Coffey v. United States
116 U.S. 436 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Coffey v. United States, 116 U.S. 436 (1886)

Coffey v. United States

Argued December 10, 1885

Decided January 18, 1886

116 U.S. 436

Syllabus

A judgment of forfeiture, on an information in rem for a violation of the internal revenue laws filed by the United States in a circuit court of the United States after a seizure of the res on land was rendered after a general verdict. On a writ of error by the claimant, there being no bill of exceptions, held that questions as to the sufficiency of the information and the regularity of the proceedings not having been formally raised in the circuit court, could not be raised in this Court.

After a specific denial, by answer, of the allegations of the information, the claimant cannot, in a court of error on such a record as that above mentioned, be heard to say that he did not know the charge made in the information and could not defend against it.

After a general verdict, one good count in the information is sufficient to uphold the judgment, on such a record.

The Circuit Court had jurisdiction of the suit.

The claimant set up by answer a prior judgment of acquittal on a criminal information against him by the United States in the same circuit court, founded on the same sections of the Revised Statutes sued on in this suit, and alleged that such criminal information contained charges of all of the violations of law alleged in the information in this suit. There was a general demurrer to the answer. After the general verdict for the United States, the claimant moved for judgment non obstante veredicto. The motion was denied. There was no bill of exceptions. On a writ of error, held that although one section counted on in the information declared, as a consequence of the commission of the prohibited act (1) that certain specific property should be forfeited, and (2) that the offender should be fined and imprisoned, yet, as the issue raised as to the existence of the act or fact had been tried in a criminal proceeding against the claimant instituted by the United States, and a judgment of acquittal rendered in his favor, that judgment was conclusive in his favor in this suit, and that the judgment of the circuit court must be reversed and the case be remanded with a direction to enter a judgment for the claimant dismissing the information, and to take proper proceedings in regard to restoring the property attached.

This was an information filed by the Attorney of the United States for the District of Kentucky on behalf of the United States in the circuit court for that district against 10 barrels of apple brandy, 1 apple mill, 37 tubs, and 2 copper stills said

Page 116 U. S. 437

to be the property of A. G. Coffey, and under seizure, on land, by a deputy collector of internal revenue as being forfeited to the United States. The first count of the information alleges that Coffey, being engaged in carrying on the business of a distiller, defrauded and attempted to defraud the United States of the tax on part of the spirits distilled by him, and that the two copper stills and other distillery apparatus were used by him and the distilled spirits were found on his distillery premises. The second count alleges that the distilled spirits in respect of which a tax was imposed by law and which tax had not been paid were removed, deposited, and concealed with intent to defraud the United States of part of such tax, and that the two stills and other distilling apparatus, vessels, and utensils were proper, and intended to be made use of for and in the making of such distilled spirits. The third count alleges that the distilled spirits, on which a tax was imposed by law, were found in the possession of Coffey for the purpose of being sold and removed by him in fraud of the internal revenue laws and with the design to avoid the payment of said tax, and that the two copper stills and other tools and property so seized were in the place, yard, and enclosure where the distilled spirits were found.

The first count is founded on § 3257 of the Revised Statutes, which provides as follows:

"Whenever any person engaged in carrying on the business of a distiller defrauds or attempts to defraud the United States of the tax on the spirits distilled by him or of any part thereof, he shall forfeit the distillery and distilling apparatus used by him, and all distilled spirits . . . found in the distillery and on the distillery premises, and shall be fined not less than five hundred dollars nor more than five thousand dollars, and be imprisoned not less than six months nor more than three years."

The second count is founded on § 3450 of the Revised Statutes, which provides as follows:

"Whenever any goods or commodities for or in respect whereof any tax is or shall be imposed or any materials, utensils, or vessels proper, or intended to be made use of, for or in the making of such goods or commodities are removed, or are deposited or concealed in any

Page 116 U. S. 438

place with intent to defraud the United States of such tax or any part thereof, all such goods and commodities, and all such materials, utensils, and vessels, respectively, shall be forfeited. . . . And every person who removes, deposits, or conceals or is concerned in removing, depositing, or concealing any goods or commodities for or in respect whereof any tax is or shall be imposed with intent to defraud the United States of such tax or any part thereof shall be liable to a fine or penalty of not more than five hundred dollars. . . ."

The third count is founded on § 3453 of the Revised Statutes, which provides as follows:

"All goods, wares, merchandise, articles, or objects on which taxes are imposed which shall be found in the possession or custody or within the control of any person for the purpose of being sold or removed by him in fraud of the internal revenue laws or with design to avoid payment of said taxes may be seized by the collector or deputy collector of the proper district, . . . and shall be forfeited to the United States, . . . and all tools, implements, instruments, and personal property whatsoever in the place or building, or within any yard or enclosure, where such articles . . . are found may also be seized by any collector or deputy collector as aforesaid, and shall be forfeited as aforesaid. The proceedings to enforce such forfeitures shall be in the nature of a proceeding in rem in the circuit court or District Court of the United States for the District where such seizure is made."

Under a monition and attachment, the marshal arrested the property and gave the notice required by law. Coffey filed a claim to all the property except one barrel of the distilled spirits, as owner, and an answer to the information. The answer denied the allegations of the three counts of the information, and in a fourth paragraph set up the following defense:

"Fourth. And further answering, the said claimant states that the alleged removals and concealments of distilled spirits set forth in the various assignments and charges of fraud, and attempts at and intent of fraud, in carrying on and engaging in the business of a distiller, and in removals, disposing, and concealing of distilled spirits, alleged against him

Page 116 U. S. 439

and now answered are the same removals, concealments and depositing, and same carrying on of business of a distiller as are recited in a criminal information filed against him at the October term of this Court, 1881, and that all of said 'removals,' 'concealments,' 'depositing,' and 'intents to defraud,' the same complained of in plaintiff's information herein, might have been established, if said allegations be true, under §§ 3450, 3452, 3296, or 3257, upon which, or some one or more of which, the counts in said criminal information were based; that all of the evidence which would be necessary to establish, and competent, under the various assignments and charges of fraud set out in plaintiffs' libel herein would also be competent, and would tend to establish the allegations of said criminal information; that the various charges of fraud and causes of forfeiture alleged by plaintiff herein relate to the same subject matter, and are based on the same transactions, as the various allegations in said criminal information contained, so far as they relate to alleged offenses under §§ 3450, 3452, 3453, 3296, or 3257, and that at the time when said criminal information was drawn by the attorney for the United States, and at the time it was considered by him, all of the facts which would be competent to sustain the allegations of plaintiffs' libel herein were known to and within the possession of the representative of the United States. And he avers and says that the United States ought not to maintain its action herein for the penalty denounced in §§ 3257, 3450, and 3453, for at the October term, 1881, in this circuit and district, and in this court herein, a criminal information, the same above referred to, was found against him, the counts of which were based on §§ 3257, 3256, 3450, 3453, and 3296, or on some one or more of them, alleging the carrying on the business of a distiller with intent to defraud the United States, and that he was concerned in depositing, concealing, and removing a large quantity of distilled spirits, with intent to defraud the United States of the taxes imposed thereon, and having had in his custody a large quantity of distilled spirits, with the design to avoid the payment of the taxes imposed thereon; that the counts in said criminal information contained the same charges,

Page 116 U. S. 440

in substance and effect, and are the same allegations of offenses and frauds and attempts at frauds, and are founded on the same sections of the statutes of the United States, as the matters and things herein alleged in plaintiffs' libel, and he says that all and singular of said matters at said term and in this Court were tried and inquired into, and fully heard, and, on the hearing thereof, the jury, duly impaneled and sworn, found this defendant not guilty, and the court rendered a judgment acquitting this defendant of the charges of frauds, and attempts at frauds, therein alleged, and all of which are the same frauds now set out by plaintiffs, and herein answered by this defendant."

The sections referred to in this fourth paragraph of the answer, other than those above set forth, are as follows:

"SEC. 3256. Whenever any person evades or attempts to evade the payment of the tax on any distilled spirits in any manner whatever, he shall forfeit and pay double the amount of the tax so evaded or attempted to be evaded."

"SEC. 3296. Whenever any person removes or aids or abets in the removal of any distilled spirits on which the tax has not been paid to a place other than the distillery warehouse provided by law, or conceals or aids in the concealment of any spirits so removed, or aids or abets in the removal of any distilled spirits from any distillery warehouse or other warehouse for distilled spirits authorized by law in any manner other than is provided by law or conceals or aids in the concealment of any spirits so removed, he shall be liable to a penalty of doubt the tax imposed on such distilled spirits so removed or concealed, and shall be fined not less than two hundred dollars nor more than five thousand dollars, and imprisoned not less than three months nor more than three years."

"SEC. 3452. Every person who shall have in his custody or possession any goods, wares, merchandise, articles, or objects on which taxes are imposed by law for the purpose of selling the same in fraud of the internal revenue laws or with design to avoid payment of the taxes imposed thereon shall be liable to a penalty of five hundred dollars or not less than double the amount of taxes fraudulently attempted to be evaded. "

Page 116 U. S. 441

The United States filed a demurrer to the fourth paragraph of the answer, "because it does not state facts sufficient to constitute a defense." Eight days afterwards, the issues of fact were tried by a jury, which found a general verdict for the United States. The claimant then moved the court to set aside the verdict, alleging as grounds, among others, that the court had no jurisdiction and that the information was insufficient. He also moved for judgment on the pleadings notwithstanding the verdict. The court made an order denying the motions and entering a judgment condemning the property as forfeited to the United States and awarding costs against Coffey. There is no bill of exceptions, but the claimant has sued out a writ of error to review the judgment.

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