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People v. Shanley

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

June 18, 1909

PEOPLE
v.
SHANLEY.

Appeal from Court of General Sessions, New York County.

Victor Shanley was convicted of forgery, and appeals. Affirmed.

[117 N.Y.S. 846] Thomas J. O'Neill (J. Brownson Kerr, on the brief), for appellant.

William Travers Jerome, Dist. Atty. (Robert C. Taylor, Asst. Dist. Atty., of counsel), for the People.

Argued before INGRAHAM, McLAUGHLIN, LAUGHLIN, CLARKE, and SCOTT, JJ.

CLARKE, J.

The defendant, who was a member of the bar, was convicted under the second count of the indictment, which charged him with uttering as true a certain forged instrument purporting to be the act of Julia A. Smith, by which certain rights and interests in real property purporting to be transferred, conveyed, and affected, setting out the instrument, a satisfaction of a mortgage, in full, and the indictment proceeded:

" And to which forged instrument there was then and there attached and annexed a certain other instrument in writing which was then and there as follows; that is, to say: ‘ State of New York, City of New York-ss.: On this 14th day of March, 1904, before me personally came Julia A. Smith, to me known and known to me to be the individual described in and who executed the above certificate, and she thereupon duly acknowledged to me that she had executed the same. George M. Silverberg, Commissioner of Deeds, New York City. [Seal.]’ He, the said Victor Shanley, then and there well knowing the said forged instrument and writing to be forged."

Julia A. Smith was a young woman who had been a friend and acquaintance of the defendant for a number of years. She employed him as her attorney. She came into possession of certain papers upon the settlement of her grandfather's estate. Among those papers was a bond and mortgage for $25,000 and the assignments by which title thereto vested in her. The settlement of the estate and the transfer of the papers to her by the North American Trust Company occurred [117 N.Y.S. 847] on the 25th of July, 1903. The defendant procured a safety deposit box in which Miss Smith's securities and papers were placed and of which he kept a key; she not having received one until about a month after the deposit. The bond and mortgage were, by their terms, due and payable May 1, 1904. The Ritter Realty Company owned the freehold, and they had contracted to sell the property. On January 30, 1904, the defendant wrote to said company:

" Miss Smith, the owner of the mortgage upon 14 West 117th street, has concluded not to renew the same. I shall therefore have the proper papers executed and ready for delivery to your representative May 1st, or any other date you may desire."

On February 29th of the same year, he wrote to the attorney for said company:

" I have had an interview with Miss Smith, the holder of the mortgage on the 117th street property, and, as she has made arrangements for reinvestment, she cannot renew as you requested. She also desires me to say that if it will facilitate your sale, she will be pleased to accept payment on the date of closing. If this is agreeable to you, please let me know."

On the 15th of March, 1904, the defendant received $25,000 in discharge of the mortgage and delivered the satisfaction piece with its acknowledgment, set forth in the indictment. He deposited this sum to his own account in his own bank and subsequently spent all of it for his own purposes. He had never had any conversation whatever with Miss Smith in regard to the extension or the payment of the mortgage, and she was entirely unaware that it had been paid for many months thereafter. She did not sign or acknowledge the satisfaction piece, nor did she know anything about it. When the defendant's fraud was discovered, he fled the jurisdiction, the indictment for forgery having been found on December 21, 1904, and he did not return until the summer of 1907, when he surrendered himself under an agreement, as it appears, that he should not be indicted for grand larceny. The defendant admitted upon the witness stand that he signed with his own hand the signature " Julia A. Smith" to the satisfaction of the mortgage. His testimony is as follows:

" I signed the satisfaction piece which has been introduced in evidence here on the part of the state. I believe I signed it about March 14, 1904. I called Miss Smith up on the phone. Mr. Silverberg was then in my office, and I spoke to her and told her that the paper was signed by me, or was to be signed, and told her to tell Silverberg that it was all right for me to sign it. Mr. Silverberg did go to the phone. After Silverberg spoke over the phone, I gave the paper into Mr. Silverberg's hands, ...

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