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United States v. Currier

decided: January 10, 1969.


Moore, Smith and Hays, Circuit Judges. Hays, Circuit Judge (concurring).

Author: Smith

J. JOSEPH SMITH, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from a judgment on jury verdict of guilty in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York entered December 7, 1967, John F.X. McGohey, Judge, convicting appellant of bail jumping, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 3146, and sentencing him to a term of imprisonment of three years. We find no error and affirm the judgment.

Currier was arrested on March 24, 1966 pursuant to a warrant issued on a complaint charging him and two others with mail and wire fraud. He was released on $1,000 bail on the following day. On August 1, 1966 an indictment was filed charging Currier with mail and wire fraud, and shortly thereafter Currier's attorney telephoned him and informed him that he was required to appear in court for a pleading on August 3. Currier failed to appear. The case was adjourned one day, and Currier's attorney again telephoned him and told him he was required to appear for pleading on August 4. On August 4 Currier again failed to appear, whereupon his bail was forfeited and a bench warrant was issued.

Currier remained a fugitive for more than nine months, traveling from Maine to Florida, and never staying in one place for more than a few days. He transferred the registration of his station wagon from New York to Maine on August 23, 1966. On November 10, 1966 Currier was informed by an acquaintance whom he had telephoned that the police and a postal inspector were looking for him and that he was a "wanted man." Currier declined to say where he was and replied, "In that case, I better hang up and leave." During all the previous events, Currier had been living under the name David W. Ren. On February 27, 1967 Currier transferred the registration of his automobile from Maine to Connecticut. Shortly thereafter he obtained employment in Ridgewood, New Jersey under the name James David. He was finally apprehended on May 16, 1967 at a house he had rented in Waldwick, New Jersey.

At the trial, Currier testified on his own behalf, admitting that he had been contacted by his attorney and that he knew that he was supposed to appear in court, and that if he didn't appear he would be arrested. He also admitted that he deliberately chose not to surrender himself, and that he was being sought by the authorities. His defense was, however, that while driving to a motel in New Jersey which had accommodations for his German shepherd dog, he apparently either blacked out or suffered an attack of amnesia, and remembered nothing further until he found himself driving on U.S. Route 1 in Maine and heading toward Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

He admitted, however, that immediately upon waking from the alleged "trance" he knew he was suppose to appear in court and failed to do so. To justify his failure to surrender thereafter, appellant testified that he became "tired, confused, and worried" about what would happen to him if he went back, and what would happen to his dog, which had been his companion for fourteen years, if he were put in jail. Currier admitted that he subsequently moved around quite a bit, traveling about the Eastern Seaboard as far as Florida, claiming that he was "confused" and that he moved around because he had difficulty finding motels that were willing to accommodate his dog.

On cross-examination it was brought out that Currier had been convicted on three prior occasions of bad check charges in Connecticut in 1948-49. Currier had also forfeited bail on a criminal charge in Los Angeles, California, while under the name of Raymond Scott in 1959.

Currier was examined by two court-appointed psychiatrists for the purpose of determining whether he was competent to stand trial. Dr. Abrahamsen, based on two examinations of Currier and consultation with Currier's personal physician, Dr. Blier, rendered a report on August 12, 1967 indicating that he found no neurological abnormalities with the exception of signs of malingering, but nonetheless recommended further study in light of Currier's claim of memory lapses and his history of syphilis, treated by Dr. Blier in 1961. Currier was accordingly transferred to Bellevue Hospital. A second report, issued by Dr. Lubin, stated that there was no evidence of syphilis of the central nervous system, psychosis, nor of neurological abnormalities. He further concluded that Currier was competent, having merely a "personality pattern disorder/antisocial." Specifically noting Currier's claimed memory lapses as a justification for his having jumped bail, Dr. Lubin concluded: "It is the opinion of the interviewer that while his memory appears vague for certain topics, it appears to be in service of evasion."

Following Currier's return from Bellevue, appellant's counsel, Quinlan, made a motion that a retained private psychiatrist and appellant's private physician [Blier] be permitted to visit and examine Currier. Subsequently, Quinlan, who had been continuously on trial during this time, requested several adjournments on the grounds that it was taking him time to get a psychiatrist, and because of a difficulty in obtaining funds to pay for a psychiatrist. Apparently a psychiatrist, Dr. Portnow, had been paid a $200 retainer.

On the second day of trial, Currier handed Judge McGohey a note requesting that his own cross-examination not be resumed until he could be examined by Drs. Blier and Portnow. When the judge asked defense counsel Quinlan if he wanted to make a motion for adjournment or recess, Quinlan responded:

I had consulted with psychiatrists and for various reasons I made a judgment not to produce them.

On the day of sentencing, Quinlan again responded to a charge by Currier that his failure to have Currier examined on the insanity issue deprived him of an effective counsel by stating:

Now, you Honor, in response to some of the remarks made by the defendant, I think that it would be inappropriate for me to refute some of them, because I think that would impinge the lawyer-client privilege. I will just say that every decision that I made along the way in this case involving doctors, or cross-examination, or whatever ...

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