PHOTO CAPTION: Woman, on Trial, Whose Ankles Are Shielded From Jury by Fence – An innovation has been sprung in preparation made for the trial of Mrs. Inch in the criminal branch of the New York Supreme Court. It is a partition about the base of the witness stand, preventing any view by the jury of the witness’ feet. At a previous trial the prosecuting attorney complained that the jury's attention had been distracted by the defendant's pretty ankles.
FULL TEXT: On this date in ... 1919: Actress Betty Inch was on trial for extortion for the second time in New York City, but the circumstances were much different this time around. She was forced to sit in a witness box surrounded by a board fence in order to shield jury members' eyes from her exposed silken ankles. Prosecutors argued that the jury during the first trial was beguiled by the sight of her ankles, leading them to being unable to come to a verdict in the case. Following the publicity, admirers sent a parade of notes, flowers, silk hose and other gifts to Inch, who had been accused of attempting to blackmail millionaire auto dealer William P. Hermann by telling his wife he was with two other women in Atlantic City. Prior to her most recent legal troubles, Inch was a resident of Albany, where she was well known for walking the city's streets brandishing a six shooter.
[“Looking Back,” Times Union (Albany, N. Y.), March 13, 2019]
***FULL TEXT: New York. March 14. – The “spite fence” erected in front of. the witness stand to prevent befuddlement of Jurors should there to an inch or so of display of silk stockings by Mrs. Betty Inch, pretty and shapely actress. On trial for alleged extortion of $215 from William P. Herrman, caused embarrassment to court at attendants hurrying to aid Mr. Herrmann, second witness for the presecution, who had fainted in the witness chair.
EXCERPT: Although cruelty was replacing adultery in America as grounds for divorce, cases involving adultery still occasioned opportunities for blackmail. In 1919 Betty Inch, a young movie actress, was tried twice for blackmailing Eugene P. Herrman, president of an automobile company. He stated that she said that if she were not paid she would support Mrs. Herrman’s divorce suit against him by stating that he was with two woman while his wife was in Atlantic City. In court it also came out that Inch had made an affidavit in another divorce case, which the judge ordered to be identified only as involving Mrs. X and Ensign Y. The first Inch jury could not come to a decision, so a second trial was necessary. Convinced that the sight of the actress’s legs had affected the men of the first jury, the district attorney had the bottom of the witness box closed in. Nevertheless the second jury also failed to reach a verdict. In 1921 Betty Inch appeared in another divorce trial, in Denver, Colorado, presided over by Judge Ben Lindsey, America’s most famous divorce expert. This trial, which began in 1919, was a long-drawn-out affair in which the wealthy W. E. D. Stokes cited a dozen male friends of his wife as correspondents. The wife called his statements “filthy charges.” Inch testified that Stokes had offered her $1,000 to testify against his wife., but that he had refused to pay. Stokes lost the divorce case and Inch was not prosecuted, but a man was found guilty of seeking to blackmail Stokes letters that were supposedly incriminatory.”
[Angus McLaren, Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History, Harvard University Press, 2002, pp. 92-3]
FULL TEXT: Mrs. Betty Inch, known as Betty Brewster, former vaudeville and "movie" actress, fairly beamed last night when the jury before whom she has been on trial In the Branch of the Court for extortion returned and through the foreman that they had been unable to agree.
The jurymen returned to the courtroomat11:15 o'clock, after having been out eight hours. They were discharged by Justice Weeks.
While the Jury was deliberating Mrs. Inch sat in the Sheriff's office one floor above the courtroom playing solitaire.
As the guards assigned to her looked on she turned the of hearts. "This is my lucky card," she said." It has turned for me every time. I still have hopes that the Jury win acquit me.
"Mrs. Inch was charged with having to extort 1115 from Eugene P. of the Herrman Auto Truck last June at the Hotel Woodward. She admitted having received the money from Herrman, but claimed that it was a sum due her for a sum she had advanced to a friend, May Hayes, on Hermann’s account.
[“Jury Disagrees On Mrs. Inch's Case – Actress Plays Cards While Awaiting Verdict,” The Sun (New York, N. Y.), Jan. 31, 1919, p. 14]
FULL TEXT: The arrest of Mrs. Betty Inch, known on the stage as Betty Brewster, accused of an attempt to extort money from Eugene P. Herrman, appears to have been an all afternoon affair, beginning at 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon of June 14 and continuing: until some after 6 in the evening.
George McGee, formerly chauffeur for Herrman, President of the Hermann, President of the Herrman Motor Truck Company, was on the witness stand in the Criminal Branch of the Supreme Court this afternoon when the case against Mrs. Inch was drawing towards its close. He described what he saw of the arrest.
"At 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon," he said, "I drove Mr. Herrman from his office in West 57th Street to the Hotel Woodward. Mr. Hermann went in and presently came out with Jenkins and Sullivan and this woman, whom I did not then know. It was the first time I had seen her.
"It was the first time I had ever seen Mrs. Inch. She and Mr. Herrman and the detectives got into the car and I was told to drive to 68th Street and Broadway. There Mrs. Inch and the detectives got out and entered a drug store. They were gone fifteen or twenty minutes. When they came out and got into the car again I was told to drive back to Mr. Herrman’s office, and there Mr. Herrman left the car.
“The detectives and Mrs. Inch remained in the car and I was told to drive to 83rd street and Broadway. My three passengers got out there and went into a restaurant for about twenty minutes. Next we drove to 110th street and Broadway, where the three spent half an hour in another drug store.
“When they got into the car again Mrs. Inch noticed a robe and said it had been stolen from her apartment. She said one Peggy White must have stolen it and given it to Mr. Herrman. I knew this was false and said so. I had bought it myself at an auto supply store.
“We drove east along 110th street to Lenox avenue, then back to Broadway and down to 101st Street, where the trio went into another restaurant, the Carlton Terrrace. After that we drove to the Alps restaurant, where the three went in. Next we went to the Second Branch Detective Bureau, where the three stayed until 5:45 o’clock. And finally I drove the three to Sixth Avenue and 30th Street, where they got out and dismissed me. I drove back to Mr. Hermann’s office.
McGee was called to the stand to refute the testimony of Mrs. Inch, who said he called at her apartment at No. 140 West 58th Street and handed her an envelope from Herrman for a girl to the name of May Hayes, who was sick in bed after an operation. Mrs. Inch has sought to show that the money was a gift from Herrman to a girl and that she, Mrs. Inch, had nothing to do with it, McGee denied that he had ever driven to the Inch apartment.
Herrman was recalled to the stand this afternoon to testify that he never knew a girl by the name of May Hayes and that he never sent his car to the Inch apartment.
“I told Mrs. Inch when I first met her ‘This is blackmail from the start,’” he said.
On cross-examination he denied that he had masqueraded as a secret service agent of the United States.
The case went to the jury at 3 o’clock this afternoon after impassioned pleas by the attorneys. Mrs. Inch wept as the Prosecutor scoured her.
[“Actress’ Arrest In Extortion Case Took Many Hours. - Herrman Chauffeur Tells How He Drove Betty Inch and Detectives About City.” The Evening World, Jan. 20, 1919, p. 3]***
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