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United States v. Pacella

decided: May 20, 1980.


Appeal from a judgment of civil contempt entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, John M. Cannella, Judge. Affirmed.

Before Lumbard, Mulligan, Circuit Judges, and Spears,*fn* District Judge.

Author: Spears

This is an appeal from a judgment of civil contempt entered by the District Court for the Southern District of New York. Although granted use immunity, the appellant refused to answer a question directed to him by a federal grand jury, contending that he was not adequately protected by the immunity order.

At the time he was summoned to appear before the grand jury, the appellant was in federal custody, having been convicted on his plea of guilty to a charge of income tax evasion, as a result of which he had been fined $5,000 and was serving a sentence of two years in prison.

Prior to his appearance before the grand jury, appellant moved to quash the subpoena on the ground that it was issued for a vindictive purpose. In addition, he sought both to nullify the standing order of immunity, because it was granted ex parte, and to have representations made as to whether unlawful electronic surveillance was used to obtain information about him. The Assistant United States Attorney denied that unlawful electronic surveillance was used, and presented evidence, in camera, that no unlawful surveillance took place. The motion to quash the grand jury subpoena was denied by Judge Morris E. Lasker.

The following day, the appellant appeared before the grand jury where he was asked a single question, which he refused to answer, asserting that the immunity order did not protect him. The parties and the grand jury then appeared before Judge John M. Cannella, where the Assistant United States Attorney requested that the Court instruct the appellant to answer the question put to him by the grand jury. The appellant, in opposing the government's request, again challenged the immunity order.*fn1 Judge Cannella, however, declined to hear the renewed attack, and granted the government's request that appellant be instructed to answer the question. Appellant's attorney excepted to the procedure being followed in the courtroom, and suggested that it would be more appropriate to return to the grand jury room after the appellant had been directed to answer.

Before instructing appellant to answer, the Court had the forelady of the grand jury repeat the question that had been asked in the grand jury room. When the appellant again refused to answer, the Court explained to him his obligation to testify under the immunity order, and directed him to answer the question. The appellant, through his attorney, again refused, setting forth the reasons previously given. The Court then granted the government's motion that appellant be found in civil contempt, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1826(a),*fn2 and stayed the running of his prior two year prison sentence until such time as he testified, or the term of the grand jury expired, whichever occurred first.*fn3

This judgment of civil contempt, dated March 21, 1980, forms the basis of this expedited appeal.*fn4 The appellant argues that the judgment cannot stand because: (1) the district court erred in denying the motion to quash the grand jury subpoena; (2) the in camera and ex parte denial of any unlawful electronic surveillance deprived him of his Fourth Amendment rights; and (3) the ex parte grant of immunity resulted in a denial of his right to due process. Although not listed as a separate ground for reversal, appellant also complains of the district court's requirement that he answer the question before the Court. Finding that all of appellant's contentions are without merit, we affirm.


Grand Jury Abuse

In support of his claim that the motion to quash should have been granted, the appellant argues that the government sought the sanctions of civil contempt in order to increase and prolong the term of imprisonment imposed in appellant's tax evasion case. The appellant has failed to offer a single fact to support this contention, and in view of the government's application for a grant of use immunity, it can hardly be said that the government was seeking to exact more punishment than that imposed in appellant's tax case. The appellant's argument on this point amounts to nothing more than sheer speculation and unfounded accusations of prosecutorial misconduct hardly enough to warrant reversal.


Unlawful Electronic Surveillance

The appellant argues that under 18 U.S.C. § 3504(a)(1),*fn5 he was entitled to a full adversary hearing on his claim that the question asked by the grand jury was the product of unlawful electronic surveillance.*fn6 This Court squarely rejected such a contention in In re Millow, 529 F.2d 770 (2d Cir. 1976), wherein it was held that "(t)he government's submission of a court order authorizing electronic surveillance and (the district judge's) determination of the validity of that order precludes (appellant) from further litigating in a contempt proceeding the legality of that surveillance." 529 F.2d at 773. It is true that under 18 U.S.C. § 2515, a grand jury witness has the right to object to questions and resist a contempt citation on the grounds of unlawful electronic surveillance, and that under 18 U.S.C. § 3504 a witness could require the government to "affirm or deny" the presence of unlawful surveillance upon his claim that the questions asked were the product of such unlawful surveillance. Gelbard v. United States, 408 U.S. 41, 92 S. Ct. 2357, 33 L. Ed. 2d 179 (1972). However, this Court has consistently held that "(a) lthough the claim need not be particularized, (citation omitted) it may not be based upon mere suspicion but must at least appear to have a "colorable' basis before it may function to trigger the ...

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