Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mendel Beilis -- Stage 2 investigation

The investigation in the Mendel Beilis case began with what the government viewed as a failure that directed attention toward Andrey’s relatives, but eventually showed that they were not guilty.  The next stage began with a fresh broom.

Chaplinsky, with the agreement of the Black Hundreds, brought in a Kievite detective with a good reputation based on work done in another city.  This was Nikolay Krasovsky.  He struck sparks initially with Chief Mishchuk, who was relieved of responsibility for the case in Krasovsky’s favor.  Upon receiving the case files, Krasovsky decided the initial investigation had been botched, and he was right.  At trial it came out that on March 20, 1911, after the body was found, the police who reported to the scene not only did not preserve it in its then state, they altered it and they failed to document the physical evidence adequately before the scene was disturbed.  Also, on orders from their superiors, the police not only swept snow away from the entrance to the grotto, they dug away at the grotto entrance.  The bailiff who was supposed to write the initial police report was too fat to get inside the grotto, and his subordinates made things easy on him rather than preserve the crime scene.
Krasovsky went to work by the middle of May, 1911, first repeating the prior work and interviewing the same people in Lukyanovka where Vera Cheberyak lived.  It is not clear that he interviewed people in Plossky, where Andrey’s body was found, except for people living on the Zaitsev factory grounds like Mendel Beilis and a man named Yukhrikov.  Vera and her son Zhenya, Andrey’s best friend, gave depositions, on the basis of which Krasovsky went after Andrey’s relatives.  Krasovsky staged the “masquerade” with Andrey’s stepfather.

When it didn’t pan out, he followed up on suggestions from Golubev and another Black Hundreds member, Rozmitalsky, looking at the factory and the Jews who owned it and lived there.  He quickly crossed them off his list; the only two pieces of physical evidence in that connection also didn’t pan out.
There was one other alternative.  About June, a woman named Malitskaya came to the police with a vague story about Vera Cheberyak.  Krasovsky put this together with the fact that Vera had directed attention away from herself, and hauled her and her family in for new depositions.  Vera and her husband were caught telling their son Zhenya to commit perjury to Lt. Col. Ivanov.  The bailiff who brought them to the interrogation made them shut up, but Zhenya’s deposition not only was false, it repudiated information in his two previous depositions that Andrey had been at his house on March 12.  Krasovsky followed where the clues led and by the end of July, 1911, was convinced that Vera and her gang of thieves had something to do with the murder.

At this point the government stepped in again.  Whether Vera was in tight with the Black Hundreds was irrelevant.  None of this was going to get the government its Jew for trial, let alone support Golubev’s claim that the Jew was Mendel Beilis.  The government went looking for witnesses, and they found Kazimir Shakhovsky and his wife Ulyana.
Andrey’s mother had played matchmaker between these two before she and her family moved from Lukyanovka to Nikolskaya Slobodka on the east bank of the Dnepr River.  The Shakhovskys were lamplighters in Lukyanovka.  Beilis had caught Kazimir stealing wood from the Zaitsev factory.  Kazimir carried a grudge.  Vera’s neighbor Mikhail Nakonechny knew about it, and told the police that Kazimir’s grudge was his own fault for stealing.

In July 1911, Krasovsky’s hand-picked assistants, Adam Polishchuk and A.V. Vygranov, started visiting the Shakhovskys.  They got them drunk and got them to sign depositions.  The depositions were forged and accused Beilis of Andrey’s murder.  They cited to information on the same point by Anna “Volkivna” Zakharova, a friend of Ulyana’s.  The depositions were quoted from in both of the indictments used to arraign Beilis in 1912 and 1913. At trial, all three recanted these depositions.
This forgery coincided with the last two times Vera was arrested under the auspices of prosecutor Nikolay Brandorf, who did not support the ritual murder charge.  Chaplinsky ordered the police to release Vera and not to touch her again without his express permission.

Chaplinsky ordered the local chief of the security division, Kolyabko, to put Beilis under arrest.  In fact, both Beilis and his 10-year-old son David were taken into custody, although David was released relatively soon after.  Then Chaplinsky went to work on Fenenko to write up the charges against Beilis.  Fenenko stood out for four days and only caved when Chaplinsky put the order into writing.  Fenenko knew as well as Krasovsky and Brandorf that Beilis was not involved in the murder, and agreed with the other two that Vera probably was involved if not personally a participant in the death.
Now the government had its Jew.

On August 16, 1911, Vera’s husband Vasily deposed to a story that said “Beilis and his two sons” dragged Andrey away after catching him on the factory grounds, but what happened to Andrey then, Vasily didn’t know.  The two sons who would be tried for this would have to be Pinchas and David, the latter of whom was 10 in 1911; the third son, Tevye, was younger than David.
On August 18, 1911, Krasovsky performed a search on the grounds of the Zaitsev factory during which a bloody knife turned up near the hut of Yukhrikov and a bloody rag in the “upper” kiln, so-called because it was on the high ground of the factory.  He also confiscated tools left in a structure near the stables, which included stabbing or punching tools called shvaiki.  These tools had been left by a harness maker named Berko Gulko who had been at the factory at the end of April, left for a few days, and never came back.  At trial, Gulko said he had worked after leaving the factory, but had not needed his own tools.  A temporary worker, he abandoned tools worth a day’s rental of a hotel room.  Nobody at the trial believed this, but his new boss had not been summonsed to appear in the case and there was no way to discredit his story.

On August 25, 1911, a stool pigeon convinced Chief Mishchuk to go to Yurkovsky Hill and check out some items in a hole in the ground.  These included Gulko’s shvaiki, which were identified at trial by a co-worker, pieces of a pair of pants that had been burned, and suspenders.  Mishchuk was cashiered and tried for planting this evidence.  Krasovsky and others agree that it was planted.  Krasovsky and Arnold Margolin agree that Mishchuk didn’t plant it.  They agree this was done by a thief named Kushnir who, providentially, testified to that at Mishchuk’s trial.  Kushnir was assisted by police agents in planting the items.  One of the police agents who was present when this find was made was Adam Polishchuk, and he informed Krasovsky about the find after Mishchuk made him leave the scene.
Another was Evgeny Kirichenko.  Krasovsky could see the writing on the wall.  He quit and named Kirichenko as his replacement.  That didn’t happen; Lukyanovka Bailiff Vyshinsky was named to the job and Kirichenko worked for him.  In 1912, Kirichenko was still an officer in good standing with the Kiev police and worked for Lt. Col. Ivanov.

Records in the Tsarist archives show that Polishchuk was in the pay of the Black Hundreds leader, Opanasenko, who wrote a letter on this subject to Chaplinsky in 1912.
In November, 1911, Beilis was still in jail.  The investigation was considered to be on-going so he had not been able to see an attorney yet; Arnold Margolin, an attorney admitted to practice at the bar, explained to Mendel’s brother and Mrs. Beilis that this was impossible until an actual indictment was handed down.  On November 23, a cellmate named Kozachenko came back from a court hearing with the news that he was going to be released.  Beilis asked him to take a note to Mrs. Beilis and he agreed.  The police had taken Beilis’ glasses, so another cellmate did the actual writing.  Kozachenko insisted Beilis sign the note.  It was read at trial on day 7, a brief and affectionate letter which also complained that “nobody is stirring themselves in the case.”

This followed the reading of another letter which said two people had testified against Beilis and deserved revenge.  The letter named an attorney who was a friend of Margolin’s and gave his address.  The complaint "nobody is trying to help" was repeated three times, although the letter also said "allies" would help Kozachenko with the poisoning.  Kozachenko’s deposition claimed he had been promised 500 rubles for using strychnine from the hospital founded by the Zaitsevs, against Shakhovsky and Mikhail Nakonechny.  The letter had what purported to be Beilis’ signature.  Kozachenko testified only by deposition, which the law permitted in Tsarist times.  The cellmate whose handwriting was on the real letter also testified only by deposition; the handwriting on the letters was never authenticated.
At trial, on day 19, Lt. Col. Ivanov testified that Kozachenko was a police agent, and this same information turned up when Kozachenko was later tried on a separate slander charge.

On December 20, 1911, Vasily Cheberyak signed an accusation against Beilis in the murder of Andrey Yushchinsky.  This paperwork allowed the government to file an indictment, and it meant that Vasily would testify at trial in support of the government case.  Now the government had its Jew, and the evidence to indict him, and could probably put him in jail for the attempt on Shakhovsky and Nakonechny, even if the murder charge for Andrey's death failed to stand up in court.

Investigation -- stage 3
© Patricia Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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