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Maurice Sullivan


Convicted of committing an assault in Washington, D.C. on the night of September 20, 1922, Maurice Sullivan and Robert Sisson were ultimately pardoned for this crime on July 12, 1924, after their other co-defendant confessed to committing the crime without Sullivan or Sisson.
 
Close to midnight on September 20, 1922, in a residential area of Washington, D.C., eight men assaulted James R. Keeton and Judson L. Powers, two co-workers who were on their way home from work. Both victims were electricians for the Pullman Company in the Union Station. As victim eyewitnesses, Keeton and Powers together identified three men who they claimed to have recognized during the assault — Maurice J. Sullivan, Robert Sisson, and a third man, Earl D. Dean.
 
Keeton and Powers claimed to have recognized Sullivan, Sisson, and Dean as prior acquaintances from previous work-related incidents. When a strike had been called on July 1, 1922, members of several trade unions walked out, but a few, among them Keeton and Powers, did not leave. This led to a minor physical altercation between Powers and Sullivan, and it was from this encounter that Powers claimed he was able to recognize Sullivan during the assault on September 20. When Keeton failed to walk out during the same strike, it was apparent that Sisson harbored ill-will toward him when the two met on the street after the strike and Sisson refused to speak with him. Although he had never had trouble with either person, Keeton was also familiar with Sullivan and Dean, who was the President of the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union. On the night of the attack, Powers was only able to identify Sullivan, yet Keeton, who had previously been acquainted with all three men, positively identified each of them as part of the group that committed the assault.
 
Upon the arrest of these three men in the following two days, each of them presented an alibi that was corroborated by multiple witnesses. Nonetheless, Sisson, Sullivan, and Dean were placed on trial based upon the victims’ eyewitness identifications, and on December 7, 1922, each was found guilty of the assault. Sisson and Dean each received five years, while Sullivan was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
 
After their convictions, each of the men filed a motion for a new trial on December 11, 1922, but their motions were overruled. The men filed an appeal, and all three convictions were upheld on February 5, 1924. Shortly before this decision was rendered, Dean made a voluntary confession that he and seven other men had committed the assault on Keeton and Powers, and that Sisson and Sullivan were in no way involved. Dean named each of the other seven attackers, all of whom were indicted for the assault. All of those who were implicated pled guilty to the charges and were sentenced on March 7, 1924.

On July 12, 1924, President Coolidge pardoned Sullivan and Sisson, each of whom had spent over a year and a half imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.
 
– Researched by Cary Steklof
State:DC
County:
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Reported Crime Date:1922
Convicted:1922
Exonerated:1924
Sentence:7 years
Race:Don't Know
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID