Tales from the Morgue

Part 5

While in court defending the Plantation's liquor license, George Nardelli, brother of the Plantation's owner, gave testimony that conflicted with that he made in the preliminary hearing in the assault case.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Tuesday, October 8, 1935:

Nardellis Lose Plantation License by Commission Rule

George Nardelli Fails to Remember Testimony Given In Hedderman Hearing and Then, on Cross Quiz, Is Trapped by Winsett, Commission Attorney


PHOENIX, Oct. 7.—Hoisting themselves on the petard of their evidence, last September 13, in the justice court hearing on the case involving the alleged attack on Maurice Hedderman, Robert and George Nardelli, of the Plantation night club, today heard the state tax commission revoke their liquor license. The revocation, first to effect a large and influential liquor licensee in the state, came as the result of a unanimous action of the tax commission, based on charges brought against the Nardelli’s by John A. Duncan, head of the liquor enforcement bureau of the commission.

The Plantation has until Saturday night to dispose of its stock of liquors and other intoxicants, under the edict of the commission. Commission investigators, who with the support of D. C. O’Neill, commission member, worked up the case against Nardelli and the Plantation, did not appear. The sole basis for the hearing and revocation, was the transcript of testimony, offered by the Nardelli’s at the Hedderman hearing last month in Tucson.

Specifically charged with operating under a license issued to the wrong person (George Nardelli); with operating gambling in connection with a bar; and with selling liquor to intoxicated and disorderly persons; the entire hearing was based on cross-examining George and Robert Nardelli on sworn statements made at the preliminary, in connection with the state liquor laws. The brothers Nardelli were represented by George O. Hilzinger.

For Two Years

First called was George Nardelli, licensee according to the commission’s records and cited to appear. Nardelli stated that he was and had been the licensee for about two years. First stating that he owned the Plantation property, young Nardelli changed this to state that he leased it from his brother Robert. Asked to produce the lease, young Nardelli could not, stating that he had left it at Tucson. Asked definitely as to his and his brother’s capacities anent the management of the Plantation, George Nardelli explained that he was the supervisor but that his brother, Robert, was the owner.

Asked by Hilzinger if gambling was operated at the Plantation, young Nardelli stated that he had not made arrangements for any gambling. Asked if Willian Reams (fined $100 as the result of Sheriff John Bolton’s raid on the Plantation last month) operated a gambling game in the garage of the establishment, Nardelli said he did not know. Specifically, he ran the bar, Nardelli said, denying that he served liquor to intoxicated persons. Nardelli also said that he did not allow drunk or disorderly persons to remain in the place.

Completing his direct testimony, A. I. Winsett, of the attorney general’s staff and called into the hearing by the commission, took the witness for a cross examination. Winsett produced a copy of the transcript of the Hedderman hearing (upon which Robert Nardelli and Eddie Manciet stand held to trial in superior court charged with aggravated battery) and began harassing the witness with questions based on his testimony in the Tucson hearing.

Winsett Reminds Him

Young Nardelli first admitted that the lease he had mentioned had not been recorded. Winsett reminded him that, in the preliminary, under oath, he had testified that Robert Nardelli owned the Plantation. Reading from the transcript to refresh young Nardelli’s memory, Winsett obtained the admission that Robert Nardelli did own the Plantation but that he, George, leased it.

And then it began: question after question; answers elicited by Winsett from young Nardelli and refuted in the latter’s sworn testimony of the fateful preliminary hearing in Tucson last month, when the attention of the Nardelli clan was focused, not on the tax commission but on staving off a trial on assault in superior court. Pounding away, Winsett caused young Nardelli to admit that his brother did, as he swore in the hearing, run the Plantation.

Interrogated as to selling drinks to drunks, which young Nardelli denied, Winsett obtained the admission that George Nardelli thought Hedderman drunk but served him a drink: “I found out afterwards that he was drunk” the witness explained.

Finally, hopelessly entangled in his testimony at the Tucson hearing and that of today, Nardelli, who had just said he sold Hedderman a drink, declared that Hedderman was drunk when he reached the Plantation. Nardelli ended by denying the statements he made at the Tucson preliminary concerning these matters. Nardelli then stated he did not remember what he had said. And, finally, that he had spoken the truth, all to Winsett’s prodding queries.

Didn’t Know About It

Relative to gambling at the Plantation, again “helped” by Winsett and the justice court transcript, George Nardelli said he did not know just exactly what was going on in the garage, some 75 or 100 feet adjacent to the night club proper. He had never been over there, he stated, having his own business to think about. Asked by Winsett if the license was not in his name because his brother, Robert, could not receive one, George Nardelli, said, “I wouldn’t say.”

Prodded again about his testimony in Tucson that he “worked” at the Plantation, young Nardelli said, ”That is the truth, we both work there.” Winsett then stated that, as to the question of the demeanor and answers of the witness, the commission itself was a better judge than he.

Commissioner D. C. O’Neil then entered the lists, asking pertinent questions relating to income tax returns and who signed them. His brother, Robert, signed the state income tax returns, George Nardelli answered, but he, George, signed the liquor sales tax returns. George Nardelli added that, last year he did not file a state income tax return and that his brother, Robert, filed one for the business. Asked why he had not, George Nardelli stated that his brother knew more about these things.

20 Men Not Enough

Duncan then questions the witness closely about his testimony regarding Hedderman’s visit to the Plantation on the night of August 30. When Nardelli stated that Hedderman was drunk and abusive, Duncan asked why he had not been evicted. Nardelli said that he could not manage it. Duncan asked how many employes were working at the Plantation, and Nardelli said about 20. “And you couldn’t get rid of him,” Duncan asked. “We have our own business to take care of” the witness said.

Returning to the question of gambling at the Plantation, young Nardelli told Duncan that he did not know that William Ream had pleaded guilty to such charges and paid a $100 fine. Gambling was never discussed by the personnel of the Plantation, the witness said. He then added, prodded by mild questions from Duncan, that he did not know if gambling had been continued since the sheriff’s raid. Asked about his former denial, young Nardelli appeared perplexed.

He’s Qualified

“The state law,” Duncan said, “says that, to hold a liquor license, a man must be qualified to operate such a place. Do you think a man who admits he doesn’t know what’s going on at his place is qualified?” Nardelli answered “Yes.”

“Do you think a man who cannot tell a drunken person when he sees one is qualified?” Duncan persisted. “Yes,” said Nardelli.

“Do you think a man who cannot tell the difference between an adult and a juvenile is qualified?” Duncan asked. “Well, you could make a mistake,” Nardelli said.

Apparently forgetting his statement that he knew nothing about gambling at the Plantation, young Nardelli then discussed this phase with O’Neil, explaining that the gambling quarters could be reached from either the bar-side or the other side of the place. Young Nardelli then added that his brother owned the gambling room as well as the rest of the Plantation property.

“I think it is unnecessary to put on any more witnesses,” Chairman Thad Moore of the commission interjected. But Hilzinger asked to put on two more witnesses, and the commission assented. Robert Nardelli was called and testified shortly. A lease arrangement had been entered into between himself and his brother, George, Nardelli said, with the witness putting up the money for the venture. Nardelli denied he had anything to do with the gambling, nor any interest in it whatsoever. He denied that the license, in his brother’s name, was a subterfuge. Nardelli, after a series of questions from Winsett admitted that he was the owner of the Plantation saying, “I own the biggest part.”

Duncan then took up the questioning, asking Nardelli if he knew there was gambling at the Plantation. Nardelli stated that he heard that there was gambling in August, “run by a fellow by the name of Reams.” The gambling room, kitchen, bar and dance floor are all quite close together, Nardelli explained, and passage to and fro is quite easy.

Hilzinger asked Nardelli if there had been any gambling since Bolton’s raid and Nardelli answered in the negative, adding that the place had been closed.

William Reams, raidee in Belton’s visit, last month to the Plantation, and payer of a $100 fine in justice court, was the third witness summoned by Hilzinger. Reams state that he operated independently of Nardelli, acquiring the garage-like rear building at the Plantation from a Mrs. McGee of Los Angeles as temporary quarters. He had purchased some land south of the Plantation since, Reams said, but originally want to “Open up close to where the crowd was.” The place is now abandoned, Reams said. Under Duncan’s queries, Reams described the layout and stated that Nardelli “in an off-hand way” probably knew what was going on.

The problems with the liquor license meant that Robert Nardelli had broken a federal law. Therefore, he was arrested and released on bail the following day.

From the Star, Friday, October. 11, 1935:


Night Club Man Facing No License Charges On Federal Law

Robert E. Nardelli, variously troubled over the apparent lack of proper liquor licenses for his Plantation night club, was yesterday admitted to $1,500 bond on federal liquor license violation charges. Bond was made just before noon yesterday after Nardelli had been a federal prisoner since late the night before.

Specifically Nardelli is charged with unlawfully and feloniously carrying on the business of retailer in malt drinks and liquors without first having paid the special tax required by the Internal revenue laws. The charge grew out of Nardelli's loss of his state liquor license last Monday, when the state tax commission closed up his Plantation club as of next Saturday. Behind both these liquor license actions lies Nardelli's sworn testimony in a Tucson justice court hearing last September 13, when he testified that he was the owner and operator of the Plantation. It was later revealed that the liquor licenses, state and federal, had been issued in the name of George Nardelli, who, at the justice court preliminary, stated under oath that he was employed by Robert Nardelli as a bartender.

After a night in the county jail, Nardelli spent the whole morning in the office of C. Wayne Clampitt, United States commissioner, awaiting the arrival of qualified bondsmen. Clampitt fixed the night club operator's bond at $1,500 and early arrivals could not qualify. About eight different persons arrived to inquire the amount of the bond. Before noon Clampitt approved a bond signed by Otto A. Reulas and wife and Arturo Carrlllo and wife.

Through the inability of George O. Hilzinger, attorney for Nardelli to appear at the commissioner's hearing, E. T. Cusick appeared. After the hearing, which Nardelli waived, Cusick advised Nardelli not to attempt to do business at the Plantation as each opening for business would be regarded by the government as another violation of the same law. The liquor tax violation violation charge was signed by Charles E. Brown and Forrest Moore, federal liquor regulation officers.

Monday: A charge of operating without a proper license.

Johanna Eubank is an online content producer for the Arizona Daily Star and tucson.com. Contact her at jeubank@tucson.com

About Tales from the Morgue: The "morgue," is what those in the newspaper business call the archives. Before digital archives, the morgue was a room full of clippings and other files of old newspapers.