I spent the summer in a state of total uncertainty. The autumn brought no changes, and winter was approaching. During all these months, no one visited me, and I had no idea of what was happening outside the prison walls. For a long time, all I had wanted was to have the trial take place as soon as possible so I could prove my innocence to the world. Then, after Mr. Barsky had told me the charges against me were baseless and that the case was invalid, I expected the indictment to be quashed.
These hopes were dashed when I realized that another investigation had been started all over again. Apparently, events had taken a new turn, yet I was kept in the dark. Even though it had now been several months since Mashkevitch had concluded his interrogations, I still had no idea what was going on.
I was informed later, by one of my lawyers, that Mr. Grigorovitch-Barsky had been telling me the honest truth at the time of his visit. All my lawyers had been of the opinion that the whole case would be dismissed and the trial would never take place.
As I have already mentioned, the journalist Brazul-Brushkovsky, together with a police captain named Krassovsky, had undertaken in earnest to discover who the real murderers were and to gather the necessary evidence. With this in mind, they made the acquaintance of Vera Tchebiriak and her gang, visiting her several times and interviewing her neighbors. They collected a considerable amount of material and presented it to Colonel Ivanoff.
Colonel Ivanoff ordered a careful investigation to verify Brushkovsky’s contentions. As a result of his efforts, the Colonel came to the conclusion that Yustchinsky’s murder was the work of Tchebiriak’s criminal band. Ivanoff conducted his investigations in the strictest secrecy and when he finished, he sent the material to the Prosecutor of the Superior Court.
At first, the Prosecutor’s office showed no interest in the Colonel’s reports. Although these reports came from an official source, and from no less than a member of the political Secret Police, the Prosecutor ignored them. Nothing would have come of it had my attorneys not taken a determined stand. When my lawyers learned that these new facts had been discovered, they demanded that the preliminary investigation be reopened. This happened in the spring of 1912.
The higher judicial authorities and the Black Hundreds were most upset by this turn of events. They naturally feared that a new investigation based on Brushkovsky’s discoveries would result in the disclosure of the true criminals. This was what they feared most. Yet, they could not openly go against the letter of the law. Whenever new evidence appeared, the law required a new investigation.
They were not happy with Fenenko, and they did not want him handling this new investigation. They felt that he was too “soft.” He was, therefore, given a leave of absence. He was simply removed from my case. Thus, Tchaplinsky was ordered to come to Petrograd to act as the Prosecuting Attorney for my trial and to confer with Shtcheglovitoff, the Minister of Justice. He was also to meet with the heads of the Black Hundreds.
There was, at this time, a group of officials in the Ministry of Justice who were inclined to have my case quashed just to “get out of the slimy bog.” That attitude prevailed during a certain period of time, and it was then that Grigorovitch-Barsky announced to me the “good news.”
In the end, however, the Black Hundreds prevailed. They insisted that if a new investigation was to take place, it had to be done “right.” If there was going to be another investigation, then they would see to it that a new indictment would result and that this new indictment would contain the charge of ritual murder.
The final decision was indicative of the level of corruption that Shtcheglovitoff had brought into the Ministry of Justice. Not only did they agree to have a new investigation, but they even arranged to have the indictment written first. This way they could make sure that the investigation produced enough “evidence” to support a charge of ritual murder. Thus, they arranged for an investigation to be undertaken just for the sake of appearances.
Mashkevitch was put in charge of the investigation. He was not concerned with the fine points. With him, it was all very simple. He was looking for chassidim, tzaddikim, rabbis, white robes; in short, all the paraphernalia that should appear in a ritual murder case. It was to be a production that could have appeared in one of the books written by the fathers of the Inquisition.
For the sake of appearances, the materials gathered by Brushkovsky were also examined, but instead of sending them to the prosecutor, as was the rule, they were first dispatched to the Ministry in Petersburg and then sent back with proper comments and annotations.
As I was told, the authorities were unable to find in the Procurator’s Office in Kiev a man capable of formulating the type of indictment they wanted, one with “teeth in it.” Finally, a suitable person was found. Even at that, the indictment was not prepared at once. It was turned inside out and doctored up several times. The work was done by the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Count Rozvadovsky. When it was ready, it was forwarded to the Superior Court of Kiev for approval.
The enemies of our people were still not satisfied with their work. They now started to go after those who only sought the truth.
The Chief of the Secret Police of Kiev was a man by the name of Mishtchuk. He and two of his detectives, Smalovick and Klein, were prosecuted for having been “partial” in their investigation of me, since they had leaned towards my side. Mishtchuk was found guilty and received a year of imprisonment. He was also deprived of his civil rights. The two detectives were similarly punished.
The police captain Krassovsky, who had a record of twenty years of service with the police department, was charged with having embezzled the amount of seventy-five kopeks, which equalled about forty cents. This sounded like a joke in comparison to the millions of rubles that are routinely involved in the bribery of higher officials. The case against Krassovsky was dismissed.
Vera Tchebiriak proceeded to file criminal libel charges against the journalist Brushkovsky. The same thing happened to the well-known journalist, S. Yablonovsky. Of course, Vera Tchebiriak didn’t do this on her own. She was directed to do so by those above.
It was the Black Hundreds who turned their attention towards my lawyer Margolin. First of all, he had published a book detailing the absurdity of the ritual murder charge. The Prosecutor claimed that Mr. Margolin was thus trying to influence the inhabitants of Kiev, from among whom the jury would eventually be selected for the trial. The second charge was that he had attempted to bribe Vera Tchebiriak in order to persuade her to assume the guilt of Yustchinsky’s murder. She alleged that he had offered to pay her forty thousand dollars if she would agree to “confess.”
A similar charge was filed against Mr. Barsky, since he had signed a public paper protesting the ritual murder charge. He received a reprimand from the court. His subsequent appeal was lost in a higher court.
Hearing of all these events, I could see that my case had indeed taken an unfavorable turn. I felt that a tightly woven net was about to entangle me. My lawyers tried to keep my hopes up and encourage me. They assured me that in spite of all these machinations the truth would finally prevail. Taking their words to heart, I prepared myself to wait for the long postponed trial.
|[Home] [Campus] [Curriculum] [Dedications] [News] [Archives] [Judaica]|