Hellraisers Journal: From the International Socialist Review: Rena Mooney Acquitted Yet Remains in Prison

There are no limits to which
powers of privilege will not go
to keep the workers in slavery.
-Mother Jones


Hellraisers Journal, Monday September 24, 1917
San Francisco, California – Fickert Continues Plot to Hang Rena Mooney

Despite her acquittal last month, Rena Mooney remains in prison with District Attorney Charles Fickert yet determined to hang her.

From the International Socialist Review of September 1917:

Rena Mooney Acquitted

Fickert Says He Will Hang Her Anyway!

Tom and Rena Mooney, crpd, ISR, Dec 1916
Rena and Tom Mooney

Before you read this interesting story of a plot to hang or imprison for life, four militant union men and one woman, we want to remind you that:

The State is the Executive Committee of the Owning Class” and that the statutes are merely the rules they have made for the successful expropriation of the productive workers. Government, laws and all social institutions have all been organized in the interest of the idle owning class. And yet, this class, which has bound the working class with its own institutions, its own laws and customs, this class which is always howling for “law and order” on the part of the working class, admits publicly in a court of law that it will hang an acquitted woman and innocent men even, as Attorney Cunha declared, “if I knew that every one of my witnesses had committed perjury.

So much for the Law. It is made for you, Fellow Workers; not for the owning class which robs you of your products. The law says that when a man or a woman is once acquitted of a crime he may never again be tried on the same charge. But what’s a little thing like Law among the capitalists and their henchmen in San Francisco?

RENA MOONEY has been acquitted, but she is still in prison awaiting the pleasure of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

The jury has declared that she is innocent. They heard not only the relevant evidence in the case, but also the “conspiracy evidence” relating to strikes and other things not even remotely connected with the crime which was allowed by Judge Seawell and which was designed to hang Mrs. Mooney.

Twelve men, whose every prejudice, racial, social, and religious, was appealed to by the snarling beast Fickert, and his “human stiletto,” Ferrari (who had the audacity to admit in his closing address to the jury that his star witness, Samuels, had perjured himself), rose above the poisoned atmosphere and did simple justice.

The scene in the courtroom baffles description. The friends of the defense were alarmed, when on the previous day the jury came into court and asked about the law on second degree murder, also a letter which contained a slight reference to the defendant. The jury was then said to be split, eight favoring acquittal and four conviction. Their asking for the law bearing on second degree murder was thought to indicate that they were considering that most infamous of all verdicts, a compromise one.

But as they filed into court at 3:40 on Wednesday evening, after fifty-one hours deliberation, the venerable juror, August Erz, smiled a kindly benediction at Mrs. Belle Hammerberg, the splendidly devoted sister of Rena Mooney. A momentary glance disclosed the fact that instead of the strained features we saw when they came into court the previous day, most of the jurymen looked immensely relieved and many of them smiled openly.

Judge Seawell, who has consistently ruled against the defense, glanced at the verdict sheet and with a sour look he handed it to the clerk of the court.

There was a breathless silence. It seemed an age before we caught the words, “NOT GUILTY.” Then like the roar of ocean breakers came the applause of the workingmen and women who packed the courtroom, corridors and street. The court attaches, who have seen two men convicted on absolute perjury, didn’t try very hard to suppress the enthusiasm. It ran riot. Rena Mooney tearfully kissed the jurors, whilst Fickert jumped into his high-powered auto and sped to his favorite saloon to seek solace in his cups. The big corporate tool wasn’t in court. He got wind of the verdict and ran. Ferrari wasn’t there. He was unavoidably absent in the country.

Plug-Ugly Jim Brennan, Aylett Cotton, who barefacedly told Chief Justice Angellotti that though he was prosecuting Oxman, yet he endorsed the view of Oxman’s lawyer, Shortridge, that the perjury buyer be turned loose; Fred Berry, whose personal friend, Malpiede, was caught “planting” a “friend” on the jury—all those “law and order” lights were nowhere to be seen.

Of all the gang, Fickert’s detective, “Collector” Williams, was the only specimen in sight. He looked ill. The night a corrupt jury declared that Tom Mooney should be murdered, Williams belligerently jostled the defense attorneys and friends in the hope of starting a riot and getting an excuse to make a shambles of the courtroom. Williams looked pretty sick Wednesday. During the trial he has been badgering witnesses for registration cards and threatening them with his hand on his gun. Rena Mooney’s acquittal may mean the dismissal of thugs of this type.

The newspaper extras sold like hot cakes. The workers stared at the caption, “RENA MOONEY ACQUITTED,” till their eyes bulged. Rena Mooney acquitted! Rena Mooney back in her music studio with her devoted little pupils. Rena Mooney walking the streets of San Francisco despite the perjury gang, the Oxmans, the Kosters, and all their gunmen.

Oh, what a glorious victory! But—?
“I’ll Hang Her Yet”—Fickert

The acquittal of Rena Mooney wasn’t an acquittal after all. She was hurried back to her cell and as soon as Fickert recovered his breath, he called the reporters together and told them that the acquittal meant nothing to him. “I’ll hang her yet,” he told them. “There are seven more indictments and I can try her again and again.”

Is there anything more illustrative of the FRAME-UP? “They should be strung up without ceremony,” the enraged Cunha shouted a few weeks ago. “I wouldn’t lift a finger to save Mooney, even if I knew that every one of my witnesses committed perjury.”

The Chamber of Perjury held a mass meeting a few days after the boys and Rena Mooney were arrested and sought to fan the indignation of the people into a lynching. The bought press roared their approval and spurred on the mob spirit, but the quiet determination of the fearless unionists of San Francisco defeated the scheme and gradually the people decided that the mere arresting of the unionists did not indicate their guilt.

But again and again the mob spirit has raised its head, not among the mass of the people, but in the office of Charles Marion Fickert, the abject tool of the corporation beasts of California.

A Jury of Harpies!

Fickert now announces that he’ll get a jury of women to try Rena Mooney the next time. They’ll not be so squeamish about hanging her, he thinks.

Perhaps that’s why Fickert’s wife, mother and their bunch of cronies made a vaudeville show out of the trial last week.

The prosecutor’s mother and wife sat immediately behind Rena Mooney, laughing at the plight of Rena Mooney’s sister and the aged mother of Tom Mooney. Their giggling glances met the eyes of Mrs. Hammerberg every time she looked down the courtroom. The suffering of Rena Mooney was a matinee for them.

Such a jury would indeed hang Rena Mooney. Not alone would they return a hanging verdict, but they would be perfectly willing to carry out the sentence with dagger, gun or rope.

It must have been women such as these that Fickert had in mind when he told the newspapers that he’d hang Rena Mooney the next time with a jury of women.

“The Simple Truth. Triumphed,”
Said Ed. McKenzie

The notable feature of the trial was the cross-examining of the different members of the perjury ring by Attorney Ed McKenzie, a member of Local No. 6 of the Electrical Workers’ Union.

His aggressiveness and determination to get at the truth angered the prosecution so much that Judge Seawell repeatedly fined him. When Sadie Edeau was breaking down on the witness stand under McKenzie’s fiery cross-examination, Seawell saved the situation by declaring a recess of court. A few days later McKenzie told Seawell in open court that he wasn’t giving Rena Mooney a fair trial. The remark cost McKenzie $50.

After the victory, McKenzie gave the following interview to “Organized Labor”:

The simple truth triumphed over perjury, corruption, bias and intolerance. The acquittal of Mrs. Mooney morally is a conviction of Witness Oxman and Prosecutor Fickert. The trial of Mrs. Mooney has been the most disgraceful trial ever had in an American courtroom. There was no evidence, nothing but corruption and prejudice. Had she been convicted under such circumstances the consequences to the American people would have been far greater than the loss of a war.

San Francisco jurors can no longer be used by corporations to hang working men and working women whose legitimate efforts for betterment arouse the enmity of employers. The slimy trail of the perjuror was plainly visible thruout the entire case. When Assistant Prosecutor Cunha said to Reporter Fitch of the Survey Magazine, “If I knew that every single witness who testified against Tom Mooney perjured himself in his testimony, I would not lift a finger to get him a new trial,” Cunha expressed better than we can the attitude of those officials of San Francisco who owe their positions to corrupt public service corporations. No more dreadful indictment can be drawn against these officials than to quote Mr. Cunha’s statement.

Oxman Still at Large; Rena Mooney
Still in Jail!

Our enemies have been circulating the report that with the Oxman expose, the entire prosecution had fallen flat. Consequently our friends have slackened up. They must remember that:

1. Oxman is at liberty. He’ll be tried, “some time” in Judge Frank Dunne’s court and will be “prosecuted” by Assistant District Attorney Bianchi, brother-in-law to Oxman’s co-conspirator, Charles Fickert. Dunne called the defense attorneys “a bunch of cowardly blackguards” a few months ago and it was he who picked Seawell, the notoriously partisan judge, who tried Rena Mooney.

2. Tom Mooney is still in the shadow of the gallows. Attorney General U. S. Webb has ignored the request of Judge Franklin A. Griffin, who demanded after the Oxman exposure, that Webb take immediate steps towards securing a new trial for Mooney. Webb refuses to take any action whatsoever and Tom Mooney will hang, unless strenuous efforts are made by organized labor.

3. Ed Nolan and Israel Weinberg will be tried in a few weeks. The only evidence against Nolan was a box of epsom salts found in the basement of his house. The prosecution dropped the theory during Rena Mooney’s trial that the salts was a “high explosive.” Still they declare they will hang Nolan.

The fight will have to be kept up. We’ll have to fight every inch of the ground. The exposure of Oxman and the acquittal of Rena Mooney are only incidents.

Our friends must NOT lay down their arms with the expectation that the fight is won. We have captured a few trenches only. The prisoners at the rear must be rescued.

Agitate, hold meetings and raise all the funds you can! We have incurred huge expenses in this trial. The result speaks for itself!


Send your contributions at once to International Workers’ Defense League, 210 Russ Building, San Francisco.

From The Tacoma Times of August 11, 1917:

Rena Mooney, Children's Parade, Tacoma Tx p5, Aug 11, 1917


SAN FRANCISCO BOYS AND GIRLS marching in a public demonstration to remind officials and citizens that Mrs. Rena Mooney is still in jail, in spite of her recent acquittal in a jury trial on charges of complicity in the preparedness parade bomb murders.

More than 100 little girls and boys, many of them music pupils of Mrs. Mooney, startled traffic when they paraded down Market street, carrying banners that demanded the release of Mrs. Mooney, “Mothers and Fathers, Citizens of San Francisco, won’t you help to set our music teacher free?”

District Attorney Fickert declares he will hold Mrs. Mooney on another indictment for trial before a jury of women.

[Photograph added.]



International Socialist Review Volume 18
(Chicago, Illinois)
Charles H. Kerr and Company
July 1917-June 1918
Sept 1917
“Rena Mooney Acquitted”

The Tacoma Times
(Tacoma, Washington)
-Aug 11, 1917
(Also source for image: “Children’s Parade for Rena Mooney.”)

Tom and Rena Mooney, crpd, ISR, Dec 1916

See also:

Tag: Rena Mooney

Mooney-Billings Case

Tom Mooney Pardoned


Carry It On – Joan Baez