Crime History: Congressman kills Willard waiter in breakfast brawl

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Local,Crime,Scott McCabe,Crime History

On this day, May 8, in 1856, U.S. Rep. Philemon T. Herbert shot and killed a headwaiter who refused to serve him breakfast at the Willard Hotel in downtown Washington.

Herbert arrived at D.C.'s most fashionable hotel after breakfast had closed, but he demanded that he be served anyway.

Thomas Keating, an Irish immigrant, declined to serve him, and their argument turned into an all-out food fight and then a fist fight.

Herbert then pulled out his pistol and shot Keating in the chest.

Herbert was indicted for murder, but the only impartial witness, Herbert Dubois, the Dutch minister to the United States, refused to testify for U.S. Attorney Philip Barton Key by invoking his diplomatic privilege. Herbert was acquitted.

Ironically, Key himself was later fatally shot by a member of Congress who was also acquitted of murder.

-- Scott McCabe

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