Congressman M. Alfred Michaelson comes from Chicago. In the House, he votes Dry. Last week he was prisoner-at-the-bar in the squat, red-brick U. S. District Court at Key West, Fla. Judge Halstead L. Ritter peered curiously at Conggressman Michaelson through large, judicial spectacles.
Congressman Michaelson had passed through Key West 17 months earlier, returning from a junket in Cuba and Panama. Upon his Congressional "free entry" permit, six trunks had been passed without customs inspection by Key West officials. At Jacksonville two of the trunks, dripping with liquor, had been seized, found to contain assorted jugs and bottles of choicest whiskey, brandy, rum (TIME, April 8).
At his trial, Congressman Michaelson called only one mysterious witness Walter Gramm, Chicago coal dealer. Asked who he was, the Congressman at first explained: "He is just a dear friend."
It turned out that Mr. Gramm was a brother of the Lillian H. Gramm whom Congressman Michaelson married in 1906. Brother-in-law Gramm cheerfully testified that the liquor-laden trunks belonged to him, though they had been brought in under the Congressman's "free entry" permit. Did he know they contained liquor? Mr. Gramm planted himself on his constitutional rights, declined to answer.
The Key West jury believed Coalman Gramm's story, acquitted his brother-in-law. They took no stock in the testimony of Assistant Prohibition Commissioner Alfred Oftedal, who told how Congressman Michaelson had visited him in Washington to discuss liquor and smuggling. Mr. Oftedal said that the Congressman had ejaculated: "To hell with generalities! What about my case? Am I going to have to see Ogden Mills [Undersecretary of the Treasury] about it again? What about those six trunks of mine at Jacksonville? I had freedom of the port!"
In court, try as he would, Congressman Michaelson could not seem to remember that visit, that statement.
Brother-in-law Gramm was promptly arrested, charged with the offense of which Congressman Michaelson is cleared. He hired the Congressman's lawyer, used the same $2,000 cash for bail, remarked dolefully: "I'm sorry. I didn't expect this!"
"I'm overjoyed at my vindication," chortled Congressman Michaelson, before hurrying back to Washington to resume his duties as a Dry-voting member of the House.