William Gordon Crawford v. United States

Decision Date01 February 1909
Docket NumberNo. 92,92
Citation15 Ann.Cas. 392,29 S.Ct. 260,53 L.Ed. 465,212 U.S. 183
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

On the 3d of April, 1905, in the supreme court of the District of Columbia, the defendant was indicted, together with George E. Lorenz and August W. Machen, for a conspiracy to defraud the United States, by means stated in the indictment, and in relation to a contract between the Postal Device & Lock Company, a corporation of the state of New Jersey, and the Postoffice Department of the United States, by which the company was to furnish certain satchels to the Department for the use of the letter carriers in the free-delivery system of the government.

The indictment was founded upon § 5440 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3676), which reads as follows:

'If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such parties do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, all the parties to such conspiracy shall be liable to a penalty of not more than ten thousand dollars, or to imprisonment for not more than two years, or to both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.'

Nearly two years before the finding of this indictment (viz., in July, 1903), the defendant had been indicted in the same court by two different indictments, relating to the same general subject-matter as the one found in April, 1905,—one indictment charging him with conspiring (together with Lorenz and Machen) against the United States, by agreeing to present false bills of account to the Postoffice Department, in relation to the contract mentioned, for supplying the Department with satchels for letter carriers, in alleged violation of § 5438 of the Revised Statutes (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3674). The other indictment was against the defendant individually for presenting false claims to a clerk in the Postoffice Department under this same contract, and in violation of the same section of the Revised Statutes. Upon motion the three indictments were consolidated for the purpose of trial of the defendant and were tried together, a severance in the conspiracy indictments having been granted upon the defendant's motion for his separate trial. The two indictments found in 1903 have been so disposed of in the court below that no question arises in regard to either.

Upon the trial the defendant was convicted, as hereinafter more particularly stated, and he then appealed from the judgment entered upon the verdict of conviction to the court of appeals of the District, where it was affirmed by a divided court, Mr. Chief Justice Shepard dissenting. 30 D. C. App. 1.

Upon application of the defendant this court granted a writ of certiorari, and the case is now here by virtue of that writ.

Mr. A. S. Worthington for petitioner.

Mr. Justice Peckham, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:

The defendant was convicted on the first count of the indictment found in April, 1905, (which contained six counts), and was acquitted on the fifth and sixth counts. The court having, previous to the trial, sustained a demurrer to the second, third, and fourth counts, there is nothing left under this indictment except the conviction of defendant on the first count, and the question to be considered at the outset is as to the sufficiency of that count. The grounds of the demurrer were that the indictment did not set forth any offense under § 5440 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, nor did it set forth any offense under any statute, or at common law; that, as to the first count, it did not appear how the government could have been defrauded by the alleged scheme of conspiracy, and that it is not alleged in the indictment that any payment to Machen under the agreement set forth in the count was intended to influence Machen's official action, and it is not alleged that the government was to pay more than it would have had to pay if the alleged agreement between the defendants had not been entered into, and it is not alleged that the contract was not honestly awarded. These questions may be considered, notwithstanding the defendant, when his demurrer was overruled, pleaded over and went to trial on the plea of not guilty. See Code of District of Columbia, § 1533, page 300. [31 Stat. at L. 1418, chap. 854.]

Attorney General Bonaparte, Special Assistant to the Attorney General Holmes Conrad, and Solicitor General Hoyt for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from page 187 intentionally omitted] Statement by Mr. Justice Peckham:

Without going into any very great detail, it is necessary to state what, in substance, is alleged in the first count. It is therein averred that Machen (one of the alleged conspirators) was the General Superintendent of the Division of Free Delivery of the Postoffice Department of the United States, and that the Department used satchels for letter carriers, which were supplied by contract, at a certain price named therein for each satchel, and in such numbers as the Department might, from time to time, require, It was the duty of the General Superintendent to keep the Department advised from time to time of the approaching expiration of existing contracts for furnishing supplies, and of the necessity for advertising for bids for contracts for the furnishing of supplies, including satchels for letter carriers, and also to advise as to the matter and form of such proposed contracts, and it was his duty to use his best and honest judgment as to the number of satchels that, from time to time, might be required for the use of the carriers under any contract that might be made. It was his duty to examine the bills for such of the satchels as had been delivered, and approve them if correct, upon which payment would be made, in due course, by the Postoffice Department. The defendant and Lorenz knew fully the duties pertaining to the office of General Superintendent prior to the making of the contract mentioned.

On the 6th of May, 1902, on the advice of the General Superintendent, the Department advertised for the presentation to the Department of bids up to June 6, 1902, for the supplying of satchels for letter carriers for four years from July 1, 1902.

On June 3, 1902, the defendant and Machen and one Lorenz, intending to defraud the United States, unlawfully and fraudulently conspired, 'knowingly, wrongfully, and corruptly to defraud the United States in a dishonest manner, and through and by means of a dishonest scheme and arrangement,' which is then stated. The defendant was to procure the lock company, of which he was an officer, and which was a New Jersey corporation desiring to engage in furnishing supplies to the Postoffice Department to put in a bid for furnishing satchels for the Department. He was also to procure the lock company, before the offer of the bid of the company to the Department, to make a contract with Lorenz that, if the bid of the lock company was accepted by the Department, then, whenever the lock company furnished any satchels to the Department under such contract, and received from the Department payment therefor, the lock company would pay to Lorenz all of such amount exceeding the cost of manufacturing and delivering the same and 25 cents for each satchel. Pursuant to such agreement the lock company did enter into such a contract with Lorenz.

On June 3, 1902, the defendant and the General Superintendent and Lorenz, as part of their dishonest scheme, agreed that the money which was to be paid to Lorenz by the lock company should thereafter be divided between the defendant, the General Superintendent, and Lorenz, in certain proportions unknown to the grand jury.

On the 25th of June, 1902, the United States, through the Postmaster General, made a contract with the lock company, by which the former agreed to purchase from the lock company, at certain fixed prices, so many satchels as might be needed by the Department for four years from July 1, 1902.

On October 3, 1902, the defendant, in order to effect and carry out the conspiracy, presented a bill against the United States for $15,800, for 5,000 satchels theretofore sold and delivered to the Department, in accordance with the contract of June 25, 1902, with the lock company, and on October 13, 1902, in pursuance of the conspiracy, the General Superintendent approved the bill as such superintendent, the defendant receiving and accepting a warrant payable to the order of the lock company from the Department, in payment of such bill for the amount thereof.

On the 21st of October, 1902, the defendant, in pursuance of the conspiracy, drew a check of the lock company upon Spencer Trask & Company, of New York, for $5,441.36, payable to the order of Lorenz, which he sent to Lorenz.

On October 28, 1902, Lorenz, having received the check and obtained the money on it, sent to Machen, the General Superintendent, the sum of $900, by means of a draft procured by Lorenz, and sent by him to the Superintendent.

From this statement it appears that the count discloses the duties of the General Superintendent and the duty that he owed to the government in relation to a contract of the nature above mentioned. It was part of his duty to give an honest and unprejudiced judgment, whether the contract was, from time to time, being fairly and fully complied with, both as to the number of satchels furnished, their material and workmanship, as well as with regard to all other matters pertaining to the contract. It cannot be supposed that such duty could be fully, impartially, and honestly discharged by an officer who, by reason of his private and alleged corrupt agreement with the agent of the contractor whose work he was supervising, would obtain more pay by exceeding in his requisitions the number of satchels really...

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