András (Andrew) Tóth entered the history of the American justice system as Praying Andy. He was sentenced to death at first, but then it was modified to life imprisonment even though he was innocent. His story helped the movement of getting compensation in similar cases a lot.
According to Telex, András Tóth was born in Lengyelfalva in 1854 and decided to go to the USA in 1885 to save some money and buy a house for his family in Hungary. By then, he already had five children, so leaving his wife and daughter at home, he travelled to Pennsylvania with his four sons. The J. Edgar Thomson Steel Works belonging to Andrew Carnegie hired him, so he moved to Braddock.
As a Hungarian, he was not alone since many people working in the factory had a migrant background, including Irish people, Italians, Croats, Poles, Czechs.
The work was exhausting: 12-14 hours per day and no day-offs.
As the years passed, he managed to save money, and by 1891, he thought he could travel home. However, his destiny took a tragic turn after the New Year’s Eve party of 1890.
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The Hungarian workers agreed that they cannot tolerate working on January 1, so they would not. However, Mr Carnegie hired Irish workers to complete the tasks, which angered the Hungarians who
drank a lot of pálinka on New Year’s Eve.
As a result, believing that they were right, 200 of them attacked their Irish colleagues on January 1. 16 people were injured, one of them, the Irish Michael Quinn, later died in the hospital.
Even though eye-witnesses gave contradictory statements, Michael Sabo (Mihály Szabó), George Rusnak (György Rusznyák), and Andrew Tóth were sentenced to death. However, some people regarded the sentencing too harsh, and among them was Andrew Carnegie. They said that the Hungarians did not even speak English too well, so they did not receive a fair trial.
Finally, in 1892, the governor of Pennsylvania modified their sentence to life imprisonment, thanks to Mr Carnegie’s lobbying.
Interestingly, Rusznyák and Szabó were acquitted in 1895 and 1897 respectively, but Mr Tóth was not, so he remained in the Riverside Western Prison. Based on the reports, he was a model prisoner who prayed a lot because he believed that God would help him since he was innocent.
He became a carpenter and made beautiful crates in the prison.
In December 1910, István Tóth – Stephen Tóth – caught typhus and confessed to the Hungarian authorities that he killed the Irish worker in the USA and that Andrew was innocent. Afterwards, he miraculously got better, and it seemed that he would be transported back to the USA, from where he escaped after the murder, for a new trial, but later on, he died from the disease.
However, his confession reached the American authorities, so they released András Tóth but gave him no compensation even though it was clear the police and the court made many mistakes during the process.
He wanted to go home but did not have enough money.
His story became famous in the USA.
His sons were with him in the USA while his wife waited for him at home, despite the 20 years he was in prison. Finally, Mr Carnegie gave him 40 dollars as a pension, which allowed him to live a venerable life. Interestingly, he was alive even in 1930 when he was more than 80.
He said that he forgave everybody but added that Pennsylvania is rich, and they could have given him compensation for the prison sentence. However, his story helped a lot in the decades-long struggle to give compensation to the victims of similar cases.
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