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Percy Sullivan

Convicted of distributing counterfeit money in Evansville, Vincennes, Terre Haute, and Erie, Indiana, in 1896, Percy Sullivan was incarcerated for two years before the actual perpetrator openly admitted to these crime after being arrested for another similar crime.
In the late summer of 1896, a modishly dressed young man made purchases in the shops of these Indiana cities and paid for them with counterfeit United States currency.
Percy Sullivan, a member of a prominent Bowling Green family, was a graduate of Vanderbilt University and a former Adjutant of the Kentucky Militia, and he worked in the insurance business in Louisville, Kentucky. In November of 1896, Sullivan was arrested for distribution of counterfeit money by the United States Marshall and taken to Indianapolis. Several witnesses identified him as the man who had given them the counterfeit money. Sullivan stated repeatedly that he was innocent, he knew nothing about counterfeit money, and he had been in the cities where the crimes had occurred on business. He denied having been in Erie, Indiana. Although some of the witnesses positively identified him and others did not, he was convicted in federal court, and, on December 8, 1896, was sentenced to four years in prison. He was incarcerated at South Prison in Jeffersonville, and later transferred to the prison at Michigan City.
Major Carter, of the Kentucky Militia, had always doubted Sullivan’s guilt. When another man, by the name of Tyler, was arrested for distributing counterfeit money and admitted that he had been responsible for distribution at various cities in Indiana in the summer of 1896, Major Carter shared his photo with Robert Davidson, Sullivan’s public defender. Armed with photos of both Sullivan and Tyler, Davidson visited the witnesses who had testified against Sullivan, asking them which of the men in the photos had passed the counterfeit money to them. They identified Tyler and provided affidavits, which, along with evidence that Sullivan had never traveled to Erie, were submitted to the Department of Justice at Washington, D.C. in support of an application for a pardon.
On May 12, 1898, the trial judge and the district attorney urged that Sullivan be granted a pardon based on mistaken identity. Upon the recommendation of the Attorney General, President William McKinley granted a full and unconditional pardon.
– Researched by Jessica Smart
State:IN - Federal
Most Serious Crime:Forgery or Counterfeiting
Reported Crime Date:1896
Sentence:4 years
Race/Ethnicity:Don't Know
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID