The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRYAN
FREDERICK van PELT BRYAN, District Judge:
Ronald Wilson was tried before me without a jury on a one-count indictment charging that on April 15, 1971 and continuously thereafter he wilfully and knowingly failed and refused to submit to induction in the armed forces, as ordered by his local Selective Service Board, in violation of the Military Selective Service Act of 1967, 50 App. U.S.C. § 462(a), and a Selective Service Regulation, 32 C.F.R. 1632.14.
At the conclusion of the trial Wilson moved for judgment of acquittal and decision was reserved. I now grant the motion for judgment of acquittal and find Wilson not guilty.
The prosecution's case was based on Selective Service records and undisputed testimony as to Wilson's refusal to submit to induction. His refusal was upon the stated ground that his religious training and belief as a Jehovah's Witness forbade him to serve in the armed forces. The prosecution established the following.
In March, 1969, Wilson, then a high school student in Charleston, South Carolina, duly registered with his Selective Service Board there and was given a high school student deferment (1-SH). On September 14, 1970, shortly after Wilson had come to New York, he was reclassified by his local board as 1-A. He then received an order from his local board to report for pre-induction physical examination in Charleston. At his request, the examination was transferred to New York. On November 17, 1970, Wilson duly reported for physical examination and was found physically qualified for induction. On January 7, 1971, the local board ordered Wilson to report for induction and, at his request, induction was transferred to New York. At this point, for the first time, Wilson requested and received from his local board a Form SSS 150, the special form for conscientious objector, which he filled out and filed, claiming exemption on the ground of his religious training and belief as a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The local board, after postponing his induction date, denied his conscientious objector application, stating:
Board felt information submitted by registrant was not sufficient to warrant C O classification. Registrant did not request C O until after induction order had been issued. Board denied to reopen classification.
It then directed Wilson to report for induction on April 15, 1971. Wilson reported but refused to submit to induction on the ground that his religious training and belief forbade him to serve in the armed forces.
Wilson took the stand in his own defense and his testimony, which I find quite believable and is virtually uncontradicted, placed the case in a much different posture from that shown by the cold record. His defense was that he had a bona fide claim for exemption as a conscientious objector and that his failure to take timely procedural steps to assert that claim was brought about (a) by his lack of understanding of the term "conscientious objector" and of the procedure necessary to obtain such an exemption; (b) the failure and refusal of the Selective Service System and its personnel, despite his repeated requests, to give him proper advice and assistance on this subject; and (c) incorrect and misleading information and advice which was given him by System personnel. His testimony supported that defense.
Ronald Wilson was born and brought up in Charleston, South Carolina. His family were Jehovah's Witnesses and he was raised in the strict tenets of that sect. There is no reason to doubt that he followed the tenets of the Jehovah's Witnesses from childhood and believed in those tenets.
Wilson was the youngest of 7 children, 5 boys and 2 girls. All of his 4 brothers had served in the armed forces, one as a sergeant in the Green Berets, one as a sergeant of Marines, another in the Marines and the fourth in the Navy. It appears, quite understandably, that, as the youngest child and with his brothers in the services, particular emphasis was laid upon his religious training, both while his father was alive and after his mother was left a widow.
Shortly after his graduation from high school in Charleston, in May of 1970, Wilson came to New York and obtained a job as a messenger with a downtown messenger service. He was then 19. Thus, he was a relative stranger in New York when he received his notice of reclassification from high school student deferment to 1-A on September 14, 1970. He felt that his religious training and belief as a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses entitled him to some sort of relief from service in the armed forces, but he had no real understanding of the procedure necessary to claim and obtain such an exemption, or of the technical term "conscientious objector" and its implications.
Thus, when Wilson received his notice of reclassification, he sought advice and assistance as to the procedure necessary to obtain a review of his 1-A classification.
He then began a number of visits to the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station (AFEES), at 39 Whitehall Street in downtown New York, seeking such advice and assistance. During these visits, largely made during his lunch hour, Wilson talked to numbers of persons on the staff, including two uniformed sergeants, a major, and a Mr. LeBron, liaison officer between the Selective Service System and the AFEES,
asking about an appeal from his 1-A classification and how he could get in touch with an appeal agent for that purpose. What he obtained can only be described as a series of brushoffs, though on one of his early visits he was casually told to wait until he reported for induction.
When Wilson received the order from his local board to report for physical examination, he again went to Whitehall Street for assistance and was told to go to the Selective Service offices at the Federal Building to arrange for transfer of the examination to New York. This he did. Wilson asked the clerk who was preparing a form for transfer about taking an appeal and seeing an appeal agent. No attempt was made to refer him to anyone in New York who might help him with his problem. There was ...