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United States v. Lacey

decided: April 17, 1972.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES EDWARD LACEY, APPELLANT



Friendly, Chief Judge, Timbers, Circuit Judge, and Jameson, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Jameson

JAMESON, District Judge:

Appellant, James Edward Lacey, was convicted, after jury trial, of attempting to pass a counterfeit $20.00 Federal Reserve Note and possession and concealment of a second counterfeit note, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 472.*fn1 Appellant was 20 years of age and was sentenced pursuant to the Federal Youth Corrections Act.

It is conceded that the bills were counterfeit and that Lacey attempted to pass one bill and possessed the other. He contends that the Government failed to prove that he knew the bills were counterfeit, a necessary element of the crime. The following summarizes the evidence presented by the Government.*fn2

Lacey attempted to pay for merchandise at a Woolworth store with a counterfeit $20.00 bill. When the bill was presented to the cashier at the check-out counter she rang a bell to "get the bill checked."*fn3 A security officer came to the counter, took the bill, and then gave it to the store manager, who arrived within a few seconds. The manager testified that he was handed the bill about 5:15 P.M. He asked Lacey where he had obtained it, and Lacey replied in substance, "I got it as a part of my pay as a plumber."*fn4

George Rahmer, a New York City police patrolman, was called about 5:30 P.M. and went to the Woolworth store, where he met the store manager, the security officer, and Lacey. He took Lacey to the store's security office and "advised him of his rights." Lacey stated that he "understood his rights." Rahmer testified that he then asked Lacey, "if he would like to tell us where he got this bill. He said he had gotten it in his paycheck."

Lacey was searched and another $20.00 bill was found in his right rear trouser pocket, "folded up in quarters, stuffed in the lower part of his pocket * * *." Lacey told Rahmer that he had also gotten this bill "in his paycheck."

Lacey was then taken to the precinct station. In completing the arrest papers, Rahmer asked Lacey where he was employed and Lacey stated that he was unemployed. This was approximately one-half hour after the first interview.

Thomas Healy, a special agent of the Secret Service, was called and arrived at the precinct station around 6:30 or 7:00 o'clock. He was given the counterfeit notes, advised Lacey of his constitutional rights, and Lacey replied that he understood them.

Healy took a personal history. Lacey stated that he was unemployed but had been employed a few months before as a plumber's helper with the Department of Parks. He told the agent that he had found the notes "lying on the street on the corner of Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse" at a "bus stop and he found them lying on the street next to the curb."

When Healy told Lacey that Patrolman Rahmer had stated that Lacey told him he received the notes in his paycheck, Lacey said "that was a lie, and he never told the patrolman that."

Lacey told both Rahmer and Healy that he did not know the notes were counterfeit.

When the Government rested, and again after both sides rested, defense counsel moved for a judgment of acquittal on the ground of insufficient evidence in that the Government had "failed to substantiate the material element of the offense, namely knowledge." Both motions were denied.

The court properly instructed the jury that in order to find the defendant guilty on the first count it must "find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew at the time that the note was counterfeit and then so knowing attempted to pass it for the purpose of defrauding some person." With respect to the inferences which ...


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