- The U.S. Marshals and Court Security
Protection of Federal Judge
Origins of the Case
Sarah Althea Hill loved Senator William
Sharon of Nevada and became his mistress.
Later, she claimed they were married, using
the marriage license pictured to the left as
proof. Senator Sharon denied her as his
wife and sued in the District Court of
Northern California to stop her from using
his name. Sarah hired David Terry as her
lawyer. The district court determined that
the marriage license was a forgery. Sarah
appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court,
Justice Stephen Field presiding.
Contempt of Court
While Sarah's case was on appeal, Senator
Sharon died and she married her lawyer,
David Terry. When Justice Field affirmed
the decision of the district court, Sarah
went berserk in the courtroom. As Marshal
Franks tried to escort her from the courtroom,
Terry rose to defend his new wife.
He hit the Marshal, knocking out a tooth.
A group of spectators subdued Terry and
led him out to the corridor, where he
pulled his Bowie knife and threatened all
around him. One of the spectators, David
Neagle, helped take the knife away from
him. Justice Field sentenced both David
and Sarah Terry to jail for contempt of court.
Lathrop Station: Setting for a Gunfight
While in jail, Sarah and David Terry made
numerous threats against Justice Field.
Attorney General William Miller authorized
Marshal Franks to appoint a Deputy
to protect Justice Field when he returned
to California in the summer of 1889.
The Marshal deputized David Neagle and
Neagle accompanied Field as he rode the
On August 13, the Terry's, having served their sentence for contempt,
boarded the train on which Justice Field
and Deputy Neagle were riding. The next
morning, the train pulled into Lathrop
station (pictured above) in the San
Joaquin Valley, where the passengers disembarked
to take breakfast. Justice Field,
over Deputy Neagle's protest, went to the
dining room. Moments later, the Terry's
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See also related
article on Protection of Judges