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UNITED STATES v. SHIREY

March 17, 1958

UNITED STATES of America
v.
George Donald SHIREY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOLLMER

This is a motion to dismiss the Information because the Information does not state facts sufficient to constitute an offense against the United States of America.

The Information charges that:

 'On or about the 5th day of December 1953, in the City of York, Middle District of Pennsylvania, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, George Donald Shirey, in violation of the Act of Congress, June 25, 1948, c. 645, Sec. 1, 62 Stat. 694, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 214, did knowingly, wilfully and unlawfully offer or promise to S. Walter Stauffer, a Member of Congress of the 19th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, to donate $ 1,000 a year to the Republican Party to be used as they see fit, in consideration of the use or the promise to use any influence to procure for him the appointive office, under the United States, of Postmaster of York, Pennsylvania.'

 As above indicated, this Information was brought under 18 U.S.C. § 214 which reads as follows:

 'Offer to procure appointive public office

 'Whoever pays or offers or promises any money or thing of value, to any person, firm, or corporation in consideration of the use or promise to use any influence to procure any appointive office or place under the United States for any person, shall be fined not more than $ 1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.'

 'Acceptance or solicitation to obtain appointive public office.

 'Whoever solicits or receives, either as a political contribution, or for personal emolument, any money or thing of value, in consideration of the promise of support or use of been brought to our attention, nor has any appointive office or place under the United States, shall be fined not more than $ 1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.'

 No case construing Section 214 has been brought to our attention, nor has our independent search disclosed any.

 In United States v. Hood, 1952, 343 U.S. 148, 72 S. Ct. 568, 569, 96 L. Ed. 846, appellees were indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 215, which, as above indicated, makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to solicit or receive contributions in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining for any person 'any appointive office or place under the United States.' The trial court dismissed certain counts of the indictment which alleged the solicitation of contributions in return for promises to use influence to obtain offices which were not in existence at the time of the solicitation or the return of the indictment but which the President had been authorized to create under the Defense Production Act of 1950, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, § 2061 et seq. The order of dismissal was appealed by the Government direct to the Supreme Court under the Criminal Appeals Act, 18 U.S.C. (Supp. IV) § 3731. The Supreme Court in reversing stated, inter alia:

 'We think the District Court was wrong. The statute is plainly broad enough on its face to cover the sale of influence in connection with an office which had been authorized by law and which, at the time of the sale, might reasonably be expected to be established. That was the situation here and we do not have to go further to say whether the words will cover the sale of an office which is purely the creature of the seller's fancy.

 'The evil at which the statute is directed is the operation of purchased, and thus improper, influence in determining the occupants of federal office. But in attacking that evil, Congress outlawed not the use of such influence, but the solicitation of its purchase, the peddling of the forbidden wares. As is not uncommon in criminal legislation, Congress, in order to strike at the root, made the scope of the statute wider than the immediate evil. Even judges need not be blind to the fact of political life that it helps in influencing political appointments to be forehanded with a recommendation before an office is formally created. Certainly it was not unreal for Congress to believe that the sale of influence in anticipation of jobs was equally damaging to the proper operation of the federal service and to take steps to prevent it. It did so in this Act. Nothing has been suggested, either by the sparse legislative history or by prior judicial construction, to restrain us from giving effect to the obvious, ordinary reading of the statute. It is pressed upon us that criminal statutes are to be strictly construed. But this does not mean that such legislation 'must be construed by some artificial and conventional rule.' United States v. Union Supply Co., 215 U.S. 50, 55, 30 S. Ct. 15, 54 L. Ed. 87. We should not read such laws so as to put in what is not readily found there. But equally we should not read out what as a matter of ordinary English speech is in.

 'This Act penalized corruption. It is no less corrupt to sell an office one may never be able to deliver than to sell one he can. Dealing in futures also discredits the processes of government. There is no indication that this statute punishes delivery of the fruit of the forbidden transaction -- it forbids the sale. The sale is what is here alleged. Whether the corrupt transaction would or could ever be ...


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