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United States v. Schor

decided: November 6, 1969.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
SAM J. SCHOR, APPELLANT



Friendly, Smith and Feinberg, Circuit Judges.

Author: Feinberg

FEINBERG, Circuit Judge:

Sam J. Schor, a former internal revenue agent, appeals from a judgment of conviction of violating 18 U.S.C. § 201(c) and 26 U.S.C. § 7214(a), subsections (2), (5) and (7), after a trial before a jury and Walter Bruchhausen, J., in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The four counts on which appellant was convicted all grew out of his alleged receipt of a bribe in connection with his excise tax audit of Brumberger Company, Inc. and related companies. Appellant received concurrent sentences of one year on each of the four counts; he was acquitted on one related count charging him with soliciting the bribe.*fn1 Appellant claims that his acquittal on that count rendered the evidence against him on the other four insufficient as a matter of law, that the judge's charge was erroneous, and that improper procedures were used to comply with various jury requests made during its deliberations. For reasons set forth below, we reject the first two claims but because of the third reverse for a new trial.

I.

In order to understand fully the first two contentions, a brief statement of facts is necessary. From the evidence before it, the jury could have found the following: In January 1964, appellant began an excise tax audit of a group of related companies all owned or controlled by Sidney Brumberger: Brumberger Company Inc. (manufacturer of photographic products), S. B. Manufacturing Company (toy manufacturer), and Brumberger Sales Corp. (the selling organization). The latter purchased products from Luxhall Enterprises, a Brumberger-related partnership, which imported cameras from still another Brumberger-related company. Luxhall was wholly owned by Sidney Brumberger's children, his brother-in-law, and by Stanley Natke, controller of the Brumberger Company. In conducting his excise audit of the Brumberger group, Schor met extensively with Natke between January and July 1964. Schor concluded that Brumberger Company and Luxhall Enterprises owed substantial additional excise tax (at least $2,700 and $9,000 respectively) because sales by related companies to Brumberger Sales were not at arm's length, resulting in an undervaluation of the products sold and the excise tax due. Brumberger Company, through Natke, agreed to pay the $2,700, but the $9,000 from Luxhall remained in dispute. In May or June 1964, Sidney Brumberger spoke to appellant and offered him $500 as a bribe to settle the Luxhall account. Schor said this was not enough, and it was agreed that $2,500 or $3,000 would settle the matter. Subsequently, Brumberger collected $2,000 from the Luxhall partners, pro rata, and contributed $500 or $1,000 himself. Brumberger turned this over to Schor in late June 1964. In September 1964, Luxhall received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that no change was necessary in the amount of excise tax it had reported for the audit period. A subsequent re-audit by another internal revenue agent revealed additional tax due of almost $17,000 because of dealings with Brumberger Sales that were not at arm's length.

Appellant claims that his acquittal on count one (soliciting a bribe) renders the evidence insufficient to convict on the remaining four counts. He argues that the jury must have disbelieved Natke, the only witness offering testimony on the soliciting charge, and that without Natke's testimony the whole case against him must fail. Appellant is wrong for a number of reasons. The short answer to his contention is that acquittal by a jury on one count has no collateral estoppel effect with respect to another. See United States v. Carbone, 378 F.2d 420 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 914, 88 S. Ct. 242, 19 L. Ed. 2d 262 (1967). In addition, the jury need not have disbelieved Natke at all, let alone entirely, in order to acquit Schor on count one -- Natke's testimony could well be deemed ambiguous as to who solicited whom and whether there was any clear-cut soliciting at the time. Finally, there is the testimony of Brumberger, who paid the bribe, and that testimony is devastating to appellant on the other four counts.

Appellant also contends that the trial court's failure to instruct the jury on the relationship between the Brumberger companies and Luxhall and the alleged lack of arm's length dealing between them was plain error. Appellant's point would be well taken if this "relationship" were an element of the crimes charged. See United States v. Baratta, 397 F.2d 215, 225 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 939, 89 S. Ct. 293, 21 L. Ed. 2d 276 (1968). However, the Brumberger-Luxhall relationship is not an essential element, but merely evidence against appellant. The trial judge's failure to marshal the evidence in this relatively simple case was not error. United States v. Nuccio, 373 F.2d 168, 174 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 387 U.S. 906, 87 S. Ct. 1688, 18 L. Ed. 2d 623 (1967).

II.

We turn now to the claim that improper procedures were used after the case was submitted to the jury. After four days of trial, the jury started its deliberations on the afternoon of October 28, 1968. Thereafter, the jury asked two questions and made several requests of the judge.

Turning to the jury's questions, the first was in the form of a note to the judge, received about an hour after jury deliberations commenced:

Were the witnesses for the prosecution given immunity on excise and income tax from 1960 thru 1963 that were owed the Govt. -- before they testified before the Grand Jury.

The judge wrote the answer on the note itself:

The Answer is No. They were only given immunity from criminal prosecution and not from any excise ...


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