Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Frank Emi Interview
Narrator: Frank Emi
Interviewers: Emiko Omori (primary), Chizu Omori (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: March 20, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-efrank-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

EO: Let's move on to your trial.

FE: Okay. We were picked up by the FBI... actually, before the FBI picked us up there had come and interview, interviewed the leaders of the Fair Play Committee a couple of times. And in my case, I didn't give 'em any information at all. And that's why as I'll relate later on at the trial what they did, tried to do. After the first couple of visits, then we understood they had a grand jury, indicted us in secret and the FBI came and arrested us and we were taken by auto from Heart Mountain to Cheyenne. We stopped one night at Casper, Wyoming, stayed one night there and then we kept on going. And riding with us from Casper was another prisoner, he was a Caucasian, young Caucasian man, he was an escape artist. He had escaped two or three times before, so this time he was, they had him, shackles on his foot and his hand was in irons. And when they would take us to a restaurant to have lunch or something, there were three of us. I, Paul Nakadate, Guntaro Kubota, I guess, three, three of us were taken to these restaurants with this fellow clanking along with this shackle on his feet. It was kind of a funny sight, I imagine. Anyway, we spent one night in Casper and then we were sent, taken to Cheyenne by car. And while we were waiting for a trial, they put us in a county jail, we were in Cheyenne jail for a few days, and then we were transferred to the Laramie County Jail because I think Cheyenne jail was kind of crowded and it was pretty dirty. So, Paul and I and Sam Horino and Guntaro Kubota and Kiyoshi Okamoto were all at the county jail in Laramie and if I'm not mistaken, I think James Omura was there with us, too. And while there, there was a resident of, Japanese resident of Laramie that used to come and visit us and brought us onigiri, musubi, Japanese food, and used to cheer us up there, and later we took a photograph with him, Sam and Kubota and I and Mr. Adachi, was his name. We took a photograph with him and I think I brought a copy of it here.

At the trial, each one of us were put on the stand and the prosecution had expected us to probably deny everything, so they had brought a so-called witness primarily against myself, only against me, because at the time the FBI had questioned me in camp, I did not give them any information at all. But they knew I was active in the Fair Play Committee because...


Yes, this witness was named Jack Nishimoto and we were wondering what he was doing there at the trial, no reason for him to be there, because none of us had ever had any dealings with him except at camp I used to, in fact, do favors for him. I would bring him some tofu when I was working at the tofu factory because he lived in the barrack behind me. And he used to work with... make models, you know, model airplanes and things like that and we'd go over there and see him work on that. And when I was driving the truck I used give him rides sometimes. Then he would come over to my barrack sometime and we'd talk. Well, that's why we were wondering, then when he got up on the stand started telling all kinds of lies, things that never happened. He was saying that I, for one thing, he said I told Mrs. Kawamoto, when Dave Kawamoto was picked up by the FBI for refusing to answer the draft, he said that I told his mother, "Don't worry, the Fair Play Committee will take care of him." Which was a bald-faced lie. And he said that I told him that if this doesn't come out the way I wanted it to come out that I was going back to Japan, which was also a bare-faced lie. So anyway, Mrs. -- later, Mrs. Kawamoto got on the stand and completely refuted what he said. And the reason I think the FBI had him on the stand to implicate me is because they didn't have concrete evidence in my interview with the FBI, of anything.

So, well, when the defense took the stand, we completely did the unexpected. Instead of trying to hide anything, we came out and said, "Yes, we did it. We put out the bulletins. We had mass meetings. We explained about the situation, the draft situation to people, and we encouraged people not to..." etcetera, etcetera. Well, the prosecution was a little taken, taken aback because they didn't expect us to come out and admit all this. And we said that we did this because we felt that the draft was, as applied to the camps, was unconstitutional, that it wasn't right. It was unfair, and unjust and immoral. And that's why, actually, the testimony by Jack Nishimoto was irrelevant. He just opened himself up as an informer and a dog. And later, in the FBI, the declassified FBI files, I found that the community analyst had talked to Jack Nishimoto, and he had been being used as an informer trying to find out about my things. He explained that he had come to my barrack to see what he could find, and he saw some documents around but he didn't know what it was because he didn't read 'em, but in other words, he was acting, acting like a spy for the FBI at that time in camp.

Well, the upshot of the trial was that after I guess maybe a week of it, we figured we had a pretty good case because our attorney was a very sharp constitutional lawyer, presented a very good case. But we heard that one weekend, this Judge Eugene Rice had gone duck hunting with the district attorney who was prosecuting us. So when we heard of that, why, our attorney said, "Well, you know, there goes your case. We'll probably have to take this up to the appellate court." And sure enough, that's what happened. We were convicted and sentenced to, we were convicted of conspiracy to violate selective service, aiding and abetting and counseling others to resist the selective service law. And we were given the sentence of four years in a federal penitentiary. And we appealed that and the attorney had asked the judge to let us out on appeal into the camps, pending the appellate court's decision. But the judge called us... what did he say? "You're agitators, troublemakers," and refused to grant us any bail while the appeal was in process. So we...

EO: Just a minute.

FE: Yes.

EO: Did you have a jury trial?

FE: Yes, we opted for a jury trial and nevertheless, when the jury rendered the decision, they found us guilty. Our, the judge had ignored some of the instructions that our attorney had made which was the basis on which our appeal was overturned, too. We were in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth from November of 1944 until December of 1945, at which time the appellate court reversed our conviction, it was around the 29th of December that they reversed our conviction, and in their reversal, they said that one who violates law that they think is unconstitutional, sincerely, in good faith, has a right to do so. And that's one of the instructions that the judge refused to give to the jury, and on that basis they reversed our conviction and we were released later in 1946, around April or May, I think.

EO: Did Okamoto go to jail, or he was taken to Tule Lake?

FE: Oh, he and Sam were taken from Tule Lake back to the court for our trial and all seven of us went to Leavenworth. Now, Minoru Tamesa and Ben Wakaye were the two that had actually, two members of the steering committee that were actually received their notices for the draft and they refused to go and they were sentenced, in the first group of sixty-three, to three years in prison. And they got a sentence of, under conspiracy charge they got a sentence of two years to run concurrent with their three-year draft resistance sentence. And Guntaro Kubota, of the seven of us, he was the only one that received two years. The rest of us received four years. However, it was, didn't make any difference because we won our case at the appellate level. And in the case of Tamesa and Wakaye, they, their sentences ran concurrent with the original sentence. And another thing that bothered us was the fact that anybody that goes to prison is eligible for parole, even murderers, and rapists. Well, in the case of the sixty-three and subsequent boys that resisted the draft, they were refused parole. They didn't, they wouldn't give them parole.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.