John Paul Chase (238-AZ)
Is Compelled to Testify

In 1938, John Paul Chase was summoned to New York City to testify against William Graham and James McKay, presumably about the murder of Reno bank cashier Roy Frisch who had been a principal witness in a 1934 mail fraud case against the pair. Chase and his partner, Baby Face Nelson (Lester Gillis) are believed to have carried out the murder and dumped the body down an abandoned mine shaft. Given Chase's underworld connections and the nature of his crime (murder of two FBI agents), special precautions were taken in transporting him.

After all the effort expended in transporting him for the trial, Chase was not called as a witness.

Alcatraz, California . January 18, 1938

Director, Bureau of Prisons

CHASE, John Paul #238-Az

This morning I telegraphed to you as follows:


Last night upon receipt of your telegram to the effect that Bureau of Investigation agents in charge of Pieper would make the transfer, I got in touch with Mr. Pieper, who had just received similar advice from the Director, F.B.I.

Mr. Pieper set about making his arrangements for train accomodations so that the transfer could be made without any loss of time. The arrangements were made and Mr. Pieper with Mr. Farland and Mr. Rice came to the Island this morning on the 6:30 A.M. boat. The prisoner, John Paul Chase register number 238-Az, was dressed out in the presence of the agents and they, accompanied by Junior Officer Clarence A. Gosnell, were taken on our launch direct to the Oakland Pier where they boarded the train.

They left here at 7:15 A.M., arriving in Oakland about 7:55 A.M. so that they could get on train before regular passengers would arrive. The train pulled out at 8:55 A.M. and according to schedule is due to arrive in New York, Tuesday, the 18th, at 5:20 P.M.

Mr. Pieper, in charge of the San Francisco office F.B.I., informed me that he sent the prisoner in custody of Agents Rice, Farland, Hammock, and Johnson. Junior Officer Gosnell was advised that Agent Rice is in charge of the party and he is to take instructions from him. Mr. Gosnell has the court order in his possession and he has been instructed to wire me when they arrive, when proceedings are over, and when they return, time they are due here so that arrangements can be made for meeting them.

The court order directed production "forthwith before the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in Room 318, United States Court House, Foley Square, New York City, at 10:30 o'clock in the forenoon" but did not state any date.

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Presumaly, they will make their appearance in court on Wednesday morning or as directed by the Judge.

Mr. Pieper informed me that the Federal Bureau of Investigation office is in the same building and that they have their detention quarters there.

J.A. Johnston

Alcatraz, California . January 19, 1938

Director, Bureau of Prisons

CHASE, John Paul #238-Az

(1-8-38) 726

When I read the confirmation copy of your radiogram of January 11, 1938, I noticed that on the bottom of it your memorandum to Mr. Schoen, Superintendent, Detention Headquarters, 427 West Street, New York City, about the necessity for precaution in the handling of the prisoner.

In that connection, I told you in my letter of January 15, 1938 that when the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were taking him, I read over to them all of the instuctions you had previously given and the writ which called for production in court located at Room 318, United StatesCourt House, Foley Square, New York City. At that time, the Federal B. of I. agents told me that they were headquartered in the same building and had detention quarters there.

In your letter of January 8, 1938 referring to your first telegraphic inquiry about Chase, you asked the question: "Has he, in your opinion, any remnants of his gang still around who could aid him to escape during his transfer?"

I believe that if Chase had any opportunity to make connections, he would attempt to and possibly could secure aid. Here we have always regarded him as one who might be able to make connections in this vicinity because of his former residence in Marin County, California, and his associates who were bootlegging and high-jacking in this territory.

From all we have been able to learn his Eastern connections were with the Baby Face Nelson group. The Federal B. of I. agents, of course, have very comprehensive knowledge of the connections, activities and whereabouts of any remnants of that group and the men who were intrusted with taking Chase from here are thoroughly familiar with his history and connections.

J.A. Johnston