227 U.S. 131 (1913), 520, Heike v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 520
Citation:227 U.S. 131, 33 S.Ct. 226, 57 L.Ed. 450
Party Name:Heike v. United States
Case Date:January 27, 1913
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 131

227 U.S. 131 (1913)

33 S.Ct. 226, 57 L.Ed. 450



United States

No. 520

United States Supreme Court

January 27, 1913

Argued January 9, 1913




There is a clear distinction between an amnesty for crime committed and the constitutional protection under the Fifth Amendment from being compelled to be a witness against oneself.

The obvious purpose of the Act of February 25, 1903, c. 755, 32 Stat. 854, 904, granting to witnesses in investigations of violations of the Sherman Act immunity against prosecution for matters testified to, was to obtain evidence that otherwise could not be obtained; the act was not intended as a gratuity to crime, and is to be construed, as far as possible, as coterminous with the privilege of the person concerned.

Evidence given in an investigation under the Sherman Act does not make a basis under the Act of February 25, 1903, for immunity of the witness against prosecutions for crimes with which the matters testified about were only remotely connected.

Granting a separate trial to one of several jointly indicted for conspiracy is within the discretion of the trial judge, reviewable only in case of abuse.

Even if there may have been an abuse in some instances of indicting under § 5440 for conspiracy instead of for the substantive crime itself, liability for conspiracy is not taken away by its success, and in a case such as this, there does not appear to be any abuse.

Evidence showing that a conspiracy had continued before and after the periods specified in the indictment held in this case not inadmissible against a defendant present at the various times testified to.

192 F. 83 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the extent of immunity granted under the Act of February 25, 1903, c. 755, 32

Stat. 854, 904, are stated in the opinion.

Page 139

HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner was indicted for frauds on the revenue; and, in the sixth count, under Rev.Stat. § 5440, for a conspiracy to commit such frauds by effecting entries of raw [33 S.Ct. 227] sugars at less than their true weights by means of false written statements as to the same. Rev.Stat. § 5445. Act of June 10, 1890, c. 407, § 9, 26 Stat. 131, 135. He pleaded in bar that, in 1909 and 1910, answering the government's subpoena, he had testified and produced documentary evidence before a federal grand jury investigating alleged breaches of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act that the testimony and documents concerned the subject

Page 140

matter of the present indictment, and that therefore he was exempted from liability by the Act of February 25, 1903, c. 755, 32 Stat. 854, 904, as amended June 30, 1906, c. 3920, 34 Stat. 798. There was a replication; issue was joined; a trial was had upon the plea, in which the court directed a verdict for the government, 175 F. 852; leave was given to plead over; a premature attempt was made to bring the case before this Court, 217 U.S. 423, and then there was a trial on the merits in which the petitioner was found guilty on the sixth count. The circuit court of appeals affirmed the judgment, 192 F. 83. Whereupon a writ of certiorari was granted by this Court.

The investigation in which the petitioner testified concerned transactions of the American Sugar Refining Company. See Pennsylvania Sugar Refining Co. v. American Sugar Refining Co., 166 F. 254. The petitioner was summoned to produce records of the American Sugar Refining Company and to testify. He appeared, produced the records, and testified that he was the person to whom the subpoenas were addressed, secretary of the New York corporation, and secretary and treasurer of the New Jersey corporation of the same name. He summed up what the books produced showed as to the formation of the New York company. He identified his signature to four checks of the company in a transaction not in question here -- the Kissel-Segal loan mentioned in United States v. Kissel, 218 U.S. 601, 608. These checks were not used in the present case. He testified as to the ownership of the Havemeyer and Elder Refinery in Brooklyn. Finally, he produced a table showing how many pounds of sugar were melted each year, from 1887 to 1907, in each refinery, this table, of course, not purporting to represent the petitioner's personal knowledge, but being a summary of reports furnished by the company's different employees, and, the government contends, volunteered by him.

Page 141

The Act of February 25, 1903, c. 755, 32 Stat. 904, appropriates $500,000 for the enforcement of the Interstate Commerce and Anti-Trust Acts,

Provided, that no person shall be prosecuted or be subjected to any penalty or forfeiture for or on account of any transaction, matter, or thing concerning which he may testify or produce evidence, documentary or otherwise, in any proceeding, suit, or prosecution under said acts; Provided further, that no person so testifying shall be exempt from prosecution or punishment for perjury committed in so testifying.

(This last proviso was added only from superfluous caution, and throws no light on the construction. Glickstein v. United States, 222 U.S. 139, 143-144.) By the amendment of June 30, 1906, c. 3920, 34 Stat. 798, immunity under the foregoing and other provisions

shall extend only to a natural person who, in obedience to a subpoena, gives...

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