Monday, August 7, 2017

Running Mule

Lawrence County News December 29, 1927  

Heaviest Fine Ever Imposed In County Court
“My gosh, that’s tough luck,” said J. A. Ritter, Richland County farmer, when accosted by Sheriff James and Deputy Kirkwood of Lawrence County Friday afternoon. A similar expression escaped his lips later in the day when Judge Benson said it will be $500 on each of two counts with a penal sentence of 90 days in addition.

For some weeks the officers have been watching for Ritter, who lives on a farm near Claremont and is said to have been peddling mule (illegally distilled corn whiskey) in Bridgeport and Lawrenceville, and occasionally making trips to Vincennes. Friday, the officers were given a tip that Ritter was on his way east with a load and they went out to meet him. Near Sumner they met a car answering the description of the one owned by Ritter and gave chase. At the King corner Ritter turned south to enter Bridgeport by the old road. The officers overtook him and a hasty glance into the car showed he was the man they were after.

Sheriff James gave him a pressing invitation to eat Christmas dinner at the county jail, and Ritter very reluctantly accepted. When informed the two men were officers, Ritter expressed surprise and said it sure was tough luck for him.  He said he wanted to plead guilty, and Judge Benson listened to his plea for mercy, but the plea failed to register. Ritter said it was his first offense, but later admitted that he had previously sold some liquor, but not a great quantity.

He had five 1 gallon jugs and 16 pint bottles, all filled ready for delivery. As a result several persons in Bridgeport were deprived of their Christmas cheer when Sheriff James took charge of the outfit.

On his plea of guilty to the charges of possessing and transporting liquor Ritter was fined $500 and costs for each count for a total of $1038.30. This is the heaviest fine ever imposed in County Court for a violation of the Prohibition Act, and should have a salutary effect on Mule peddlers. The penal farm sentence of 90 days was suspended by Judge Benson, who warned Ritter than a repetition of the offense would land him on the farm without a trial. He promised to mend his ways.

(Thanks to our researcher from Olney for finding this article.When we said we were researching the history of farming in the county, this was not the type of 'mule' we thought we would find. )