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UNITED STATES v. CECCERELLI

November 1, 1972

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Louis CECCERELLI, Defendant


McCune, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCUNE

McCUNE, District Judge.

 Louis Ceccerelli, Captain of the Aliquippa (Pennsylvania) Police Department was indicted for perjury *fn1" following his testimony on April 11, 1972, before the United States Special Grand Jury sitting at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has now moved to dismiss the indictment.

 The Grand Jury had called Ceccerelli as part of its investigation of organized crime in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. The transcript of defendant's testimony attached as an exhibit to his motion to dismiss indicates he was asked about certain meetings that allegedly occurred in January, February and March, 1972, between himself and Ronald "Roddy" Jones, a reputed Beaver County numbers banker. Ceccerelli said that he had seen or briefly talked to Jones two or three times in early 1972, but he denied ever meeting with him for extended periods of up to one-half hour on a bench or in a car. *fn2"

 The defendant raises eight arguments to support his motion to dismiss. We find none of them convincing and will dispose of them in order.

 1. Defendant first argues that he cannot be accused of perjury because he did not deny meeting with Jones.

 The argument is not persuasive. It is true that Ceccerelli said he had seen and/or talked with Jones briefly during early 1972. The indictment shows, however, that the alleged perjury arose, not from his answers to whether he had ever "met" with Jones but from his answers concerning the location, number and frequency of the meetings.

 2. Defendant next argues that 18 U.S.C. § 1623 is unconstitutionally vague since a man of common intelligence would not understand the meaning of the word "material." Defendant argues that by using the word "material" Congress used a legal term of art "beyond the competence of the man-on-the-street" and therefore the statute lacks the narrow specificity required to protect it from constitutional attack.

 We disagree. The word "material" is, no doubt, a legal term of art. But it does not follow that the statute is therefore unconstitutionally vague. The word "material" is used in § 1621 (the old perjury section) as well as § 1623, and materiality has traditionally been an element of the crime of perjury.

 We consider it highly persuasive that in the long line of cases interpreting § 1621 neither defendant nor the court has found any which declare the materiality standard constitutionally defective. If "material" has not been found to be unduly vague in § 1621 we do not think it is defective when used in an identical context in § 1623.

 3. Defendant next contends that the two witness rule is a constitutionally required burden of proof and cannot be abrogated by statute.

 The two witness rule under the common law and the § 1621 perjury provision required that the falsity of the defendant's declaration under oath be established either by the testimony of two witnesses or by the testimony of one witness plus corroborating circumstances. Section 1623, however, abolishes the two witness rule. It provides that perjury must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt but that it does not have to be proved "by any particular number of witnesses." *fn3"

 There is a paucity of precedent on the issue of the constitutionality of the Section's abolition of the two witness rule. The only reported decision is United States v. McGinnis, 344 F. Supp. 89 (S.D.Tex.1972). As Ceccerelli does here, the defendant in McGinnis argued that Weiler v. United States, 323 U.S. 606, 65 S. Ct. 548, 89 L. Ed. 495 (1945) supported his contention that the two witness rule was constitutionally required. The court in McGinnis did not find Weiler controlling and neither do we.

 In Weiler the court refused to adopt the government's argument that the two witness rule should be abandoned. But the decision did not hold that the rule was a constitutional mandate. The court only held that since there was an absence of legislation in derogation of the rule and the rule could not be rejected as wholly unreasonable it would not be discarded. Now, however, there is legislation in derogation of the rule. Section 1623 has "given, by Congressional mandate, a sound basis for upholding the ...


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