A Car Full of Whiskey

Oct 9, 2018

On this date in 1920, several men including the chief of the North Dakota prohibition office found themselves in hot water for transporting a “motor car full of whiskey.” Theodore Musgjerd, a former clerk in the prohibition office, was arrested and charged with transporting 125 quarts of whiskey from Fargo to Sioux Falls.

Musgjerd told police that he transported the whiskey at the direction of Robert Leady, the group chief in the North Dakota prohibition office. Musgjerd claimed that Leady told him to deliver the liquor to a private detective who had assisted the prohibition office in several raids against moonshiners. Musgjerd said he believed the delivery was part of another raid.

As soon as Musgjerd was arrested and made his claim, Sioux Falls authorities sent a telegram to the District Attorney’s office in Fargo. Leady was sitting in his office in the federal building when the police arrived to arrest him. He was held in jail on $5,000 bail. A conviction on charges of “transporting intoxicating liquor in violation of federal prohibition laws and conspiracy to commit a crime against the federal government” carried a penalty of prison time and a substantial fine. Leady claimed that he was being framed. He said he had recommended Musgjerd’s dismissal, but the clerk had been given a second chance. Leady said Musjerd was framing him out of revenge.

Leady’s case went to trial in March 1921. In the end, the jury did not believe him. He was found guilty, as were Musgjerd and E.O. Haugen, the proprietor of a Moorhead hotel who was also arrested in the scheme. Musgjerd was sentenced to one month in jail; and Haugen got one month and a $100 fine. Leady’s offense was considered far more serious since he was chief of the North Dakota office. He was sentenced to one year and one day in Leavenworth Federal Prison.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Bismarck Tribune. “Rum Agent in Runner Plot.” Bismarck ND. 9 October 1920. Page 1.

Grand Forks Herald. “Alleged Offense of Prohibition Officer Carries Heavy Penalty.” Grand Forks ND. 11 October 1920. Page 6.

Grand Forks Herald. “Conspiracy Case Up in U.S. Court.” Grand Forks ND. 10 March 1921. Page 1.

Devils Lake World. “U.S. Agent Is Jailed on Liquor Charge.” Devils Lake ND. 13 October 1920. Page 9.

Pioneer Express. “Dry Chief Is Found Guilty.” Pembina ND. 18 March 1921. Page 2.

Omaha Daily Bee. “Dry Agent Held on Liquor Charge.” Omaha NE. 10 October 1920. Page 6.