168 U.S. 382 (1897), Williams v. United States

Citation:168 U.S. 382, 18 S.Ct. 92, 42 L.Ed. 509
Party Name:Williams v. United States
Case Date:November 29, 1897
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 382

168 U.S. 382 (1897)

18 S.Ct. 92, 42 L.Ed. 509

Williams

v.

United States

United States Supreme Court

November 29, 1897

        ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

        FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

        Syllabus

        The illegal acts described in subdivisions 1 and 2 of Rev.Stat. § 3169, for the alleged violation of which the plaintiff in error was prosecuted, refer to offenses committed by officers or agents acting under authority of revenue laws.

        The Chinese Exclusion Acts have no reference to the subject of revenue, but are designed to exclude persons of a particular race from the United States, and an officer employed in their execution has no connection with the government revenue system.

        When an indictment properly charges an offense under laws of the United States, that is sufficient to sustain it, although the prosecuting representative of the United States may have supposed that the offense charged was covered by a different statute.

        The transactions referred to in the two indictments were of the same class of crimes or offenses, and there was no error in consolidating them at the trial.

        The affidavit and the bank book referred to in the opinion of the court were not admissible in evidence against the accused, as, on the face of the transactions, there was no necessary connection between them and the charges against him.

        The estimate placed upon the character of a government employee by the community cannot be shown by proof only of the estimate in which he is held by his co-employees.

        It was highly improper for the prosecuting officer to say in open court in the presence of the jury, under circumstances described in the opinion of the Court, that while Mr. Williams was investigating the Chinese female cases, there were more females sent back to China than were ever sent back, before or after.

        The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 383

        HARLAN, J., lead opinion

        MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the Court.

       [18 S.Ct. 92] By an indictment returned in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California, it was charged that the plaintiff, an officer of the department of the Treasury, duly appointed and acting under the authority of the laws of the United States, and designated as Chinese inspector at the port of San Francisco, and by virtue of his office being authorized, directed, and required to aid and assist the collector of customs of that port in the enforcement of the various laws and regulations relating to the coming of Chinese persons and persons of Chinese descent from foreign ports to the United States,

did then and there, as such officer, willfully, knowingly, corruptly, and feloniously, for the sake of gain and contrary to the duty of his said office and by color thereof, ask, demand, receive, extort, and take of one Wong Sam, a Chinese person, a certain sum of money, to-wit, one hundred dollars, which said sum of money was not due to him, the said Richard S. Williams,

        and which he was not, "by virtue of his said office, entitled to ask, demand, receive, or take" -- that is to say that

on the thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five, there arrived at the port of San Francisco aforesaid, from a foreign port or place, to-wit, the port of Hong Kong, in the empire of China, a male person of Chinese descent, to-wit, one Wong Lin Choy, who claimed to the collector of customs that he was entitled to land, be, and remain within the United States on the ground that he was a native born of said United States; that thereafter such proceedings were had and taken before said collector of customs in accordance with law that the said Wong Lin Choy was by said collector of customs adjudged to be entitled to and permitted to land at said port as a native born of said United States of Chinese descent, and to be and remain in the said United States; that thereafter, . . . on the eighteenth day of September, 1895, . . . the said Richard S. Williams corruptly and extorsively, for the sake of gain, and contrary to the duty of his said office, and under color thereof,

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did extort, receive, and take of said Wong Sam, who was then and there interested in the application or claim of said Wong Lin Choy as aforesaid, a sum of money, to-wit, the sum of one hundred dollars as aforesaid, the said Richard S. Williams, under color of his said office, having previously, to-wit, on the thirty-first day of August, 1895 at said city and county, state and district aforesaid, feloniously and corruptly obtained and exacted a promise from said Wong Sam for the payment thereof by him, to him, the said Richard S. Williams, by then and there falsely and corruptly representing to the said Wong Sam that without the payment thereof to him, the said Richard S. Williams, the said Wong Lin Choy would not be permitted to land at said port, be or remain within the United States, but would be returned to said foreign port from whence he came, against the peace and dignity of the United States of America,

        etc.

        A second count -- describing the official character and duties of Williams as in the first count -- charged that he willfully and corruptly, and under color of his office, did

take and receive of one Wong Sam, who was then and there interested in the claim of one Wong Lin Choy to be permitted to land at the port of San Francisco aforesaid, a sum of money, to-wit, one hundred dollars, as and for a fee, compensation, and reward [18 S.Ct. 93] to him, the said Richard S. Williams, for the services of him, the said Richard S. Williams, under color of his said office, in the matter of the application of said Wong Lin Choy, who then and there claimed to the collector of customs of said port to be entitled to land at said port of San Francisco from a foreign port, to-wit, the port of Hong Kong, in the empire of China, and to be and remain in the United States under the claim that he was a native born of the said United States, which said application was then and there pending and under investigation before said collector of customs as aforesaid, whereas, in truth and in fact no fee, compensation, or reward was then or at any other time due or owing from the said Wong Sam or any other person to the said Richard S. Williams for such service or any services of him, the said

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Richard S. Williams, in connection with said matter or at all, nor was he, the said Richard S. Williams, entitled to the same by law, against the peace and dignity of the United States of America,

        etc.

        A second indictment, containing two counts, was returned in the same court against the plaintiff in error, describing his official character and duties, and charging him in one count with having willfully, knowingly, corruptly, and feloniously, and in the second with having willfully and corruptly, under color of his office, taken from one Chan Ying, a Chinese person, the sum of eighty-five dollars in consideration of his being permitted to come into and remain within the United States.

        The record states that on the margin of each indictment was an endorsement in these words: "Sec. 3169, Rev.Stat. sub. 1 & 2, and sec. 23, act of Feb'y 8, 1875, vol. 1, 2d ed. Supp.Rev.Stat." This endorsement, it is contended, indicates the statutes under which the prosecutions were intended to be instituted.

        A demurrer to each indictment having been overruled, the accused was duly arraigned in each case and pleaded not guilty. The two cases were then, on motion of the government, consolidated and tried together. The result was a verdict of guilty in each case. Judgment on the verdicts having been asked, the accused interposed a motion in arrest of judgment on the second count of each indictment, and also a motion for a new trial in each case. The first motion was sustained, and, the second one having been overruled, the defendant was sentenced in each case to pay a fine of $5,000, to be imprisoned for three years, to date from September 22, 1896, and to be further imprisoned until the fine imposed on him was paid or until he should be otherwise discharged by due process of law.

        The first question to be examined is whether these prosecutions are authorized by any existing statute of the United States. It was assumed by the learned judge who presided at the trial that the indictments were founded upon section 3169 of the Revised Statutes, and section 23 of the Act of February 8, 1875, entitled "An act to amend existing customs and internal revenue laws, and for other purposes." 18 Stat. 307, 312.

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        Section 3169 of the Revised...

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