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decided: January 3, 1899.




[ 172 U.S. Page 344]

 MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM delivered the opinion of the court.

Henry W. Scott, the plaintiff in error, was indicted under section 5467, Revised Statutes, for stealing a letter and its contents from the mail, and the indictment alleged that he unlawfully and wilfully secreted and embezzled a certain letter intended to be conveyed by mail and directed to Miss Mary Campbell, Cottonwood, Yavapai County, Arizona, he being a letter carrier in the city of New York and the letter having been entrusted to him and having come into his possession in his capacity as such carrier. The letter contained $3.50 in two silver certificates of the United States, each of the denomination of one dollar, and a United States Treasury note of the denomination of one dollar, and a fifty-cent piece of the silver coinage of the United States. The evidence showed that the letter was what is termed a decoy letter; that the money was placed therein by one of the inspectors of the Post Office Department; that it was sealed, stamped and addressed as above mentioned, and deposited about 2.30 o'clock P.M. in one of the street letter boxes in the city of New York, in the district from which the defendant collected such letters. Within a few moments after it was deposited in the letter box by the inspector, he saw the defendant come to the box, unlock

[ 172 U.S. Page 345]

     it, take out its contents, put them in his bag and continue on his route. The carrier returned to the branch post office, station E, where he was employed, a little after three o'clock, turned the contents of his bag upon the proper table for distribution, and hung the bag and also his coat on a peg, and left the room and was gone about half an hour. One of the clerks of the department had been told before the defendant's arrival with his letter bag to look out for a letter addressed, as above described, and withdraw it from the mail, and in obedience to such instructions and during the defendant's absence he looked through the letters thus taken from his bag, and the letter was not to be found. Upon the defendant's return to the distributing room, he took his coat and bag and started on his route for another collection of letters, and while on the street he was met by the officers of the Government about five minutes after four o'clock P.M., and was then arrested and brought to the station. He was charged with having the letter, and was asked to show what he had in his pockets. The letter was not found, but the defendant took from his right-hand trousers pocket, among other things, the three bills which had been placed in the letter. The fifty-cent piece was found loose among other coins in another pocket. The officers identified the bills by marks which had been placed on them, and also by reason of the numbers of the bills, a memorandum of which had been taken. The coin had been marked and was identified by the officers.

In relation to the letter, it appears that it was prepared by an inspector of the department, who addressed the same to Miss Mary Campbell. The inspector wrote the body of the original letter. He did not know Mary Campbell, and never saw her; it was addressed to her at Cottonwood, Arizona, at which place there is a post office, but there was no one of the name of Miss Mary Campbell residing at Cottonwood, Arizona, to his knowledge. The address on the letter was to a fictitious person; the money placed in the letter was the money of Mr. Morris, one of the inspectors.

Upon the trial the defendant was sworn in his own behalf, and upon his direct examination testified that when he was

[ 172 U.S. Page 346]

     arrested and the money found upon him, he said to the inspectors, "Somebody has done me a dirty trick;" to which one of the inspectors replied, "Do you think I am concerned in that?" The defendant says that he answered him, "I did not think or did not know whether he was; but if he was not, some enemy of mine in that office was." He denied, on the witness stand, that he abstracted, or took from the collection table, or at all, any letter such as is described in the indictment, or any money belonging to any other person in the world.

Upon cross-examination the district attorney endeavored to obtain a fuller statement from the defendant as to what he meant when he said on his direct examination that somebody had done him a dirty trick, and that some enemy of his in the office was concerned in it, and to that end the district attorney asked him: "Have you any enemies among the employes at that station?" and the defendant answered that he had one by the name of Augustus Weisner and another named John D. Silsbee, his former superintendent; that he was an enemy of his and so was Weisner, and that those two were all that he regarded as enemies in that office, both being employed in the same branch office as the defendant, and he said that for a month before he was arrested he was not on speaking terms with Weisner.

The court asked the defendant: "What is the trick that you mean to suggest to the jury that was playing upon you?" and the defendant answered: "The only solution that I can give of it is that that two dollars had been abstracted from my pocket and these marked three dollars put in the place of it. Three dollars and a half placed there; fifty cents in with this change." The witness had just previously stated that he left two one-dollar bills belonging to himself in his coat pocket at the time he hung his coat upon the peg in the sorting room and left it there to go down stairs, and from which room he was absent about twenty-five minutes.

When the defendant rested the Government called as witnesses John D. Silsbee and Augustus Weisner, the two men named by the defendant as ...

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