Korshak, the "torch", "squealed" again yesterday.
Not in the state's attorney's office, as he did several months ago. But on the
witness stand in Judge O'Connor's courtroom, where he faced the man he called
his "boss". This man was Joseph Fish, alleged to be the "arson
czar" and originator of the plans by which Korshak set fire to property worth
hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fish is on trial for arson.
Korshak, constantly interrupted by counsel for the defense, made a dramatic recital
of the fires he set at the direction of Fish.
While he was on the witness stand, another startling development in the arson
case was disclosed. Information reached Frank Johnston, Jr., first assistant state's
attorney, that frantic efforts were being made to "buy" other important
witnesses for the state in order to keep them from testifying against Fish
to Counsel Staff
counsel in the person of attorney Levy Mayer has been engaged to assist in the
defense of the wealthy adjuster, it was also discovered.
Korshak told his story at the direction of Prosecutor Johnston without hesitating.
He sat quietly in the witness chair, at times toying with his silver bound cane
which he carried, the lines of his thin, yellowish face emphasized by the black
overcoat which he kept on all during the day. Occasionally he would glance out
of his shrewd, small eyes at the man who may be sent to prison because of his
testimony. Mr.Fish paid no attention to him, but kept a quiet watch of the jurors
to see how they received Mr. Korshak's testimony.
"When did you first meet the defendant?" asked Mr. Johnston.
"It was in the latter part of 1909, about November, I think."
"Where did you meet him?"
in Fish's Office
the first time I met him was in his office in the New York Life building."
"What did he say to you about the business of setting fires?"
"He told me if I ever got intoany trouble he would take care of me; he said
he would furnish the lawyers and give me money. He told me every fire I knew of
that was being planned I should let him know of and get the insurance policies.
He told me he had great influence with the insurance companiesand the brokers.
He also told me how to get an inventory of the property for him so he could adjust
the loss. My wife was to act as the 'go between' in order that I might not be
seen in his office.
"What was the first fire you set for him?"
Job for Fish
was in February of 1910, when I set fire to Abe Ratner's clothing store at 1831
South Halsted street."
Objection was raised by the defense on the introduction of testimony about this
fire, because Fish was not indicted for it. Korshak was allowed to proceed and
told of how he arranged to set the fire because Ratner was not making any money
in his business.
At this point the witness described his businessof setting fires in detail.
"First you take a ball of cotton about this size," said he, as he grasped
an imaginary sphere, "and soak it in gasoline. Usually I take and stick a
few matches inside it. Then I scatter paper and thin cloth, rags about the room,
all soaked with gasoline. Everything is ready as soon as you soak some of the
other things that will burn easily in gasoline."
It All Out
lit an imaginary match, thrust it into the ball of cotton which he pretended to
hold, and stepped back as if to avoid the burst of flames that followed.
Proceeding with the testimony, he related how he fired the store of Samuel Stark
at 2027 South Halsted street, in the latter part of 1909, after Stark agreed that
Fish was to have the business of adjusting the loss.
"My wife told Fish about the fire," he said, glancing at the defendant,
"and told him Stark only caried $6,000 insurance. Mr. Fish said that wouldn;t
do, and told her to arrange for more insurance. So Stark bought some more goods
on credit and got more insurance."
Fires He Set
fires which the witness described as having been set by him at Fish's direction
Store of Maurice Mann, 2251 South State street, November 29th, 1910.
Store of M. Goldstein, 3013 South state, December 20th, 1910.
Store of Joseph Lewis, 3425 Superior street, April 24th, 1910
Maurice Breit's dry goods store, 2900 South state, January 8th, 1911.
Tailor shop of Maurice Miller, Halsted and 35th street, January 1st, 1911.
Store of Jacob Ranski, 3243 Lincoln avenue, February 15, 1911.
Store of Bloom and Perry, 2000 South State street, March, 1911.
Wholesale house of Leopold Dreyfus, 232 South Market street, June 8, 1911.
The last partof his direct examination was devoted to the story of how he fled
Chicago and spent two years abroad in evading arrest by the state's attorney's
office. He declared that Fish had paid for his expenses while a fugitive from
It was in this part of his story that he revealed a new angle in the confession,
in that he charged that Attorney Benjamin Bachrach, counsel for Fish, had advised
him to go to South America to escape extradition.
to the Korshak Chronicles