NILES MUNICIPAL COURT Renovation reveals record of old-time crimes

A record book lists such criminal offenses as bastardy, which accused a man of impregnating someone other than his wife.
NILES -- Lock up your poultry and hide your coal.
That may have been a caution from authorities to city residents 69 years ago, when thefts of coal and chickens were common calls made to police.
Paul Lawrence, clerk of courts, and Karen Infante Allen, systems administrator in Niles Municipal Court, found a 1932 criminal court record book while preparing for a court renovation.
Offending oysters: The thick volume shows a few of the offenses you'd see in court records today, but many of the dastardly deeds, like a charge of "selling adulterated oysters," produced chuckles from court employees accustomed to reading the details of more serious offenses.
Lawrence said the court will keep the 1932 tome, but court personnel will throw away much of what they aren't required to keep. The purpose of the renovation is to increase space.
The judge who occupied the bench in February 1932 laid down the law, imposing $33 in fines and costs on a South Main Street man convicted of "entering the property of another with the intent to carry away poultry."
The book doesn't specify the type of poultry, but it does list the birds' value at less than a third of the culprit's fines and costs, proving that even during the Great Depression crime didn't pay.
Several people were convicted of stealing coal, usually in $5 amounts from area railroads or other businesses.
Charges of slander were dismissed against a Fenton Street woman accused of saying another woman suffered from a venereal disease to make others believe that the woman "of good repute" was unchaste.
The woman of good repute evidently chose not to prosecute.
Train hopping: The year Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president also saw several cases of people caught hopping trains in the city.
One man had to pay $12 in fines and costs after he was convicted of climbing into a train car for a free ride on the Erie Railroad line.
As further proof that times have changed, a few men were charged with bastardy, accused of impregnating women who were not their wives, an action that no longer carries much of a social stigma, let alone a criminal charge.
Another man may have struck fear in the hearts of his neighbors in those simpler times when he was charged with illegal use of milk bottles. He was accused of refilling bottles bearing the names of area dairies. The case was ultimately dismissed by the city solicitor.
There's even a charge of highway robbery against a Depot Street man whose various indiscretions occupy more than a few pages in the court book.
The man was accused of assaulting another man and robbing him of $5.
There's no indication of whether the crime actually happened on a highway.

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