U.S. v. Bright, No. 78-5472

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore TUTTLE, VANCE and KRAVITCH; KRAVITCH
Citation630 F.2d 804
Docket NumberNo. 78-5472
Decision Date11 July 1980
Parties6 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 550 UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Louin Ray BRIGHT, C. E. "Jack" Briggs, Robert L. Harbin, Jr., Robert E. Harbin, Harvey Hamilton, John Harter and John Thomas "Bill" Chaney, Defendants-Appellants.

Page 804

630 F.2d 804
6 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 550
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Louin Ray BRIGHT, C. E. "Jack" Briggs, Robert L. Harbin,
Jr., Robert E. Harbin, Harvey Hamilton, John
Harter and John Thomas "Bill" Chaney,
Defendants-Appellants.
No. 78-5472.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
July 11, 1980.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 15, 1980.

Page 808

John B. Farese, Ashland, Miss. (Court-appointed), for Bright.

Mel Davis, Oxford, Miss. (Court-appointed), for Briggs.

Cecil M. Burglass, Jr., New Orleans, La., for Harbin & Harbin.

Robert G. Gilder, Southaven, Miss., for Hamilton and Harter.

Warner Hodges, Memphis, Tenn., for Chaney.

H. M. Ray, U. S. Atty., Alfred E. Moreton, III, Thomas W. Dawson, John R. Hailman, Asst. U. S. Attys., Oxford, Miss., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.

Before TUTTLE, VANCE and KRAVITCH, Circuit Judges.

KRAVITCH, Circuit Judge.

Harvey Hamilton was elected sheriff of DeSoto County, Mississippi in the 1975 general election. His campaign symbol was a white hat; he campaigned on a platform of honesty and integrity, pledging to "clean up" the county if elected. Nothing could have been further from his true intent or subsequent actions. From his taking office in January, 1976, to his indictment by a federal grand jury in late 1977, Hamilton ran the county as his own fiefdom, extorting payoffs and accepting bribes not to perform the duties he was elected to perform. As is generally the case when a public official is corrupt, others in addition to Hamilton were involved. In this case the cast of cohorts in crime is not large, but their actions pervaded this north Mississippi county for the better part of two years. Most of Hamilton's companions in crime 1 were convicted of racketeering and conspiracy to racketeer. Several were convicted of other charges also. All appeal their convictions. We affirm.

The Cast

Besides Hamilton, this case involves seven men who were indicted and others who were not. Because the scenario as established at trial is complex, a brief introduction to the cast will help in following the drama.

John Harter is a close friend of Hamilton. Their friendship has extended over many years and continued after Hamilton was elected sheriff. Though Harter's job as a salesman frequently took him out of town, when at home he had time to negotiate with believed underworld characters in order to set up a club in DeSoto County for prostitution and gambling. The club was to pay bribes to Hamilton to operate free from interference by local law enforcement.

Robert L. Harbin, Jr. and Robert E. Harbin (father and son) were both engaged in the amusement machine business. Robert L. Harbin, Jr. (Harbin-father) had been engaged in this business for many years. The business did not, however, consume his entire time as he was observed on more than one occasion accepting bribe money from the Camelot Massage Parlor for delivery to Hamilton. Robert E. Harbin (Harbin-son) focused most of his energy on the business, which included representing himself as the "Sheriff's man" and using other strong-arm tactics against potential customers to obtain their business.

Ray Bright operated the Bright Bonding Co. which allegedly paid bribes to Hamilton in return for the privilege of operating as a monopoly in DeSoto County.

Bill Chaney collected payoffs for Hamilton from the numerous honky-tonk 2 operators throughout the county.

Page 809

Jack Briggs is also an old friend of Hamilton and was an insurance salesman. His insurance work provided him with a cover for his many visits with Fran Jenkins, owner of the Camelot Massage Parlor. He thought his job as an insurance salesman would provide a cover for the visits, but in fact he was picking up payoffs for delivery to Hamilton.

Houston Morris was a Louisiana businessman who first came to DeSoto County to set up an alcoholic rehabilitation center and juvenile detention home. That never worked out, but he did get drawn into the amusement machine business and into bribing the Sheriff.

The Scenario

After taking office in early 1976, Hamilton began accepting bribes in return for implied, if not express, promises not to enforce the law against the party paying the bribe. In May, 1976, the FBI office in Jackson, Mississippi, was alerted that something was amiss in DeSoto County. Special agent Wayne Tichenor went to DeSoto County and talked to David Baker, Henry Van Sittert and Fran Jenkins.

Baker had operated a lounge in DeSoto County in the spring, but had been closed down by Hamilton after having paid Houston Morris $300 for protection from law enforcement. Van Sittert had operated a bonding company in DeSoto County prior to Hamilton's election. Once Hamilton took office his business declined to the extent that eventually he withdrew from the county. Jenkins was the proprietor of the Camelot Massage Parlor. She was paying Hamilton $300 per week so that he would not enforce the laws against prostitution as they applied to the Camelot.

In order to verify Jenkins' story, Tichenor asked her to record the serial number, series and denomination of all payoff bills. He also observed what circumstances suggested were several payoffs. Jenkins continued to record the relevant information from the payoff bills until June, 1977.

Meanwhile, the Organized Crime Strike Unit of the Memphis Police Department was planning a "sting" type anti-fencing operation for the area. As part of that operation, Memphis police officers were sent into DeSoto County, primarily to trace interstate movement of stolen goods through the county. While there they discovered that other illegal conduct was occurring.

The Memphis Police Department's initial leads led it to believe there was open commerce in narcotics in the area. 3 In order to further investigate those leads, in September, 1976, Sgt. James Kellum went undercover, posing as J. C. Smith, an agent for an out-of-state criminal syndicate. Sgt. Kellum first met with Robert Weatherly, 4 who, believing Kellum was an underworld figure, introduced him to John Harter.

Kellum told Harter he wanted to establish an operation in the county involving drugs, prostitution and gambling. Harter indicated Hamilton would be receptive to everything except the drugs, which was in fact how Hamilton reacted. Through negotiations 5 it was agreed that a club, to be called the Pump House, would be set up at the old American Legion Club and would cater to the middle-class whites in the area.

Page 810

The club would offer prostitution and gambling. Money was passed to Hamilton both directly and through Harter. All indications were Hamilton and Harter believed that Kellum and other law enforcement officers who were operating undercover were what they purported to be, underworld crime figures.

Negotiations continued to the point of reaching an agreement on how much the club would have to pay the sheriff to operate. Harbin-son installed bingo-type (gambling) pinball machines in the club. All proceeds from the machines were divided 50%-50% between Harbin-son and Les Davis, the manager of the club (an undercover FBI agent). Harbin-son, however, reimbursed Davis for the amount he had paid out to winning players.

While Kellum was undercover he learned from Harter that every tonk operator in the county paid Hamilton $50 per week to operate without interference. Investigation verified that allegation and defendant Chaney was identified as the person who made the pickups.

More specific evidence, as it relates to individual defendants will be discussed below. Suffice it to say the police uncovered a system of bribes to the sheriff from the tonk operators and those running houses of prostitution so they could operate free from interference and from the bondsman and the amusement machine operators so they could obtain a monopoly position in the county.

The Charges

The federal grand jury for the Northern District of Mississippi returned an eight-count indictment against the defendants. Count 1 alleged a conspiracy to participate in the operation of the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office as a racketeering enterprise in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). Indicted in this count were Hamilton, Harter, Harbin-father, Harbin-son, Chaney, Briggs, Bright and Morris. Count 2 alleged a substantive violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by all defendants. Count 3 charged Hamilton with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1952, alleging he travelled between Mississippi and Louisiana to aid a racketeering enterprise. Counts 4 and 5 charged Hamilton and Harter with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1952, alleging they travelled in interstate commerce on two occasions in aid of the criminal enterprise. Count 6 charged Hamilton, Harter, Morris, Harbin-father and Briggs with extorting and receiving payoffs from massage parlors under color of law in violation of the Hobbs Act. 18 U.S.C. § 1951. Count 7 charged Hamilton, Morris, Harter and Chaney with a Hobbs Act violation, alleging they extorted and received payoffs from honky-tonks under color of law. Count 8 charged Hamilton with obstruction of justice, alleging he tampered with a grand jury witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503.

Defendant Morris pled guilty to one count of interstate travel in aid of racketeering. He was dismissed as a defendant but remained in the indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator in Counts 1, 2, 6 and 7. He testified as a government witness at trial.

The remaining defendants pled not guilty and were tried by jury. Hamilton was acquitted on Count 3 but convicted on all other counts. All the other defendants were convicted on all counts.

The Issues on Appeal

Collectively, the defendants raise twenty-two issues on appeal, which can be separated into five major categories: (1) pre-trial rulings; (2) trial rulings; (3) challenges to the jury charge; (4) complaints...

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238 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Hernandez, No. 89-3395
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • January 30, 1991
    ...fair inference from the facts presented is that a witness had no reason to lie." Eley, 723 F.2d at 1526 (quoting United States v. Bright, 630 F.2d 804, 824 (5th Cir.1980)) 2. The prohibition against vouching does not forbid prosecutors from arguing credibility, which may be central to the c......
  • U.S. v. Cole, No. 82-5455
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • March 19, 1985
    ...any error that may have resulted from the prosecutor's comments as to the importance of the case was harmless. United States v. Bright, 630 F.2d 804, 828-29 (5th B. Closing Argument Appellants contend that the prosecutor should not have made reference to the "money laundering" aspects of th......
  • U.S. v. Hayes, No. 84-1276
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 9, 1986
    ...at 654; United States v. Cardwell, 680 F.2d 75, 78 (9th Cir.1982); see also VonderAhe, 508 F.2d at 370; accord United States v. Bright, 630 F.2d 804, 812 (5th Cir.1980). Although the government acknowledges that its investigation of Dr. Hayes focused on excessive prescription of Schedule II......
  • U.S. v. Johnson, No. 82-8293
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 29, 1983
    ...398 F.2d 964, 968 (5th Cir.1968), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 1021, 89 S.Ct. 630, 21 L.Ed.2d 566 (1969); see also United States v. Bright, 630 F.2d 804, 825 (5th Cir.1980). The record in this case furnishes no indication whatsoever that the prosecutor meant his argument to have such effect. Nor ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
238 cases
  • U.S. v. Hernandez, No. 89-3395
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • January 30, 1991
    ...fair inference from the facts presented is that a witness had no reason to lie." Eley, 723 F.2d at 1526 (quoting United States v. Bright, 630 F.2d 804, 824 (5th Cir.1980)) 2. The prohibition against vouching does not forbid prosecutors from arguing credibility, which may be central to the c......
  • U.S. v. Cole, No. 82-5455
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • March 19, 1985
    ...any error that may have resulted from the prosecutor's comments as to the importance of the case was harmless. United States v. Bright, 630 F.2d 804, 828-29 (5th B. Closing Argument Appellants contend that the prosecutor should not have made reference to the "money laundering" aspects of th......
  • U.S. v. Hayes, No. 84-1276
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 9, 1986
    ...at 654; United States v. Cardwell, 680 F.2d 75, 78 (9th Cir.1982); see also VonderAhe, 508 F.2d at 370; accord United States v. Bright, 630 F.2d 804, 812 (5th Cir.1980). Although the government acknowledges that its investigation of Dr. Hayes focused on excessive prescription of Schedule II......
  • U.S. v. Johnson, No. 82-8293
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 29, 1983
    ...398 F.2d 964, 968 (5th Cir.1968), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 1021, 89 S.Ct. 630, 21 L.Ed.2d 566 (1969); see also United States v. Bright, 630 F.2d 804, 825 (5th Cir.1980). The record in this case furnishes no indication whatsoever that the prosecutor meant his argument to have such effect. Nor ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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