The Grafters Club

The Membership


To Clarke



Tom Clarke

Clarke and the Blongers went way back, to Cripple Creek days in the early 1890s at least, and he was above all the kind of cop the Bros. could do business with.

Here's a detail from a photo depicting four familiar faces circa 1890: Denver County Sheriff William Burchinell, Deputy William Arnett, Deputy Leonard DeLue, and Deputy Thomas Clark(e).

Denver Deputies

Burchinell recruited Denver gamblers and bunko men to defend city hall from the militia in 1894. DeLue, later a city detective, and then owner of his own detective agency, would eventually introduce Lou to Van Cise, the man who would end his criminal career. Arnett would go on to the Department of Justice, and assist Lou during his trial. And Clarke? Read on.

In Wildest of the West, author Forbes Parkhill, the Post reporter who covered Lou's arrest and trial, relates what happened when the jury went to deliberate — the defense having rested without rebuttal, confident in their belief that the State had not proven its case:

Deciding they needed entertainment while they waited, the small army of reporters staged a mock rape trial during the absence of the judge. Their most dignified member took the part of the judge, their ugliest became the defendant and was led handcuffed into the prisoner's dock. A lovely young sob sister was the complaining witness and testified from the witness stand in detail concerning the alleged offense...
When the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to twenty-five years in the state penitentiary, he cursed the judge as he was led struggling from the courtroom. The fascinated courtroom spectators never doubted that they were witnessing an actual criminal trial.
The following day, all the newsmen and court attachés were summoned before the grand jury. Strangely enough, none of the reporters could recall the source of the refreshments that inspired the mock rape trial. The deputy sheriff who had brought the liquor for the bunco-case defendants was fined one hundred dollars.

He was referring, of course, to Chief Deputy Sheriff Clarke, and the bootleg liquor he donated to a little pre-acquittal party in his office with Lou, Duff, Jackie French, a few young ladies — and a few reporters. Later that night, a drunken Clarke gave Van Cise a piece of his mind, and lost his job for it.

Denver Post, March 29, 1923

In addition, federal warrants are out for Duff, French, and Beech, charging them with working a confidence game in Florida. Other defendants are wanted in various parts of the country. Duff, French, and Blonger were indicted by the grand jury Wednesday with former Chief Deputy Tom Clarke for their alleged part in the drunken debauch which desecrated the grand jury room of the west side court building last Saturday afternoon.

Called Hal Crane in Van Cise's book, Clarke — an extortionist by trade — was just the kind of cop Van Cise feared would blow his investigation. Clarke was in charge of the Denver criminal courts, where the juries were always susceptible to his influence. He also ran black gambling and prostitution in town. He was noted as an old friend of Mayor Bailey, with whom he had been a U.S. Marshal.

Rocky Mountain News, March 27, 1923

To Mayor Dewey C. Bailey:
Yesterday you caused to be printed in the paid advertising columns of the Denver papers an announcement of your candidacy for re-election as mayor of Denver.
In justice to the main prominent and law-abiding citizens whose names you caused to be printed in your paid ad you might give publicity to your views on certain things that at this minute are agitating Denver.
...CAN YOU AND WILL YOU EXPLAIN why Tom Clarke, your deputy sheriff, was permitted to make honor guests of certain members of this alleged confidence gang and turn over to them a room in the West Side court building for the staging of a wild orgy, when in all justice they shoud be behind bars the same as any other alleged law violator awaiting decision of a jury?

Clarke served as one of Lou's pall bearers.