November 26, 1934: Drama in the Courtroom Yields Merciful Suspension of Sentencing


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

November 26, 1934: Anthony Henry, a businessman from Bally, who had been charged on September 27 with aggravated assault and battery in the brutal beating of 17-year-old Julia Billy, was tried in Berks County court today in one of the most hectic sessions the new court house has every witnessed.

Judge H. Robert Mays sentenced Henry to one month to one year in prison and fines totaling $225. The younger Henry “swooned,” his father Irvin fainted and his mother Mary became hysterical and was stricken with a heart attack after hearing the verdict.

Her priest, Father Charles L. Allwein from Most Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church in Bally was called to the court house, and he found her to be in a very critical condition. One of the Henry family’s lawyers, H. Leon Breidenbach, who said she was likely to die if her son went to jail, asked the court to suspend the sentence. The Judge said it would be up to Julia to make that decision.

Sobbing, choking, and with tears streaming down her cheeks, Julia agreed, “I will forgive and forget—but he must do the same.” It was reported that her magnanimity and sincerity brought tears to the eyes of every man and woman in the court room. The other family attorney, Ralph C. Body wept openly, and tears welled in the sheriff’s eyes. Mays then revoked the first sentence and placed Henry under probation for one year.

He lectured Henry. “I hope you appreciate what this little girl has done for you—that you shall never do such a thing again. Are you prepared to do that?” “Yes, sir,” Henry replied and Julia impulsively walked over to him and kissed him.

Bent on making her forgiveness complete, she hurried to the room where Mary Henry was being treated and leaned over to embrace the older woman, who said “I’m sorry” to Julia. She then turned to Anthony’s wife, who had also suffered many beatings from her husband and was standing with three of her seven children, and hugged and kissed all of them. To complete the family reconciliation, Anthon’s father Irvin and his brother Leo also hugged Julia.

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