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UNITED STATES v. MANFREDONIA

March 31, 1972

UNITED STATES of America
v.
John E. MANFREDONIA, Defendant


Frankel, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: FRANKEL

FRANKEL, District Judge.

Defendant was convicted by a jury on two perjury counts. On November 18, 1968, he was sentenced to a prison term of 18 months and fined $2,000 on the first count. Imposition of prison sentence was suspended on count two, defendant was fined an additional $2,000, and he was placed on probation for a period of five years, to commence after service of the prison term on count one. He surrendered for confinement on October 10, 1969, having prosecuted an unsuccessful appeal. His term, reduced by appropriate credits, expired on November 25, 1970, when he was released and his period of probation began.

 The Probation Office has now charged defendant with violating the conditions of his probation in three respects:

 
"[1] That he has failed to obtain any type of legitimate employment.
 
"[2] That he has refused to submit his written monthly reports as directed.
 
"[3] That he has made no effort to pay his fine."

  The second of these specifications, which is critical in the court's appraisal of the problems presented, has given rise to some factual concerns hereinafter discussed. *fn1" For the rest, however, the facts causing the charges of probation violation are essentially undisputed. Thus, it is agreed that defendant has not obtained legitimate gainful employment. It is undisputed that his fine remains unsatisfied except for the following installments paid at the times indicated: December 23, 1968 $ 20.00 January 27, 1969 10.00 March 27, 1969 20.00 April 22, 1969 10.00 May 23, 1969 10.00 July 17, 1969 20.00 September 3, 1969 10.00 October 2, 1969 6.05

 Most importantly, it is acknowledged that defendant has failed to submit required monthly reports giving such information as: name of employer, if any, nature of employment, earnings from employment, time worked, receipts from loans, welfare benefits. and other sources, overdue debts, if any, and the identity of creditors. *fn2"

 It is defendant's failure and refusal to give information about his financial affairs that generate the relatively interesting questions now before the court. Defendant seeks to justify this omission upon a factual assertion plus an alternative ground of law. The factual contention is that having been convicted of perjury, and retaining an unshaken knowledge of his innocence, defendant now has a "deep obsession and phobia * * * that any prospective employer, or any other person, with whom he becomes connected will be harassed and his answers will be distorted and twisted and used as the framework of future charges of perjury." *fn3" The legal contention is that the reports in question may be withheld upon the basis of defendant's privilege against self-incrimination. The court has received evidence relating to the first of these contentions and has considered the arguments presented on both. Both are now rejected.

 1. Concerning the asserted "obsession and phobia," it is appropriate to note the restricted character of this theory on defendant's own submissions. Defense counsel denies any "suggestion * * * that the phobia even approaches insanity * * *. Nor is there any basis to think that the probationer does not understand the consequences of his acts or is unable to assist in the defense of his position." *fn4" Thus it has appeared from the outset of the instant revocation proceeding that we were not dealing with a claim of literal mental or emotional "incapacity" to make the reports, but with an asserted resistance or "block" of imposing dimensions.

 While that might conceivably have ended the subject adversely to defendant, the court heard the testimony of two psychiatrists who had conducted individual examinations of defendant. The two witnesses presented essentially similar descriptions. Defendant, both of them noted, feels that he is being followed, that government agents are out to "get" him. He sees evidence of plots and conspiracies against him in the smiles and gestures of court personnel and secretaries. His beliefs on these matters were thought by both psychiatrists to be, at least in some degree, delusional in nature. But both psychiatrists avoided labelling defendant as "psychotic," and stressed the restricted character of his disorder. Thus, defendant was variously described as suffering from a "monomania," as being in a "paranoid state," as being on the borderline between psychosis and neurosis, as having a personality disorder of a paranoid type. His "delusions," to the extent they are delusions and actually believed in, are limited to the specific area of belief in government persecution, and do not impair his ability to function in other areas of life.

 On the critical issue of criminal responsibility, one of the psychiatrists said he was uncertain whether a mental disease or defect rendered defendant incapable of supplying the information requested on the monthly reports. According to the other psychiatrist, defendant understands the risks of not filing the reports and the wrongfulness of noncompliance, but is suffering from impaired judgment. In each instance, the evaluation was based solely upon an interview, of several hours duration, at which defendant supplied information about his personal history. Both psychiatrists emphasized the tentative nature of their diagnoses.

 The net of the psychiatric testimony, so far as it may be thought to help defendant, is at most that certain paranoid and obsessional tendencies (not amounting to a mental disease or defect) have played a role in his refusal to report. Considering both the characterizations the doctors gave and the underlying reports from defendant upon which the characterizations were based, and setting these in the context of the record as a whole, the court finds that this defendant's "disorder" is no greater than the fears, obsessions and resistances of individuals regularly found sane and held responsible for their misdeeds. Skirting metaphysics, the court finds him capable of effective choice. His reasons for choosing not to report may well have paranoid tints. Nevertheless, he is entirely capable of making the reports in any factual sense that the law can possibly embrace. The court finds his conduct to be a knowing, volitional refusal to report, for which he must face the legal consequences. *fn5"

 This does not mean defendant would stand on firmer ground now if he could be said to be "incapable" of reporting. The reports about basic activities comprise an indispensable tool for effective probation supervision. A defendant "unable" to meet such a basic requirement of probation -- at least if he is otherwise competent, as this defendant is, to be sentenced -- should probably be held unsuitable for that mode of correctional treatment. Cf. State v. Oyler, 92 Idaho 43, 436 P. 2d 709 (1968); Sobota ...


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