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UNITED STATES v. RANNAZZISI

July 21, 1977.

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Antonio J. RANNAZZISI, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COOPER

IRVING BEN COOPER, District Judge.

By his plea of guilty before us, entered of record on March 8, 1977, the defendant stands convicted of illegally accepting money from dealers in meat whose premises he inspected while a sworn official of the United States Department of Agriculture. We imposed a sentence of eighteen (18) months on May 11, 1977. He now brings on a motion to reduce that sentence pursuant to the provisions of Rule 35, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In his sworn statement (15 pages unnumbered, hand-written printed letters, sworn to on May 31, 1977) in support of his application, he urges upon us (1) the hardship that the sentence has brought his family; (2) that it will prevent his attendance at the forthcoming wedding of his daughter in early next September; (3) that mortgage payments and other indebtednesses cannot be met unless he is in a position to earn money and (4) that he cooperated with the office of the United States Attorney in its endeavor to learn the full extent of the culpability of other meat inspectors and meat packers constantly engaged in the nefarious practice of what in essence amounts to bribe giving and bribe taking between the two.

 The criminal information herein is precise and succinct. By his plea of guilty thereto, defendant admits that he "unlawfully, willfully and knowingly... directly and indirectly, did ask, demand, exact,... accept, receive... money... for himself for and because of official acts performed and to be performed by him" from five (5) meat packing companies (listed therein) engaged in interstate commerce and inspected by inspectors of the Department of Agriculture authorized to perform the duties required by the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1967 (Title I of the Wholesome Meat Act) including the inspection of establishments where meat and meat food products are processed; that as such inspector, defendant at various times during the period February 19, 1974 to July 15, 1975 accepted sums of money from those five companies in direct violation of law. Title 18 United States Code, Section 201(g).

 The criminal information was filed after a grand jury had returned an indictment (filed November 9, 1976) against this defendant charging him in five (5) felony counts with "unlawfully, willfully and knowingly did receive and accept money from" each of the same five companies while he was an inspector assigned to inspect their premises. The Government elected to proceed by way of information (embodying in essence the charges of the indictment) and on motion duly made, and after the guilty plea to the information was entered and recorded, the indictment was ordered dismissed. All this we had a right to consider on sentence. See, e.g., U.S.A. v. Sweig, 454 F.2d 181 (2d Cir. 1972).

 In its investigating net, the Government in this district caught 16 inspectors (including this defendant) engaged in practices similar to those followed by defendant, and 21 corporations which paid the money to the inspectors; criminal charges were filed against each; all such cases (received by us on November 22, 1976) came on and were disposed of by us; 12 inspectors pleaded guilty, 3 were convicted after trial *fn1" ; each company pleaded guilty to the charge of illegally supplementing the salary of a public official, 18 U.S.C. § 209. Sentence has already been meted out as against each individual and each corporate defendant.

 During the course of its investigation into the illegal actions by the meat inspectors and the meat packers, the Government found itself blocked in its efforts to marshal evidence that would warrant convictions by plea or trial; it felt constrained to and did grant immunity to the corporate officials of the corporate defendants who actually helped carry on the illegal operations with the inspectors. While such immunization must be carefully invoked and only when no other course is open, the law countenances the practice, for as between the bribe giver, a private person or company, and the bribe taker, the public official who violates his trust to the detriment of the public and its government is the more (not much more) reprehensible. U.S.A. v. Murphy, 480 F.2d 256, 259 (1st Cir. 1973).

 Defendant (now age 54, with no prior criminal record) began his work as a government inspector in 1966. In that capacity he had relatively speaking enormous power; he could shut down a company's entire operation if he determined (fairly or not) that a regulation had been violated (even of a technical nature). The extent of defendant's duplicity in these abhorrent operations makes him stand out as the most culpable of the lot. From what we have seen, heard or had good reason to rely upon, we are satisfied that defendant discussed such payments made by packers, the rate of payment, who was accepting and which companies were paying; that on occasion defendant threatened to close a meat plant's operation if money was not paid. And at sentence we told him so: "You held up the meat packers... very bold. You were tough. You were base... They [the companies] did their best to keep the thing going... They capitulated to you." Sentencing minutes, pp. 83, 84, 86. It should be observed that before sentencing Assistant United States Attorney Iason (in charge of all these "meat cases") stated in writing, served on defendant's attorney and filed with the Court, that he stood ready to call witnesses to support the manner and extent of defendant's exactions if the defendant "challenges its accuracy and if the Court believes a hearing would assist the Court." Suffice it to say that neither defendant nor his attorney chose to put in issue the accuracy of the Government's sentencing memorandum and neither requested a hearing.

 This imperative provision of law was purposely designed to prevent the awesome results that would follow if unsanitary meat were pushed on the public. It is inevitable that the giving and taking of anything of value as between the inspector and the inspected would be disastrous: it would prompt the former to be careless and indifferent to the full and proper performance of his duties - tend to cause him to "look away." Then the irreparable damage is done. This clear and inescapable provision of law is drilled into each inspector on the assumption of his sworn duties; it is clearly set out in the handbook (the "bible" of the department) issued to him by his superiors of the Department of Agriculture; he is aware that, as far as possible, the Department is on the lookout for such infractions. If he is inclined to ignore it, the inspector takes the risk that his depredations will not be discovered primarily because such deportment is not easily recognized (checking for venality of public officials is usually done by a minimum of personnel in this and most governmental operations) and because the equally debased meat packer is likewise involved and therefore can be counted on to keep silent. Thus the dirty business went on for years. It is to be observed to their shame and to the detriment of the commonweal that not a single meat packer (many doing a gross business running into tens of millions of dollars yearly) took overt, tangible action to alert the authorities; a few were subjected to demands from inspectors (this defendant for one), most were particeps criminis.

 We need not look far to discover defendant's evaluation of the prohibition in question. In the first place, he acknowledges in his sworn statement in the instant motion (p. 4) that "I did receive gratuities from some, and that the sums I received where [sic] less than the amounts the plants mentioned." And here we finally have it (in the same sworn statement at p. 9): "I felt I did nothing wrong: As I did not ask for anything and that if anybody handed me anything, I took as I was brought at a time when people hand you anything you would be a damn fool to refuse it."

 To such a one what meaning is the observation by Mr. Justice Brandeis proclaimed almost half a century ago (Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 485, 48 S. Ct. 564, 575, 72 L. Ed. 944 (1928):

 Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperilled if it fails to observe the laws scrupulously. Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.

 We ignore the learned Justice's plea at our peril.

 We come now to the hardship defendant avers his sentence has brought upon his family consisting of wife and three children. It is only fair and proper to note that he seemingly has always worked to support his family whose sense of good deportment appears high. We are all too well aware that here, as in most cases, the aftermath of sentence falls heavier on the family than on the wrongdoer. We have witnessed and been saddened by the knowledge of it time and again during the course of nearly four decades as a judge. We feel compelled to take notice of, and make allowance for, it even though it almost invariably is the convicted offender, not the Court, who brings upon his family the dreadful results which ensue, so often devastating even beyond recall. It was this defendant's choice to make; he really has only himself to blame.

 We make bold to comment that trial judges with whom we have conferred over the years of judicial service, join in our observation that imposing sentence is the most difficult of judicial undertakings; that usually the judge is more sorrowfully affected by the sentence he imposes than either the defendant or his counsel. After all, we are compelled to keep uppermost in mind that justice due the accused is due the accuser also and that the after effects of a sentence, like every important judicial determination throughout the entire proceedings, affects defendants and community alike. We are constantly reminded and face up to the unfailing force of the ...


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