Murder Motive at G.O.P. Club Splits Sleuths

Camden Evening Courier – January 16, 1928

County Detectives Contend Philadelphia Gangster Was Slain in Quarrel Over Woman

Police Claim Hold-up Attempt Caused Fight

Deven Charged with Crime, Flannery and Taxi Driver Held Without Bail

With city and county authorities definitely divided on the motive and circumstance if the Sixth Ward Republican Club slaying, Joseph “Polack Joe” Deven was arraigned in Camden police court today and held without bail on a murder charge.

Through County Solicitor Walter Keown, retained as his attorney, Deven waived a police court hearing and was held to await grand jury action in the slaying of Joseph Cimini, Philadelphia gangster, at the political club early Saturday morning.

At the same time County Prosecutor Ethan P. Wescott announced his operatives had abandoned the theory Cimini was killed as the aftermath of an attempted hold-up, and were concentrating their investigation in the case on an effort to ‘find the woman’.

Statements of witnesses to the fatal shooting, the prosecutor added, made no mention of a hold-up, but contained the declaration that Cimini had been shot as a result of a feud with Charles “Chick” Hunt, former South Camden pugilist, concerning the affection of “Chick’s girl”.

Police Claim Holdup

On the other hand, Captain John Golden, chief of the city detective bureau, declared he was unable to recall any mention of a girl in the statements obtained from witnesses, and added emphatically that his department still held the shooting had followed an attempted holdup of the club by Cimini and Joseph ‘Mose’ Flannery.

Flannery and Hunt were both witnesses to the shooting by Deven, picturesque figure in Third Ward politics, which occurred at the Sixth Ward Club’s headquarters, 908 Broadway.

After Deven had appeared in Police Court today, Flannery was arraigned as a material witness and as an accessory to the crime, with an additional charge accusing him of carrying concealed deadly weapons. Similar charges were made against Russell Sage, a taxicab driver, who arrived at the club with Flannery and Cimini early Saturday morning. These two were committed to the county jail without any bail by Judge Bernard Bertman.

Hunt, however, was released under $1,000 bail as was Martin O’Brien, 27 years old, a former New Jersey State Trooper, and Harry Waterhouse, 28 years old, 1102 Marion street.

Three Others Arrested

During the day the police continued to build up their case against Flannery by arraigning him on the charges made by Milton Feinstein and Henry Mehrer. The also arrested Joseph Genther, 29 years old, 414 Atlantic Avenue; Robert Wolfe, 21 years old, 1106 Mechanic Street, and Eli Conaghy, 27 years old, 814 South 6th Street. Wolfe, who is Flannery’s brother-in-law, and Genther were held “on suspicion” of having been with “Mose” at the time the latter is declared to have attacked and attempted to rob Mehrer, an Audubon policeman, outside the Ringside Inn, on the Black Horse Pike.

Conaghy, Flannery and Sage were arraigned and held without bail on charges of threatening to kill Feinstein and of carrying concealed deadly weapons. Feinstein declares these three with Cimini, the slain man, entered his cafe on January 2 and attempted to hold him up, threatening to kill him if he refused to “come across”. When he defied them by telling them to “go ahead and shoot”, Feinstein says, they departed.

Wolfe, Genther, and Conaghy were arrested by City Detectives George Ward and Thomas Cheeseman. It was Cheeseman who lodged the formal complaint of murder against Deven.

Two Others Released

Two other men who were questioned in connection with the murder case were in court this man but neither was held. They are Newton Blanchard, 923 St. John Street, a former boxing referee and alleged “stick man” at the crap game declared to have been in progress at the club before the shooting, and Michael Dandrea, 26 years old, of 1657 Norris Street. Both men had been released after questioning on Saturday. Police say they are the men who told police that trouble was imminent at the club and that “Flannery and another fellow are trying to stick up a bunch of other fellows.”

The city police hold-up theory was further attacked today by Francis J. McCarthy, a Philadelphia, who arrived before noon at the county prosecutor’s office and said he would co-operate with the authorities. He wishes to clear the dead man, he said, of the stigma of suspicion that he was slain while engaged in an attempted robbery.

Hearing in Police Court was brief. There was no testimony and Keown merely announced Deven would waive a hearing. Appearing also as attorney for Hunt, O’Brien, and Waterhouse, he said the other three men were “present at the unfortunate shooting” and thus should be held as material witnesses. He added the prosecutor’s office had permitted the release of the three under $1,000 bail each and requested Judge Bertman follow suit. The court acceded to this request but stipulated that new bail must be provided. The three men were freed shortly afterward when the bond was furnished by James Louis, 603 Kaighn Avenue, who had provided the bail yesterday in the prosecutor’s office.

Despite the declaration by two Camden district detectives who were present at the time and who said there was no evidence that gambling was in progress at the club, county detectives disclosed today that statements of the shooting contained the assertion that the men had gathered for a crap game.

These witnesses also declared the fatal shooting resulted from an argument over a woman for whose attention Cimini and Hunt were rivals.

In circles where the leading figures in the shooting move, it was freely predicted things would be fixed up for Deven and that Flannery, political worker and supposed gangster, was to be “made the goat”.

Flannery is blamed by the city police for precipitating the battle. He has also been identified, according to County Detective Howard Smith, as one of the men who beat and robbed Henry Mehrer, an Audubon policeman, outside the Ringside Inn on the Black Horse Pike a fortnight ago. In addition, he is charged with attempting to hold up Milton Feinstein, cafe proprietor, 508 Kaighn Avenue. Cimini and Sage were also identified by Feinstein, according to Detective Smith.

According to the version of Cimini’s death given in statements by witnesses to county detectives, “Chick” Hunt might have been the victim of the slaying had it not been for Deven’s interference.

Gamble Over Affections

Like actors in a carefully-rehearsed drama, the various witnesses to the shooting made their statements nearly twelve hours after the shooting and, both city and county detectives say they agreed in all important aspects. Prosecutor Wescott declared, however, that no mention of an attempted hold-up was made despite the fact that City Detectives Clarence Arthur and Clarence Bunker– before whose eyes Cimini was shot down – stated Flannery and Cimini were holding the other men at bay when the detectives entered the room.

Instead, the statements of the witnesses described the scene as a dramatic gamble, with death as the stake, over the affections of a woman beloved by both Cimini and Hunt. This woman, who is married and estranged from her husband, is being sought today, Prosecutor Wescott said. According to detectives, Hunt was severely beaten last Wednesday night in a downtown gambling place by members of Cimini’s gang. Cimini, known also as Joseph Gannon, was a brother of William Cimini, a pugilist known in the ring as Billy Gannon.

The stories told by the witnesses place Hunt as one of the players in the crap game which was in progress at the club on Saturday morning. Deven was at the window, looking out, according to the witnesses, when he saw a taxicab draw up in front of the building. Flannery, Cimini and Sage descended and entered the club, it was declared.

“Here comes MoseChick, with that guy what’s gunnin’ for you” Deven is declared to have shouted.

A dozen gamesters fled from the room. “Chick” and a few of his friends held their ground and were waiting when the trio entered. Cimini, it is stated, walked over to Hunt.

“I told you,” he said with a sneer, “to stay away from that dame. She’s my girl. You were warned and sow you gotta take your medicine..”

Hunt said nothing.

Flannery drew from his pockets two automatics and flung them on the green-topped table, the stories go.

“C’mon, Chick,” he said. Don’t be yella. He toldja about the broad and he toldja what he’d do. Take your gun and shoot it out.”

Chick” demurred.

“I don’t want none of that stuff, Mose,” he pleaded. He eyed Cimini carefully as the latter held one hand on the butt of a pistol which protruded from his belt.

Devon Interferes

Hunt made no careless movements toward the pistols on the table. Then Deven is declared to have interfered.

“None of that stuff, Mose,” he said warningly. “Who’s this guy to come here making trouble? He’s no member, is he?”

Cimini moved quickly, the witnesses say. With an upward flip of his hand, he brought the barrel of the automatic sharply against Deven’s chin. The latter lurched forward, snatching one of the pistols from the table.

The weapon was discharged, the bullet tearing through Cimini’s heart. He died instantly.

The next moment, Arthur and Bunker, district detectives, summoned by one of the players who had fled, burst through the door and lined up the men against the wall.

A short time later, police arrested Blanchard and Dandrea. Blanchard, police say, was the man who gave them warning of the impending battle. Both men were released after questioning.

Released from Lakeland

The detectives found Deven cringing with fear under the table, the weapon still in his hand. Four other pistols were picked up in different parts of the room.

Deven was identified as a lovesick husband who appeared in the prosecutor’s office several months ago and asked to be “put away.” His wife had left him, he said, and he was afraid he might harm someone.

He was committed to the asylum at Lakeland. When or how he was released is a mystery. Lakeland officials say they had no record of him. Deven once shot himself in a suicide attempt, police say, in grief over estrangement from his wife.

Gangdom’s prevailing opinion is that Flannery is “in” for it. Attempts and threats against the blond gangster’s life have furnished many lurid tales for the habitues of downtown hangouts.

Further, Flannery has made many bitter enemies through his political activities. In the last election he worked as a Democrat against “Mikey” Brown in the Eighth Ward. His overbearing tactics and bravado among the other downtown characters has increased the feeling against him, it is said.

Thus far, he has succeeded in keeping out of the toils for any length of time. His police record includes arrests for rum-running, carrying concealed weapons, alleged ballot frauds and attempted murder. His most recent arrest came in Philadelphia when he figured in a pistol battle in which a man was slain.

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