613 F.2d 1356 (5th Cir. 1980), 79-5413, United States v. Dejean

Docket Nº:79-5413
Citation:613 F.2d 1356
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Patrick Jude DeJEAN, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:March 20, 1980
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 1356

613 F.2d 1356 (5th Cir. 1980)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Patrick Jude DeJEAN, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 79-5413

[*]

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 20, 1980

Page 1357

Virginia Laughlin Schlueter, Asst. Public Defender, New Orleans, La., for defendant-appellant.

John P. Volz, U. S. Atty., Pauline F. Hardin, Asst. U. S. Atty., New Orleans, La., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before GODBOLD, REAVLEY and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM:

Appellant Patrick Jude DeJean was convicted by a jury on June 5, 1979, of one count of violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (1976) which makes it a crime to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion. DeJean raises two issues on appeal: (1) whether the evidence presented by the government was sufficient for conviction; 1 and (2) whether the prosecutor's alleged indirect comments on DeJean's failure to testify at trial constituted reversible error. We have considered both appellant's contentions and for the reasons below affirm his conviction.

THE CRIME

While she was at work on Thursday, March 8, 1979, Ms. Mary Helen Worth, a teller at the Continental Bank in Harvey, Louisiana, received a phone call at approximately 1:45 P.M. from an unknown man. The caller asked Ms. Worth if she had a daughter named Stephanie and when she replied, "yes", he asked if Stephanie was wearing a red jacket. Ms. Worth responded "yes" and the caller asked whether Stephanie had a turtle and when Ms. Worth replied that she did, the man told Ms. Worth that Stephanie had been kidnapped, and that he had her. He then said "You are being watched, and our men will come up to your window, say 'good morning, Missy, can I have change for a dollar?' You are to give him $100,000."

Through contact with Stephanie's school shortly after the call, it was learned that the nine-year old girl had not in fact been kidnapped. In addition, no one ever came to Ms. Worth to obtain the money.

THE GOVERNMENT'S EVIDENCE

During the course of the trial, the government sought to prove DeJean's guilt on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The government showed that DeJean, at that time a school bus driver for the Jefferson Parish School Board, was Stephanie's regular school bus driver and that on the morning of March 8, 1979, he had transported Stephanie to school. The evidence showed further that Stephanie was wearing a red jacket on that morning and that she was carrying a turtle concealed in a plastic container. The government showed that DeJean knew what was in the container because another child, Norman Troy Dupre, on DeJean's request, had asked Stephanie what was in the container, she had told Norman, and he had so informed DeJean. There was additional evidence that no other adult except Stephanie's mother and her teacher knew that the turtle was in the plastic container.

The government established through the testimony of Norman Dupre that DeJean

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had asked the children on the bus where their parents worked and that Stephanie had said her mother worked at the Continental Bank. Stephanie testified that DeJean had asked "Whose mother works at a bank?" When she raised her hand and said her mother did, he said "What bank does she work at?" Stephanie testified that she replied...

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