Within a week Russell’s case was called in the Criminal Court of the District of Columbia. There his attorney must have been no less enterprising than himself, for the lawyer boldly argued that the defendant should go free. It was a Machiavellian maneuver. He pleaded the Act of 1857, which exempted witnesses before Congressional committees from later prosecution on the matter about which they had testified.
What cleverness! First indicted as a criminal, he could, by law, have chosen not to testify before the Committee and thereby incriminate himself. But taking the opposite course and, with a great show of cooperation, freely answering its questions, he neatly established an immunity against prosecution, and probable conviction.