Los Angeles, 1898 - The De Grazia divorce suit was full of surprises, and became far more juicy on the second day of its trial than it was on the first, and at one time, there was a prospect of its dragging in the superior court for an indefinite period before it wended its way up to the Supreme Court. Judge Allen decided on Friday, when denying defendant's motion for a non-suit that the plaintiff had made out a sufficient case to entitle her, unless the defendant's testimony should therefore be conclusively to the contrary, to have the standing in court of a common law wife.
Louis De Grazia not only attempted to show that Carmela De Grazia was merely his mistress but offered to show that the woman had been guilty of improper conduct with other men at an epoch when, if she really considered herself to be his wife, such acts constituted adultery.
After ruling against this class of evidence, the court modified its order so that the door was opened wide for all of it, and some naughty tales then were registered against Mrs. Carmela, who shook her head furiously and blazed repeated denials from her sloe black eyes at those who maligned her.
The first witness introduced by the defendant was another Carmela, somewhat the worse for wear, who spoke as much with shoulders, arms, elbows, hands and fingertips as in her mother tongue which was interpreted into English. She put her hand to her heart, bowed and smiled a seraphic smirk upon being asked what her business was. She said that she was the proprietor of Sundry Pianos, which she rents out at so much per month. She is not running in opposition to the great music dealers of this city because her instruments are "da grinda piano," with a handle and a push wagon. Her husband he "play da piano dat way" at a saloon on Aliso and Alameda streets, and the way he grinds out "da musica" has proven so eminently satisfactory to the Signor Ordoqui and his customers that the engagement of the virtuoso has already extended over one year. This Carmela was ten months ago a neighbor of the Carmela who now wants redress, and she had heard her "vicina" say repeatedly that she was not married to Louis. Another lady had heard similar talk.
The attempt was now made by putting Giovanni Paretti, a knife grinder, on the stand to prove that the plaintiff had had illicit intercourse with other men, but the court ruled it out, because adultery had not been set up in the answer. It is true that gross immorality was charged, but Judge Allen held that the allegation was too broad.
Mr. Paretti all this time sat waiting for his chance to unfold his tale, and when he got his cue he immediately started in to tell how he had seen Mrs. De Grazia in bed in plain daylight with an American a year ago this month. She told him as an excuse afterward that it did not matter, as she was not married to Louis.
This evidence was ruled out by the court because marrying could not be disproved in this fashion, and when one G. C. Hitchcock attempted to tell a similar story he was not permitted to proceed on the ground that the plaintiff had not been given notice that such kind of evidence would be used against her, and, as it took her by surprise, she was unable now to protect herself.
W. D. Gould, for the defendant, then made a motion to be permitted to amend the complaint, and after some sparring between the attorneys this request was granted, with the provision that the court would make an order compelling De Grazia to pay the costs which might be incurred by the pseudo wife in procuring evidence to combat the charges of impurity, with which she was now assailed, and that she would hereafter be enabled to present such testimony before the court ere the trial ended, if necessary.
Everything being now smoothed down, the man Hitchcock, who represented himself as painter and paper hanger, temporarily out of work, told how in July of last year, while on a visit to the house of Paretti, he had seen one Henry Herron in bed with Carmela at her home on Ord street, which was contiguous to that of his host. On cross-examination, he said that it was at the suggestion made recently by Paretti that he had visited De Grazia at his store to tell him what he had witnessed, and that he had not received any money for his service.
The Signor Paretti was then recalled and permitted to go into some of the details of his discovery. He lived, he said, at 415 Ord Street, and Mrs. Carmela was his next-door neighbor, there being nothing but a fence between the two dwellings.
One day, a year ago this month, he had invited his good friend Hitchcock to a chicken dinner and spaghetti, and while carrying out to the back yard the remnants of the banquet, he saw Carmela in bed with one Herron, a collector for a store, who was also a picture painter.
In the afternoon a private watchman called Malkin said that Pietro, one of De Grazia's brothers, who is a barber, told him one day that he didn't like the way his brother Michael was carrying on with Carmela, and requested witness to watch them. He and another deputy constable named Young followed the plaintiff and Mike a couple of times at night after they closed the store. They went to Carmela's house on Castelar Street, and when the watchers left after midnight Michael was still inside and the house was pretty dark. Malkin had seen other men hanging round the woman's home.
E. J. Young, another spotter, testified that he had watched Carmela's house repeatedly when Michael had gone into it at night and that on at least three occasions the man had remained there until daylight. Another time he walked in unexpectedly upon them. Carmela was sitting on Michael's lap, embracing him. The impudent fellow then excused himself and walked away.
The application of the defendant to be admitted as a member of Columbus Court in the Order of Foresters of America was again introduced and the signatures of some of the subscribing witnesses were acknowledged by these parties, who had been called on behalf of the defendant to testify that it was of public notoriety that he and Carmela merely lived in concubinage. This was rough on these parties, as the application mentioned that De Grazia was a married man and that his wife was Carmela A. de Grazia, aged 24.
The defendant took the stand and denied that he had ever agreed with Carmela that she should be his wife. She had asked him many times to, but he always replied that she was not honest enough a woman to be his wife.
The Signor Fausto de Grazia then told of his own particular garden scene with this Margherita, which led to the peck of trouble into which he is now plunged. Changing the subject, he dwelt upon the property to which Carmela lays claim in her complaint, and testified that it had been acquired by his own means and exertions.
The Judge stated positively that there was no need of introducing any testimony to rebut that respecting the alleged unchaste acts related in court against Carmela. There had been introduced none worthy of belief that she had been guilty of misconduct with men. The court reserved the right to ignore the testimony of any set of men, base enough to spy upon their fellow citizens for pay and shameless enough to admit it.
The story of the "Paretti" episode was utterly unworthy of credence. It contained all the elements of improbability. After reviewing briefly the legal and moral aspects of the case and the presumptions which arose from the facts as determined by the evidence, Judge Allen declared that Louis and Carmela were husband and wife, but he would withhold his final judgment as to permanent alimony until he learned what the litigants expected to do under the ruling he had made as to their marital status. If they propose to live as husband and wife, well and good. If not, some order would have to be made in the premises.
Source: LOS ANGELES HERALD: SUNDAY MORNING, JULY 10, 1898