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United States v. Rodriguez

decided: May 11, 1977.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
MANUEL ALFONSO RODRIGUEZ, AND RAYMOND GERALDO, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Appeal from Judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Kevin Thomas Duffy, Judge on the grounds that the indictment was legally insufficient, the prosecutor had misconducted himself, the verdicts were based upon insufficient and improperly admitted evidence, the District Judge's instructions were improper, and defendant's trial attorney failed to give effective assistance of counsel. Affirmed.

Oakes, Circuit Judge, Holden, District Judge,*fn* and Wyzanski, Senior District Judge.*fn**

Author: Wyzanski

WYZANSKI, Senior District Judge:

Rodriguez and Geraldo appeal from judgments of conviction based on (1) Count 1 of an indictment charging them and others with violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 by a conspiracy to file false documents with the United States Department of State and to violate the Gun Control Act of 1968, 26 U.S.C. §§ 5811, 5812, and 5861 (d) and (e), and (2) Count 3 of the same indictment charging them and others with violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2 by having made false representations in matters within the jurisdiction of the United States Department of State. Geraldo also appeals from judgments of conviction on Counts 2 and 4 which involve the same statutory sections as does Count 3.

Each defendant claims that (1) the indictment was legally insufficient, (2) the prosecutor misconducted himself, (3) the jury's verdicts were based upon insufficient and improperly admitted evidence, and (4) the District Judge's instructions were improper. Additionally, Rodriguez alleges that because of the incompetence of his trial attorney he was denied the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

None of those claims is sound.

Count 1 of the indictment charged that appellants and others from January 1 to May 15, 1976 conspired to violate Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968, 26 U.S.C. §§ 5811, 5812, 5861 (d) and (e) and 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2, which relate to false statements made to and within the jurisdiction of federal governmental agencies. It alleged that the object of the conspiracy was secretly to sell weapons and ammunition to buyers in the United States in a manner intended to conceal from the Departments of State and Treasury the true identities of the buyers; that to attain their object the conspirators agreed to prepare and file with the State Department fraudulent documents to create the false appearance that certain weapons and ammunition were to be purchased by foreign countries for their exclusive use; that among the means defendants used were (a) "defendants prepared, facilitated the preparation of, and caused to be prepared certain false and fraudulent documents including: (i) an official . . . 'Application/ License'. . . (ii) a certificate . . . bearing the signature of the defendant Colonel Manuel Alfonso Rodriguez; (iii) a copy of a purchase order for 10,000 submachine guns and 1.5 million rounds of ammunition . . . signed by Howard Peters as purchasing agent on behalf of San Pan Trading Corporation; and (iv) a United States Department of State, Office of Munitions Control, Form DSP-83 . . . signed by the defendant Manuel Alfonso Rodriguez and bearing his official government seal", and (b) "May 5, 1976, the defendants filed, facilitated the filing of, and caused to be filed with the United States Department of State the false and fraudulent documents referred to . . . above"; and that in furtherance of the conspiracy defendants committed 15 described overt acts.

In Counts 2, 3, and 4, appellants and others were charged, in addition to the conspiracy, with substantive crimes in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2.

Count 2 alleged that on May 5, 1976 they "in a matter within the jurisdiction of a department or agency of the United States, to wit, the United States Department of State . . . wilfully and knowingly did make, facilitate the making of, and cause to be made certain false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations on a United States Department of State Form DSP-5, entitled 'Application/License for Permanent Export of Unclassified Implements of War' . . . that 10,000 'Bushmaster' submachine guns . . . together with . . . ammunition . . . were to be exported to . . . El Salvador . . . whereas . . . defendants . . . knew that the said . . . guns . . . were to be sold to individuals in the United States."

Count 3 is also based on 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2. The gravamen of the charge is that in a matter within the jurisdiction of the State Department defendants "knowingly did make, facilitate the making of, and cause to be made certain false . . . statements . . . on a certificate dated April 22, 1976 on the official letterhead of the 'Estado Mayor General De LaFuerza Armada, San Salvador, . . . C.A.', bearing the signature of the defendant Manuel Alfonso Rodriguez, that 10,000 'Bushmaster' submachine guns . . . were to be used by the armed forces of El Salvador . . . whereas . . . defendants . . . knew that the . . . guns . . . were to be sold to individuals in the United States . . . ."

Count 4 is likewise based on 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2. Here the charge is that in a matter within the jurisdiction of the State Department, defendants "knowingly did make, facilitate the making of, and cause to be made certain false . . . representations on a purchase order, dated May 3, 1976, from San Pan Trading Corporation . . . to Mott Haven Industries, Ltd. . . . that 10,000 machine guns . . . were to be exported to El Salvador . . . whereas . . . defendants . . . knew that the . . . guns were to be sold to individuals in the United States . . . ."

Defendants' contention that the indictment is legally insufficient was not raised in the District Court. Hence it is barred by Rule 12(b) (2) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure which provides that "objections based on defects in the indictment", except an objection that the indictment "fails to charge an offense", must be raised "prior to trial". Davis v. United States, 411 U.S. 233, 243, 36 L. Ed. 2d 216, 93 S. Ct. 1577 (1973); United States v. Campisi, 306 F.2d 308, 311-312 (2nd Cir., 1962). Moreover, even if not barred, the contention would lack merit. Contrary to defendants' arguments, each count of the indictment specifies what was false about the cited document or documents submitted to the State Department; inasmuch as each count alleged that the false statement was submitted in a matter within the jurisdiction of a specified federal agency, that is the State Department, it was unnecessary for the indictment further to allege that the false statements were "material and capable of influencing" the State Department, United States v. Adler, 380 F.2d 917, 920-22 (2nd Cir., 1967); and even though the word "facilitate" does not appear in the text of either § 1001 or § 1002 of 18 U.S.C. the use in the indictment of that verb in conjunction with, and not as an alternate to, other verbs directly quoted from the statute was mere harmless surplusage.

Defendants' claims of prosecutorial misconduct are not merely baseless, but reflect on their counsel rather than on the United States District Attorney or his assistants.

The record makes it plain to us that, despite the canards of appellants' counsel, at every stage of the case the Government took the position that it did not claim that defendant Rodriguez had personally signed the certificate referred to in Count 3. Thus the sharpest distinction is drawn in Count 1 between the certificate " bearing the signature of. . . Rodriguez" and the Form DSP-83 "Consignee Purchaser Transaction Statement" " signed by. . . Rodriguez", and the purchase order " signed by Howard Peters". That distinction was obviously maintained in the text of Count 3 of the indictment as well as in the various oral statements of Government counsel to the District Court and the defense counsel. No reasonable person could doubt that the prosecution's consistent position was that Rodriguez's name on the certificate was there with ...


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