Com. v. Stasiun

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtBefore WILKINS; SPALDING; KIRK
Citation206 N.E.2d 672,349 Mass. 38
Decision Date22 April 1965
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH v. Ernest C. STASIUN et al.

Page 672

206 N.E.2d 672
349 Mass. 38
COMMONWEALTH

v.
Ernest C. STASIUN et al.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Bristol.
Argued Nov. 2, 1964.
Decided April 22, 1965.

[349 Mass. 40]

Page 674

Frederick T. Doyle, Boston, for defendant Ernest C. Stasiun.

Joseph J. Padellaro, Boston, for defendant Michael J. Manning.

John D. Sheehan, New Bedford, for defendant Richard B. Rymszewicz.

Walter Jay Skinner, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Richard W. Murphy, Special Asst. Atty. Gen., with him), for the Commonwealth.

Before [349 Mass. 38] WILKINS, C. J., and SPALDING, WHITTEMORE, KIRK, and REARDON, JJ.

[349 Mass. 40] SPALDING, Justice.

These are appeals from convictions under two indictments. In one (hereinafter called the solicitation indictment) Ernest C. Stasiun, Michael J. Manning and Richard B. Rymszewicz were charged with the offence (G.L. c. 268, § 8) of soliciting a bribe from Paul R. Vermette to influence Stasiun's official action as a member of the Executive

Page 675

Council. In the other (hereinafter called the conspiracy indictment) the same defendants were charged with conspiring to commit the offence charged in the solicitation indictment. The trial, which was subject to G.L. c. 278, §§ 33A-33G, resulted in verdicts of guilty on each indictment against all the defendants. All appealed.

There was evidence of the following. Early in January, 1959, Paul Vermette, a resident of New Bedford, learned that a change of quarters for its New Bedford office was being contemplated by the regisotry of motor vehicles. On January 12 Vermette talked with one MacDonald, who was in charge of the New Bedford registry office, and proposed to lease to the registry a portion of a building which he was about to construct on Kempton Street. A week later Vermette, MacDonald and two other registry employees, Clark and Riley, went to the Boston office of the registry to discuss Vermette's proposal with Alfred Devine, a deputy registrar who supervised the leasing of district offices. In the course of the discussion, Devine suggested that Vermette communicate with his Governor's Councillor 'back home' because leases had to be approved by the Council.

[349 Mass. 41] Upon returning to New Bedford, Vermette, MadDonald, Clark and Riley called at the office of the defendant Stasiun, a member of the Governor's Council from the First District, which included New Bedford, for the purpose of discussing the proposed lease. After the details of the lease had been explained to him, Stasiun told Vermette that 'he would go with * * * [them] all the way.'

A few days later, Stasiun called Vermette on the telephone and told him that he would like to see him in Boston to 'talk about the lease.' On January 27 Vermette, accompanied by a friend, Arthur Powell, called on Stasiun at his room in a Boston hotel. The defendant Manning was with Stasiun when they entered the room. Manning and Stasiun had known each other for four or five months. Manning had advised Stasiun in connection with his campaign for election to the Council and had written speeches for him. Stasiun asked Vermette whether Powell was a partner and Vermette replied that he was 'just a friend.' Stasiun then produced a bottle of whiskey and telephoned room service for ice and soda. When it arrived, Stasiun prepared drinks for Vermette and Powell. Stasiun then asked Powell to go downstairs with him to have a drink at the bar. Powell stated that he already had one but Stasiun said that it was not his 'type' and they both departed for the bar, leaving Manning and Vermette alone together in the room. Manning then said to Vermette, 'What we want from you now is a thousand dollars, and five hundred dollars when your building is complete, or you won't get your lease.' Vermette refused. Manning then told Vermette that 'politics were cruel and brutal, and campaigns and elections cost money.' Stasiun and Powell returned a few minutes later. Their conversation at the bar was general and had nothing to do with the lease. As they entered the room, Vermette was heard to say, 'Like hell: I'm not paying no fifteen hundred dollars.' Turning to Powell, Vermette said, 'Let's get out of here,' and they both left.

Late in February, Vermette, in response to a telephone call from Stasiun, went to see him in his New Bedford office. [349 Mass. 42] Stasiun told him that he was upset because he had heard that Vermette had been to a party and 'had said nasty things about him, about the fact that he had asked * * * [Vermette] for fifteen hundred dollars.' Vermette replied, 'Well, that's too bad. That's what you did.' Thereupon Stasiun took a slip of paper and wrote the figure '8' on it and showed it to Vermette, saying, 'Pay me this. I'll see that you get your lease tomorrow. And if you don't give me a commitment tonight, I'll see that you never get your lease.' Vermette left, slamming the door.

During this period Vermette was negotiating the details of the proposed lease

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with the registry of motor vehicles. A lease, dated February 27, 1959, was drawn up for a five year term, beginning July 1, 1959. On March 2, the lease was sent to Vermette for his signature. He signed it and 'sent it back into Boston.' The executed lease was forwarded to the Governor and Council with a covering letter, dated March 6, from the acting State superintendent of buildings recommending its approval.

The matter of the lease was first placed on the agenda of a meeting of the Council held on April 2, 1959, and it was voted that it be 'held.' On April 9, it was again 'held.' On May 14 the subject appeared on the agenda and Stasiun moved and voted for its rejection; the motion did not carry. On May 21 one of the Councillors moved that the lease be approved, but this motion was defeated, Stasiun and four other Councillors voting against the motion.

At a meeting of the Council early in June, Devine, deputy registrar of motor vehicles, spoke in favor of the lease. While Devine was being questioned by a member of the Council, Stasiun left the room, stating that 'he didn't want anything done about the lease in his absence.'

On a Friday in late May or early June Stasiun called Vermette on the telephone, but Vermette hung up before there was an extensive conversation. On the afternoon of the following day the defendant Rymszewicz, a cousin of Stasiun, called on Vermette and said he wanted to talk with him. Vermette was acquainted with Rymsezwicz but they [349 Mass. 43] were not intimate. In the course of the ensuing conversation, Rymszewicz said, 'What's wrong? Can't you get along with Doc?' 1 Vermette replied, 'No. He wants me to pay him * * * fifteen hundred dollars; and I won't.' After stating that Stasiun was a 'reasonable guy,' Rymszewicz said, 'Why don't you give me five hundred dollars for him, and I'll see that you get your lease.'

The lease was approved on June 25, 1959, but the vote of the individual Councillors on the matter does not appear.

One evening, early in July, Stasiun went to see Vermette. In the course of their conversation Stasiun asked Vermette for $500. Vermette refused, saying 'Why do I have to pay? The lease has already been approved.' Stasiun replied, 'Well, * * * you've already cost me four hundred dollars.' He then explained that he had to pay $100 to four other Councillors to vote for or against the lease, as he might decide. This conversation, which was heated and loud, was overheard by Vermette's wife, who was in another part of the house.

THE SOLICITATION INDICTMENT.

The solicitation indictment charges the defendants with violating G.L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 268, § 8. This section makes it an offence for an executive officer to corruptly request or accept 'a gift or gratuity or a promise to make a gift or to do an act beneficial to him, under an agreement or with an understanding that his vote, opinion or judgment shall be given in any particular manner, or upon a particular side of any question, cause or proceeding, which is or may be by law brought before him in his official capacity.' 2 The indictment charges that the defendants' solicitations occurred 'at various times between January 31, 1959, and July 31, 1959, the exact dates being * * * unknown.' While the statute speaks only of a 'legislative, executive, judicial, county or municipal officer,' Commonwealth v. Mannos, 311 [349 Mass. 44] Mass. 94, 107-111, 40 N.E.2d 291, 299, held that a private citizen could be found guilty under a joint indictment charging him and a municipal officer with the offence of requesting

Page 677

and accepting bribes. Likewise, Manning and Rymszewicz, both private citizens, could be found guilty under a joint indictment charging them and Stasiun, an executive officer, with solicitation.

The defendants contend that the indictment does not charge a crime known to the law for the reason that it charges solicitation as a continuing offence. This objection was expressly raised by the defendants' motions to quash. Commonwealth v. Fuller, 163 Mass. 499, 40 N.E. 764. Commonwealth v. Andler, 247 Mass. 580, 581, 142 N.E. 921.

The indictment does not allege a continuing offence in the sense recognized in Wells v. Commonwealth, 12 Gray, 326 (keeping a house of ill fame), Commonwealth v. Peretz, 212 Mass. 253, 254, 98 N.E. 1054 (deriving support from earnings of a prostitute), and Commonwealth v. Runge, 231 Mass. 598, 600, 121 N.E. 499 (practising medicine unlawfully). In such cases, if a continuing crime is charged, it is the general practice, throughout the period of time alleged, that constitutes the offence. Here the single offence is not a continuing general practice of soliciting bribes, but rather the solicitation of a bribe from Vermette for the favorable vote of an executive officer on one specific matter before him. The request for the gratuity, being unproductive when first made, was repeated. But whether the request was repeated in one meeting, or in several meetings on a single day, or in meetings...

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73 practice notes
  • State v. Small, No. 101
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 2, 1980
    ...48, 58, 424 N.Y.S.2d 157, 162, 399 N.E.2d 1177, 1182 (rejecting the Pinkerton approach); see also Commonwealth v. Stasiun, supra, n.7, 349 Mass. 38, 206 N.E.2d[301 N.C. 428] 672 (also rejecting the Pinkerton We have seen that, as a matter of evidence, the acts and declarations of one conspi......
  • Com. v. Beneficial Finance Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • November 4, 1971
    ...statements of the other conspirators. There was no error in the denial of Pratt's motion for a directed verdict. Commonwealth v. Stasiun, 349 Mass. 38, 51, 206 N.E.2d 2. Woodcock--Woodcock, an executive vice-president and director of Liberty, is the only other individual contesting the suff......
  • Com. v. Donovan
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • May 28, 1985
    ...statutes, we infer that, in cases such as this, the Legislature intended that only a single crime be charged. In Commonwealth v. Stasiun, 349 Mass. 38, 45, 206 N.E.2d 672 (1965), this court recognized that "where it appears that successive takings are actuated by a single, continuing crimin......
  • Com. v. French
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • May 4, 1970
    ...against the others,' the judge must make a preliminary finding upon evidence aliunde that a conspiracy exists. Commonwealth v. Stasiun, 349 Mass. 38, 50, 206 N.E.2d 672. By the end of Baron's direct testimony, an adequate showing of conspiracy 27 had been made, for Baron's testimony include......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
73 cases
  • State v. Small, No. 101
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 2, 1980
    ...48, 58, 424 N.Y.S.2d 157, 162, 399 N.E.2d 1177, 1182 (rejecting the Pinkerton approach); see also Commonwealth v. Stasiun, supra, n.7, 349 Mass. 38, 206 N.E.2d[301 N.C. 428] 672 (also rejecting the Pinkerton We have seen that, as a matter of evidence, the acts and declarations of one conspi......
  • Com. v. Beneficial Finance Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • November 4, 1971
    ...statements of the other conspirators. There was no error in the denial of Pratt's motion for a directed verdict. Commonwealth v. Stasiun, 349 Mass. 38, 51, 206 N.E.2d 2. Woodcock--Woodcock, an executive vice-president and director of Liberty, is the only other individual contesting the suff......
  • Com. v. Donovan
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • May 28, 1985
    ...statutes, we infer that, in cases such as this, the Legislature intended that only a single crime be charged. In Commonwealth v. Stasiun, 349 Mass. 38, 45, 206 N.E.2d 672 (1965), this court recognized that "where it appears that successive takings are actuated by a single, continuing crimin......
  • Com. v. French
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • May 4, 1970
    ...against the others,' the judge must make a preliminary finding upon evidence aliunde that a conspiracy exists. Commonwealth v. Stasiun, 349 Mass. 38, 50, 206 N.E.2d 672. By the end of Baron's direct testimony, an adequate showing of conspiracy 27 had been made, for Baron's testimony include......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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