It is said that timing is everything. One person who would have agreed with that observation was Harold Wilson, who lived in the tiny town of Juntura, in Malheur County. A local farmer who did jobs for ranchers around the area, Wilson was convicted at trial of operating a still and was sentenced to one year in the State Penitentiary. He appealed his conviction to the Oregon Supreme Court, which reaffirmed the lower court’s verdict.
Malheur County’s Sheriff, Charles Glenn, along with two deputies, followed leads that led them to an operating still in a remote area near Trail Creek. There they found Jim Miller and Phoebe Rust, and put them under arrest. While the Sheriff led them to his car in order to take them to jail, the deputies waited at the still overnight for Glenn to return.
The next day they saw a figure approach the area on horseback, along with two pack horses. When Wilson spotted the two deputies, he quickly moved out of sight and unpacked the horses before continuing to the camp, where he was quickly arrested. The contents he had abandoned included corn, sugar, and two empty kegs, and were seized as evidence. Deputy Leavitt testified, “It was taken off in a hurry, it was scattered around like a fellow just jumped off and loosened it and it scattered.”
Wilson lied about the existence of the supplies, and then contended that he had no interest in the still; although he admitted he knew of its existence. When evidence was submitted to show that Wilson himself purchased the supplies, he contended that Oscar Rust, the still’s owner, was unable to obtain store credit and so he purchased the goods for Rust. Evidence was provided to show this was not the case.
At trial, Miller and Mrs. Rust (along with the deputy sheriffs) testified against Wilson. Deputy Leavitt described the following exchange: “I said, ‘What did you do with those pack horses?’ ‘I didn’t have no pack horses.’ I says, ‘You might tell that to somebody but you couldn’t tell that to me.’” Ultimately Wilson served his entire one year sentence in the penitentiary, a victim of poor timing that was compounded by lies that were easily disproven.