Commonwealth v. Donoghue

CourtKentucky Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtStanley, Commissioner
Citation250 Ky. 343
Decision Date23 June 1933
PartiesCommonwealth v. Donoghue.

Page 343

250 Ky. 343
Commonwealth
v.
Donoghue.
Court of Appeals of Kentucky. Criminal, Common Law and Equity Division.
Decided June 23, 1933.

1. Common Law. — Principles and rules of common law of general nature prior to March 24, 1607, are in force in Kentucky except as modified by Constitution and statute, judicial decisions and public policy (Constitution, sec. 233).

2. Conspiracy. — Extreme condemnation of business of usurer during period of development of common law is sufficient to make it subject of indictable conspiracy.

3. Conspiracy. — In accusatory of indictment, it is sufficient to charge offense of "criminal conspiracy" without stating object or purpose of conspiracy.

4. Conspiracy. — "Conspiracy" is combination between two or more persons to accomplish criminal or "unlawful" act, or to do lawful act by criminal or unlawful means.

In determining meaning of word "unlawful" in such definition, proper rule is that all such acts as have necessary tendency to prejudice public or injure or oppress individuals by unjustly subjecting them to power of conspirators are sufficiently tainted with quality of unlawfulness to satisfy requirements as to conspiracy.

5. Conspiracy. — Indictment charging common-law offense of conspiracy, relating to what is popularly referred to as "loan sharks," held to state public offense (Ky. Stats., secs. 199b-1, 2218, 2219).

The indictment charged more than a conspiracy to collect usury. The accusation was conspiracy to carry on business of lending money in small amounts, to poor, necessitous wage-earners at interest rates ranging from 240 to 360 per cent. per annum, and then to prevent recovery of usury paid by such borrowers. Though not so denominated, the description was that of "extortion," which in its broad sense is wrongful exaction of money or other valuable thing, either by compulsion, actual force, or by force of motives applied at will.

6. Conspiracy. — Ordinarily, where object of conspiracy is unlawful, indictment need not allege means by which it was accomplished, but where object is not criminal, indictment should set forth means which must constitute offense, but rule as to first class of cases is, perhaps, not altogether applicable in Kentucky (Criminal Code of Practice, secs. 122-124).

Appeal from Kenton Circuit Court

BAILEY P. WOOTTON, Attorney General, FRANCIS M. BURKE, Assistant Attorney General, ULIE J. HOWARD and DANIEL W. DAVIES for appellant.

CHAS. E. LESTER, Jr., for appellee.

Page 344

J.P. HAMILTON, H.T. LIVELY, ASHBY M. WARREN, J.J. DONOHUE, ANNA H. SETTLE, FRANK S. GRAYDON, MAXWELL & RAMSEY and LESLIE W. MORRIS amici curiae.

OPINION OF THE COURT BY STANLEY, COMMISSIONER.


Reversing.

The opinion deals with the sufficiency of an indictment charging the common-law offense of conspiracy, and relates to what are popularly referred to by the invidious and iniquitous term of "loan sharks". The case is an echo of Goodenough, Judge, v. Kentucky Purchasing Company, 241 Ky. 744, 45 S.W. (2d) 451. We shall abridge the indictment by omitting terms and words usually regarded as essential to technical sufficiency. The instrument charges M. Donoghue, W.T. Day, and Vernon L. Buckman with the offense of criminal conspiracy, committed as follows: That they unlawfully and corruptly conspired with one another and others, to the grand jury unknown, "to engage in the business of lending money in small amounts to poor and necessitous wage earners at excessive, exorbitant and usurious rates of interest and to prevent the recovery of such interest paid by said borrowers"; that while the conspiracy existed and in pursuance and furtherance thereof they "operated a money-lending business under the trade name of Boone Loan Company, with its office in Kenton County, Kentucky"; that the accused or one or more of them, with the advice, consent, and acquiescence of the others, acting in concert and in furtherance of the conspiracy and in the operation of the business, did lend to hundreds of poor and necessitous wage-earners small sums of money in amounts ranging from $5 to $50, at high, excessive, exorbitant, illegal, and usurious rates of interest, to wit, from 240 to 360 per cent. per annum. It was further alleged that "for the purpose of effecting the object of said conspiracy, as hereinbefore charged," the accused filed in the county court clerk's office false and fraudulent certificates pretending to set forth the true and real owner of the business, but which in fact did not do so; that in furtherance of the conspiracy and to effect its purposes, they failed to file a true statement revealing the real owners of such business with the post office address of such owner; and that in furtherance of the conspiracy and to effect its objects they operated the business while the "same was the property and part of a foreign corporation,

Page 345

without having theretofore filed in the office of the Secretary of State" a certificate giving the location of its offices in the state and the name of a process agent. Only Donoghue was before the court. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the indictment and dismissed it. The commonwealth has appealed.

1. Notwithstanding the many declarations of this court and the universal recognition by all authorities, the appellee raises the question whether the common-law offense of conspiracy exists in Kentucky, or rather whether that offense had developed in the fourth year of the reign of James I. of England so as to cover the substantive things described in this indictment. The principles and rules constituting a part of the common law prior to the time stated, which was March 24, 1607, that were of a general nature and not local to the kingdom are and have ever been in force in Kentucky except as they have been modified by constitutional and statutory law, judicial decisions and the conditions and wants of the people, or which are not repugnant to the spirit of our laws or the public policy of the state. That common law is of equal authority and binding force with the statute law. Section 233, Kentucky Constitution; Lathrop v. Bank, 8 Dana, 114, 121, 33 Am. Dec. 481; Ray v. Sweeney, 14 Bush, 2, 29 Am. Rep. 388; AEtna Insurance Company v. Commonwealth, 106 Ky. 864, 51 S.W. 624, 627, 21 Ky. Law Rep. 503, 45 L.R.A. 355; Nider v. Commonwealth, 140 Ky. 684, 131 S.W. 1024, Ann. Cas. 1913E, 1246; Coleman, Auditor v. Reamer's Executor, 237 Ky. 603, 36 S.W. (2d) 22, 23. The claim that in the year 1607 there was no common-law conspiracy comprehending the acts described in the indictment is based upon the quotation of a work on criminal conspiracies in AEtna Insurance Company v. Commonwealth, supra, to the effect that there is no evidence that during the period of 1200 to 1600 there was any other crime of conspiracy than that finally defined by ordinance in 1305, A.D. The question in that case was whether the charges made against a number of insurance companies to maintain fire insurance rates constitute a common-law offense of conspiracy, and the excerpt was quoted as indicating that those particular things did not constitute such an offense and were unknown to the common law. But the case was decided upon the ground that neither the end

Page 346

nor the means of the combination complained of was unlawful. As we understand counsel's argument before us it is that the essence of this accusation is of a similar character, that is, a conspiracy in restraint of trade, or, at most, a conspiracy to charge usury. We do not so regard it. Whatever the particular classification one may desire to place the charges in, all of the legal historians and authorities treat conspiracy as embracing acts of the same general nature. And so has this court regarded them. Commonwealth v. Barnett, 196 Ky. 731, 245 S.W. 874; Baker v. Commonwealth, 204 Ky. 420, 264 S.W. 1069. The historical narrative to follow shows that the extreme condemnation of the business of the usurer during the period of the development of the common law is sufficient to make it a subject of indictable conspiracy. The recent and most authoritative writers declare as inaccurate the statements that the word "conspiracy" had a different meaning anciently than in more recent times, and the comprehensiveness and meaning of the term or its principles existed in early times as now. State v. Buchanan, 5 Har. & J. (Md.) 317, 9 Am. Dec. 534; 12 C.J. 542; 5 R.C.L. 1062.

2. Is it sufficient to charge in the accusatory of the indictment merely the offense of "criminal conspiracy," or should the accusation be more specific and contain the object or purpose of the conspiracy? The general use of the term in the books, both ancient and modern, is simply "conspiracy"; but, since there may be a civil liability for an unlawful conspiracy, it is frequently called "criminal conspiracy" as a distinctive title. The accepted definition of conspiracy is that it is an unlawful agreement for the accomplishment of many purposes, as will be discussed later. The combination is not only the gravamen but it is the offense itself. The designation is but a generic term, such as is "arson" a general title of an offense to burn property, and it is regarded as sufficient as an accusation. The recent interpretation of our statutory crime of conspiracy, as it is often popularly called, does not militate against this view. The statute (Ky. Stats. sec. 1223) provides that if two or more persons shall "confederate or band themselves together" for certain specified purposes, "or to do any felonious act" they commit a felony. This is altogether different from the common law of

Page 347

conspiracy, which is a misdemeanor even though its object be a felony. Wait v. Commonwealth, 113 Ky. 821, 69 S.W. 697, 24 Ky. Law Rep. 604. The statute did not repeal the common-law offense except as to the particular acts covered. Commonwealth v. Barnett, supra. It has been held not sufficient under the statute merely to chage...

To continue reading

Request your trial
16 practice notes
  • Ravitz v. Steurele, Justice of the Peace
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • December 21, 1934
    ...classes of money lenders is like unto that between the methods of the professional bandit and those of the bank. Commonwealth v. Donoghue, 250 Ky. 343, 63 S.W. (2d) 3, 89 A.L.R. 819. It was competent for the legislature to recognize them as a class for the purpose of remedying the evil aris......
  • Kansas City v. Markham, No. 33030.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • November 12, 1936
    ...Kan. 324, 15 Pac. (2d) 456; State ex rel. v. Iola Theatre Corp., 136 Kan. 411, 15 Pac. (2d) 459; Commonwealth v. Donoghue, 63 S.W. (2d) 3, 250 Ky. 343; State v. McMahon, 128 Kan. 772, 280 Pac. 206. (2) The court had authority to appoint a receiver and without notice. In re Debs, 158 U.S. 56......
  • State v. Schenk, No. 46268.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 3, 1945
    ...to establish the foregoing. III. The term ‘conspiracy’ has often been defined. The Supreme Court of Kentucky in Commonwealth v. Donoghue, 250 Ky. 343, 63 S.W.2d 3, 5, 89 A.L.R. 819, defined it: ‘But the broad definition or description everywhere accepted is that conspiracy is a combination ......
  • State v. Kemp
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • November 16, 1939
    ...55 Conn. 46, 70, 8 A. 890,3 Am.St.Rep. 23; Commonwealth v. Hunt, 4 Metc.,Mass., 111, 124, 38 Am.Dec. 346; Commonwealth v. Donoghue, 250 Ky. 343, 347,65 S.W.2d 3,89 A.L.R. 819; 2 Wharton, 12th Ed., § 1617. It is undoubtedly a breach of duty for a broker representing the buyer of real estate,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Ravitz v. Steurele, Justice of the Peace
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • December 21, 1934
    ...classes of money lenders is like unto that between the methods of the professional bandit and those of the bank. Commonwealth v. Donoghue, 250 Ky. 343, 63 S.W. (2d) 3, 89 A.L.R. 819. It was competent for the legislature to recognize them as a class for the purpose of remedying the evil aris......
  • Kansas City v. Markham, No. 33030.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • November 12, 1936
    ...Kan. 324, 15 Pac. (2d) 456; State ex rel. v. Iola Theatre Corp., 136 Kan. 411, 15 Pac. (2d) 459; Commonwealth v. Donoghue, 63 S.W. (2d) 3, 250 Ky. 343; State v. McMahon, 128 Kan. 772, 280 Pac. 206. (2) The court had authority to appoint a receiver and without notice. In re Debs, 158 U.S. 56......
  • State v. Schenk, No. 46268.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 3, 1945
    ...to establish the foregoing. III. The term ‘conspiracy’ has often been defined. The Supreme Court of Kentucky in Commonwealth v. Donoghue, 250 Ky. 343, 63 S.W.2d 3, 5, 89 A.L.R. 819, defined it: ‘But the broad definition or description everywhere accepted is that conspiracy is a combination ......
  • State v. Kemp
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • November 16, 1939
    ...55 Conn. 46, 70, 8 A. 890,3 Am.St.Rep. 23; Commonwealth v. Hunt, 4 Metc.,Mass., 111, 124, 38 Am.Dec. 346; Commonwealth v. Donoghue, 250 Ky. 343, 347,65 S.W.2d 3,89 A.L.R. 819; 2 Wharton, 12th Ed., § 1617. It is undoubtedly a breach of duty for a broker representing the buyer of real estate,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT