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United States v. Izzi

decided: April 20, 1970.


Smith, Kaufman and Hays, Circuit Judges.

Author: Kaufman

IRVING R. KAUFMAN, Circuit Judge.

Appealing from his conviction for the interstate transportation of stolen securities, Rudolph Izzi alleges that the introduction of handwriting exemplars executed at the demand of the government, in conjunction with testimony that he had intentionally varied his handwriting, violated his privilege against self-incrimination. He also claims that the trial court's denial of his numerous requests for delays precluded a fair trial and that the government failed to prove the elements of the crime.

On this appeal from a judgment of conviction based upon a jury verdict, we must take that view of the evidence most favorable to the government. United States v. Kahaner, 317 F.2d 459 (2d Cir. 1963). Most of the testimony centered on the events of January 25, 1967. Izzi's first encounter on that date involved, somewhat prophetically, a brush with the law. When Izzi was 100 miles within Pennsylvania, he was stopped for speeding at 8:40 a.m. while driving west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The appellant was driving a new Cadillac registered in New York, and was accompanied by one Joyce Cottone, a resident of New York. In an effort to get on his way, Izzi volunteered to the trooper that he was hurrying to an important appointment in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; nevertheless, he was taken before a local justice of the peace, who summarily fined him $15. This small episode completed, Izzi proceeded on to Gettysburg arriving before noon at the Gettysburg Motor Lodge where he registered under the pseudonym "R. Randolph."

Also staying at the Motor Lodge on this day was one John Marken, an officer of Bankers and Telephone Employees Insurance Co. (BTEICo.). Marken had been told to expect the arrival of a "Mr. Randolph" who would deliver to him 2600 shares of International Business Machines stock required for a BTEICo. recapitalization program. Shortly after Izzi's arrival at the motel, the two met and Izzi transferred to Marken 26 100-share certificates of IBM common stock. These certificates, worth more than $1,000,000, were registered in the name of Hayden, Stone & Co., a firm of New York stockbrokers, and constituted part of a group of 50 certificates which had mysteriously disappeared from the firm's New York headquarters in July or August 1966. After the Gettysburg transaction, the 26 certificates were taken by Marken's attorney to the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner for inspection and placed in a safe deposit box at the Harrisburg National Bank and Trust Co. The Commissioner had been insisting on a substantial infusion of new capital into BTEICo.

The use of the certificates by BTEICo. was uncovered in February 1967, and the shares were seized by the FBI on February 24, 1967, pursuant to a search warrant. Approximately a week later Izzi disappeared and, although a warrant for his arrest was issued March 8, 1967, he remained at large until May 3, 1968, when he voluntarily surrendered to the authorities. Izzi's indictment for interstate transportation of stolen property of a value greater than $5000, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 2314, had been filed more than a year prior to his surrender. He was convicted on April 11, 1969 following a one-week trial before Judge Mansfield and a jury, and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment.


Izzi claims that the handwriting exemplars he was required to execute shortly before commencement of his trial were the subject of impermissible comment by the government and its witnesses. With only the "R. Randolph" motel registration card and several specimens of Izzi's own signature on which to base his judgment, the government handwriting expert was apparently unable to make a conclusive determination that Izzi had written the signature on the card. Accordingly, one week before the trial, the government secured a court order compelling Izzi to provide handwriting exemplars or "standards." It is apparent to the eye that the "R. Randolph" signatures executed by Izzi in compliance with this order in the presence of his counsel are noticeably less fluent than his normal signature. Izzi does not ask us to hold that the mere introduction of these exemplars at trial violated his fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263, 87 S. Ct. 1951, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1178 (1967), forecloses this line of attack. Instead, he contends that the government improperly emphasized the differences between Izzi's normal signature and the exemplars, intentionally suggesting that he had attempted to disguise his normal handwriting and by so doing had indicated consciousness of guilt.It is this implied admission which Izzi alleges was wrung from him in violation of the fifth amendment. Although Izzi's claim that the government sought to make use of an alleged acknowledgment of guilt arising from the compelled execution of handwriting exemplars constitutes an ingenious attempt to avoid the thrust of Gilbert, we find it to be unsupported by the record.*fn1

Neither the testimony of the government witnesses nor the argument of the prosecutor contained an accusation that Izzi had sought to disguise his handwriting in executing the exemplars. Webb, the government's handwriting expert, attempted to account for the absence of a characteristic feature of Izzi's handwriting in the exemplars by pointing out that the exemplars had been written "much slower." In cross-examination of Osborn, the defendant's expert, the prosecutor sought to impeach Osborn's testimony relating to differences between the exemplars and the "R. Randolph" signature on the motel registration card (the inference suggested by the defense being that they did not have a common author), by drawing his attention to the differences between the exemplars and Izzi's "normal," "fluent" signatures.

Under Gilbert, the government may compel the execution of handwriting exemplars and introduce them into evidence in order to determine the authorship of another writing. If Gilbert is not to be rendered meaningless, the government must be allowed to explain differences between the exemplars and the signature sought to be identified, particularly where the defense points to these differences as evidence of noncommon authoriship.


Izzi also contends that the district court's denial of his series of requests for delay commencing shortly before the trial and continuing until its conclusion prevented him from countering the government's handwriting evidence effectively and from establishing an "alibi" defense. The result, he argues, was to deny him due process of law. Izzi complains that the prosecutor failed to notice the taking of the exemplars until six days before trial, did not provide his expert with convenient facilities for examination of the exemplars and the accompanying report, and further impeded the expert's preparation by never disclosing which signatures would be introduced at trial. While we would have preferred greater generosity on the part of the prosecutor, any inconveniences occasioned were not insurmountable; nor did they prejudice Izzi. He had ample opportunity to engage a handwriting expert, and the expert prepared an enlightening exhibit which illustrated his testimony. That the government's failure to introduce into evidence certain of the signatures portrayed in the defense exhibit necessitated last-minute alterations is hardly a basis for the claim that Izzi was denied a fair trial.

The "alibi" defense and, consequently, the request for a continuance in order to establish it merit only brief mention. Izzi sought to prove his "alibi" by a series of calculations linked to a chain of inferences which he insists would have shown that he could not have arrived at the Gettysburg Motor Lodge before 10:30 a.m. But, even if established, this theory would have availed him naught, for the government's case did not rest on proof that Izzi had arrived at any specific hour on the morning of ...

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