Friday, October 18, 2013

Mendel Beilis -- Accounting for the Grebenki Workers

This is the summary of the 12th day of the Mendel Beilis trial, which occurred on 6 October, 1913 on the Julian calendar, 19 October, 1913 on the Gregorian calendar.

This day occupies pages 433 through 476 of Volume I of the transcript.

 See the translation of the transcript for day 12.

Today’s opening testimony was supposed to help the prosecution prove that there weren’t enough people on the Zaitsev factory grounds to catch Beilis grabbing Andrey, except for Jews like the Duboviks and Zaslavsky, who of course would lie to protect Beilis.  It didn’t work, in spades.  This table shows the relevant information.

Sila (Vasily?) Zelensky
can’t remember the date or day of the week, says no repairs at the kiln.  Judge calculates what day it was, 12th March.
“We arrived together the night of the 12th March.” Started kiln repairs 7th or 8th then went back to Grebenki for the other men.
Andrey Yermak
“I was told to come from Chernigov the 12th March and that’s what I did.  Workers from Kiev were in the basement when I got there.”
Andrey Kalitenko
“We arrived together the morning of the 11th March and workers from Chernigov already lived in the basement.”
Mina Kalitenko
“We arrived together on the 12th March and Yermak was already living in the basement.”
Makar Kalitenko
“we arrived together the 10th March.  Nobody else lived in the basement then.”

Makar contradicts his own deposition and also the depositions and in-court testimony of five other men, two of whom are literate, when they all admit traveling together from the same village.  Their testimony has to jibe if it’s true. 

But it underlines a fundamental problem with how the government managed the case.  The reason some countries have a requirement for a speedy trial is exactly what happened in the Beilis case.  People died and couldn’t be cross-questioned.  People forgot their deposed testimony and contradicted it.  When the government futzed around for two years before actually starting the trial, using excuses like the Tsar’s visit to Kiev or Sikorsky’s cowardice or the 1912 elections, it increased the probability of losing the case without gaining tangible benefits.

Today the accountant for Ginzburg’s is questioned about how his construction company tracks their finances and makes sure they aren’t getting charged for bricks that weren’t delivered.  Vipper asks questions aimed at discovering whether the dates on the records can be forged and Gruzenberg battles back that there wasn’t time to do it and besides, the concern would go under if it didn’t use good accounting practices.  Finally, says Gruzenberg, at the time when the witness would have been aware that his records were to be used in the Beilis case, they had already been taken into custody by the police and the investigator.  The prosecution never challenges this by bringing in a certificate showing when the police took the records into custody.

Another thing that happens in this part is that the Kalitenkos get discredited.  The signature of one of them is on a stub in the office books from the Zaitsev factory for 8 March and they said they didn’t get to the factory until 12 March.  The same for Yermak.  Anything the prosecutors thought they proved in the earlier part of the day about the number of workers on site goes down the tubes.  There were plenty of people around and nobody drags a kicking, screaming boy 100 meters when it’s likely he will get caught, besides the fact that Beilis is the one who wrote down drivers’ names when they couldn’t sign the stubs themselves because they were illiterate.  Like Zamyslovsky, Vipper then has to take the illogical position that the Grebenki workers’ faulty memories and inconsistent stories are more believable than signatures in records which cannot have been fabricated because the police had custody of them.

The prosecution stages two little farces to try and pretend that Samoil Landau is lying when he says his father is dead.  They present a certificate from railway secret police about an Izrael Landau now living in Kiev.  The railways in Russia were run by a man named Opanasenko who had Polishchuk as a paid agent, according to a letter he sent to Chaplinsky in April 1912, and which turned up in the Tsarist archives.  In the preceding 18 hours or so since the team of Ettinger and Landau crashed and burned, he has helped whip up this certificate.  The prosecution also presents a certificate about people passing through the border between Austria and Russia.  Several are named Ettinger; several others are named Landau.  When a member of the court reads the certificate, the stenographer clearly records that it says nothing about tsadiqs. 

The prosecution will try this same tactic again in several days when Landau presents the certificate of his father’s death.  The fact that it takes Landau several days discredits the prosecution’s ability to produce their certificate in less than 24 hours.  It was a forgery.

We also get another example of poor case-planning by the prosecution.  Vipper asks Kholin, who controls construction sites for Ginzburg, about the paperwork.  These are things Vipper should have asked Grintsevich while the accountant was on the stand.  The prosecution keeps asking questions of the wrong people, because they didn’t do their homework ahead of time and align questions with the people or read the depositions to find out what gaps they needed to fill in from in-court testimony. 

Mitrofan Petrov was a little over half Cheberyak’s age when they had an affair.  While Petrov seems to be unintelligent and besotted with Vera, he gives a telling piece of information.  Vygranov offered him 40,000 rubles to get a notebook from Vera.  One of Andrey’s notebooks.  In December 1911.

Either Andrey left it with her by accident -- or she kept it after putting the others in the grotto so the body could be identified.  Back on day 2 the prosecution showed Andrey’s teacher a book full of pictures that he didn’t recognize, and it didn’t have any of his usual correction notes.  Vera’s brother, as will turn out from later testimony, knew she had kept some of Andrey’s things.  The bribe, therefore, didn’t work.  This is a stunner and you will see how fast the prosecution tries to get rid of the subject, because the only way Vera would have anything or Vygranov know about it, is they were in cahoots.

A classic problem in the case turns up with the questioning of Gaevskaya.   She claims she told a certain thing to the investigator but it isn’t in her deposition, and Boldyrev makes her responsible for knowing why it’s not there.  We saw on day 4 that the defense considers it a normal proceeding for an investigator to omit information from the deposition, if the investigator feels the information is not important.  It is nonsense to expect a witness to know how an investigator exercised his judgment, and abusive to imply that she is lying when she was not the cause of the omission.

Judge:  Fyodor Boldyrev

            Criminal Prosecutor, Oscar Vipper
            Civil Prosecutor Georgy Zamyslovsky
            Private Civil Prosecutor Aleksey Shmakov

            Oscar Gruzenberg
            Nikolay Karabchevsky
            Dmitry Grigorevich-Barsky
            Alexandr Zarudny
            Vasily Maklakov 

To Day 13, "Trip to Kharkov"

Brick firing expert from Grebenko
Andrey Yermak
Hauler; very confusing
Andrey Kalitenko
Grebenki laborer
Mina Kalitenko
Grebenki laborer
Makar Kalitenko
Grebenki laborer
Ivan Zelensky
Lives in Kiev
Accountant for Ginzburg’s contractors
Chaim Dubovik
Manager of factory, testifies about accounting practices
Barukh Zaitsev
Questioned about Landau
Ginzburg overseer
Arkhip Shidlovsky
Lived in basement apartment at Zaitsev property
Ginzburg site boss
“Ettinger” and “Landau” certificates
Arkhip Ryba
Testifies about receipts at Zaitsev factory
Mitrofan Petrov
Vera’s lover; tries to substantiate her “Mifle” story
Vera’s lodger/servant
Black Hundreds member.  Almost incoherent

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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