Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cruzen Case Follow-up

“Anonymous” raised a question as to whether or not Alonzo Cruzen (see below) was, or was not guilty of smuggling. The answer, such as it is, seems too complicated to bury among the Comments string … so here goes. (Plaza in San Juan, ca. 1905. Archives of Puerto Rico.)

First, there were no “Freedom of Information” laws back then, so it’s hard to say for sure. According to news reports, the Federal grand jury in San Juan indicted Cruzen at least two times for smuggling and/or receiving smuggled goods.

The Independent (Oct 29, 1903), reported that the first case was in the spring of 1903, with charges “that large quantities of liquors and other goods had been brought to San Juan from St. Thomas in naval vessels.”

Some context: By the spring of 1902 the transition from military to civilian rule for Puerto Rico was complete. Plus, after March 1, 1902, goods could move duty-free from the island to the mainland states (and vice-versa). Thus, contraband that had been successfully smuggled into Puerto Rico was “home free.”

Anyway, the grand jury issued a second set of indictments in October. As had happened the first time, orders from the U.S. District Attorney quashed those charges. The DA claimed the testimony against Cruzen was perjured “and instigated for purposes of spite and revenge.” We don’t have the records to say exactly when the Treasury Department sent a Special Investigator to Puerto Rico.

However, we do know that Cruzen resigned in December 1903. You could argue that he resigned simply because all the controversy made it difficult for him to do his job.

But then it got even more complicated: On Jan 18, 1904, the Senate asked for a copy of the report “by L. Cullom, special agent of the Treasury, with respect to the conduct of A. R. Cruzen.”

Nine days later, Roosevelt said no … stating, as we saw, that such a release would be “incompatible with the public interest.”

Cruzen’s connections seem to have been good enough to land the job in Puerto Rico. However, there’s nothing to suggest that this obscure party-faithful from Nebraska had the political clout implied by the President’s action.

So what gives? I’ll leave that to your imagination … because unsupported speculation would be unfair (and might get me in trouble).