State v. Sentner, No. 45227.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtBLISS
Citation298 N.W. 813,230 Iowa 590
PartiesSTATE v. SENTNER.
Decision Date17 June 1941
Docket NumberNo. 45227.

230 Iowa 590
298 N.W. 813

STATE
v.
SENTNER.

No. 45227.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

June 17, 1941.


Appeal from District Court, Poweshiek County; W. S. Cooper, Judge.

Defendant was indicted for and convicted of the crime of criminal syndicalism and has appealed from the judgment.

Reversed.

John Connolly, Jr., C. I. McNutt, and George O'Malley, all of Des Moines, for appellant.

Fred Everett, Atty. Gen., John M. Rankin, succeeding Atty. Gen., Jens Grothe, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Luther M. Carr, Co. Atty., of Newton, for appellee.


BLISS, Justice.

On July 6, 1938, the grand jury of Jasper County, Iowa by indictment charged that the defendant and Hollis Hall, on or about June 23, 1938, did “jointly and severally, by word of mouth, advocate and teach the duty, necessity and propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, and other unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial and political reform (and did, then and there, openly, wilfully and deliberately justify by word of mouth the commission and attempt to commit crime, sabotage, violence, and other unlawful methods of terrorism to exemplify, spread and advocate the propriety of the doctrines of syndicalism,) as defined in sections 12906 and 12907 of the 1935 Code of Iowa * * *.”

The defendant, a resident of St. Louis, Missouri, was, at all times pertinent, international vice president of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, and Hollis Hall was the vice president of Local No. 1116 of that Union, at Newton. Separate trials were granted the accused, and later the charge was dismissed as to Hall.

On motion of the defendant made at the close of the main case of the state, the court withdrew all that part of the charge included above in the parenthesis. Some items of testimony, if admissible at all, may have had some pertinency to the part withdrawn, but the testimony was not withdrawn.

The statutes of Iowa define criminal syndicalism in these words: “Criminal syndicalism is the doctrine which advocates crime, sabotage, violence, or other unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform.” 1935, 1939 Codes, Section 12906. Chapter

[298 N.W. 814]

382, Sect. 1, Acts of 38th General Assembly, 1919.

Code, Section 12907, enacted at the same time, specifies four ways or means of committing this crime, to wit: “Any person who:

1. By word of mouth or writing, advocates or teaches the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or other unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform; or

2. Prints, publishes, edits, issues, or knowingly circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any book, paper, document, or written matter in any form, containing or advocating, advising, or teaching the doctrine that industrial or political reform should be brought about by crime, sabotage, violence, or other unlawful methods of terrorism; or

3. Openly, willfully and deliberately justifies, by word of mouth or writing, the commission or the attempt to commit crime, sabotage, violence, or other unlawful methods of terrorism with intent to exemplify, spread, or advocate the propriety of the doctrines of criminal syndicalism; or

4. Organizes or helps to organize, or becomes a member of or voluntarily assembles with any society, group, or assemblage of persons formed to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism-

is guilty of a felony and punishable by imprisonment in the state penitentiary or reformatory for not more than ten years, or by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars, or both.”

Section 12908 provides that whenever two or more persons assemble for the purpose of advocating or teaching the doctrines of criminal syndicalism, as above outlined, such an assemblage is unlawful and every person participating therein by his aid or instigation is guilty of a felony and may be punished as above stated.

These sections are, and have always been, in the chapter in the Code covering “Treason and Offenses Against The Government.”

It is to be noted that the crime is the (1) advising, advocating, or teaching of the prohibited doctrine, or (2) justifying the commission or attempt to commit crime, etc., for the same purpose, all by word of mouth, or by any form of writing, printing, display, etc., or (3) organizing, helping to organize or being a member of, any group, formed for the same purpose, or (4), § 12908, assembling for that purpose. In (1) the overt act, which is the crime, or the corpus of the crime, is the “advising, etc.,” in the manner stated. In (2), it is the “justifying” of the matters stated. In (3), it is the “organizing, etc.,” or “being a member, etc.,” of the described organization. In (4), it is the “assembling” for the prohibited purpose. In other words, the crime is committed, when any of the above mentioned “overt acts” is done. Commission of, or participation in the “crime, violence, sabotage, or other unlawful methods of terrorism,” is not the offence covered by the statute, or an essential element thereof.

In the case before us, the indictment limits the means or methods to “word of mouth.” The purpose, as stated in the indictment, “is accomplishing industrial and political reform.” The court instructed that the state was required to establish the overt act as a means of accomplishing “industrial or political reform,” although there is no evidence in the record supporting any act, purpose, or intention on the part of the defendant to accomplish political reform.

The indictment and prosecution arose from a labor dispute between the Maytag Company, as employer, and the employees of that company, among whom were members of the Union, Local No. 1116. In 1937 a contract, covering wage and other labor conditions, had been entered into by the company and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, covering the period beginning May 1, 1937, and terminating May 1, 1938. The defendant had had some part in this, and in April, 1938, he came to Newton to take part in a conference looking to a renewal of the contract, or the making of a new one. In that month, the workmen of the company, at an election, held under the guidance of the Federal Government, through the National Labor Relations Board, selected the Union, of which the defendant was vice president, by a vote of 1,180 to 247, as the bargaining agent of the employees for the year. A negotiating committee was appointed by the employees, and a similar committee was named by the company to work out a labor contract. The defendant, and officers of the Local Union and its attorney were on the first-mentioned committee, and the company officers and its Chicago attorney comprised the company

[298 N.W. 815]

committee. Several meetings of the two committees were had in April and May, 1938, one of them being in Chicago, but no contract was agreed upon. During the conferences, it was stated by the company committee that a 10 per cent wage cut was going to be put into effect. On May 7, 1938, the defendant made a speech on the north side of the public square in the city, in behalf of the employees in which he stated that the men were not properly paid in the light of the money the company had made in the past, and called upon the citizens of Newton and its civic organizations to help the men in getting a settlement. He returned to St. Louis that evening. On the morning of May 9, 1938, when the employees came to work, the announcement of the 10 per cent wage cut was posted on the bulletin board, effective that morning. Mr. Taylor, the president of the company, told Mr. Allison, the president of the Local, and Mr. Steinberger, the chief steward, that if the cut was not accepted he would fire every man, and later on being told that the cut would not be accepted, he told the men to leave the plant. They left about 10:30 o'clock in the forenoon, and a little later picket lines were formed. One at the street approaching the north gate of the plant and office building, and the other at the south gate. Mr. Taylor guessed that the most he saw in the picket lines that afternoon were 25 or 50 men at each place. The stewards of the local Union were organized into a council to take charge of the strike. The defendant was at St. Louis and Steinberger, the chief steward of the Local, telephoned him on May 9th and informed him what had taken place, and requested him to return to Newton when he could get in communication with the company. In the telephone conversation, the defendant advised the stewards' council that the picket lines should be conducted peacefully, and that no drunkenness or violence should be tolerated, and that the officers and stewards should continue negotiations with the company management. The picketing was maintained until about June 23, 1938, during which time, except for about two days, the plant was closed, and the foreman and employees, with the exception of watchmen, were not permitted therein. The defendant returned to Newton on May 11th, and, with the exception of week-ends and a few other absences, remained there. Because of the defendant's public invitation on May 7th to the churches and civic organizations for aid in settling the labor controversy, Dr. Logan, pastor of the Methodist Church, invited the defendant and Union officials to his home for a conference. They accepted and a conference lasting an hour or more was had about May 18th. The defendant expressed his desire to settle the wage differences peaceably and without violence. During the forepart of June, some of the nonunion employees formed what is designated in the record a “back-to-work” movement, at the reduced wage rate. A number of them in their own behalf, and as representatives of their associates and “for the purpose of maintaining peace and quiet, law and order, in the city of Newton, and for the benefit of the general public,” filed a petition in court, against the Union and its...

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2 practice notes
  • State v. Harriott, No. 49030
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 13, 1956
    ...established rules recognized by this court. The same power that punishes makes also the law that protects. (Citations.)' State v. Sentner, 230 Iowa 590, 607, 608, 609, 298 N.W. 813, 820, held inadmissible defendant's testimony before a military commission. 'Just how the defendant was procur......
  • State v. Cameron, No. 50748
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 13, 1962
    ...here dealing with a confession in the strict sense of the word, we may use the rules governing confessions as a guide. State v. Sentner, 230 Iowa 590, 609, 298 N.W. 813, 821. See also State v. Koenig, 240 Iowa 592, 594, 36 N.W.2d 765, 766, and State v. Sampson, 248 Iowa 458, 463, 79 N.W.2d ......
2 cases
  • State v. Harriott, No. 49030
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 13, 1956
    ...established rules recognized by this court. The same power that punishes makes also the law that protects. (Citations.)' State v. Sentner, 230 Iowa 590, 607, 608, 609, 298 N.W. 813, 820, held inadmissible defendant's testimony before a military commission. 'Just how the defendant was procur......
  • State v. Cameron, No. 50748
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 13, 1962
    ...here dealing with a confession in the strict sense of the word, we may use the rules governing confessions as a guide. State v. Sentner, 230 Iowa 590, 609, 298 N.W. 813, 821. See also State v. Koenig, 240 Iowa 592, 594, 36 N.W.2d 765, 766, and State v. Sampson, 248 Iowa 458, 463, 79 N.W.2d ......

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