Tours Travel admin  

the rebel judge

Gambling was legal and open in Albuquerque. City authorities relied heavily on the sale of saloon licenses and fines levied for disturbances at gaming tables to help maintain city government. As cities sprang up in the foreign army forts of the 19th-century American West, at river crossings along wagon trails, in mining districts, and at railroad heads, some of the earliest structures built were recreational facilities. Recreation for the almost exclusively male population inevitably meant the vices of the Three Ws of the frontier: whiskey, prostitution, and gambling.

Since no stigma was attached to gambling, distinguished pillars of the community gave themselves up openly. A noted gambling addict was the city’s chief magistrate, Judge William C. Heacock. He could be found most nights hanging out dealing Monte three cards at his favorite Albuquerque saloon. The dealers deposited their own games. If they made money, it was theirs. If they lost, it was out of their own pocket. Judge Heacock loved to play three-card Monte in the back room of a saloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He also presided over the Albuquerque night court, which he opened and closed at his own discretion. When the judge suffered a losing streak, he called a town deputy and said, “Get me a drunk with money in his pockets who’s guilty of disorderly conduct.” Judge Heacock’s widow told an interviewer about an incident in which the judge ran out of money. The deputies were sent to look for a drunk. The deputies soon returned carrying an inert man among them. “What the hell?” asked the judge? “What’s that on you?” “Your honor,” an officer replied, setting his load down, “we found him in the back of the Blue Indigo,” the judge asked. “He’s not drunk, but he’s dead.” It squawked there at the Blue Indigo and the owner insisted we get it out of there.” This upset the judge. “Have those fools never heard of an investigation?” he asked. Heacock had sent for a lucrative drunk, not a drooling suicide. The judge turned to his deputies. “This court is a court of law. The right of habeas corpus should not be ignored. The prisoner must have a speedy and fair trial. This court is ready to hear evidence. What is the charge?” “Your Honor of him,” said a deputy, “the position has not yet been determined.” “This court will hear no case without a charge. Did you check the prisoner?” “There was a letter for a lady,” the deputy began. “Any money?” The deputy counted out $27.32. “Any weapons?”

An officer pulled a gun found in the dead man’s back pocket. “Does the prisoner have anything to say before sentence is imposed?” The judge cocked his ear at the dead prisoner, waiting for an answer. “Given the defendant’s lack of response, which this court interprets as contempt, and in view of the illicit possession of a deadly weapon, this court imposes a $20.00 fine and court costs,” the judge ruled. “You’d better leave him there until morning,” the judge instructed his assistants, pocketing the money. The judge returned to his game of Monte in the hall below with enough money to go on dealing. Her wife remembered very well the shack she and Judge Heacock lived in (you couldn’t call it a house), because there were no real houses in Albuquerque in those days. The shack was on South Second Street, where it was replaced by the Crystal Beer Garden. It was a dusty place and she wanted her husband to buy a little piece of land near Robinson Park where there were some trees and a pump. She would have been satisfied with a one-bedroom house and a tent there, she said, but her husband said a house built there would sink into quicksand in no time. “I had no eye for business,” she said. She only knew one thing: the law. Mrs. Heacock recalled a night in the 1890s when she heard gunshots as she was cleaning the dinner table. She ran to the door to see what was going on. Her husband, the judge, called her and told her that the safest thing for her was to lie down on the floor. Cowboys had no desire to kill, but it was safer to stay out of the range of their bullets.” On one occasion, a cowboy killed a boy. The cowboy was drunk and was looking for black cats to shoot. He was horrified when he realized what he had done. The townspeople hanged him as an example to make Albuquerque a safe place for their children. Judge Heacock, who prosecuted the case, was so upset when the man was hanged that he refused to serve except as defense attorney. .

In an interview, Ms. Heacock said that they used to do funny things in Albuquerque, many of them in the name of justice. She spoke of a well-dressed stranger coming to town from the East. He staged a “trick” to the hotel on First Street and was paying his fare when two top cops arrested him for being a suspicious character. “He was too well dressed and they needed money for the city that day,” Mrs. Heacock recalled. In another case, Judge Heacock sent El Fago Baca to his own prison for a month. The judge was low on funds and sent his assistants to find a drunk for night court. When they tried to arrest Jesús Romero, a friend of Elfego Baca, Mr. Baca objected and hit one of the policemen on the head with his huge silver watch. Coincidentally, the wounded man was one of Albuquerque’s favorite cops. When the crowd saw him unconscious, they helped the other officer escort Mr. Baca to the night court. Deputy Romero was completely forgotten. “Drunk and disorderly conduct” was charged against Baca, who vehemently denied the allegation. “You’re crazy,” said Elfego. “Silence,” bellowed the judge. The judge wanted to delay the matter until a night sergeant could go through Elfego’s pockets and find out how much money he had. “I know exactly how much I have,” Elfego yelled at the sergeant. “$18.19. If he counts a penny less, he’ll get his later and good and plentiful.” “Shut up!” said the judge, trying to assume a judicial dignity. “Well, wait and see,” answered Elfego kindly. “Guilty or not guilty,” the court asked. “Not guilty!” said Elfego, “and you all know it very well!” “Thirty days or ten dollars and costs,” said the judge. “I guess ten dollars and the costs are $17.19,” Elfego said. “You’re not going to throw those things at me. I’ll take all thirty days.” A deputy accompanied him to the Old Town jail, where, unknown to the judge, Elfego had recently been appointed jailer. E. Baca’s name was signed in the register and Elfego Baca received the regular seventy-five cents a day for the prisoner’s food. At the end of the month, Elfego was $22.50 richer from his encounter with Judge Heacock’s night court.

Leave A Comment

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1