189 U.S. 319 (1903), 166, Sexton v. California

Docket NºNo. 166
Citation189 U.S. 319, 23 S.Ct. 543, 47 L.Ed. 833
Party NameSexton v. California
Case DateApril 06, 1903
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 319

189 U.S. 319 (1903)

23 S.Ct. 543, 47 L.Ed. 833




No. 166

United States Supreme Court

April 6, 1903

Argued and submitted January 28, 1903




Under sec. 6328, Rev.Stat., and the provisions of the Criminal Code of California, the state courts of that state have concurrent jurisdiction with the courts of the United States to try a person for extortion where the basis of the extortion was a threat to accuse a person of having committed an act which is a crime exclusively against the United States and made so by a federal statute.

Plaintiff in error was convicted in the Superior Court of the County of El Dorado, California, of the crime of extortion. Judgment was entered, and, upon appeal to the Supreme Court of California, it was there affirmed, and the plaintiff in error brings the case here for review.

The indictment upon which the conviction was had alleged that, on June 20, 1898 at the County of El Dorado, State of California, one S. H. Briggs and the plaintiff in error

. . . did willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously obtain from one C. Greenwald certain personal property consisting of money, the property of the said C. Greenwald, to the amount and value of thirty dollars, with the consent of said Greenwald, induced by the wrongful use and exercise upon him of fear by means of a threat then and there made by the said John E. Sexton and S. H. Briggs to accuse him, the said Greenwald, of

Page 320

the crime of having, in violation of the laws of the United States of America, sold and delivered cigars in a form other than in a new box not before used for the purpose of packing cigars therein, contrary to the form, force, and effect of the statute in such case made and provided.

After the finding of this indictment, the defendant Sexton moved the court to set it aside on various grounds, the ninth being that the court had no jurisdiction of the offense charged in the indictment, nor of the person of the defendant, and it was contended that the federal court alone had jurisdiction over the act for which he was indicted in the state court. The motion was denied, and the defendant then pleaded not guilty. Upon the trial, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged in the indictment, and he was sentenced to be imprisoned in the state's prison for the term of two years.

PECKHAM, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after making the foregoing statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the Court.

The record now before us raises but a single question for our determination, and that is whether the state court, upon the facts alleged in the indictment, had any jurisdiction over the subject matter.

The plaintiff in error contends that the right of the general government to exercise jurisdiction over the crime of which he was convicted is exclusive, and therefore the state court had no right to try him upon the indictment found in that court.

The act which the plaintiff in error is alleged to have threatened to accuse Greenwald of committing is mentioned in section 3392 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, which makes it an offense to sell cigars unless in new boxes, with the

Page 321

exception therein detailed. Having created the offense above described, Congress also provided for the punishment of the offense of extortion by threats to accuse an individual of a violation of the provisions of that among other sections of the internal revenue law.

Section 5484, Revised Statutes, provides that --

Every person who shall receive any money or other valuable thing under a threat of informing or as a consideration for not informing against any violation of any internal revenue law shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both at the discretion of the court, with costs of prosecution.

The provision prohibiting the sale of cigars in any but new boxes is part of the internal revenue law.

By the twentieth subdivision of section 629, Revised Statutes, there is given to the United States circuit courts --

Exclusive cognizance of all crimes and offenses cognizable under the authority of the United States, except where it is or may be otherwise provided by law, and concurrent jurisdiction with the district courts of crimes and offenses cognizable therein.

The Revised Statutes also provide:

SEC. 711. The jurisdiction vested in the courts of the United States in the cases and proceedings hereinafter mentioned shall be exclusive of the courts of the several states:

First. Of all crimes and offenses...

To continue reading

Request your trial