Camden Evening Courier – January 20, 1928
Bertman Doubts His Story After He ‘Shifts’ Loot to Cigars
Is liable to a fine on gambling machine
Grand Jury Probe is Hinted by Judge – Reporter Takes Stand
Lewis Shectman changed his story in police court today and declared that it was only a box of cigars, not a gambling machine that was stolen from his store, 708 Broadway, yesterday by two bandits. Police Court judge Bernard Bertman characterized Schectman as a prevaricator.
Shectman denied statements published in the Evening Courier yesterday, in which he and his wife and daughter related in detail how two men had carried away a gambling machine in an automobile after losing $2 playing the machine.
William Gaffney, Evening Courier reporter, was called to the stand and repeated the facts published in yesterday’s paper.
“I cannot help but believe you are lying”, Bertman said to Schectman. At the same time Bertman intimated that he would recommend a further investigation of the matter by County Prosecutor Wescott before putting the evidence before a grand jury.
Denies Stealing ‘Cigars’
Schectman appeared in Court today against two men the police arrested in the case The defendants are Walter S. Nowak, 22 years old, 442 Jackson Street and Martin Bertherlet, 25 years old, 1218 Pavonia Street. Each was held in $500 bail for the Grand Jury after Samuel P. Orlando, counsel for the two men, had waived a hearing.
Orlando, after the hearing today, stated that both men deny the charge of stealing the cigars. He would not comment on the case further, however.
Nowak was caught after a two-mile chase through the streets. of Camden yesterday by Schectman and Frank Helm, 2909 Stevens Street, who offered his car as Shectman cried “Help! Robbers!” in front of his store.
Both Are Identified
Berherlat was arrested. Police said he called at headquarters yesterday afternoon and reported that his automobile had been stolen from Hyde Park, Second and Kaighn Avenue. Police said they doubted his story, investigated, and placed him under arrest today.
Both Novak and Bertherlat were identified as the two men who rushed from his store yesterday noon, by Shectman.
A stir was created in court when the Broadway store proprietor said he did not own a gambling machine, and said that the thieves had stolen a box of cigars.
When Shectman, answering a question put to him by Bertman, denied that he had been asked to “change the story” Gaffney was called to the witness stand.
Gaffney recited in detail an interview with Schectman yesterday shortly following the robbery. How Schectman had said that be had been robbed at a slot machine by two well-dressed bandits and how he had pursued them through the principal streets of South Camden—account of which was printed in detail in Friday’s Courier—was told by the witness.
Questioning of Schectman by Bertman followed statements by Detective Louis Shaw and attorney Orlando.
Shaw asked the nature of the case against Nowak and Bertherlat said that it was over the “larceny of cigars.”
Orlando said that he understood that the matter invoilved his clients with the theft of a slot machine from Shectman's store. Orlando said that his clients denied stealing cigars.
Neither of the defendants were called to testify.
Following Gaffney's testimony, Judge Bertman said that he was tempted to hold the complainant under bail.
Shectman then again tried to “explain” the alleged discrepancies in the interview Friday and the statements made in court this morning.
“I don't want to talk with you” was Bertman's answer to Shectman's request for a “few minutes” with the judge.
Police today said that they had arrested Harry Simons, 44, of 1447 South 4th street “on suspicion” last night. After Shectman positively identified Nowak and Bertherlat, Simons was released.
An erroneous report of the license number found on the Flint touring car used by the men on their flight from Shectman's store was made yesterday. The license number, police said, was C16209 and not C16207 as reported yesterday.
It was through the tracing of the license number and the report that Bertherlat's car had been stolen, that the second arrest in the case was made this morning.
Police said they figured the car had been used in several south Camden robberies during the past month.
Under the law, had Shectman admitted to possession of the slot machine, he would have been subject to a fine.