361 U.S. 212 (1960), 35, Stirone v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 35. Argued November 9-10, 1959
Citation:361 U.S. 212, 80 S.Ct. 270, 4 L.Ed.2d 252
Party Name:Stirone v. United States
Case Date:January 11, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 212

361 U.S. 212 (1960)

80 S.Ct. 270, 4 L.Ed.2d 252



United States

No. 35. Argued November 9-10, 1959

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 11, 1960




Petitioner was indicted and convicted in a Federal District Court for interfering with interstate commerce by extortion, in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951. The only interstate commerce mentioned in the indictment was the importation into Pennsylvania of sand to be used in building a steel plant there, but the trial judge permitted the introduction of evidence to show interference also with the exportation from Pennsylvania of steel to be manufactured in the new plant, and he instructed the jury that it could base a conviction upon interference with either the importation of sand or the exportation of steel.

Held: The conviction is reversed. Pp. 213-219.

(a) Since the indictment did not charge interference with the exportation of steel from the State, it was prejudicial error to submit to the jury the question whether the extortion interfered with the exportation of steel. Pp. 215-219.

(b) The variance between pleading and proof here involved was not insignificant, and may not be dismissed as harmless error, because it deprived petitioner of his substantial right to be tried for a felony only on charges presented in an indictment returned by a grand jury. Pp. 217-218.

(c) Since the jury might have based the conviction on a finding of interference with the exportation of steel, the conviction must be reversed. P. 219.

262 F.2d 571, reversed.

Page 213

BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Nicholas Stirone was indicted and convicted in a federal court for unlawfully interfering wit interstate commerce in violation of the Hobbs Act.1 The crucial question here is whether he was convicted of an offense not charged in the indictment.

So far as relevant to this question the indictment charged the following: from 1951 until 1953, a man by the name of William G. Rider had a contract to supply ready-mixed concrete from his plant in Pennsylvania to be used for the erection of a steel processing plant at Allenport, Pennsylvania. For the purpose of performing this contract, Rider

caused supplies and materials [sand] to move in interstate commerce between various points in the United States and the site of his plant for the manufacture or mixing of ready mixed concrete, and more particularly, from outside the State of Pennsylvania into the State of Pennsylvania.

The indictment went on to charge that Stirone, using his influential union position,

did . . . unlawfully obstruct, delay [and] affect interstate commerce between the several states of

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the United States and the movement of the aforesaid materials and supplies in such commerce, by extortion . . . of $31,274.13 . . . induced by fear and by the wrongful use of threats of labor disputes and threats of the loss of, and obstruction and prevention of, performance of his contract to supply ready mixed concrete.

The district judge, over petitioner's objection as to its materiality and relevancy, permitted the Government to offer evidence of an effect on interstate commerce not only in sand brought into Pennsylvania from other States, but also in steel shipments from the steel plant in Pennsylvania into Michigan and Kentucky. Again over petitioner's [80 S.Ct. 272] objection, the trial judge charged the jury that, so far as the interstate commerce aspect of the case was concerned, Stirone's guilt could be rested either on a finding that (1) sand used to make the concrete "had been shipped from...

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