Samuel Snow thought when he got a check from the Pentagon that the Army was finally ready to give him the apology and the compensation he’d been denied for 63 years. He was wrong.
The Army imprisoned Snow in 1944 for a crime he says he couldn’t have committed. The military overturned his conviction this year and sent him his back pay for the 15 months he spent in prison: $725.
Snow is one of just two defendants still alive from one of the biggest military trials of World War II.
Twenty-eight black soldiers were sent to prison after an Italian prisoner of war, Guglielmo Olivotto, was found hanged to death following a night of brawling at Fort Lawton in Seattle, Washington.
At a time when the military forces were segregated, 41 black soldiers were tried in one large group and were provided two attorneys to defend them all.
According to the Army, 28 of the soldiers were convicted of rioting, including Pvt. Samuel Snow, who spent 15 months behind bars.
Two of those soldiers also were convicted of manslaughter in the death of the POW and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Thirteen of the men were acquitted.
In October, the Army Board for Corrections of Military Records determined the defendants were denied a fair trial. The board said the prosecutor refused to give defense attorneys access to confidential evidence.
As a result of the findings, the Army overturned the convictions — but stopped short of finding the defendants “not guilty.”
“What it is saying is that they didn’t receive their fair day in court,” said Army spokesman Col. Dan Baggio.
The Army wrote checks to the surviving defendants as compensation for the back pay they were denied while in prison. Snow assumed that figure would be a substantial amount of money — until the $725 check arrived at his home in central Florida.
If the payment had been adjusted for inflation, Snow would have received $7,768.13, according to the inflation calculator on the Labor Department’s Web site.