202 U.S. 344 (1906), 539, Burton v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 539
Citation:202 U.S. 344, 26 S.Ct. 688, 50 L.Ed. 1057
Party Name:Burton v. United States
Case Date:May 21, 1906
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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202 U.S. 344 (1906)

26 S.Ct. 688, 50 L.Ed. 1057

Burton

v.

United States

No. 539

United States Supreme Court

May 21, 1906

Argued April 3, 4, 1906

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI

Syllabus

Congress has power to make it an offense against the United States for a Senator or Representative, after his election and during his continuance in office, to agree to receive, or to receive, compensation for services before a Department of the government in relation to matters in which the United States is directly or indirectly interested, and § 1782, Rev.Stat., is not repugnant to the Constitution as interfering, nor does it by its necessary operation, interfere with the legitimate authority of the House of Congress over their respective members.

Including in the sentence of a Senator convicted of an offense under § 1782, Rev.Stat., that he is rendered forever thereafter incapable of holding any office of trust or emolument of office under the government of the United States is simply a recital of the effect of the conviction, and the conviction does not operate ipso facto to vacate his seat or compel the Senate to expel him or to regard him as expelled.

While the Senate, as a branch of the Legislative Department, owes its existence to the Constitution and passes laws that concern the entire country, its members are chosen by state legislatures, and cannot properly be said to hold their places under the government of the United States.

The United States is interested, either directly or indirectly within the meaning of § 1782, Rev.Stat., in protecting its mails and postal facilities from improper and illegal use and in enforcing statutes regulating such use.

Where the indictment clearly discloses all the elements essential to the commission of the offense charged, and the averments are sufficient in

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the event of acquittal, to plead the judgment in lieu of a second prosecution for the same offense, the defendant is informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him within the meaning of the Constitution and according to the rules of pleading, and in this case, the evidence was sufficient to justify the case's being sent to the jury, and the court below did not err in refusing to direct an acquittal, nor was there any error in the court's charge to the jury.

Under § 1782, Rev.Stat., an agreement to receive compensation, whether received or not for the prohibited services, is made one offense, and the receiving of compensation, whether in pursuance of a previous agreement or not, is made a separate and distinct offense.

The intention of the legislature must govern in the interpretation of a statute. It is the legislature, and not the court, which is to define a crime and ordain its punishment.

A plea of autrefois acquit must be upon a prosecution for the same identical offense, and where defendant on a former trial was acquitted of having received compensation forbidden by § 1782, Rev.Stat., from an individual described as an officer of a certain corporation, and at the same time was found guilty of having received such compensation from the company, he cannot plead the former acquittal as a bar to a further prosecution of the charge that he had received such compensation from the company.

The federal court at the place where the agreement was made for compensation to perform services forbidden by § 1782, Rev.Stat., has jurisdiction to try the offense, and even if the agreement was negotiated or tentatively accepted at another place, the place of its final acceptance and ratification is where the agreement was made, although defendant may not have been at that place at that time.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

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HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This criminal prosecution is founded upon the following sections of the Revised Statutes:

SEC. 3929. The Postmaster General may, upon evidence satisfactory to him that any person or company is engaged in conducting any lottery, gift enterprise, or scheme for the distribution of money, or of any real or personal property by lot, chance, or drawing of any kind, or that any person or company is conducting any other scheme or device for obtaining money or property of any kind through the mails by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, instruct postmasters at any post office at which registered letters arrive directed to any such person or company, . . . whether such agent or representative is acting as an individual or as a firm, bank, corporation, or association of any kind, to return all such

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registered letters to the postmaster at the office at which they were originally mailed with the word [26 S.Ct. 690] "fraudulent" plainly written or stamped upon the outside thereof, and all such letters so returned to such postmasters shall be by them returned to the writers thereof, under such regulations as the Postmaster General may prescribe. . . .

By the Act of March 2, 1895, c. 191, this section was "extended and made applicable to all letters or other matter sent by mail." 26 Stat. 465; 28 Stat. 963, 964.

SEC. 4041. The Postmaster General may, upon evidence satisfactory to him that any person or company is engaged in conducting any lottery, gift enterprise, or scheme for the distribution of money or of any real or personal property by lot, chance, or drawing of any kind, or that any person or company is conducting any other scheme for obtaining money or property of any kind through the mails by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, forbid the payment by any postmaster to said person or company of any postal money orders drawn to his or its order or in his or its favor, or to the agent of any such person or company, whether such agent is acting as an individual or as a firm, bank, corporation, or association of any kind, and may provide by regulation for the return to the remitters of the sums named in such money orders. . . .

26 Stat. 465, 466, c. 908.

SEC. 1782. No Senator, Representative, or Delegate, after his election and during his continuance in office, and no head of a department, or other officer or clerk in the employ of the government, shall receive or agree to receive any compensation whatever, directly or indirectly, for any services rendered, or to be rendered, to any person, either by himself or another, in relation to any proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest, or other matter or thing in which the United States is a party, or directly or indirectly interested, before any department, court-martial, bureau, officer, or any civil, military, or naval commission whatever. Every person offending against this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor,

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and shall be imprisoned not more than two years, and fined not more than ten thousand dollars, and shall, moreover, by conviction therefor, be rendered forever thereafter incapable of holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the government of the United States.

13 Stat. 123, c. 119.

The plaintiff in error was indicted in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Missouri for a violation of § 1782, the offense being alleged to have been committed at St. Louis. The accused was found guilty, and, on writ of error, the judgment was reversed by this Court, and a new trial ordered, upon the ground, among others, that, according to the facts disclosed in that case, the offense charged was not committed in the State of Missouri, where the accused was tried. Burton v. United States, 196 U.S. 283.

Subsequently, the defendant was tried under a new indictment (the present one) charging him with certain violations of § 1782. The indictment contained eight counts. Stating the case now only in a general way, the first, second, fourth, sixth, and eighth counts charged, in substance, that the defendant, a Senator of the United States, had agreed to receive compensation, namely, the sum of $2,500, for services to be rendered by him for the Rialto Grain & Securities Company, a corporation (to be hereafter called the Rialto Company) in relation to a proceeding, matter, and thing, in which the United States was interested, before the Post Office Department, those counts differing only as to the nature of the interest which the United States had in such proceeding, matter, and thing, some of the counts alleging that the United States was directly, others that it was indirectly, interested in such proceeding, matter, and thing. The third, fifth, and seventh counts charged that the defendant did receive compensation to the amount of $500 for the services alleged to have been so rendered by him, those three counts differing only as to the nature of the interest, whether direct or indirect, which the United States had in the alleged proceeding, matter, and thing before the Post Office Department.

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The defendant demurred to each count. The government at that stage of the prosecution dismissed the indictment as to the fourth and fifth counts, and the court overruled the demurrer as to all the other counts. The accused filed a plea in bar to the third and seventh counts. To that plea the government filed an answer, to which we will advert hereafter. A demurrer to that answer was overruled, and, defendant declining to plead further, the plea in bar was denied. He was then arraigned, tried, and found guilty on the first, second, third, sixth, seventh, and eighth counts. No judgment or sentence was pronounced on the first, second, and eighth counts because they covered the transaction and offense mentioned in the sixth count. And as the third count covered the transaction and offense embraced by the seventh count, no judgment or sentence was pronounced on it.

On the sixth...

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