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BizIPEsq., Attorney
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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I recently published a book about the Sundance Kid. In my

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I recently published a book about the Sundance Kid. In my research I discovered that in 1887 Sheriff James Ryan from Sundance Wyoming and Sherriff XXXXX XXXXXe from Miles City Montana framed the Sundance Kid, to collect a $250 reward for his capture. I concluded they were corrupt because the county commissioners must have realized Sundance kid was innocent because they refused to pay the reward. I stated in my book that both sheriffs Ryan and Irvine were corrupt. Of course both sheriffs are now dead. Have I exposed myself to a slander suit by their descendants?

BizIPEsq. :

Hello, I will be assisting you

BizIPEsq. :

First, you should know that truth is a bar to a claim of defamation. Truth cannot be defamatory. If you uncovered evidence that supports your claims then there is no claim of defamation

BizIPEsq. :

Unfortunately it is possible that the descendants could bring an action against you and/or the publisher. Some of it depends on state law and the state that the Sherrif and

BizIPEsq. :

the the other historical characters died in


Here are the chapters form my book:



Chapter 3: William XXXXX XXXXX

After XXXXX XXXXX left home for good, he next shows up as a grown man in the fertile grasslands around Miles City, Montana, which was the closest major cattle center to his former home in Washington Territory. The N Bar N was the biggest ranch in the area and employed over a hundred cowboys.

The Northern Pacific Railroad ran through Miles City and transported cattle by the hundreds of thousands to eastern cities.

In 1886, Sundance was 25 years old. He worked as a ranch hand, drove cattle up from Texas, and was a broncobuster for the N Bar N Ranch so of course he was acquainted with all the cowboys that worked there. One of the many ranch hands that Sundance became acquainted with was a younger cowboy named Harry Alonzo Longabaugh.

<Insert image 81,Pistols.jpg>

After the annual fall roundup was finished, most of the cowboys were let go. As best as I can determine, Longabaughwas laid off in early December 1886. Like most other ranch hands, Harry did not own a horse so he hitched a ride with someone heading toward Wyoming and if he found any work at all it was only for room and board.

On February 27, 1887, just outside of Sundance, Wyoming, as Longabaugh was working his way back to Miles City for the spring season,hestole a light gray horse, a saddle, and bridal rig from Alonzo Craven and a pistol from James Wedner at the Triple V Ranch. When Wedner discovered the theft he knew who the thief was, and what he looked like, but he didn’t know his name.

On March 15, Wedner traveled to Sundance and filed charges with Sheriff James Ryan. Wedner did not know Longabaugh’s name but described him as the “smooth faced gray eyed boy.” 1 The 20 year-old Longabaugh could not grow a beard yet.

Sheriff Ryan charged the unnamed horse thief with grand larceny and a $250 reward was immediately issued for his capture.

Riding the stolen horse, Longabaugh went to Miles City, where Sheriff Irvine or one of his deputies arrested him on April 8 and sent word to Sheriff Ryan in Sundance that they had the horse thief in custody. Ryan left immediately to go collect the prisoner and presumably the reward. 2 His salary as a sheriff was just $60 a month and he relied on capturing wanted criminals for the rewards offered.

On April 12, Ryan and Longabaugh boarded the Northern Pacific Railroad heading toward St. Paul, Minnesota, nearly 1,000 miles away. That same day the Daily Yellowstone Journal published this article:

Sheriff Ryan departed with his prisoner this morning bound for Sundance, Wyoming. The route taken by the sheriff would seem to be a long one: Miles City to St. Paul Minnesota to the railroad terminus in the Black Hills, thence by stage to Sundance, a distance of nearly 2,000 miles. Sundance is less than 300 miles cross county from here.

Ryan apparently expected to be reimbursed for his travel expenses, so one can draw a reasonable conclusion that the comfort and expense of railroad travel made no difference to him.

Near Duluth, Minnesota, Longabaugh picked the locks of his restraints and escaped by jumping from the moving train while the sheriff was tending to necessities.

The Spearfish Weekly Register described Ryan as{ …looking dejected and grieved because he had gone up to that country of smart rascals after a horse thief and while he was absent for a few moments, Mr. Prisoner mysteriously disappeared.

On May 11, 1887, the Daily Yellowstone Journal published the name of the escaped prisoner as XXXXX XXXXXabaugh. This was the first time a name was ascribed to the horse thief.

The Crook County Commission of Sundance, Wyoming, had not authorized the train trip. Now Ryan had a huge problem: he’d lost his prisoner and spent a large sum of money transporting Longabaugh by train rather than taking him back by buckboard or stage coach.

When Ryan returned to Sundance empty handed, the commission refused to pay for the train ride and, of course, no prisoner meant no reward money, either.

Sheriff Ryan was skating on thin professional ice, and he knew it. He also wanted the reward money so he had to get the prisoner back at all costs. He had to come up with the prisoner, or at the very least any prisoner.

Ryan notified Sheriff Irvine in Miles City that the prisoner escaped but Longabaugh wasn’t stupid enough to go back to Miles City where he would be recognized and arrested again. Instead, he headed straight to Alberta, Canada, and met up with Everett Johnson, his old friend from Wyoming. Even if American authorities located him, they couldn’t do anything about it because they had no jurisdiction in Canada. 3

Chapter 4: A Miraculous Identity Switch

Sheriff Ryan of Sundance and Sheriff Irvine of Miles City were in a partnership to make false arrests and collect reward money so many of their arrests may not have been kosher.

They were lining their pockets by Irvine arresting innocent cowboys within his jurisdiction and charging them with crimes committed by others from the Sundance area.

They not only gained monetarily, it boosted their reputations, as indicated in the following Daily Yellowstone Journal article from April 27, 1887.

A Good Catch

Sheriff Irvine and his efficient deputies have again had a successful manhunt. Some days ago a man answering to the name of Frenchy was arrested in Miles City and the arrest kept quiet as his partner in crime was known to be in the vicinity and was also wanted badly.

Clover Bill was rolling in clover at a ranch out on the Deadwood road when Under Sheriff Hood got the drop on him and promptly fetched him to the jail. A reward of $250 is offered for each of them by Sheriff Ryan of Crook County, Wyoming.

These two personages of the highly euphonious appellations dealt in horseflesh near Hat Creek, Wyoming, and stole three or four well-favored equines. They had successfully eluded capture for six months but made a mistake when they arrived in Sheriff Irvine’s territory, for then they were gone.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the criminal was arrested in Miles City and Sheriff Ryan in Sundance offered the reward. Frenchy later escaped while being taken to jail.

Stock inspector W. Smith and Deputy Sheriff Eph Davis of Miles City allegedly rearrested the horse thief Longabaugh on June 1.

The circumstance of the arrest was unusual. This cowboy was casually riding along a public road with a cowboy friend when he saw the lawmen coming from the other direction. When they were about to pass, this innocent cowboy made the usual greeting. In response, the lawmen pulled their pistols, arrested the cowboy, and took him into custody. If he were actually Longabaugh, a wanted man, why would he be using a public road?

That story is absolute bison bull. The arrest occurred thirty-eight days from when the real Longabaugh escaped from his shackles and jumped off the train. That means Longabaugh made the 2,000 mile trip back with no money and no horse in less than six weeks. It took Sheriff Ryan 11 days riding a train. Also, why would Longabaugh return to Miles City, the same place where he was previously apprehended?

The real Longabaugh was kept in the Miles City jail for three days before Sheriff Ryan took custody of him so the local lawmen knew what he looked like and yet the cowboy they arrested was ”5’ 8” to 5’ 9” tall with dark hair and a mustache. He was also 26 years old with a French accent and Creole type features, 1 instead of the smooth faced, 20 year-old German kid XXXXX XXXXXabaugh.

Hello…was anybody home there?


William (Bill) XXXXX XXXXX

(Authors’ Collection)

The second alleged Longabaughwas accused of making his way back through Canada where he stole seven horses; entered Montana where he sold the horses; and then went to the Crow Indian Reservation where he stole a pony. He then allegedly committed a robbery at the FUF Ranch and then stole a horse from both the Beasley and Newman sheep ranches and the XXXXX XXXXXscom ranch on the Tongue River. 2

In addition to all that, he apparently managed to completely reverse his appearance to that of an older and darker Harry, all in 38 days.

This is an excerpt from the Daily Yellowstone Journal of June 7, 1887.

XXXXX XXXXXe considers him one of the most daring and desperate criminals he has ever had to deal with. The stretch of country the thief has covered in a short time and the success of all his planned robberies was almost phenomenal. Deputy Davis and Inspector Smith did a mighty good job when they nailed the Kid without some blood being spilt. He acknowledged himself done up when landed in this jail, and he expresses much admiration for our officers in the way they did the business.

All these thefts were credited to XXXXX XXXXXabaugh since he was the one originally arrested in Miles City, and rightfully so. But this second prisoner was not the realLongabaugh; it was William XXXXX XXXXX, a convenient patsy so Sheriff Ryan could collect the reward and get reimbursed for a very long train (joy) ride.

<Insert image 81,Pistols.jpg>

As I mentioned before, the total value of the real Longabaugh’s original theft of one horse, a saddle, a bridle rig, and a pistol was a whopping $80. Those lawmen went to a powerful lot of trouble and spent several hundred to catch the perpetrator of an $80 crime—supposedly twice.

Here is another interesting load of elephant stuff. The Daily Yellowstone Journal published Longabaugh’s alleged statement/confession after the second arrest. Keep in mind XXXXX XXXXX had a rudimentary education as did XXXXX XXXXXabaugh.

I read a very sensational and partly untrue article, which places me before the public not even second to the notorious Jesse James. Admitting that I have done wrong and expecting to be dealt with according to law, and not by false reports from parties who should blush with shame to make them, I ask a little of your space to set my case before the public in a true light. In the first place I have always worked for an honest living, was employed last summer by one of the best outfits in Montana and don’t think they can say aught against me, but having got discharged last winter I went to the Black Hills to seek employment which I could not get and was forced to work for my board a month and a half, rather than to beg or steal. I finally started back to the vicinity of Miles City…for spring round up and was arrested at the above named place and charged with having stolen a horse at Sundance, where I was being taken by Sheriff Ryan, whom I escaped from by jumping from the cars, which I judged were running at the rate of 100 miles an hour.

After this my course of outlawry commenced, and I suffered terribly for the want of food in the hope of getting back south without being detected, where I would be looked upon as I always had been, and not as a criminal. Contrary to the statement in the Journal, I deny having stolen any horses in Canada and selling them near Benton or anywhere else up to the time I was captured…nor had I the slightest idea of stealing any horses. I am aware that some of your readers will say my statement should be taken for what it is worth, on account of the hard name which has been forced upon me; never the less it is true. As for my recapture by Deputy Sheriff Davis, all I can say is that he did his work well. 3

I’m thinking Sheriff Davis and the reporter contrived this grammatically correct masterpiece.

The June 7 Daily Yellowstone Journal detailed the real Longabaugh’s escape from the train but also misidentified him as the second cowboy arrested instead of and XXXXX XXXXX.This was the catalyst tagging XXXXX XXXXX as XXXXX XXXXXabaugh forever, until now!

Back in Sundance, Sheriff Ryan was informed thatLongabaugh had been recaptured. Ryan set off for Miles City to take him into custody and bring him back to Sundance and collect the reward.The June 19, 1887, Daily Yellowstone Journal reported:

Sheriff Ryan from Crook County, Wyoming, is here to take charge of Kid Longabaugh. Mr. Ryan will take precautions this time that will tax ingenuity and hardihood of a slicker chap that the Kid gets away. This time Sheriff Ryan took his prisoner shackled and handcuffed to Sundance by way of the Miles City and Deadwood Stage.

The Sheriff told the prisoner, “He was going to land him or his scalp in the Sundance Jail.”

The prisoner warned the Sheriff “that he intended to escape.”


An Old Photo of Sundance, Wyoming

(From Internet)

If Ryan, Irvine, Davis, and the newspaper admitted that they had the wrong man, aside from embarrassment, the newspaper would have to admit to false and biased articles and do a lot of retracting. The lawmen might have to face charges themselves for knowingly arresting the wrong man not to mention forfeiting all that reward money.

After three days on the road they reached Sundance and the prisoner was put in jail. Ryan told the Sundance court clerk the prisoner’s name was XXXXX XXXXXabaugh because that’s how the newspaper identified the prisoner. Once you frame someone; you have to continue the deception. However, Ryan did give Long’s correct age, which was 26.

The July 22, 1887, issue of the Sundance Gazette reported:

Harry (Long) and William McCarter tried to escape jail by removing a hinge on the Cell Door while awaiting trial. They were discovered before they could escape.

When Sheriff Ryan was transferring McArthur to Joliot, Illinois, he escaped in Nebraska.

Court records show that no witnesses were called on behalf of XXXXX XXXXX. On August 5, 1887, Long pleaded not guilty to the three indictments: the horse, the gun, and the saddle rig. His defense attorney coaxed him into pleading guilty to the one indictment for stealing the horse and the other charges were dropped.

When asked if he had anything to say, Long declined to speak. He was given eighteen months in the Sundance jail.

If he had beenallowed to call witnesses, they would have put him at the N Bar N ranch at the time of the horse theft in Sundance and they would have certainly told the court his real name was XXXXX XXXXX, and he was not the “smooth faced horse thief XXXXX XXXXXabaugh” who they knew as well.

The Pinkerton’s description for Sundance also matches XXXXX XXXXX: 5’9” or 5’10, weighing 170 to 175 pounds, with a medium-dark complexion, black hair, and blue or gray eyes. He had a black mustache or beard, a rather long nose, a slim build, and Grecian features. In the book Atlas of Wyoming Outlaws, the description is virtually the same except it states he had Creole features. Grecian and Creole features are similar.

The minutes from the October 6, 1887, meeting of the Crook County Commission show a bill for $250 from Sheriff Ryan was on the agenda for capturing the horse thief, but no action was taken; nor was there any explanation why no action was taken.

Then at the meeting on January 9, 1888, the County Commission ordered Ryan’s $250 bill stricken from the minutes and the matter held over until a later time.

On May 1, 1888, the prisoner made another attempt to escape, which was reported in the Sundance Gazette three days later. The article stated that Long (identified as Longabaugh) and Jim O’Conner escaped from their cell by crawling out of a 6” x 14” opening used to pass food to the prisoners.

When the jailer entered the hallway, the two men assaulted him. The jailer overpowered Long but O’Conner escaped, although he was soon recaptured. The Gazette also stated:

The Kid is the slippery cuss who gave Sheriff Ryan so much trouble, while bringing him to this place from Miles City.

On May 2, 1888, meeting the county commission considered two separate $250 bills for the capture of XXXXX XXXXXabaugh (Long): one was from Sheriff Ryan and the other from Miles City’s Sheriff Irvine. Both requests for payment were disallowed by motion.

I believe the commissioners must have realized what these two men had done to an innocent cowboy and decided, “No boys, you can’t have the reward money; you got the wrong man!

In November 1888 Sheriff Ryan opted not to run for reelection and the prosecutor who had XXXXX XXXXX convicted was replaced by attorney H. A. Alden, who’s first official act on taking office on January 22, 1889, was to forward a petition of pardon for the prisoner to the Wyoming governor.

On February 4, 1889, one day before his scheduled release, Long was granted a full pardon by Governor Moonlight. The pardon states he was under 21 years of age and his behavior has been good since confinement. Ironic, considering that according to court records he was 28 years old and had made two attempts to escape, assaulting the jailer in one of the attempts. 4

During his incarceration, the newspapers referred to Long/ Longabaugh as “the Kid,” “Kid Longabaugh,” or “the Kid from Sundance.” The name stuck. 5

All subsequent newspaper articles, wanted circulars, Pinkerton files, magazines, and history books mistakenly state the Sundance Kid was XXXXX XXXXXabaugh because of this miscarriage of justice in Sundance, Wyoming, in 1887. Because of this misidentification, Long’s primary alias was XXXXX XXXXXabaugh when he joined Butch Cassidy and his gang.

After his release, Long went to Deadwood, South Dakota, and later returned to Wyoming. On May 17, 1889, he was approximately thirty miles south of Sundance at Oil Creek with four men, one of whom was a wanted criminal named Bob Minor, alias Buck Hanby.

The men were in a dugout when Sheriff E. B. Armstrong and his deputy, James Swisher, charged in.When Minor went to get his gun, he was shot and killed.

Sundance must have threatened Deputy Swisher because Swisher filed a complaint against him on May 18, 1889, stating he had just cause to fear that he would be killed. No doubt Sundance was angry for being falsely imprisoned and viewed Swisher as part of the corrupt system that had framed him.

A criminal complaint was issued for Sundance, but the warrant was never served. He had left the area to avoid being arrested a second time. 6

Sundance then went to the outlaw country around Cortez, Colorado, which he had become familiar with while passing through on cattle drives from Texas to Montana. At the time, Cortez was the outlaw capital of the Old West. It’s where many of the outlaws first met and developed friendships that lasted many years.

The Cortez area was home to XXXXX XXXXX (Cassidy), Matt Warner, and the outlaw brothers Tom and Bill McCarty. Tom McCarty was married to Matt Warner’s sister Teenie Christiansen and had a ranch near Cortez. 7

Brothers Bill and Bert Madden lived in the area as well, as did Bert Charter.

After his time in jail, Sundance probably had a chip on his shoulder. He was drawn to the outlaw life and became acquainted with all these men. He would later rob trains and banks with some of them other than Butch. But the law was always looking for XXXXX XXXXXabaugh as Sundance rather than Bill Long, family man of Fremont, Utah.

Neither local lawmen nor the Pinkerton’s detective agents hired to track down outlaws had access to XXXXX XXXXX’s pictures from when he was a young man so they didn’t realize until later on that Sundance and others were using aliases.

There was no fingerprint data base or DNA testing to confirm identity. In XXXXX XXXXX’s case, lawmen never discovered who he really was, and that surely slowed down my own search. To this day, the true identities of some outlaws are still unknown.

BizIPEsq. :

Thank you. Please note that under the terms of service of JA experts are not permitted to review specific documents. The law is in some states permits the estates and descendant of the the dead to collect on their behalf whether on defamation or there have been other instances where descendants can claims personality rights (the right to commercialize)

BizIPEsq. :

to a large extent that depends on state law

BizIPEsq. :

(as noted the state where the person passed away)

BizIPEsq. :

so by publishing the book you would be taking a business risk. Albeit probably not a big one but nonetheless some inherent risk exists

BizIPEsq. :

at the same time if your conclusions are based on provable evidence then claims would generally be barred.

BizIPEsq. :

one other option is not to write the book as a historical conclusion rather present it as your opinion.

BizIPEsq. :

Generally this would not be defamatory. It may lessen the authoritativeness of the book and your findings but would put you on a safer footing

BizIPEsq. :

Thank you for allowing me to assist you

BizIPEsq. :

Please rate my service. Without your rating I do not get compensated for my work


Would I be safe If I stated that It's just my opinion that Ryan and Irvin were corrupt?


Would I be safe if I stated: I have concluded Ryan and Irvine were corrupt based on the fact they were not paid the reward.

BizIPEsq. :

Generally yes. Unlike statement of fact, statements of opinion may not be actionable as defamatory statements. Some jurisdictions decline to recognize any legal distinction between fact and opinion and others afford the 1st amendment (the ability to express opinion) greater deference

BizIPEsq. :

a statement of opinion is not an absolute defense but as noted it puts you on safer footing than otherwise making a conclusion of fact

BizIPEsq. :

I trust this addressed your question

BizIPEsq. :

thank you for your continued patronage

BizIPEsq. :

please rate my question


I am really happy with your answers.Would it be better if I stated: In my opinion Ryan and Irvine were corrupt because they were not paid the reward


Wold this be better: In my opinion Ryan and Irvin were corrupt because they were not paid the

BizIPEsq. :

you should think about making it conditional. for example: In my opinion Ryan and Irvine were corrupt because if in fact they were not paid the reward then...


How about this: In my opinion Ryan and Irvin were corrupt because if in fact they were not paid the reward it appears that way.

BizIPEsq. :

When you write that something 'appears' in a certain way then it is somewhat conclusive. But be mindful that my opinion is not legally dispositive in any way. I have no way of knowing whether a court/jury how will in fact treat this. The more "wishy washy" your language is that less you can be accused of defamation.

BizIPEsq. :

Finally, I would run your ideas by your editor/publisher to get their opinion on who wishy washy it can be without diluting your conclusion.


Very good thank you

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