237 U.S. 625 (1915), 736, Ebeling v. Morgan

Docket Nº:No. 736
Citation:237 U.S. 625, 35 S.Ct. 710, 59 L.Ed. 1151
Party Name:Ebeling v. Morgan
Case Date:June 01, 1915
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 625

237 U.S. 625 (1915)

35 S.Ct. 710, 59 L.Ed. 1151




No. 736

United States Supreme Court

June 1, 1915

Argued April 7, 1915




Section 189, Criminal Code, makes an offender of anyone cutting, tearing, or otherwise injuring any mail bag with felonious intent, and, as the wording plainly indicates that it was the intent of Congress to protect every bag from felonious injury each time any one mail bag is torn or injured, the offense is complete irrespective of any attack upon, or mutilation of, any other bag.

Under § 189, Criminal Code, successive cuttings of different mail bags, with criminal intent, constitute separate offenses.

The same course of conduct, and upon the same occasion, may amount to separate offenses and be separately punished. Gavieres v. United States, 220 U.S. 338.

Where, as in this case, proof of cutting and opening one sack completed the offense, and although the defendant continued the operation of cutting into other sacks, proof of cutting one would not have supported the counts as to the other sacks, there was not one continuous offense punishable by a single penalty, but the cutting into each of the several sacks constituted a separate crime for which the defendant could be separately punished.

The facts, which involve the construction of § 189, Penal Code, and the validity of separate convictions thereunder for separate offenses of cutting open more than one mail bag are stated in the opinion.

Page 627

DAY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellant, Ebeling, was convicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri of violations of § 189 of the Criminal Code. The indictment contains seven counts. The second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, [35 S.Ct. 711] and seventh charge that, on the 21st day of January, 1910, said Ebeling did willfully, knowingly, and feloniously tear, cut, and injure a certain bag then and there used for the conveyance of mails of the United States, each count describing the mail pouch so torn, cut, and injured by its lock and rotary number, and in each count it was alleged that the pouch in such count

Page 628

named was in a certain railway postal car, then and there in transit on a certain railroad, and that the act was done with intent to forcibly, knowingly, and feloniously rob, steal, and carry away the contents of the pouch. Ebeling entered a plea of guilty, and was sentenced to pay a fine of $500 and be imprisoned in the United States penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, for a period of three years on the second count, and a like fine and imprisonment were imposed because of each the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh counts, to run consecutively with the sentence under the second count; but it was provided that the imprisonment as to the seventh count should begin, run, and terminate concurrently with the sentences imposed under the other counts, making in all a period of fifteen years' imprisonment. Ebeling, having served the sentence of three years imposed under the second count, applied to the District Court of the United States for the District of Kansas for a writ of habeas corpus to procure his release from...

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