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Mail Tribune 100, March 11, 1921

The following news items were drawn from the archives of the Mail Tribune 100 years ago.

March 11, 1921

SENSATIONAL TESTIMONY BY JOHNSON

Former President Jacksonville Bank Declares Collins Offered Pay Note if He Would Swear Falsely on Stand — Admits Making False Deposits — Hooper Testifies.

Sensational testimony was offered this morning in the circuit court by W. H. Johnson, former president and cashier of the defunct Bank of Jacksonville, in the trial of Ben M. Collins, a Grants Pass auto dealer, former city clerk of Medford, and also a former cashier of the bank of Jacksonville.

“On October 17th, shortly after the bank was closed, Collins came to see me in the county jail,” Johnson testified, “and after a short conversation told me that the bank examiners were pressing him for the notes he owed. He also owed me personally $2,800, for money which I had advanced him. He suggested that he would pay this $2,800, not all at once, but in partial amounts, one hundred dollars before the end of the week, if I would swear falsely about his notes being paid.”

Fictitious Deposits

Previous to this testimony, Johnson testified that he had made fictitious deposits in the bank books to cover up overdrafts of Collins, and that the latter had requested him to extend credit so he could carry on his auto business at Grants Pass, and eventually pay the notes due.

Johnson also identified a ledger sheet with pencil notations showing that Collins actually owed $725.50, when the ledger figures showed but $27.60. The witness admitted this procedure was taken to deceive the bank examiners.

The indictment against Collins charges “aiding and abetting a bank cashier to defraud a bank.”

The former bank president testified freely regarding the tangled web of finance surrounding the operation of the closed institution, and maintained a calm outward appearance, except when telling of the alleged jail conversation with the defendant. He identified checks and notes as rendered by Collins. Some of the notes were drawn in 1914 and 1915, and the defense objected to their entrance as exhibits on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. The court overruled the objections and exceptions were taken. Much of the evidence given by Johnson was linked with the retirement of the defendant as cashier of the same bank.

Johnson Cross-Examined

Upon cross examination Johnson said that he honored sight drafts sent by Collins from Grants Pass were paid, and credited to Collins account, as far as he remembered. Defense then handed Johnson a check for $500, signed by Collins on a Grants Pass bank, which was not credited on the ledger sheet, known as “Exhibit A.” Other checks sent by Collins, some credited, some not, were offered as evidence. The checks were drawn on the First National Bank of Grants Pass to cover sight drafts, and objections of the state were overruled.

— Alissa Corman;acorman@rosebudmedia.com

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