Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

In 1916 Dr. Swett tried to blackmail Mabel Normand but she called his bluff and called the cops







            Mabel Normand, the noted film actress caused the arrest last night of Raymond A. Swett of 228 North Wilton Place on a charge of attempted blackmail. Swett was trapped in her apartments by two city detectives who had been gathering evidence against him for several weeks following a complaint made to Chief of Police Snively by Miss Normand. The detectives charge Dr. Swett with attempting to extort $610 from Miss Normand as “hush” money and that he threatened if she did not pay him he would circulate stories that would operate to her discredit.

            For three weeks Miss Normand had kept officers on Swett's trail in an effort to “catch him with the goods.” Last night was the first opportunity the detectives had of springing traps that had been repeatedly set for him. Swett says he was employed by a private detective agency in New York to “get dope on Miss Nor­mand” but he refused to give the name of his employer

            Swett went to Miss Normand's suite in the Baltic Apartments 1127 Orange Street, early last evening, following an appointment. He didn't even know that dictagraphs had been set in the room to record every word spoken; neither did he know that Police Detec­tive Frank Edmondson and an assistant were hiding in a clothes closet with their ears to a crack under the door.

            According to the detective Swett at once launched into an argument with Miss Normand about her giving him $610. He exhibited a deputy sheriff's badge, the officer said, and declared he would circulate certain stories unless Miss Normand paid him the money.

            Miss Normand. however, declared she could not afford to pay him that sum and asked him to accept $300. This was practically agreed upon, according to the officer, and the film actress handed Swett a marked $20 bill as first payment. At that juncture the detective and another man who had been assigned to help stepped into the room and seized Swett. Although the officers say Swett was armed with a pistol, he made no attempt to use it and went with them peaceably after he had been handcuffed.

            Swett, the police say, told them that he had been employed by a New York detective agency to get information about Miss Normand, and that certain persons were paying the detective agency large sums for this work. He said he was to receive $610 for his work, which was $10 a day.

            Miss Normand complained to the police three weeks ago that she was being annoyed by Dr. Swett. Chief of Police Snively detailed Detective Edmondson on the case and he had been on it ever since. The officer planned with Miss Normand to trap Swett into making a formal demand for money in the hearing of witnesses. A dictagraph was placed in her room, with the wire leading into an adjoining apartment.

            According to the officers, Swett would call Miss Normand up by telephone and make appointments to call on her at her own apartments, but time after time he failed to appear. He had been to her place while she was present only once before, officers say, and that was when the first alleged demand was made for “hush” money...

Los Angeles Examiner, August 25, 1916




Charge To Fleece Actresses


            Asserting that she was “not afraid” to prosecute, but that the decision rested with police, Mabel Normand, famous movie comedienne, today revealed the details of the alleged attempt of Dr. Raymond A. Swett to blackmail her.

            Swett, the police say, has confessed to having attempted to extort money from Miss Normand by threatening to circulate stories to her discredit.

            “He’s a bad man,” said Miss Normand. “I would like to see him punished. I am not afraid of his threats, but I will let the police decide what to do.”

            New charges were brought against the prisoner by Kaplan Brothers, manufacturing jewelers of 401 Title Guarantee building. The jewelers accused Dr. Swett of stealing $100 in gold from the company.

            With the arrest of Dr. Swett the police began an investiga­tion of an alleged blackmail clique which, it is claimed, has victimized beautiful Los Angeles motion picture actresses.

            Miss Normand told her story to a reporter for The Evening Herald as she was “making up” in her dressing room at her studio.

            “The whole affair was terribly exciting,” she said. I was frightened once or twice. It all seems so mysterious and strange to me.

            “I first met this Dr. Swett several weeks ago. He telephoned and asked for an appointment. He came to my apartment and when we were alone he told me this story:

            “He said he was employed by someone in New York to watch me. He said he shadowed me for sixty-one days and that he was paid $10 a day. He said he had ‘a lot of stuff on me.’

            “‘You know,’” he said to me, “‘little presents are sometimes made in cases like this. If you pay me what is coming to me I will forget everything I know.’

            “I thought he was insane. If he had asked me for the money I would have loaned it to him. I didn’t know what to think so I told him to get out of my apartment.

            “Then he began telephoning me. Each time he would tell me I had better look out. He told me he would tell things about me that would not sound nice. I asked him what this information was.

            “Never once did he hint to me what he ‘had on me.’ I know he was bluffing. I am not afraid to have people know what I do. He told me that if I paid him $610 he would tear up the reports he had made. I asked to see these reports but he refused.

            “He told me what a bad man he was. Once he showed me a revolver and told me how he shot from the hip. I was frightened then, but I wouldn’t let him know it.

“Finally I went to Mr. Claybaugh, who is secretary to Chief Snively. Frank Edmondson was detailed to work the case and he followed Swett for a while. Then we laid a trap for him and he was arrested.

            “I really can’t imagine what he thought he knew about me that would hurt me. I know no on in New York who is so interested in me as to hire someone to follow me.

            “It all seems like I was playing in a picture only it was too real. I will do what the officers think best. If they want to prosecute Swett I will help them. If not, I won’t.”

            Dr. Swett according to Detective Edmondson, is a dentist and lives at 328 North Wilton place. The police say he has confessed to attempting to blackmail Miss Normand.

            Swett, at the city jail, said.

            “Miss Normand has a sweetheart back in New York. I was employed to watch her and report to New York what she did. I did not try to blackmail Miss Normand. I only tried to do her a favor.”

            Swett was arrested in Miss Normand’s suite at the Baltic apartments. The officers used a dictagraph to record the conver­sation between Miss Normand and the man. When the film actress handed Swett a marked $20 bill officers stepped form their hiding place and arrested him.

            To lure Swett into the trap, Miss Normand consented to pay him $300 for his silence. The $20 bill was the first payment on the $300 “hush” money.    

            Mrs. George R. Jones proprietor of the Baltic apartments, said:

            “Miss Normand has been a guest here for two years. Her conduct has been beyond reproach.”

Los Angeles Evening Herald, August 25, 1916





Swett Complaint In Extortion Case Delayed


            Whether or not a complaint shall be issued against Dr. Raymond A. Swett of 228 North Wilton Place on a charge of extor­tion has not been decided by Assistant City Prosecutor Fred Morton.

            Swett was arrested last night in Miss Mabel Normand's suite in the Baltic Apartments, 1127 Orange Street, by Detective Frank Edmondson after, it is claimed he had attempted to make the popular screen star give him more than $600 to suppress startling information he claimed to have against her.

            From his city jail today Swett issued a defy against Miss Normand. “I have the evidence against her and she knows it,” he said. “I was employed by a party in New York to trail her and learn what she was doing. The evidence I gathered was of a star­tling and sensational nature.

            “It was at other parties' suggestion that I accept money from Miss Normand and I heartily believe she will not press the charge.”

            But Miss Normand says she will press the charge. When inter­viewed in her studio, while she paused between scenes in a new film drama, she said:

            “It was purely a scheme to force me to contribute money under threat of exposure of acts of which I was not guilty.

            “I do not believe any one in New York ever employed Mr. Swett to follow me.

            “I know but three people in the whole city of New York and none of them well enough to justify their employing a private detective to spy upon my actions.

            “I have done nothing of which I am ashamed and certainly insist that Mr. Swett be prosecuted on the charge of extortion.”

            Miss Normand will visit the city prosecutor's office and there hold a conference with Mr. Morton some time today.

            After conferring with Miss Normand, Mr. Morton will decide whether he will issue a complaint against Swett.

Los Angeles Evening Express, August 25, 1916







Blackmailer's Given Freedom



            Mabel Normand, motion-picture star, refuses to prosecute Dr. Raymond A. Swett, confessed blackmailer and ex-convict, who was arrested Thursday night in her apartment while attempting to extort $610 from her. Because Swett has a wife and child depend­ent on him, Miss Normand informed the police, she did not wish to be responsible for sending him to the penitentiary. He was re­leased from the city Jail last night.

            Early in the afternoon, through his attorney, Swett sent the following letter to Miss Normand:

            “Realizing the position into which I have thrust myself by my own actions and statements, and the predicaments I now face, I take this means of communicating to you the real facts of the case as it stands.

            “For some weeks past I have been facing a financial crisis that seemed more than I could bear, and which I knew was more than I could meet. Obligation after obligation loomed up in front of me like a mountain in size. All of my schemes to make money seemed to fail just when they looked most promising.

            “Then the thought came to me that possibly I might be able to make money out of some one who was well known to the public, and your name suggested itself. I was not hired to shadow or follow you, but took it upon myself to do so. In all the times I was near you there was really nothing that could be criticized, yet for the sake of what I was after I made statements that were really false in every detail. You checkmated my moves and beat me to it on the finish.

            “I have a wife, child and father dependent on me. They will be the ones to suffer if you see fit to go on with the prosecu­tion. I have come to you clean with my story of wrongdoing, and now ask that you show clemency for their sakes if not my own. Will you kindly consider and give your answer to the bearer?”

            The letter was signed with Chief Snively as a witness.

            In reply Miss Normand wrote to Chief Snively:

            “I am in receipt of a communication, from Dr. Raymond A. Swett. After reading his letter very carefully it is naturally very gratifying to have him acknowledge his attempt to blackmail me.

            “While I feel that I am doing an injustice to the public at large by not prosecuting Dr. Swett to the full extent of the law, I am constrained to hear his plea for clemency on account of his wife, child and father, whom I find to be wholly dependent on him for a livelihood.

            “I feel perfectly willing to drop the case as it stands and have Dr. Swett released to his wife and child.”

            Immediately after receipt of the letter Swett was released.

            He bears a prison record. After serving a term in the Wisconsin State Penitentiary he was sought by the authorities of Fort Worth, Texas where it was alleged he looted a contribution box in the Catholic Church while being befriended by a father.

            June 14, 1907, he was arrested here on a charge of felony embezzlement in connection with the transaction with a tailoring company. He was sentenced August 10, 1907, to serve three years in San Quentin.

            Two years ago yesterday he was in an automobile accident and he was arrested for reckless driving. He was charged with having imperiled the lives of three occupants of the other car.

            He was married six years ago to a Los Angeles girl to whom he had been engaged before his last incarceration. She waited through his term to wed him.

Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1916