had been suspended on account of Mellett’s reporting.

In a collection of trials, McDermott, Rudner and Streitenberger have been convicted of homicide, with Kascholk and Mazer as key witnesses. Every was spared execution — although despatched to jail for all times — as a result of no witness might title the triggerman.

After jurors took simply 45 minutes to convict him, McDermott muttered, “Gee, they have been quick.”

After his conviction, Streitenberger turned on his previous boss Lengel, who was first convicted of homicide then acquitted in a do-over trial following a profitable attraction.

Mazer traded his testimony for a plea deal, serving 10 years. Kascholk escaped costs and walked away with $10,000 in reward cash.

The Canton Every day Information was awarded a Pulitzer Prize “for its courageous, patriotic and efficient combat for the ending of a vicious state of affairs caused by collusion between metropolis authorities and the felony factor, a combat which had a tragic end result within the assassination of the editor of the paper.”

It was a hole victory. 4 months later, Don Mellett’s newspaper went stomach up.

The crusading editor was memorialized for a number of a long time by an annual lecture in his title delivered by a distinguished journalist. However practically a century after his homicide, Mellett’s standing as a information martyr has dimmed.

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