FULL TEXT: Charles Atkinson, sentenced in the Camden (N. J.) County Court in July of last year to a ten-years’ term of imprisonment on the false charge of criminal assault [euphemism used at that time for rape] made by his seventeen-year-old stepdaughter Mary Miller, will leave the Trenton Prison to-day a free man. The Court of Pardons in Jersey City yesterday made this decree.
Atkinson was not only granted a full and free pardon, but he goes back to his friends and relatives with the judicial stamp of innocence on his brow. Mary Miller, his accuser, in a fit of remorse, recently confessed that she had wronged her foster-parent when she swore that he had maltreated her, and, like Barbara Aub [who had retracted a rape charge after the accused had been convicted], she made a complete retraction of her accusation. Her confession was placed in the hands of Gov. Werts and by him laid before the Court of Pardons. The girl acknowledged that she had made the false charge for revenge.
When Atkinson married Mary’s mother, three years ago, the girl was in the State Industrial School for Girls, having been sent there as an incorrigible. Although only fourteen years old, she had acquired the habit of remaining away from home at night. At the end of two years, on the promise that she would abandon her habits, she was released from the Institute and returned to her house in Camden.
For a time she carried herself properly, but the life at home was too slow, and she began to frequent the Gloucester race track, just across the river. She became the companion of disreputable women, and the efforts of her stepfather to reclaim her were in vain.
Falling in everything else, he threatened to send her back to the Industrial School. She had an abhorrence for this place, and it was shortly after this threat by her father that she caused his arrest and imprisonment on the false charge.
Alkinson had not been in prison long before Mary committed a breach of the peace that caused her recommittal to the Industrial School. About the time of Barbara Aub’s sensational retraction of the charges against Langerman, in this city, Mary Miller was moved to remorse, and one wrote to Atkinson in the Trenton Prison that she was sorry for the wrong she had done him. A day or two afterwards she told her story to one of the women teachers of the school.
Rev. George C. Maddock, chaplain of the State Prison, was sent for and the girl repeated to him the story of her retraction. She said she would never have made the charge had she not been advised to do so by some of her associates at the race tracks. They told her, she said, it would be an easy way to get her troublesome stepfather out of the way, and when he was in prison she could lead the life with which she had become infatuated. It is understood that the girl has given to the authorities the names of the alleged conspirators and that an investigation, that may lead to the indictment of a number of persons, is in progress.
Gov. Werts, after receiving the girl’s confession, sent a Supreme Court Commissioner to the school and had it verified. Mary reiterated everything she had said to Chaplain Maddock and then made affidavit as to its accuracy.
TRENTON, Jan. 2 – For seventeen months Atkinson has been confined under his ten years’ sentence for assault upon Mary Miller, his stepdaughter, now in the Industrial School for Girls and who recently confessed that Atkinson was innocent.
“I have very little to say about the latter,” Atkinson said to-day when called from his cell, “because I think the least said the better. Mary is evidently sorry for what she has done. I knew, and so did my wife, that I was innocent, but Mary’s testimony sent me here. I have been watching ever since I came here for her to repent, and now that she has done so, everything is all right. Mary is naturally a good girl, and I believe she could be kept way from her evil companions.”
[“Atkinson Is A Free Man. – Court of Pardons Acts on His Step-Daughter’s Confession that She Falsely Accused Him. – Judges Declare Him Innocent. – Says This Barbara Aub Was Induced by Evil Persons to Send Him to Prison for Ten Years.” The World (New York, N.Y.), Jan. 3, 1896, p. 9]