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Hattie Carroll: continued

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Murder Ballads
Secret London

Turning to the media's 1963 coverage of Carroll's death, Sprague adds: “They made it sound like he was Rhett Butler, riding around on a white horse with a whip. He was just an unfortunate victim of his times, because in the 60s with integration going on, that played well.” He dismisses Dylan's song, saying: “If Paul Anka wrote it, I'd be concerned. But that's just my personal opinion.”
Carlson also talked to Eloise Crain, a rich old lady who'd lived in Charles County all her life. “Billy was drunk,” she admits. “He was wrong. But is he going to have to pay for that for the rest of his life? [...] He could have done it to a white person. Would there have been such a furore? I wouldn't condemn him.”
What Crain ignores is the fact that - drunk as he was that night - Zantzinger would never have dreamed of treating a white barmaid with the casual contempt he showed towards Hattie Carroll. He may well have found the mood of the times moving against him, as Sprague suggests, but no-one asked him to behave like such a thug at the Spinsters' Ball, and that's a responsibility he has to bear for himself. “Can you imagine waking up from a drunk to find you'd done something like that?” Bobby Phelps, another old friend of Zantzinger's, asked. “I'd have probably blown my brains out if it had been me.” (36)
Soon after Carlson's piece appeared, the Post reported that Zantzinger had been indicted for rent theft, on a charge sheet that now comprised two counts of felony theft and 50 of unfair and deceptive trade practices. A second development at Indian Head was cited alongside the Patuxent Woods properties, adding an extra $4,750 to the rent Zantzinger had wrongly collected. He was arrested and released on personal bond. “Each felony count carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $1,000 fine,” the Post noted.
The case reached court on November 18, 1991, with Zantzinger pleading guilty to the misdemeanours and prosecutors dropping his two felony charges in return. Evidence presented in court revealed he had concealed the Patuxent Woods income stream in his 1988 divorce, acknowledging that he no longer held title to the properties. This scuppered any possible argument that he had continued collecting rents there in good faith.
The court also heard not only of Zantzinger's manslaughter conviction, but also about his three court appearances for drunken driving. Judge Steven Platt said the manslaughter conviction “did not weigh heavily in this proceeding” and that “we're not here to deal with your alcohol problem, if you have one”. But he rejected defence attorney Franklin Olmsted's argument that Zantzinger's misdemeanours amounted to a victimless crime. (37)
Even in the trial, Zantzinger continued to attract some surprising supporters. John Savoy had already told Carlson that he'd always got along pretty well with his landlord, and sometimes cut his lawn for an above-average $35 fee. “I never had any trouble with him,” Savoy had said, adding that he and his neighbours never demanded improvements at Patuxent Woods because they feared these would bring an increase in the rent. And now a handful of tenants testified that, without Zantzinger, they would have been living on the streets. “He's not a bad guy,” Patuxent Woods' Hilda Ford told the court. “He's a pretty nice fellow, but he should never have taken that rent.”

This time, the judge ensured Zantzinger left in handcuffs to begin his jail term straight away

Rev Arnold Taylor, Zantzinger's pastor, added: “He's affable and a person who's good-hearted. He is generous in giving to people and the church.” Prosecuting council Leonard Collins, on the other hand, said Zantzinger was “dumb like a fox” and called him “a moderate criminal”.
The judge caught this contradiction in Zantzinger's character when he summed up the case, saying he was “a more complex human being” than either his supporters or detractors tended to portray. “You are capable of great compassion for other human beings,” Platt told him. “At the same time, you are capable of committing acts with a certain amount of arrogance and disrespect for the government and those who you perceive to be of a different station in life than you are.”
Pleading for leniency, Zantzinger replied: “I never intended to hurt anyone ever, ever. It's not my nature. I got into this hole, dug it, it was my mistake. It got deeper and deeper. I've learned my lesson, believe me.” Platt sentenced him to 18 months on work-release in the county jail, plus 2,400 hours of community service with local housing charities and penalties and fines of $62,000. This time, the judge denied his request for time to set his affairs in order, and Zantzinger was led away in handcuffs to begin his sentence immediately.
A few months later, the Maryland Real Estate Commission declined to renew Zantzinger's licence, and levied a $2,000 fine of its own against him. The Patuxent Woods buildings, they said, were “ramshackle, primitive structures reminiscent of slave quarters”. The idea of Charles County launching a civil suit against Zantzinger was quietly dropped because it was felt the county's half share of his $50,000 fine amounted to restitution for the diverted rents anyway.
The county decided to spend all of its $370,000 federal community development grant on Patuxent Woods, and won a National Association of Counties aware for its redevelopment work there. The Waldorf Independent remarked that this should have been a geography award, recognising the county's achievement in finally discovering the whereabouts of a place it had owned since 1986. (38)
One effect of the Patuxent Woods case was to bring Hattie Carroll's story back into the public consciousness, even for people who may never have heard Dylan's song. Every newspaper that reported Zantzinger's new sentence included a few pars reminding people of the Spinsters' Ball incident, and some ran the old pics of him in handcuffs after his 1963 arrest too. If anyone had been in danger of forgetting Zantzinger's history, they sure knew about it now.
This renewed awareness haunted Zantzinger for the rest of his life, as a few quick examples will show:

* In 1998, speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, Professor Sean Wilentz asked why Republicans were “describing Bill Clinton as if he were William Zantzinger”. (39)

* In 2005, a Maryland newspaper reported some accidental fire damage on Zantzinger's Chaptico estate under the headline “Fire Scorches Garage of High Society Killer”. Only eight of the story's 22 lines were devoted to the fire, the rest going to Hattie Carroll's killing (another eight lines) and the Patuxent Woods affair (six lines). This time the vintage pic they chose showed Zantzinger cuffed in the back of a paddy wagon. (40)

* In 2006, Matt Boyd and Ian McConville used Zantzinger in their Three Panel Soul webcomic, picturing him as a snooty, aristocratic figure in a bow tie, a white suit and a white fedora. One of the other characters in the strip quickly Googles “William Zanzinger” and then returns with a frown to announce “There's something wrong with you.” (41)