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United States v. Cavallaro

decided: April 19, 1977.


Appeal from judgments of conviction for kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a) and 2 entered in the Northern District after a jury trial before Judge MacMahon. Affirmed.

Lumbard and Timbers, Circuit Judges, and Davis, Judge, Court of Claims.*fn*

Author: Lumbard

LUMBARD, Circuit Judge:

Anthony L. Cavallaro and Gerald J. Brown appeal from convictions entered in the Northern District on September 16, 1976, after a three-day jury trial before Judge MacMahon. Appellants were tried and found guilty on one count of kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a) and 2. Cavallaro and Brown were each sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. Appellants claim (1) that proof of an interstate kidnapping was not established beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) that 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a) is unconstitutionally vague; (3) that appellants' right of confrontation was violated when the court ruled it would not allow the government's chief witness to be questioned regarding her current address; (4) that the court erred in admitting evidence of a subsequent crime; and (5) that the court exhibited a bias against appellants during the trial, which deprived them of a fair trial.

The government's chief witness was Mary Shepardson. She testified that she lived with her infant child in a trailer in Endicott. Shepardson had only recently moved into a trailer home from an apartment she shared with Richard Sampson. She testified that before living with Sampson for approximately one month, she had been living with another individual, Dave Baer. On December 10, 1975, Shepardson went to the apartment of Debbie Buchanan in order to have Buchanan babysit her child. Buchanan was living with Richard Finch in a small apartment house at 5 Camden Street in the Endwell area. Sampson occupied an apartment above Buchanan and Finch.

After Shepardson dropped off her child with Buchanan, she hitchhiked to the welfare office to obtain money to buy fuel for her trailer. She was picked up by Cavallaro, whom Shepardson had known for about one year. Cavallaro drove her to the welfare office and she later returned to Buchanan's apartment for a time and then went out on further errands. Upon her return, Shepardson was met at the door by Buchanan who expressed concern for her safety. Buchanan told Shepardson that she should stay inside. Shortly thereafter, Brown, whom Shepardson had not met before, came to Buchanan's apartment. He told Shepardson that Dave Baer was outside and wanted to speak to her. Shepardson and Brown went outside to a car where Brown told Shepardson, "Get in the car. We are going for a ride." Dave Baer was sitting in the back seat, his face was swollen and "he looked scared"; Cavallaro was sitting in the driver's seat. At the time Shepardson did not know what was going on but she felt that when Brown told her to come outside she "had no choice."

Shepardson testified that after she entered the car, Cavallaro drove off down the highway. She sat in the front passenger seat while Brown sat behind her in the back seat and held her hands behind the seat "most of the time." Brown told her that she had better tell the truth about the "rip-off" and that he had been hired to kill her. Cavallaro told her that he was tired of being ripped off and lied to. Apparently, Cavallaro had been "ripped off" in a marijuana transaction and believed that two individuals, Jerry Brooks and David Lamont, were responsible. Cavallaro also believed that Shepardson might be involved, or at least that she could provide some information about Brooks. Despite continued threats, however, Shepardson insisted that she knew nothing. Cavallaro then stopped the car, and turned and pointed a gun at her. Shepardson exclaimed, "Oh my God. I don't know anything." At this point Brown told Cavallaro to "cool it" and that he would take care of the job he had been hired to do.

At some point during the ride Shepardson looked out the window and saw a sign that read "Welcome to Pennsylvania." Brown continued to threaten her, telling her that she had only a little time to talk and if she wanted to see her son again, she should tell him where they could find the people involved in the rip-off. Cavallaro stopped the car a second time and Shepardson and Baer were ordered to stand outside, in front of the car. Then, both Brown and Cavallaro drew weapons. Brown fired three shots - one going past Shepardson's elbow and two landing at her feet. After this, Brown told Cavallaro that she must be "o.k." and did not know anything.

After all four got back in the car, Brown told Shepardson that he had just saved her life. They then stopped at a bar in Montrose, Pennsylvania for approximately one-half hour. Cavallaro then drove them back to Baer's apartment for a short visit and then dropped off Shepardson at Buchanan's apartment some time early in the morning on December 11.

Shepardson testified that she was met at the door by Finch and that, after drinking some beer, she fainted. She was awakened early that morning by the police, who questioned her regarding the events of the previous night.

Baer, called to testify by the government, told a somewhat different story. He stated that appellants came to him some time on December 9 or 10 seeking the whereabouts of Brooks and Lamont. Later, the same day, at about 9:00 p.m., they called him on the telephone and told him that Shepardson was obtaining some information about Brooks and that she was expecting a visit from them; further, they asked him to come along because Shepardson was his girlfriend. Baer agreed to go along and called Shepardson and told her they were coming over. According to Baer, during the car ride Brown questioned Shepardson, "trying to sound angry," but did not use force or hold her hands behind the seat. Baer also stated that it was his idea to have appellants place Shepardson and him in front of the car and to fire some shots - the plan being to make Shepardson believe they were going to harm him if she did not reveal what she knew. Baer stated that the guns were aimed up in the air when the shots were fired.

Buchanan and Finch were also called by the government. Buchanan testified that when Brown came to her apartment on the evening of December 10, he entered the apartment with a gun tucked under his belt and told Shepardson to get her coat and that someone was waiting to speak with her in the car. Brown then took Shepardson's arm and Buchanan watched them depart. Buchanan stated that she saw Shepardson being pushed into a dark colored car.

Finch testified that at about 2:00 p.m. on December 10 Cavallaro, Brown, and Baer came to his apartment. They told him they wanted to see Richard Sampson in order to find "Jerry," who they believed had "ripped them off." According to Finch, Shepardson was present when a general discussion took place regarding Brooks and Sampson. Sampson was not at home and Finch took appellants upstairs and used a knife to open Sampson's door. After inspecting the apartment, appellants left.

Finch stated that he was home at about 2:30 a.m. on December 11, at which time Cavallaro arrived with Shepardson. Cavallaro, who was carrying a pistol in his left hand, dropped off Shepardson and left ...

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