United States v. Noto, 381

Decision Date31 December 1958
Docket NumberDocket 25156.,No. 381,381
Citation262 F.2d 501
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. John Francis NOTO, Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit


Charles J. McDonough, Buffalo, N. Y., for appellant.

John O. Henderson, U. S. Atty. for the Western Dist. of New York, Buffalo, N. Y. (Lawrence P. McGauley, John C. Keeney, and John J. Keating, Attys., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., on the brief), for appellee.

Before HINCKS and WATERMAN, Circuit Judges, and RYAN, District Judge.

RYAN, District Judge.

This is an appeal from a judgment of conviction and sentence for violation of the membership provision of the Smith Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2385.1 The indictment charged:

1. That from January 1946 up to November 1954 (the date of the filing of the indictment), the Communist Party has at all times been a group of persons who teach and advocate the forcible overthrow of the Government of the United States as speedily as circumstances would permit;

2. That continuously from January 1946, the defendant has been a member of the Communist Party well knowing that it was a group that taught and advocated the forcible overthrow of the Government as speedily as circumstances would permit, and that defendant intended to bring about such overthrow by force and violence as speedily as circumstances would permit.

The appeal raises questions as to the sufficiency of the evidence, the constitutionality of the statute and the validity of the indictment in view of Section 4(f) of the Internal Security Act 1950, 50 U.S.C.A. § 783(f). This case is one of first impression in this Circuit, although the Fourth and Seventh Circuits have upheld convictions under the membership clause. Scales v. United States, 4 Cir., 1956, 227 F.2d 581 and Id., 4 Cir., 260 F.2d 21, certiorari granted 79 S.Ct. 289; United States v. Lightfoot, 7 Cir., 1956, 228 F.2d 861.2

The evidence presented must be viewed in the light of the trial court's charge to determine the questions raised as to sufficiency and constitutionality. The charge required the jury to make an affirmative finding on four elements before it could convict:

1. The Communist Party is a group which teaches and advocates the overthrow of the United States Government by force and violence as speedily as circumstances will permit;

2. The defendant was a member of the Communist Party of the United States;

3. While a member defendant had knowledge that the Party taught the forcible overthrow of the Government as soon as circumstances would permit;

4. Defendant individually intended to bring about the overthrow and destruction of the Government by force and violence as soon as circumstances would permit.

In addition, the jury was required to find that these four elements co-existed at some time between September 1, 1951 and November 8, 1954 the period covered by the Statute of Limitations (18 U.S.C. § 3282 as amended September 1, 1954). If the evidence was sufficient to justify the jury's findings on the four elements this will dispose of appellant's challenge to the evidence. We hold that the jury's verdict was supported by the proof on trial.

The nature of the Communist Party as a group which teaches and advocates the overthrow of the Government by force and violence as speedily as circumstances would permit was abundantly established much in the pattern we reviewed and affirmed in United States v. Dennis, 2 Cir., 183 F.2d 201, affirmed 1951, 341 U.S. 494, 71 S.Ct. 857, 95 L.Ed. 1137, and United States v. Flynn, 2 Cir., 216 F.2d 354. Thus, the systematic teaching in Party schools of the principles of Marxism-Leninism together with the so-called Communist "classics" were set forth for the jury. As to the "classics" appellant concedes in his brief that they "all predicted and advocated the eventual overthrow of capitalism by the revolution of the proletariat, to be accomplished by force and violence if necessary." The witness Lautner brought these teachings to the Party schools over a period of many years. That the Party equated the principles of Marxism-Leninism with force and violence was attested to further by its condemnation at the National Convention in 1945 of the "peaceful co-existence" policy of the American Communist Party under the leadership of Browder, described by the Party as a "rejection of the Marxian concept of the revolutionary initiative of the working class," and the reconstitution of the Party and reeducation of its members along lines of Marxist orthodoxy. It would serve no useful purpose for us here to review in detail the many documents, books and periodicals before the jury which established and justified a finding that the aims and avowed purposes of the Party was one of dedication to the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist line.

In addition, there was proof of the Party's plan of industrial concentration by which the Party's activities were concentrated in basic industries and the largest plants, and key national figures shifted into the leadership of these concentration districts and areas, thereby attempting to give the Party the power to paralyze the nation's industrial capacity, in furtherance of its ultimate aim. Then, too, there was proof that in 1948 the overt call to forcible overthrow espoused at the Convention was changed because of the Smith Act prosecution of its top leaders, and that consultations were had with European Communist leaders and preparations made based on international experience to take the hard core members of the Party underground, and place them in trade unions and mass organizations. This move was designed to enable the Party — which in time of prosecution suffered a 90% reduction in membership — to function as an organized group under any and all conditions through absolutely loyal members unconditionally dedicated to and particularly suited to carrying out the Party's objectives. There was evidence that as late as Labor Day in 1951, within the indictment period, the defendant as one of those members stated that he was waiting for instructions from his superiors as to what he should do if apprehended, that he might find it necessary to flee the country and that he was willing to endure any hardship and even lay down his life if necessary in order that the work of the Party might continue. When defendant disappeared into the employ of one of the basic industries, in disguise and under a false name, it was reasonable for the jury to infer that his move had been dictated by his superiors in the interests of the Party.

The sum of these activities when viewed against the background of the systematic teaching of Marxism-Leninism, the program adopted in 1945, the rigidity of purpose of the Party and the tenacity of the hard core members despite prosecution, and the absence of any evidence of accomplishment or abandonment of their purpose was sufficient basis to support an inference that the character of the Party as a group dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Government, established in prior years, continued unaltered through the statutory period. United States v. Schneiderman, D.C., 106 F.Supp. 892, 899; 2 Wigmore on Evidence § 437, 3rd ed. 1940.3

There is do dispute in this case as to the second element; this is conceded in appellant's brief: "there was no question about Noto's membership in the Communist Party." He was a paid employee and organizer. His income tax return for the year 1951 showed him to be employed as a sub-district organizer and the Party's withholding tax return for the third quarter ending September 30, 1951 and dated October 18, 1951, signed by the defendant as Chairman of the Party showed him to be a paid employee.

The third element, defendant's knowledge of the Party's illegal teaching and advocacy, and the fourth element his intent were also amply supported by proof which justified the jury's finding. Defendant states in his brief, "the Government proved that the defendant was extremely active in the affairs of the Party in Buffalo and Western New York." He was a well indoctrinated member having been taught in Party schools the Marxist-Leninist principles by use of the Communist "classics." These, as we mentioned above, were the same source materials to which we adverted in the Dennis case as proving the prosecution's contention of force and violence "quite independently of the testimony of its witnesses. * * *" 183 F.2d at page 206.

Defendant had occupied positions of importance in the Party; he had been the Greater Buffalo region organizer in 1947, the sub-district organizer of Western New York in 1947-48; Chairman of the Erie County Communist Party and District Chairman of the Party Upstate District. He lectured in these capacities at various meetings on the classical aims and objectives of the Party and apparently considered himself sufficiently well versed in the Party's objectives to predict the time when capitalism would be destroyed and the Government overthrown. In the Fall of 1951 when he was endeavoring to induce Regan, a fellow member, to become active in the Party, he stated that he would stand behind the actions of a particular leader (Ellis) as one who represented Communist Party Policy; that he was familiar enough with the Party's tactics to anticipate that he might be directed to submit to arrest, be bailed out and then jump his bail. In October, 1951 he picked up copies of the Daily Worker at Regan's house; on September 15 or 17th he collected money toward furnishing bail to arrested leaders. Defendant actively participated in the industrial concentration program pointing out the steel industry in his area as the prime Party target. Considering the ultimate Marxist-Leninist goal, concentration on the industry which is probably the most important to the Country's economy suggests the attempt to gain for the Party the ability to sabotage and paralyze the entire nation — a coup vital to the Party...

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2 cases
  • Noto v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 5, 1961
    ...the Second Circuit which affirmed petitioner's conviction in the District Court for the Western District of New York, after a jury trial. 262 F.2d 501. The only one of petitioner's points we need consider is his attack on the sufficiency of the evidence, since his statutory and constitution......
  • Newark Morning Ledger Co., Application of
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1961
    ...overthrow of the Government continues unaltered unless there is evidence of abandonment of such Communistic purposes. United States v. Noto, 2 Cir., 262 F.2d 501, certiorari granted 361 U.S. 813, 80 S.Ct. 90, 4 L.Ed.2d 60 [Argued October 11, 1960. To date there has been no decision by the C......

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