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United States v. Overton

decided: December 12, 1972.


Lumbard, Feinberg and Oakes, Circuit Judges.

Author: Feinberg

FEINBERG, Circuit Judge:

These appeals involve a scheme alleged to violate 29 U.S.C. § 186, an enactment intended to safeguard the integrity of the collective bargaining process. Appellants L. Joseph Overton, his brother Lawrence J. Overton, and Hulan Jack were convicted after a two and one-half week jury trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Sylvester J. Ryan, J., of conspiracy to violate section 186. 18 U.S.C. § 371. L. Joseph Overton was also convicted on nine counts which charged receipt of certain payments of money in violation of that section; Hulan Jack was also convicted on nine counts which charged the aiding and abetting of substantive violations by the making of those payments. 18 U.S.C. § 2. On June 6, 1972, Judge Ryan sentenced L. Joseph Overton to a term of imprisonment for one year, six months to be served, six months suspended, followed by probation for three years; the judge also imposed a $10,000 fine. Hulan Jack was sentenced to three months in prison, with the balance of a one-year term suspended, and was fined $5,000.*fn1 Lawrence J. Overton was given a one-year suspended sentence and a $10,000 fine. Appellants individually and together raise a number of contentions on appeal. We find none of them persuasive, and affirm the judgments of conviction.


The Government's evidence -- which, where controverted, could be and apparently was believed by the jury -- showed the following. The conspiracy, which ran from 1966 to late 1970, centered around the union influence of L. Joseph Overton, Business Agent for Harlem of Local 338, Retail, Wholesale Chain Store Food Employees Union, AFL-CIO ("Local 338"). Co-conspirator Lawrence Overton, brother of Joseph, was likewise active in the union, and during the period in question served periodically on its Welfare Board and on its Executive Board. Both men also played considerable roles in the formation and operation of Coordinated Community Services, Inc. ("CCS"), a principal tool of the conspiracy.

CCS was a private stock corporation formed in early 1966. The four original shareholders -- each with 25 per cent of the stock -- were Joseph Overton, Hulan Jack, Theodore Solomon, and Harry Rosenblum. Solomon was executive secretary of Associated Grocers of Harlem, Inc. ("AGH"), which represented 70 Harlem grocery stores and supermarkets and which negotiated and signed labor contracts with Joseph Overton and Local 338. Rosenblum was the owner of two grocery stores which were members of AGH and which adhered to the AGH-Local 338 labor contracts.*fn2 Shortly after organization of CCS, Joseph Overton purported to transfer his interest in CCS to another corporation, Emancipation March, Ltd., principally controlled by his brother Lawrence. The jury could find, however, as the Government urged, that this was merely an attempt at concealment and that Joseph Overton at all times remained a real CCS shareholder in interest. Once organized, CCS entered into contracts with six large and well-known food manufacturers. In return for fees from them which totalled as much as $80,000 per annum, CCS undertook to promote their products among the grocers and larger food retailers of Harlem. Promotional efforts were principally visits from Lawrence Overton, salaried as "Director of Operations" for CCS, and from his assistant in this capacity, Leonard Faust, brother-in-law of Joseph Overton.*fn3 Evidence disclosed that Joseph Overton intervened directly with a retailer on at least one occasion; so, too, did Hulan Jack. Jack, Faust, and Lawrence Overton were all known in the Harlem community, and their personal relationship and business affiliation with Joseph Overton were known generally by retailers with whom they dealt.

The parties disagree as to how properly to characterize the corporate purpose of CCS. Appellant Jack testified that CCS operated simply as a public relations consultant, striving to improve the image of the products of its clients in the black community in Harlem. The Government, on the other hand, argues that the primary, if not sole, corporate purpose was to exploit the enormous union power of Joseph Overton to the pecuniary benefit of the corporate principals. Doubtless, the jury accepted the latter view. It is precisely this exploitation which the framers of section 186 viewed as inimical to constructive labormanagement relations. Food retailers who employed union labor or employees who might seek representation by Local 338 could reasonably anticipate labor difficulties were they unwilling to purchase products of CCS clients. Once having agreed to patronize manufacturers represented by the Overtons through CCS, these retailers would probably expect fewer problems with the union. See United States v. Ryan, 225 F.2d 417, 426 (2d Cir. 1955) (L. Hand, J., dissenting), rev'd, 350 U.S. 299, 76 S. Ct. 400, 100 L. Ed. 335 (1956) ("Congress wished to prevent employers from tampering with the loyalty of union officials, and disloyal union officials from levying tribute upon employers.") In short, the desire to make profits for CCS threatened to become the exclusive determinant of the adequacy with which employee interests were represented. That CCS offered a vehicle for subverting congressional purpose is thus clear. Whether the Government proved that appellants' conduct fell within the technical proscriptions of the statute, as charged in the indictment, is the principal question before us.


Appellants argue that the Government's evidence was insufficient to prove elements of the conspiracy as alleged in the first count of the indictment. Section 186(b) of Title 29 makes it unlawful for any person to

request, demand, receive, or accept, or agree to receive or accept, any payment, loan, or delivery of any money or other thing of value prohibited by subsection (a) . . . .

Section 186(a) in turn prohibits the payment or delivery, by an employer or person acting "in the interest of an employer," of "any money or other thing of value" --

(1) to any representative of any of his employees who are employed in an industry affecting commerce; or

(2) to any labor organization, or any officer or employee thereof, which represents, seeks to represent, or would admit to membership, any of the employees of such employer . . . . [Emphasis added.]

Appellants concede that there was sufficient evidence of a violation of sections 186(b) and (a)(2); they admit that grocer-employers of clerks who could be represented by Local 338 were solicited for a "thing of value" -- i.e., purchase of the products of clients represented by CCS. But, they contend, such a violation was not charged since the indictment specified only requests to and solicitations of employers whose employees were already members of the union, and thus only charged a conspiracy to violate 186(b) and (a)(1); because the Government proof did not establish requests to ...

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