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United States v. Kahn

decided: July 18, 1966.


Moore, Smith and Kaufman, Circuit Judges.

Author: Moore

MOORE, Circuit Judge:

Frances Kahn, Vincent Pacelli, and Israel Schawartzberg appeal from judgments of conviction. All three were convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice and suborn perjury, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1503, and 1622. In addition, Pacelli was convicted of obstructing justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503. Each appellant was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on the conspiracy count. Pacelli also received a two-year concurrent sentence on the substantive count.

1. The Sufficiency of the Evidence.

The Government maintained at trial, and the jury found, that the appellants worked together in an effort to prevent one Charles Hedges from testifying against appellant Pacelli. On appeal, each of the appellants challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as to the counts on which he or she was convicted.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, United States v. Kahaner, 317 F.2d 459, 467 (2d Cir.), cert. denied 375 U.S. 836, 84 S. Ct. 74, 11 L. Ed. 2d 65 (1963), the following story emerges from the testimony at trial. Hedges was convicted for violation of the federal narcotics laws and was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment by the District Court of the District of Connecticut in March 1961. In July 1962, Hedges agreed to testify against certain of the people with whom he had been associated in the narcotics trade. His testimony before a grand jury in the Southern District of New York in June and September 1964 contributed to an indictment against Pacelli and others for conspiracy to violate the federal narcotics laws. Hedges testified at the trial on that indictment in May 1965.

Towards the end of July 1962, Pacelli visited Joan Hedges, Hedges' first wife; gave her $500; found out that Hedges needed $5,000 to get out on bail pending appeal; and learned that his lawyer was Frances Kahn. On July 30, 1962, Schawartzberg, Kahn's legal secretary, met with Hedges' fiancee and future wife, Patricia Curtin; gave her $3,000 of $5,000 he apparently had received; and instructed her to use the money to open a savings account to be used as collateral for Hedges' bail.

On January 9, 1963, Schawartzberg introduced Pacelli to Hedges' second wife Patricia, saying that Pacelli had put up the money for Hedges' bail. Pacelli told Patricia that he would give Hedges and her as much money as they needed to go away pending the appeal and even afterwards. Schawartzberg told Patricia that "he [apparently meaning Pacelli] just doesn't want Charlie to do anything against him."

On January 14, 1963, Schawartzberg called Patricia, asked if Charlie was still Pacelli's friend, and said that Kahn was going to visit Charlie. Two days later, Kahn visited Hedges and asked what he intended to do. When he said, "Tell them to run because I'm through with them," she said: "I don't think that's like you. You wouldn't do anything like that." She made similar statements during her repeated later visits to Hedges whenever he indicated that he was thinking of "talking."

On September 22, 1963, Kahn told Hedges that if he didn't testify, Vince would lend him $25,000, which he wouldn't have to repay if he were indicted again, and that he could have complete protection.

In July and September 1964, Kahn told Hedges that if he were called before the grand jury he should push back the dates of his dealings in narcotics so that prosecution would be barred by the statute of limitations. In her July visit, she also told Hedges that if he did testify he should make sure that the Government guaranteed his wife's protection, since she was afraid for him and his wife; and she suggested that if he acted crazy he wouldn't have to testify. In an August 1964 visit, apparently referring to Hedges' intention to testify, Kahn said: "I hate to see you destroy yourself, and that's what you'll do."

The evidence just summarized was ample to take to the jury the question of appellants' guilt on the conspiracy count. We find no force in the contentions of Kahn and Schawartzberg that their acquittals on the substantive counts demonstrate the insufficiency of the evidence against them on the conspiracy count. The acquittals at most indicate inconsistency in the jury's verdict, which is not by itself grounds for reversal, Dunn v. United States, 284 U.S. 390, 52 S. Ct. 189, 76 L. Ed. 356 (1932); see United States v. Maybury, 274 F.2d 899 (2d Cir. 1960). The inconsistency here was not irrational, since the jury could have believed that Schawartzberg and Kahn, while working together with Pacelli, did so at his bidding and were correspondingly less culpable.

The evidence as to Pacelli's membership in the conspiracy was also sufficient to go to the jury. The jury properly could have found not only that Pacelli was working with Schawartzberg and with Schawartzberg's employer Kahn in an effort to keep Hedges quiet, but also that their joint efforts lasted up until the time Hedges began to testify before the grand jury. See United States v. Perlstein, 126 F.2d 789 (3d Cir.), cert. denied 316 U.S. 678, 62 S. Ct. 1106, 86 L. Ed. 1752 (1942).

Pacelli contends that the evidence against him on the substantive count was insufficient as a matter of law, since at the time involved in that count -- January 9, 1963 -- there was no pending proceeding in which Hedges was to testify. See Pettibone v. United States, 148 U.S. 197, 207, 13 S. Ct. 542, 37 L. Ed. 419 (1893); United States v. Scoratow, 137 F. Supp. 620 (W.D.Pa. 1956). We need decide neither the correctness of Scoratow nor its application to a case in which the potential witness has actually agreed to testify. Pacelli's sentence on the substantive count was concurrent and of the same length as his sentence on the conspiracy count, and we conclude, for reasons set out elsewhere in this opinion, that his conviction on the conspiracy count should be affirmed. See Lawn v. United States, 355 U.S. ...

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