Com. v. Thompson

Decision Date29 January 1981
Citation416 N.E.2d 497,382 Mass. 379
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

John P. Courtney, Newton, for defendant.

John W. Gibbons, Asst. Dist. Atty., for the Commonwealth.


ABRAMS, Justice.

In this appeal the defendant Anthony C. Thompson claims error (1) in the exclusion of evidence which was relevant to his defense of entrapment, and (2) in the instructions to the jury on the issue of entrapment. Thompson claims that as a result of the judge's errors he is entitled to a new trial on a two-count indictment charging him with unlawfully carrying on his person a firearm less than sixteen inches in length, see G.L. c. 269, § 10(a)(1) and (2), and of carrying on his person a rifle without a firearms identification card, G.L. c. 269, § 10(a)(4)(3). 1 The judge sentenced the defendant to two concurrent terms of four and one-half to five years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Walpole. The defendant filed a claim of appeal to the Appeals Court. We transferred the case to this court on our own motion. We affirm.

We summarize the evidence. On May 19, 1977, the defendant sold a pistol and a rifle to two undercover agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of the Treasury Department. Thompson was introduced to the agents by one Gerry Brown, an informant working at that time for the Federal agents and the Boston police. 2 When Thompson met Brown and the two undercover agents in Park Square, one of the agents asked Thompson if he "had the guns." Thompson replied that he did, but not on his person, and directed the agent to drive to another part of the city. When the men reached the destination selected by Thompson, he got out of the car, saying he had to get the guns. After the defendant left the car, Gerry Brown also left. Approximately five minutes later, Thompson returned with a brown paper bag which contained two guns, a Fabrique National semi-automatic pistol and a Savage Arms .22 caliber single shot rifle. Thompson told the agents that he wanted eighty dollars for the two guns, which he said did not belong to him. The agents paid that amount and took the guns.

Before making the sale, the defendant asked the agents what use they planned to make of the guns. The agents replied that they planned to use the guns in robberies including a specific robbery to be committed in Brookline. Thompson then asked the agents if he could take part in the Brookline robbery. The agents told him he could join them, and the agents made rudimentary plans to meet Thompson by exchanging telephone numbers. The agents also asked Thompson if he had any information about individuals dealing illegally in firearms; Thompson replied that he had no such information, as he had found the guns he was selling.

Thompson, who testified in his own defense, admitted selling two guns to the two undercover agents. He said that he obtained the guns by taking them from a bag which he observed a man "stashing" in an empty lot. Thompson inspected the bag and discovered it contained money and guns. He took the money, which he estimated to be between $50 and $100, and for the time left the guns in the bag under debris and garbage.

The entrapment issue. At the outset there is some question as to whether the issues relating to the entrapment defense are properly before the court. The defendant's claim of entrapment rests on his assertion that he was induced by Brown into selling the two guns to the Federal agents. However, the indictment charging Thompson with the sale of the pistol and the rifle was placed on file with Thompson's assent. See note 1, supra. "Absent exceptional circumstances, we do not consider appeals on assignment of error on indictments placed on file since no appeal may come before us until after judgment, which in criminal cases is the sentence." Commonwealth v. Delgado, 367 Mass. 432, 438, 326 N.E.2d 716 (1975). Commonwealth v. Subilosky, 352 Mass. 153, 165, 224 N.E.2d 197 (1967). There is no evidence in the record nor any suggestion on appeal by Thompson that he was induced by the government to carry the two guns on his person without a license or without a firearms identification card. In his arguments on the entrapment issue Thompson focuses solely on the sale of the weapons. Nevertheless, the parties have assumed that the entrapment issue is applicable to every charge against Thompson. In these circumstances we shall not disregard the theory of law on which the parties proceeded at trial. Baker v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., --- Mass. ---, --- n.5 a, 416 N.E.2d 187, Kagan v. Levenson, 334 Mass. 100, 106, 134 N.E.2d 415 (1956).

We summarize the facts on inducement. At trial, Thompson said that a couple of weeks after he found the two guns, see supra --- Mass. at --- b, 416 N.E.2d 187, Gerry Brown approached him with a "proposition." After Brown made the proposition, Thompson ascertained that the guns were still in the bag in the lot. When defense counsel asked Thompson what Brown's proposition was, the judge sustained the prosecutor's objection to the question. 3 Thompson made an offer of proof that "Mr. Brown in fact approached him and asked him if he could obtain some guns for Mr. Brown and had told Anthony (Thompson) that there was some money in it for him (Thompson) if he would." 4

Thompson said that Brown previously had come to him with other propositions, and that Thompson had benefited from those propositions. 5 Thompson said that the two men had supplied each other with drugs. Thompson also said that he (Thompson) had a "problem" when Brown approached him in the spring of 1977 and that he was in need of money. When defense counsel asked what the problem was, the judge sustained the prosecutor's objection to the question. The defendant made offers of proof that the answers would have been that he (Thompson) needed money at that time because he had a drug problem, and that Gerry Brown was aware of Thompson's drug problem.

The defendant argues it was error for the judge to exclude the defendant's testimony as to the "proposition" Brown made to him. We agree. Thompson's testimony as to what Brown proposed to him should have been admitted in evidence. The general rule in this Commonwealth is that "all relevant evidence is admissible unless barred by an exclusionary rule." Commonwealth v. Vitello, 376 Mass. ---, --- c, 381 N.E.2d 562 (1978).

Entrapment is a defense which may be asserted when a defendant is intentionally induced by the government or its agents into committing all the elements of a criminal offense. United States v. Russell, 411 U.S. 423, 435, 93 S.Ct. 1637, 1644, 36 L.Ed.2d 366 (1973). The defense arises only if the criminal conduct was the product of the "creative activity" of law enforcement officers or agents, Sorrells v. United States, 287 U.S. 435, 451, 53 S.Ct. 210, 216, 77 L.Ed. 413 (1932). A defendant who raises the common law defense of entrapment, see United States v. Russell, supra, 411 U.S. at 430-432, 93 S.Ct. at 1642-1643, bears the burden of introducing some evidence of inducement by government officers or agents. Commonwealth v. Miller, 361 Mass. 644, 651-652, 282 N.Ed.2d 394 (1972). Thompson's proffered testimony, which related to Brown's solicitation of him, therefore, was relevant and admissible. See State v. Tomlinson, 243 N.W.2d 551, 554 (Iowa 1976) ("(t)he transactional negotiations of the government and the defendant are relevant evidence on (the) issue (of entrapment)"). When, as here, a statement is not offered to prove the truth of the words but to show inducement, the statement is not inadmissible on the ground of hearsay. See Brown v. State, 299 So.2d 37, 38 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1974), cert. denied, 310 So.2d 740 (Fla.1975) (testimony by defendant dealing with his conversations with government informant was not hearsay because they were offered "not to prove the truth of the matter asserted, but rather to show the appellant's state of mind and the inducement of the confidential informant"). See also State v. Ostrand, 219 N.W.2d 509, 512 (Iowa 1974).

Similarly, the defendant's testimony that he would not have thought of selling the guns but for Brown's solicitation was also relevant and admissible on the entrapment issue. 6 Since no "entrapment exists 'if the accused is ready and willing to commit the crime whenever the opportunity might be afforded,' " Commonwealth v. Miller, 361 Mass. 644, 651, 282 N.E.2d 394 (1972), quoting from United States v. Groessel, 440 F.2d 602, 605 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 403 U.S. 933, 91 S.Ct. 2263, 29 L.Ed.2d 713 (1971), the defendant's state of mind is in issue. Therefore, the defendant should have been allowed to testify whether he would have thought of selling guns if Brown had not approached him. As the court stated in Whiting v. United States, 296 F.2d 512, 519 (1st Cir. 1961), "However much the court may think such testimony 'rationalization,' this does not make it inadmissible." See United States v. Hayes, 477 F.2d 868, 873 (10th Cir. 1973) (in entrapment cases where a defendant's intent is in issue, "he should be permitted to testify as to his motive and actual intent or state of mind").

However, "(t)o reach the jury, there must be some evidence of government inducement." United States v. Anglada, 524 F.2d 296, 298 (2d Cir. 1975). Although the threshold level for showing inducement in entrapment cases is very low, "(i)nducement is not established by showing how little it would take to cause a particular defendant to commit a crime. Rather, the focus is on the nature and extent of the Government's invitation." United States v. Steinberg, 525 F.2d 1126, 1135 (2d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 971, 96 S.Ct. 2167, 48 L.Ed.2d 794 (1976).

On this record, accepting as true Thompson's offers of proof, the evidence does not disclose inducement on...

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