Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Florence Bennett Knott, Badger Game Gal – Washington, D. C., 1911

FULL TEXT: Washington, May 3. – Strikingly beautiful in a gown which she had pawned her rings to buy, twenty-year-old Florence Bennett Knott, be badger girl, went on the witness stand today and sobbed out every detail of how she lured Charles Rosenthal, a local merchant, to her fashionable apartment and played with him as a cat with a mouse, while her husband, James B. Knott, photographed him through holes bored in the apartment walls. The photographs were made the basis of a demand on Rosenthal for $5,000 blackmail.

James Knott, his brother Benjamin and his friend Albert H. Armstrong. pleaded guilty to having planned and executed the badger game. Judge Wright, however, declared the statement made by Benjamin Knott indicated that he was innocent and ordered him tried by jury. The sentences in the other cases was postponed but it believed that the badger girl will he released on parole.

Florence Knott and her husband tried to work the old badger game with new stage settings. For more than a month they had lived in a luxurious apartment in the most fashional [sic] part of the city and their last penny was spent, according to the badger girl in “keeping up appearances.” Then the husband suggested, and the wife consented to try the “easiest way.”

First the husband and Armstrong bored holes in the walls of their apartment, through which they could focus I camera on every inch of floor space. Then they placed mercury lights in the rooms, taking them like studios.

Florence Knott then set out to look for a victim, and with her beauty had no difficulty in luring Rosenthal to her apartments. He called many times, and on each occasion, Knott and Armstrong. using an expensive camera, took photographs of him in more than a score of comprising [sic] positions.

When enough pictures had been taken, Knott, and Armstrong, the former in the role of the enraged husband, burst in to the roomy apartment while Rosenthal was present, led him to a chair, showed him the photographs and then, at the point of a revolver forced him to write out a check for $5,000. Rosenthal later stopped payment on the check but told Knott to come to his store and he would give him£2.000 hi cash. Knott went, and found two detectives waiting for him Mrs. Knott was arrested a few hours later at a suburban railway station.

Following her arrest, she sobbed out her story to the police. It was the old story of the easiest way.

She was born in Flint Michigan, she said, the daughter of an Indian fakir and a white woman. When she was fifteen she married a factory hand but lie match was unhappy and a few months later she left her husband and went to work in a department store.

"I tried hard to be decent” she sobbed, but1 just couldn't. A girl ran 1 live on $4 a week. She can only exist. I wanted life, I - - sold myself.

“The next few years of my life were a living hell. Went from one city to another but everywhere I was a social outcast. Then I met Jimmie, and when lie offered to take me away from the life I was leading I would have done anything in the world for him. We were married. He told me his family was wealthy and gave him plenty of money, but after a little while they stopped sending it to him and we didn't have a penny. We had to have money. Jimmie couldn't yet it so I got it for him. Maybe it was wrong hut I would have done anything on earth for the man who had taken me away from the horrible life I once lived.

It was a question of begging, and charity is worse than sin.

[“Badger Girl On Trial. Florence Knott Went on Witness stand in Washington today. May Be Paroled.” Alexandria Gazette (Va.), May 3, 1911, p. 1]


FULL TEXT: Washington, D.C., May 4. – Following futile pleas for mercy Florence Bennett Knott, the "badger girl" was sent to the penitentiary for two years. Her husband, James D. Knott, scion of a fine old southern family and his friend Albert, Armstrong received sentences of four years each. Benjamin Knott, an elder brother convicted of complicity in the badger game filed application for a new trial and was released on bond.

The sentence came as a shock to the badger girl and she swayed and almost fell when it was pronounced. Judge Wright declared he felt sorry for her.

"The girl is more sinned against than sinning," said Judge Wright, "From the beginning the evidence. shows she been in used by her husband only as a horrible tool. Her lot was sad enough before these men came into her life. She is the only one in the entire case for whom I feel sorry. I have deep sympathy for her and thought late into last night trying to find some way in which I could release her altogether. I would like to think it should be done but the law will not allow it."

[“Badger Girl Sentenced.” Alexandria Gazette (Va.), May 4, 1911, p. 4]



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