417 U.S. 211 (1974), 73-346, Anderson v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 73-346
Citation:417 U.S. 211, 94 S.Ct. 2253, 41 L.Ed.2d 20
Party Name:Anderson v. United States
Case Date:June 03, 1974
Court:United States Supreme Court

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417 U.S. 211 (1974)

94 S.Ct. 2253, 41 L.Ed.2d 20



United States

No. 73-346

United States Supreme Court

June 3, 1974

Argued March 19, 1974




For having conspired to cast fictitious votes for federal, state, and local candidates in a West Virginia primary election, petitioners were convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 241, which makes it unlawful to conspire to injure any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. At the trial, over petitioners' objections, certain statements made by two of the petitioners at a local election contest hearing held after the election results had been certified on May 27, 1970, were admitted in evidence against all the petitioners to prove that the two petitioners making the statements had perjured themselves at the election contest hearing. On appeal, the petitioners contended for the first time that § 241 was limited to conspiracies to cast false votes in federal elections, and that, accordingly, the conspiracy charged in their case, as far as federal jurisdiction was concerned, ended on May 27, so that subsequent out-of-court statements could not have furthered any § 241 conspiracy, and hence should not have been admitted in evidence. The Court of Appeals rejected these contentions, and affirmed the convictions.


1. The out-of-court statements were admissible under basic principles of the law of evidence and conspiracy, regardless of whether or not § 241 encompasses conspiracies to cast fraudulent votes in state and local elections. Pp. 214-222.

(a) The statements were not hearsay, since they were not offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted; hence their admissibility was governed by the rule that acts of one alleged conspirator can be admitted into evidence against the other conspirators, if relevant to prove the existence of the conspiracy, even though they may have occurred after the conspiracy ended. Lutwak v. United States, 344 U.S. 604. Pp. 219-221.

(b) Since the statements were not hearsay, the jury did not have to make a preliminary finding that the conspiracy charged

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was still in progress before it could consider them as evidence against the other defendants, and accordingly the statements were admissible if relevant to prove the conspiracy charged. P. 221.

(c) Even if the federal conspiracy ended on May 27, the fact that two of the petitioners perjured themselves at the local election contest hearing was relevant and admissible to prove the underlying motive of the conspiracy. Accordingly, in order to rule on petitioners' challenge to the admissibility of this evidence, there was no need for the Court of Appeals, and there is no need for this Court, to decide whether petitioners' conspiracy ended on May 27 for purposes of federal jurisdiction or whether § 241 applies to conspiracies to cast fraudulent votes in local elections. Pp. 221-222.

2. The evidence amply supports the verdict that each of the petitioners engaged in the conspiracy with the intent of having false votes cast for the federal candidates. Pp. 222-228.

(a) The fact that petitioners' primary motive was to affect the result in the local, rather than the federal, election has no significance, since although a single conspiracy may have several purposes, if one of them -- whether primary or secondary -- violates a federal law, the conspiracy is unlawful under federal law. Pp. 225-226.

(b) That the petitioners may have had no purpose to change the outcome of the federal election is irrelevant, since that is not the specific intent required under § 241, but rather the intent to have false votes cast, and thereby to injure the right of all voters in a federal election to have their expressions of choice given full value, without dilution or distortion by fraudulent balloting. Pp. 226-227.

(c) Even assuming, arguendo, that § 241 is limited to conspiracies to cast false votes for federal candidates, it was not plain error for the District Court's jury instructions not to focus specifically upon the federal conspiracy, since, in view of the fact that the prosecution's case showed a single conspiracy to cast entire slates of false votes and the defense consisted primarily of a challenge to the Government witnesses' credibility, [94 S.Ct. 2257] it is inconceivable that, even if charged by more specific instructions, the jury could have found a conspiracy to cast false votes for local offices without also finding a similar conspiracy affecting the federal offices. Pp. 227-228.

481 F.2d 685, affirmed.

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MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 228.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

MR JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners were convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 241, which, in pertinent part, makes it unlawful for two or more persons to

conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States. . . .

Specifically, the Government proved that petitioners engaged in a conspiracy to cast fictitious votes for candidates for federal, state, and local offices in a primary election in Logan County, West Virginia. At the trial, a question arose concerning the admissibility against all of the petitioners of certain out-of-court statements made by some of them. In considering the propriety of the District Court's decision to admit this evidence, the Court of Appeals thought it necessary to resolve the question whether a conspiracy to cast false votes in a state or local election, as opposed to a conspiracy to cast false votes in a federal election, is unlawful under § 241. The Court of Appeals affirmed petitioners' convictions, concluding that § 241 encompasses

conspiracies, involving state action at least, to dilute the effect of ballots

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cast for the candidate of one's choice in wholly state elections.

481 F.2d 685, 700-701 (CA4 1973). We granted certiorari to consider this question. 414 U.S. 1091 (1973). It now appears, however, that the out-of-court statements at issue were admissible under basic principles of the law of evidence and conspiracy, regardless of whether or not § 241 encompasses conspiracies to cast fraudulent votes in state and local elections. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals without passing on its interpretation of § 241.


The underlying facts are not in dispute. On May 12, 1970, a primary election was held in West Virginia for the purpose of nominating candidates for the United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, and various state and local offices. One of the nominations most actively contested in Logan County was the Democratic nomination for County Commissioner, an office vested with a wide variety of legislative, executive, and judicial powers.1 Among the several candidates for the Democratic nomination for this office were the incumbent, Okey Hager, and his major opponent, Neal Scaggs.

Petitioners are state or county officials, including the Clerk of the Logan County Court, the Clerk of the County Circuit Court, the Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff of the County, and a State Senator. The evidence at trial showed that, by using the power of their office, the petitioners convinced three election officials in charge of the Mount Gay precinct in Logan County to cast false and fictitious votes on the voting machines and then to

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destroy poll slips so that the number of persons who had actually voted could not be determined except from the machine tally.2 While it is apparent from the record that the primary [94 S.Ct. 2258] purpose behind the casting of false votes was to secure the nomination of Hager for the office of County Commissioner, it is equally clear that about 100 false votes were, in fact, cast not only for Hager, but also for Senator Robert Byrd and Representative Ken Hechler, who appeared on the ballot for renomination to their respective chambers of the United States Congress, as well as for other state and local candidates considered part of the Hager slate.3

The conspiracy achieved its primary objective, the countywide vote totals showing Hager the winner by 21 votes, counting the Mount Gay precinct returns. About two weeks after the election, on May 27, 1970, the election results were certified. After that date, Scaggs filed an election contest4 challenging certain returns, including

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the Mount Gay County Commissioner votes. No challenge was made, however, to the Mount Gay votes for either of the federal offices, and they became final on May 27.

A hearing was held in the County Court on the election contest at which petitioners Earl Tomblin and John R. Browning gave sworn testimony. The prosecution in the § 241 trial sought to prove that Tomblin and Browning perjured themselves at the election contest hearing in a continuing effort to have the fraudulent votes for Hager counted and certified. For example, one of the key issues in the election contest was whether sufficient voters had, in fact, turned out in Mount Gay precinct to justify the unusually high reported returns. Tomblin testified under oath at the election contest that he had visited Mount Gay precinct on election day and had observed one Garrett Sullins there as Sullins went in to vote. The prosecution at the § 241 trial, however, offered testimony from Sullins himself that he was in the hospital, and never went to the Mount Gay precinct on election day.

At trial, the other defendants objected to the introduction of Tomblin's prior...

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