Hindu Spies Sent to Jail

Laws Prevent Adequate Punishment, Court Declares Prisoners Termed Tools of Inhuman Country
Plotters Warned Against More Activity After Release

SAN FRANCISCO, April 30 – Trial of the world-wide Hindu conspiracy case, which was punctuated with sensational exposures of German secret diplomacy and the killing of two defendants in the courtroom, ended here today with the sentencing of twenty-nine of the conspirators. Various fines and prison terms were imposed by United States District Judge William C. Van Fleet. The total of the prison terms was twenty-three and two-thirds years, and the fines $64,000.

In passing sentence Judge Van Fleet expressed regret that he could not impose a heavier sentence.

“The punishment is wholly inadequate to the crime, and the penalty may well be called to the attention of Congress and so amended that it will act as a deterrent. The German defendants represent a system that the civilized world cannot tolerate.”

Louis T. Hengstler, San Francisco admiralty lawyer, was the only defendant to escape a prison sentence. Judge Van Fleet had imposed a County Jail term of four months on Hengstler, but remitted it after Hengstler made a plea to the court protesting his Americanism and denouncing German imperialism. A fine of $5,000 remained against him.


The blame for the conspiracy was placed squarely up to the German supreme command. Judge Van Fleet characterized the Hindu conspirators as mere catspaws of the “ruthless Prussian military system,” and told them that had their revolution succeeded and they had been placed under such a system they would spare no effort to throw it off.

The German Foreign Office Embassy at Washington and Consulate at San Francisco were the nerve centers of the world-flung plot to wrest Indian rule from England, Judge Van Fleet said in sentencing Franz Bopp, Wilhelm von Brincken and E. von Schack, the heads of the consulate. Bopp and Schack were given the maximum sentences provided by the violated neutrality laws, two years imprisonment and $10,000 fine. Von Brincken was sentenced to serve two years, this sentence to run concurrently with a similar judgment hanging over him as a result of his alleged participation in bomb and dynamiting plots against the government of Canada.

Bopp and Von Schack made personal pleas to the court in an attempted exoneration of Walter Sauerback, Henry Kauffman, Harry J. Hart, Joseph Bley, M. S. von Goltzheim and others of the white defendants. Judge Van Fleet promised them that their petitions would have some weight in the sentencing of the men to whom they referred.

Sundar Singh Ghalli was excused from the action of the court today when John W. Preston, United States District Attorney, said that his testimony was needed by the grand jury in connection with the assassination of Ram Chandra, one of the principal Hindu defendants in the courtroom last Tuesday. Chandra was murdered by Ram Singh, who in turn was killed by United States Marshal James M. Holohan. Sundar Singh Ghalli was to be sentenced in two weeks.

Judge Van Fleet indicated that no deportation action would be taken against the Hindu defendants in the event that they refrained from revolutionary actions after completing their prison terms


Prompted to unusual precautions because of the tragedy last Tuesday. United States Deputy Marshals searched all of the spectators for weapons. The military guard which had been in attendance throughout the trial was increased, and in addition, many armed secret service men, city policemen and agents of the Department of Justice were placed throughout the room. The Hindu defendants were subjected to three separate examinations of their clothing between the time they arose in the County Jail and the time they took their seats in the courtroom. Turbans were examined with particular care.

“We get our ideas of freedom not from India, but from America,” Bhagwan Singh, “poet of the revolution,”said to the court before receiving his sentence of eighteen months in the McNeil's Island penitentiary in Washington . “That is why we are here. It is hard that we should suffer for loving the freedom that you teach us.”

Dr. C. K. Chakravarty was the only other Hindu defendant to make a personal plea to the court. He asked clemency because of a “reeling sensation in his head which prevented him from sleeping much of the time.”


Dr. Chakravarty was told by the prosecution to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Berlin for Indian revolutionary work in this country.

All of the American defendants made brief statements to the court protesting their innocence. Defense attorneys reinforced their statements with pleas that they did not knowingly enter into any conspiracy against the rule of England in India.

It was announced late today that Harry J. Hart, Joseph Blev, Robert Capelle, G. Clyde Hlzar and some of the other American defendants were to appeal from the judgment of the court. Counsel for the German defendants announced that they would not appeal, and that appeals against conviction of Bopp, Von Schack and Von Brincken in the Canadian bomb plots would be withdrawn. Counsel for the Hindu defendants stated that those who received light County Jail sentences would not appeal, while those who were sentenced to McNeil's Island were considering asking the higher courts for a reversal. These last named are Tarak Nath Das, Bhagwan Singh, Gopal Singh, and Santokh Singh.


Sentences imposed by Judge Van Fleet on other defendants were:

Walter Sauerback, navigating officer of the German gunboat Geier, one year in the Alameda County Jail and $2,000 fine.

Charles Lattendorff, “bodyguard” of Baron von Brincken, one year in the county jail.

Henry Kauffman, formaer Chancellor of the German Consulate, $5,000 fine or six months imprisonment.

Robert Capelle, former local agent of the North German Lloyd Steamship Company, fifteen months at McNeil's Island, Washington, and $7,500 fine.

Joseph L. Bley, shipping broker, fifteen months at McNeil's Island Federal Penitentiary and $5,000 fine.

Harry J. Hart, San Francisco shipping man, six months in jail and $5,000 fine.

Louis T. Hengstler, San Francisco Admiralty lawyer, four months and $5,000 fine.

The jail sentence was rescinded after Hengstler made a personal appeal to the court.

Captain Heinrich Elbo, master of the German steamer Ahlers, which was interned at Honolulu, six months and $1,000 fine.

Captain Edwin Deinat, master of the German merchantman Holsatia, interned at Hilo, Hawaii , then months and $1,500.

Baron Morris Stock von Goltzheim, San Francisco real estate and insurance man, six months and $1,000 fine.

Dr. Chandra K. Chakravarty, chief agent in the United States for the “Berlin Committee” of the German Government, thirty days and $5,000 fine.

Thirteen other Hindus, students, and revolutionists, several of them highly educated, were sentenced to serve from twenty-two months to sixty days.

(Source: The Los Angeles Times, May 1, 19 18 and New York Times, May 1, 19 18)


Ted. Sibia
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