Hidden History: Wash Loomis, Part 3

Roscoe Cokling Defends Accused Murderer of Gang Leader

UTICA - As James Filkins' defense attorney, Utica Congressman Roscoe Conkling was able to get the trial postponed for a year and a half.

By the time it finally took place in June of 1867, Conkling was a U.S. Senator and things had fallen apart for the Loomis Gang.

The killing of an elderly woman during a robbery attempt turned the gang's allies against it, the remaining hierarchy was arrested for counterfeiting, and Filkins himself was shot during a raid on the Loomis camp.

The shooting united an anti-gang vigilante movement and resulted in another raid in which the Loomis house was burned to the ground.

The Filkins trial at the Rome courthouse was the final insult. Roscoe Conkling argued that the indictment against his client should be quashed.

The two most important prosecution witnesses -- George Jones and Charles Bird -- claimed that they saw Filkins kill Wash Loomis, but neither of them showed up to testify before the grand jury in person. They signed and filed affidavits instead which were read into the record.

Conkling claimed that because Filkins had been denied the right to confront his accusers, his indictment had been illegally obtained.

Judge Henry Foster agreed, setting the indictment aside and leaving Filkins a free man. The D.A.'s office never indicted him again.

One by one, the members of the Loomis Gang died, the last being Wheeler Loomis in 1911. Many of them are buried in the Sangerfield cemetery.


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