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The Fascinating Story of a Prohibition Raid Gone Wrong in Adams Morgan

Discover the amazing, true story of a Prohibition raid gone wrong in Adams Morgan in 1928. Read about the raid and subsequent legal problems for the proprietors, the trial, and the bizarre disappearance of a jury member!
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These prohibition stories are always great. This one is from a raid that happened on August 3rd, 1928 at 2106 18th St. NW in Adams Morgan.

Washington Post - August 5th, 1928
Washington Post – August 5th, 1928

Below is the article that we found in The Washington Post about the raid and subsequent legal problems for the proprietors.

Four men appeared in Police Court yesterday as the result of the raid Friday night on the Ambassador Oyster House, 2106 Eighteenth street northwest, staged by prohibition agents and the police vice squad. They were William Deegan, 29, 2511 Fourteenth street northwest; Francis Deegan, 24, 1217 Kennedy street northwest; Clarence Myers, 25, and Burgess F. Hart, 28, 2106 Eighteenth street northwest. They were charged with violation of the prohibition law and released on $1,000 bond each to await jury trial.

As the result of the raid, E. A. Rickert, 40 years old, 2112 Eighteenth street northwest, plans to ask Assistant United States Attorney Ralph Given to issue a warrant charging assault against J. J. Quinn, deputy prohibition commissioner for the District of Columbia and Maryland, he said last night.

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Rickert charges that in the course of the raid he was seized on the street by Quinn and taken into the raided establishment, where he was beaten, later being turned loose. Rickert said that he was standing in front with a group of the other persons, who were jeering the agents as they broke up furniture in the oyster house.

Prohibition raid scene – Source: Midjourney AI

The prohibition officers flatly denied the assault, claiming that they were upstairs in the establishment at the time. By late September of that year, the government attorneys were asking for a delay to gather sufficient evidence against the alleged speakeasy.

On October 10th, The Washington Post reported during the trial that a prohibition agent, Edwin Goggins, pointed his gun at those in the establishment to keep them at bay while he awaited backup. Below is an excerpt from the piece.

An admission that gun play was employed by prohibition agents in the Ambassador Oyster house, 2106 Eighteenth street northwest, before other agents and police, armed with a search warrant, arrived for the raid on the place August 3, was made yesterday by Edwin P. Goggins, a dry agent, at the opening of the trial of liquor charges against the four men arrested in the invasion.

Now here comes the damning evidence.

Goggins also admitted that he saw Deputy Prohibition Administrator John J. Quinn drag Earl Rickert, of 2112 Eighteenth street, from a crowd of bystanders into the place. Rickert recently charged that he was dragged into the place, kicked by Detective William F. Burke, of the police vice squad, and beaten by other raiders. When authorized by District Attorney Leo A. Rover to swear out a warrant for Burke for assault, Rickert refused because Rover would not authorize a warrant for Quinn.

The trial went of for quite some time and was the talk of the town. Then something quite bizarre happened. One of the jurors disappeared and a new trial was required. Charles J. Richardson, of 737 12th St. NW failed to show up for the third day of the trial. A call was placed to his home but he failed to surface. The judge, Robert E. Mattingly ordered the Deputy U.S. Marshal to bring Richardson to court, who was dispatched to his listed residence.

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Washington Post - October 12th, 1928
Washington Post – October 12th, 1928

Richardson’s roommate stated that he was there earlier but had left the home the day earlier. The marshall then went to the business address listed for Richardson, 1349 E street northwest, only to find that he hadn’t worked there for well over a year.

A mistrial was ultimately declared as the authorities couldn’t find Richardson for several days. They tracked him down and learned that he had “gone on a party” and was absent for several days. Charles was arrested and sentenced to serve two days in District Jail for contempt of court.

The second trial of the men also ended in disagreement after a jury of two women and ten men deliberated for 8 1/2 hours, finally being unable to render a complete verdict. The damning testimony was that the two were not actually in the oyster house when the prohibition agents claimed they purchased liquor from Francis Deegan.

Francis, by the way, was no angel. In the papers back in 1925 he was mentioned as a student at St. John’s College and was held in connection with the killing of his older brother Charles C. Deegan. At the time they were driving in a car while agents jumped on the running boards to arrest them for liquor violations. Francis reached for the agents gun and it went off, killing his brother. He of course asserted that the police officer intentionally shot his brother.

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Well, fast forward to February of 1929, and the Oyster House defendants were finally found guilty of offending Prohibition laws. Below is the article reporting the end of the speedy third trial.

After a speedy trial, William Deegan, 29 years old, his brother, Francis Deegan, 21 years old, and Clarence Myers, 25 years old, were found guilty late yesterday by a Police Court jury of liquor charges, which grew out of the sensational raid on the Ambassador Oyster House, 2106 Eighteenth street northwest, last August 3.

The jury found Francis Deegan guilty of the sale and possession of liquor on the night of the raid. It was during this raid that Earl Rickert, a spectator, charged he was dragged into the place from a “booing” crowd and beaten by John J. Quinn, deputy prohibition commissioner, and Detective William F. Burke, of the police vice squad.

Washington Post - February 13th, 1929
Washington Post – February 13th, 1929
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