(Chapter One continued)

            There was such a backlog of cases on the docket from the Fourth of July holiday that most of the day passed before Madam Tulley met her freshman public defender for the first time. He’s so baby-faced, . . . his suit sure is baggy and chestnut brown is so out of fashion, . . . does he know what he’s doin’? His appearance challenged her fashion sense and her confidence in him as a knowledgeable attorney.

            “Hello Mrs. Tulley, my name is Ralph Calloway. The court has appointed me to your case. Do you have any questions about the charges against you?”

            Madam asked him about the kind of evidence they had, the witnesses, and the penalty that each violation carried. She asked, “Is there a way I can beat these charges by going to trial?”

            “I don’t think so. Mrs. Tulley, there are two federal charges against you and they carry heavy penalties. You were caught while under surveillance buying and transporting liquor. The police found a large quantity of alcohol on your premises and receipts of an illegal sales operation, hence the second violation. Plus, four couples were arrested while engaged in prostitution in your boardinghouse. Ma’am, the prosecutor will subpoena these people as witnesses and your accounting books will be used as evidence to support all the charges.

            “Mrs. Tulley, the incriminating evidence the prosecutor has against you is substantial. I believe that if you plead guilty and seek the mercy of the court, your chances may be good for a sentence of less than nine months minus time served. Otherwise, you could receive eighteen months to two years if you go to trial.”

            Madam saw that luck had deserted her. “All right.”

            “I can have you arraigned in an hour, at four o’clock. I will meet you in front of Judge Schmidt at that time. Let’s hope for the best, Mrs. Tulley,” and then Calloway left her.

            Madam thought she was prepared to go before the judge dressed in her fine blue frock and high heels. But, from the judge’s perspective, her figure-hugging dress oozed of unsavory character. She felt his contempt char a large pock-hole in her forehead. The word “guilty” abraded her throat, but Madam Tulley entered pleas of guilty to all three charges. After her arraignment, they brought her to the state prison in Jamesville.

            As a madam of prostitutes, a speakeasy operator, and a bootlegger, Bernice Tulley had the misfortune to be one of the last Americans arrested and imprisoned under the Volstead Act of the Eighteenth Amendment which had criminalized alcoholic beverages since 1920 in the United States.

            During her initial days in prison, Madam was cut off from everything and everyone. You’d think she would be regretful, perhaps digging deep for a few prayers to plead for her sake. Not a chance. From then until sentencing day, Madam blamed everybody but herself for the dragnet that caught her. She steeped in self-righteousness  for the next three weeks in her cell, irritated by the lack of privacy and by the regimen of prison life.

            Nationwide, previous public and political outcries to rescind Prohibition had encouraged her, so she stayed with the hope the court would determine an extended sentence would be pointless. Madam Tulley was at the judge’s mercy and she counted on it.

End of Excerpt

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