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United States v. Pignatelli.

February 13, 1942

UNITED STATES
v.
PIGNATELLI.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Author: Hand

Before AUGUSTUS N. HAND, CLARK, and FRANK, Circuit Judges.

AUGUSTUS N. HAND, Circuit Judge.

The defendant, Ludovic Pignatelli, was separately indicted for violating Section 338a(c) of Title 18 of the United States Code Annotated and also for conspiring with Theodore Bolduc and William M. Gibson to violate Section 338a(c) thereof. Having been convicted under each indictment he has appealed. We think that each conviction should be affirmed.

Section 338a(c) reads as follows: "(c) whoever, with intent to extort from any person any money or other thing of value, shall knowingly deposit or cause to be deposited in any post office or station thereof, or in any authorized depository for mail matter, to be sent or delivered by the Post Office Establishment of the United States, or shall knowingly cause to be delivered by the Post Office Establishment of the United States according to the direction thereon, any written or printed letter or other communication, with or without a name or designating make subscribed thereto, addressed to any other person and containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another, or the reputation of a deceased person, or any threat to accouse the addressee or any other person of a crime shall be fined not more than $500, or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

The indictment under Section 338a(c) charged Ludovic Pignatelli with having mailed in the Southern District of New York a certain letter and written communication addressed to the Princess Rospigliosi, Newport, Rhode Island, containing a threat to injure the reputation of Guido Pignatelli and Henrietta Pignatelli.

The indictment under Section 88 charged Ludovic Pignatelli, Theodore Bolduc alias Leon DeVar, and William M. Gibson with conspiring to deposit in the Post Office certain letters and communications containing threats to injure the reputations of the addressees and others, in violation of Section 338a(c).

Ludovic Pignatelli, hereafter spoken of as "Ludovic," came to the United States some time prior to 1915. In 1934 he was granted a patent for a clay target which he had invented for shooting clay pigeons and sought to place it on the market, but with little success. In 1940 he attempted to organize a shooting club but never got beyond the incorporation stage because, as he testified, Guido Pignatelli, a distant relative, who had married a wealthy widow named Henrietta Hartford, and was calling himself Prince Pignatelli, impaired Ludovic's standing and deflected his costomers. Ludovic claimed to be the only Pignatelli entitled to the name of Prince and testified that Guido's false assumption of the title caused him to lose a contract for the manufacture of his target and to fail in his effort to launch the enterprise of the shooting club.

In June 1940, Ludovic brought an action in the New York Supreme Court against Guido and Henrietta to enjoin them from calling themselves prince and Princess Pignatelli. In his complaint he alleged that they were not lawfully married, were unlawfully assuming the names of Prince and Princess Pignatelli and were interfering with his business and his exclusive right to the title. During the year 1940 Ludovic was writing an autobiography containing a chapter entitled: "Fakers' Titles in the U.S.A." listing Guido and Henrietta among the fakers.

On August 23, 1940, Ludovic wrote a letter soliciting an interview to the Princess Laura Rospigliosi, hereafter called Laura. She was an old acquaintance and granted the interview. He told her of his lawsuit and that he wanted to get large sums of money out of Guido and Henrietta. She agreed to try to adjust matters with them. According to her testimony she afterwards received by mail a letter from Ludovic dated August 30, together with a written statement of his terms of settlement which were in the following form:

"1. Will discontinue all court actions or proceedings.

"2. Will file legal papers in the office of the Spanish Counsel General to recognize Guido as Prince, as I have no male heir; and file copies of papers filed in the Spanish Counsel General's Office with the Italian Counsel General so there will be a record in the Italian Counsel General's Office of the papers on file in the Spanish Counsel General's Office.

"3. Will omit from autobiography or biopraphy any reference to Guido or his family. This book is now in ...


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