July 12, 2007 -- La Cañada Valley Sun

"Around Town:"The Anonymous Source Strikes Again"

By Anita Susan Brenner

I was still at the coffee place. The Anonymous Source, an attractive lady in her 40s, had come and gone, leaving behind a folder full of news clippings. Hundreds of them. Yellowed with age.

Paris Hilton was lucky she was prosecuted by Rocky Delgadillo and not by Asa Keyes. In his five years as district attorney of Los Angeles, Asa Keyes sent 4,030 men and women to California prisons "for every variety of crime." He had a great career until the day he was charged with taking bribes.

Bribes from bankers.

Keyes's downfall, in 1927, came as an aftermath of the collapse of the $40 million Julian Petroleum Corp. stock swindle.

Forty million dollars!

When Keyes was "called upon to prosecute the stock cheats under California's corporation laws," he responded instead with a motion to dismiss the charges.

The judge denied the motion. "The trial dragged to an acquittal. Judge Doran flayed District Attorney Keyes for his lackadaisical methods of prosecution."

Five months later Keyes was indicted for conspiracy to receive a bribe from the men he had so feebly prosecuted in the Julian case. "Keyes was sentenced to 14 years in San Quentin."

I vaguely remembered the Julian Stock Swindle — a group of local bankers sold 3,614% of a company, despite the lack of oil fields. But what did any of this have to do with La Cañada?

There are no oil fields in La Cañada.

Then I noticed the next clipping. One of the acquitted bankers was Motley H. Flint.

"Flint?" I muttered. "Motley Flint?"

Suddenly, I remembered. There was this fellow named Frank Putnam Flint. Frank was the developer of La Cañada Flintridge, a one-term state Senator, a U.S. Attorney and an advocate of the Mission style in architecture.

Motley Flint was Frank's younger brother.

Plus which, Motley was a banker. Motley was charged (and acquitted) by Asa Keyes in the Julian Bank Scandal.

The criminal acquittal was followed by the civil trial.

One day during the civil trial, a man named Frank D. Keaton came to the courtroom. Mr. Keaton had lost a lot of money on the Julian stock deal. The trial of the bankers appealed to Mr. Keaton.

On this particular day, Frank Keaton walked into the courtroom.

"Motley Fool!" Keaton yelled.

Everyone turned.

But when Keaton reached into his pocket, people in the courtroom gasped.

Even the bailiff watched helplessly as Keaton took out a revolver.

And then, Keaton shot Motley Flint. Shot him dead right there in the Los Angeles Superior Court. During the trial. The date was Monday, July 21, 1930.

Afterward, the detectives discovered that Motley had come to court with $63,000 cash in his pocket.

Keaton had come to court with ten cents.

And a handgun.

Anita Susan Brenner is a longtime La Cañada resident and an attorney in private practice in Pasadena.