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UNITED STATES v. IACONETTI

January 8, 1976

UNITED STATES, Plaintiff,
v.
Harry Dominick IACONETTI, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINSTEIN

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

 WEINSTEIN, District Judge.

 The defendant, Harry D. Iaconetti, a federal government contract inspector, was found guilty by a jury of soliciting and accepting a bribe (18 U.S.C. § 201(c)) and attempting to extort money (18 U.S.C. § 1951) from two government suppliers. He moves for a new trial on the ground that the verdict rested upon inadmissible rebuttal evidence by two government witnesses. For the reasons stated below, the court finds the evidence relevant, non-prejudicial and admissible under the hearsay rules.

 I. Facts

 The government's chief witness against the defendant was Mr. Lioi, an officer in a corporation seeking a government contract. Mr. Lioi testified that on February 10, 1975, the defendant told him that it would be "hard to justify" a favorable pre-award survey, a prerequisite to the awarding of a contract, unless 1% of the contract price were paid to the defendant and "upper echelons" in the government. After the defendant requested the bribe, Mr. Lioi discussed it with his partners and counsel for the corporation, contacted the FBI, and arranged for future conversations with the defendant to be secretly recorded. As a result, a significant portion of the government's case consisted of tapes of the conversations between Mr. Lioi and the defendant on February 11 and 24 of 1975.

 To rebut the government's case, the defendant relied primarily on his own testimony. He denied each government witness' version of their unrecorded conversations with him. Furthermore, he testified that instead of requesting a bribe from Mr. Lioi on February 10, he was offered an unsolicited bribe of $1,000 by Mr. Lioi despite his repeated assurances that the contract would be awarded to the firm. He explained the tapes as recordings of conversations in which he was "leading . . . on" Mr. Lioi in order to "gather evidence".

 One other explanation by the defendant of his conduct was revealed on his cross-examination by the government. Immediately after his arrest, with the money in his possession, the defendant had told the FBI that the bribery discussions with Mr. Lioi had been a joke. The defendant testified as follows:

 
"Q In fact, you told the FBI, Mr. Iaconetti, that the entire unfortunate incident was a practical joke, didn't you?
 
A I said it started out like a practical joke.
 
Q You didn't tell the FBI that the whole matter was a practical joke and that you had a reputation for being a practical joker, and this was one of your practical jokes that got out of hand? Isn't that what you told the --
 
A Yes, I said that to [Special Agent] Chandler I believe."

 Because of the conflicting interpretations that could be given portions of the tapes, because understanding the taped discussions depends in part on what happened at the February 10th meeting, and because the defendant flatly contradicted Mr. Lioi's version of the meeting on the 10th, the government presented two rebuttal witnesses. The witnesses related Mr. Lioi's reports to them on the 10th of the defendant's statements earlier that day, thus substantiating Mr. Lioi's testimony that the defendant had solicited a bribe. The witnesses were Mr. Goldman, a business partner of Mr. Lioi, and Mr. Stern, the attorney for the firm.

 Mr. Stern testified on direct examination as follows:

 
"Mr. Lioi said that an individual from GSA had been in the factory that day and that the individual had been there for purposes of doing a pre-award survey with regard to a contract that [the firm] had bid on.
 
This individual had at one point in the day asked him directly for money. I believe the amount was $12,000 [approximately 1% of the contract]. And that that money was to feather the bed and give [the firm] that contract. . . . He also said that the man offered him a deal with regard to future contracts."

 Defendant made a timely objection to the testimony of these two witnesses; the ground stated was that the testimony was prejudicial inadmissible hearsay. ...


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