U.S. v. Ciambrone, 84-1108

Decision Date04 January 1985
Docket NumberNo. 84-1108,84-1108
Citation750 F.2d 1416
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Ronald James CIAMBRONE, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Barry Lieberman, Asst. U.S. Atty., Las Vegas, Nev., for plaintiff-appellee.

Peter L. Flangas, Las Vegas, Nev., for defendant-appellant.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.

Before CANBY, NORRIS and BEEZER, Circuit Judges.

AMENDED OPINION

NORRIS, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Ronald J. Ciambrone appeals his conviction for misprison of felony, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4 (1982). 1 Because we conclude that Ciambrone did not take an affirmative step to conceal a crime, his conviction must be reversed.

FACTS

On July 5, 1983, Agent Earl Devaney of the United States Secret Service, received a telephone call from someone identifying himself as "Becker", later found to be Ciambrone. Devaney was informed that "something of interest" was being placed in the night book return of the public library in a nearby shopping mall. He was told that, if he was interested in more information, he should meet the caller the next day at 1:00 p.m. After the call, Devaney went to the book depository and recovered an envelope containing a xerox copy of a counterfeit $100 Federal Reserve Note, in a style not previously known to Secret Service.

The next day, Devaney met Ciambrone at the library. Ciambrone told Devaney that he knew someone who had counterfeit hundreds and twenties to trade for bearer bonds in an initial deal amount of half a million dollars. When Devaney asked Ciambrone to identify himself and the counterfeiters, Ciambrone replied, "I'm not going to tell you anything unless you give me $15,000." Devaney explained that the Secret Service pays rewards for information only after it is supplied and investigated. Ciambrone replied, "Look, this is a take it or leave it proposition. Either I get my $15,000 or I'll make that or more by joining them."

Devaney asked for proof that Ciambrone really had access to the counterfeit money, and the two set up another meeting for the next day. On July 7, 1983, Ciambrone showed Devaney two sample bills and asked for the $15,000. He again refused to answer any questions or identify himself or the counterfeiters unless he was paid. It is undisputed that Ciambrone was completely truthful in his dealings with the Secret Service. Ciambrone was arrested and charged with (1) unlawful photographing of United States obligations, (2) possession of counterfeit obligations and (3) misprision of felony. The first two counts were dismissed. Ciambrone was convicted on the remaining count of misprision of felony.

DISCUSSION

The elements of the crime of misprision of felony are: (1) the principal committed and completed the felony alleged (here, the possession and concealment of counterfeit money); (2) the defendant had full knowledge of that fact; (3) the defendant failed to notify the authorities; and (4) the defendant took an affirmative step to conceal the crime. United States v. Hodges, 566 F.2d 674, 675 (9th Cir.1977). Ciambrone argues on appeal that his conviction cannot stand because the undisputed facts show that he did not take an affirmative step to conceal a crime. His argument raises the question whether his truthful but partial disclosure of his knowledge of the commission of a felony constitutes such an affirmative step. 2

The starting point of our analysis is the proposition that "[m]ere silence, without some affirmative act, is insufficient evidence" of the crime of misprision of felony. Lancey v. United States, 356 F.2d 407, 410 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 385 U.S. 922, 87 S.Ct. 234, 17 L.Ed.2d 145 (1966). Thus, a person who witnesses a crime does not violate 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4 if he simply remains silent. Here, Ciambrone did not remain silent; rather, he made a truthful, but partial disclosure of what he knew about the counterfeiting operation. The district court viewed Ciambrone's actions as "tantamount to an affirmative act," because "the case goes beyond the defendant sitting at home knowing about it, not doing anything about it." We disagree. In our view, Ciambrone's partial disclosure did not result in any greater concealment of the crime than would have occurred had he stayed at home and said nothing. Indeed, in stepping forward to make at least a partial disclosure, Ciambrone provided some information and possibly valuable leads that the Secret Service would not have otherwise obtained from him. Thus, Ciambrone not only informed Agent Devaney that he knew a person with large quantities of counterfeit notes, but also gave him a xerox copy of one and showed him two actual counterfeit notes...

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    • United States
    • Suffolk University Law Review Vol. 41 No. 2, March - March 2008
    • March 22, 2008
    ...that the phrasing "conceals and" in the statute simply refers to a "conscious non-disclosure." Id. (28.) See United States v. Ciambrone, 750 F.2d 1416, 1418 (9th Cir. 1984) (holding partial disclosure does not amount to affirmative act of concealment). The court reasoned that the defendant'......

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