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The San Francisco Daily Morning Call, September 4, 1864


The examination of Simon Lewis, the pawnbroker, charged with exacting usurious interest, was concluded yesterday, in the Police Court. The testimony for the prosecution presents this state of facts: Adolph Warner took a watch, with chain attached, to the shop of the pawnbroker and pledged it for forty dollars, but did not receive the ticket which the law requires pawnbrokers to give in all cases to the person pledging an article, containing a description of the article, number of the pawn, and date of the transaction, signed by the broker. When Warner's wife discovered that he had left the watch with Lewis, without taking a ticket, she went herself for it, and received from the broker two tickets, one for the watch and one for the chain, purporting to evidence two separate loans of twenty dollars each, instead of one entire loan of forty dollars. The law prohibits pawnbrokers from taking a greater amount of interest than four per cent on sums over twenty dollars; but on sums of twenty dollars, and under, they are in the habit of charging ten per cent. The prosecution claims that his was but one loan, but that defendant had bifurcated the pledge so as to reduce the sums to within the limit upon which the high rates are charged, and thus compelled him to pay ten, instead of four per cent. The case looked badly for the pawnbroker; but when his own books were introduced in evidence, with his own clerk to explain them, of course Lewis would be exculpated, at least in the eye of the law; that is to say, he would - and he did - escape through a mere doubt - a doubt in law, but nowhere else. Lewis had the manufacturing of all the record and documentary evidence himself, and he would have been a more stupid knave than is generally to be found among pawn brokers, if he had not made it to suit his side of the case in the event of a future controversy about it. From the contradictory character of the evidence, the Judge could not convict the defendant, but he delivered a short and pointed homily on the subject of honesty, as the best policy, and gave notice that he would be somewhat rigorous in future complaints of that sort.

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