Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Romano

: March 25, 1964.


Author: Lumbard

Before LUMBARD, Chief Judge, and KAUFMAN and MARSHALL, Circuit Judges.

LUMBARD, Chief Judge.

Appellants Frank Romano and John Ottiano were found guilty by the jury of violating 26 U.S.C. § 5601(a) (1), possession of a distilling apparatus not registered as required by 26 U.S.C. § 5179(a). With appellants Edward Romano and Antonio Vellucci, they were also found guilty of violating § 5601(a) (8), producing distilled spirits when not being authorized to do so by the law, and of conspiring to violate § 5601(a) (8), 18 U.S.C. § 371. Of all the issues raised by the defendants-appellants as supporting a reversal of their convictions we find merit in only one - the invalidity of the statutory presumptions of 26 U.S.C. §§ 5601(b) (1) and (4) which were invoked as to two appellants on counts 1 and 2. We therefore affirm the judgment of conviction of all the appellants on the conspiracy charge, count 3, and the conviction of Edward Romano and Antonio Vellucci on count 2 for the unlawful production of distilled spirits. We reverse the convictions of Frank Romano and John Ottiano on counts 1 and 2.

The events leading to the issue of a search warrant and its subsequent execution are undisputed. On October 10, 1960, between 10:30 and 11:00 P.M., Agents Nadel and Sushman of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division of the Internal Revenue Service, together with a State Police Officer, went to the site of the "Aspinook Mill" in Jewett City, Connecticut. "Aspinook Mill," owned by the Griswold Corporation, was a large complex of industrial buildings covering 42 acres of land. The agents had information that there was an illegal distilling apparatus located in the extreme northwest corner of the industrial complex. After gaining entrance through a hole in the fence, the agents proceeded through a series of buildings belonging to the Griswold Corporation which were not leased or occupied. They reached a position in an alleyway from where they detected the distinct odor of fermenting mash coming from the building known as building 9A, located in the northwest corner of the complex. They then left via their route of entry. That same evening between 7:00 P.M. and 10:00 P.M. another agent, Shaw, was located on high ground across the river bordering the industrial complex. Using binoculars, he observed the interior of building 9A where he saw a column still and other items used in the distilling of liquor. Agents Shaw and Sushman then applied to Chief Judge Anderson for a warrant to search building 9A on the basis of their affidavits in which they set forth their observations made on the evening of October 10, and the fact that no registration certificate had been issued by the Treasury Department permitting the distilling of spirits on those premises. Chief Judge Anderson issued the warrant to Shaw and Sushman on October 11.

At 7:30 A.M. on October 13, Shaw, with Federal Agents Norton and Nadel and Connecticut State Police Officers Marikle and Hart, after demanding entry and receiving no answer, forced the front door to building 9A. On the other side of the door was a 753-gallon capacity still and 9 mash vats which contained approximately 5756 gallons of mash. Appellants Frank Romano and John Ottiano were standing several feet from the still. In addition, they found a few hundred Knox glass jugs, 40 sixty-pound bags of Domino sugar and a plywood partition together with other equipment listed in the return. In Ottiano's pocket the agents found the keys to the doors of the building and the lock on the front gate to the mill property. Frank Romano told the agents that he did not know how long the still had been in operation and that he had been there four days. He showed the agents how to turn off the motor.

As to Antonio Vellucci and Edward Romano, there was testimony that these two shopped together for and purchased a 1960 Ford truck in Vellucci's name about a month before the seizure of the still. There was testimony that this Ford truck was used on several occasions to pick up both Knox jugs and sixty-pound bags of Domino sugar, and Edward Romano and Frank Romano were identified as the drivers of the Ford truck on these occasions. On October 2 the watchman for the industrial complex observed the truck at the still site carrying bags of Domino sugar. When Edward Romano saw the watchman observing the truck, he covered the sugar with canvas. The watchman also saw Edward Romano and John Ottiano at the still site carrying the partition and the toilet that were found in building 9A at the time of the raid.

Vellucci was often seen in the company of Edward Romano during the few weeks preceding the raid. When questioned by an agent at his home shortly after the seizure, Vellucci asserted that his health had been such as to prevent his operating the truck, and that he had left the truck with the keys in the ashtray a few days before the truck was used by the Romanos. The hospital records which Vellucci claimed would substantiate his disability did not in fact do so. The evidence is sufficient to sustain convictions on all counts.

The appellants' first claim of error is that the execution of the search warrant violated the Fourth Amendment. They assert that the information supporting the issuance of the search warrant was obtained as a result of a trespass and that this trespass invalidates the warrant and the evidence gained as a result of its use. We disagree. The appellants have no standing to complain of any trespass. They were not the owners or possessors of the area of land over which the agents traversed in order to gain a position from which they could smell the aroma of fermenting mash coming from building 9A. In any event, it is well settled that evidence is not rendered inadmissible merely because it has been obtained in the course of a simple trespass on land. The protection accorded by the Fourth Amendment to the people in their "persons, houses, papers, and effects," does not extend to open fields, or to unoccupied buildings. Hester v. United States, 265 U.S. 57, 44 S. Ct. 445, 68 L. Ed. 898. Moreover, the affidavit of Agent Shaw, who, from without the building and land area in question, observed the operation of the still with the aid of binoculars, and the statement in Shaw's affidavit that no still was licensed for these premises constituted sufficient probable cause to justify the issuance of the search warrant by Chief Judge Anderson.

After the execution of the warrant the agents dismantled the still and destroyed some of the property that was there found. The appellants argue that as the government destroyed some of the evidence seized they could not determine whether some of the items destroyed could have served some useful purpose in the defense of the charges. The appellants have failed to show that they suffered any prejudice by reason of the destruction. The essential elements of the still were not destroyed and were available for inspection. Photographs and movies were made prior to dismantling and these were also available to the defendants. The magnitude of this distilling operation made it impracticable to remove the apparatus intact. The destruction of illegal stills and their appurtenances is authorized by 26 U.S.C.A. § 5609 in those cases where "it is impracticable to remove the still and distilling material to a place of safe storage from the place where seized." The distinct hazard of fire as well as the caretaking difficulties involved are further reasons which justify the destruction of such a still under the statute, and in this particular case.

The claim that the defense, during trial, was improperly denied access to the entire written report of Agent Nadel is without any basis. Nadel's statements were made available when he testified. The only parts of his report not made available then were reports from other agents which he had incorporated in his report. Such reports of other witnesses were made available when those witnesses were called to testify. The defense was given everything to which it was entitled, at the proper time; if the reports of other agents, which Nadel had neither approved nor disapproved, would have been helpful in questioning Nadel, the defense might have asked that he be recalled. This they failed to do.

We come to the one meritorious claim by the appellants. This related to Judge Clarie's instruction to the jury as to counts 1 and 2, informing them of the presumptions in 26 U.S.C. §§ 5601 (b) (1) and (4). With regard to count 1, charging unlawful possession of a distilling apparatus, Judge Clarie read § 5601(b) (1) as follows:

"(b) Presumptions. -

"(1) Unregistered stills. - Whenever on trial for violation of subsection (a) (1) the defendant is shown to have been at the site or place where, and at the time when, a still or distilling apparatus was set up without having been registered, such presence of the defendant shall be deemed sufficient evidence to authorize conviction, unless the defendant explains such presence to the satisfaction of the jury."

Judge Clarie also advised the jury with regard to count 2, which charged the defendants with producing distilled spirits without being authorized by law to do so, that the similar presumption set out in § 5601(b) (4) may be applied*fn1, where a defendant is shown to have been at the still site. These presumptions of course could apply only to the defendants Frank Romano and John Ottiano who were found present at the still site where spirits were being illegally produced. Although these presumptions do not require the jury to conclude from the unexplained presence of the defendant at the still site that the defendant is in ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.