Coffin v. United States
156 U.S. 432 (1895)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895)

Coffin v. United States

No. 741

Argued December 6-7, 1894

Decided March 4, 1895

156 U.S. 432

Syllabus

The offense of aiding or abetting an officer of a national bank in committing one or more of the offenses set forth in Rev.Stat. § 5209 may be committed by persons who are not officers or agents of the bank, and consequently it is not necessary to aver in an indictment against such an aider or abettor that he was an officer of the bank or occupied any specific relation to it when committing the offense.

In an indictment for soliciting or inciting to the commission of a crime or for aiding or assisting in its commission, it is not necessary to state the particulars of the incitement or solicitation or of the aid or assistance.

The plain and unmistakable statement of this indictment as a whole is that the acts charged against Haughey were done by him as president of the bank, and that the aiding and abetting was also knowingly done by assisting him in the official capacity in which alone it is charged that he misapplied the funds.

This indictment further examined and held to clearly state the misapplication and actual conversion of the money by the methods described -- that is to say, by paying it out of the funds of the bank to a designated person when that person was not entitled to take the funds, and that owing to the insolvency of such person the money was lost to the bank.

Where there is an averment that a person or matter is unknown to a grand jury, and no evidence upon the subject is offered by either side, and nothing

Page 156 U. S. 433

appears to the contrary, the verity of the averment of want of knowledge in the grand jury is presumed.

A charge that there cannot be a conviction unless the proof shows guilt beyond a reasonable doubt does not so entirely embody the statement of presumption of innocence as to justify the court in refusing, when requested, to instruct the jury concerning such presumption, which is a conclusion drawn by the law in favor of the citizen by virtue whereof, when brought to trial upon a criminal charge, he must be acquitted unless he is proven to be guilty.

By section 5209 of the Revised Statutes, relating to national banks, certain acts therein enumerated are made misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than ten years. The section reads as follows:

"Every president, director, cashier, teller, clerk, or agent of any association who embezzles, abstracts, or willfully misapplies any of the moneys, funds, or credits of the association; or who, without authority from the directors, issues or puts in circulation any of the notes of the association, or who, without such authority, issues or puts forth any certificate of deposit, draws any order or bill of exchange, makes any acceptance, assigns any note, bond, draft, bill of exchange, mortgage, judgment, or decree, or who makes any false entry in any book, report, or statement of the association with intent in either case to injure or defraud the association or any other company, body politic or corporate, or any individual person, or to deceive any officer of the association, or any agent appointed to examine the affairs of any such association, and every person who with like intent aids or abets any officer, clerk, or agent in any violation of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be imprisoned not less than five years nor more than ten."

The indictment in this case was found on the 21st December, 1893, against Theodore P. Haughey, who had been president of the Indianapolis National Bank, for violations of the foregoing section. F. A. Coffin and Percival B. Coffin, plaintiffs in error, and A. S. Reed, were charged therein with having aided and abetted Haughey in his alleged misdemeanors. The indictment is prolix and redundant, and it is difficult to

Page 156 U. S. 434

analyze it so as to make a concise statement of its contents. It contains fifty counts, and alleges that the various offenses enumerated in them were committed on different dates between January 1, 1891, and July 26, 1893. The counts embrace a number of acts made misdemeanors by the statute, and the charges are commingled in a very indefinite and confusing manner. All the counts, however, may be classified as follows:

(1) Those which aver willful misapplication of the funds of the bank at a specified time, in a precise sum, and by enumerated and distinctly described acts.

(2) Those which, although definite as to date and amount, are indefinite in their statement of the precise means by which the alleged crimes were accomplished.

(3) Those which, while charging a willful misapplication of the funds of the bank for a definite amount, are entirely indefinite as to the date or dates upon which the acts took place, and also fail to specify the particular acts by which the wrong was accomplished.

(4) Those which charge false entries in the books of the bank.

(5) Those which charge false entries in certain official statements of the condition of the bank made to the Comptroller of the Currency.

Under the first head -- counts which are definite as to time, dates, amounts, and methods -- are included Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 47. The first of these in order of date -- for the counts are not arranged chronologically in the indictment -- is the forty-seventh, which reads as follows:

"The grand jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do further charge and present that Theodore P. Haughey, late of said district at the district aforesaid, on, to-wit, the 21st day of December, in the year of our Lord 1892, the said Theodore P. Haughey then and there being president of a certain national banking association, then and there known and designated as the Indianapolis National Bank, in the City of Indianapolis, in the State of Indiana, which said association had been heretofore

Page 156 U. S. 435

created and organized under the laws of the United States of America, and which said association was then and there carrying on a banking business in the City of Indianapolis, State of Indiana, did then and there, by virtue of his said office as president of said bank, unlawfully, feloniously, and willfully misapply the moneys, funds, and credits of the said association, which were then and there under his control, with intent to convert the same to the use of the Indianapolis Cabinet Company and to other persons to the grand jurors unknown, in a large sum, to-wit, the sum of six thousand three hundred and eighteen dollars, by then and there causing said sum to be paid out of the moneys, funds, and credits of said association upon a check drawn upon said association by the Indianapolis Cabinet Company, which check was then and there cashed and paid out of the moneys, funds, and credits of said association aforesaid, which said sum aforesaid, and no part thereof, was said Indianapolis Cabinet Company entitled to withdraw from said bank, because said company had no funds in said association to its credit; that said Indianapolis Cabinet Company was then and there insolvent, as the said Theodore P. Haughey then and there well knew, whereby said sum became lost to said association; that all of said acts as aforesaid were done with intent to injure and defraud said association; that, as such president aforesaid, the said Theodore P. Haughey was entrusted and charged by the board of directors of said national banking association with the custody, control, and care of the moneys, funds, credits, and assets of said association, and the general superintendence of its affairs."

"And the grand jurors aforesaid do further say that Francis A. Coffin, Percival B. Coffin, and Albert S. Reed did unlawfully, willfully, knowingly, and feloniously, and with intent to injury and defraud said association, on to-wit, the twenty-first day of December, in the year of our Lord 1892, aid and abet the said Theodore P. Haughey, as aforesaid, to wrongfully, unlawfully, feloniously, and willfully misapply the moneys, funds, and credits of said association as aforesaid, to-wit, the sum of six thousand three hundred and eighteen dollars. "

Page 156 U. S. 436

The second and third counts are substantially like the foregoing, varying only in the statements of date, amount, and method. The first and remaining count under this head, after fixing the date of the offense and stating the amount at $5,802.84, describes the method by which the misapplication was accomplished, as follows:

"The Indianapolis Cabinet Company, of Indianapolis, Indiana, presented to said bank and to the said Theodore P. Haughey, as such president thereof, a certain bill of exchange drawn by said Indianapolis Cabinet Company on the Indianapolis Desk Company, of London, England, for the sum of one thousand one hundred and ninety-four pounds sterling, and due on June 1, 1893, which said bill of exchange was received by said Theodore P. Haughey, and placed to the credit of the said Indianapolis Cabinet Company upon the books of said bank, and the said Indianapolis Cabinet Company thereupon drew its check for said sum upon the said bank, which check was then and there paid by said bank under the direction of said Theodore P. Haughey; that said Indianapolis Desk Company, of London, England, did not owe said Indianapolis Cabinet Company any sum whatever; that said Theodore P. Haughey failed and refused to send said bill of exchange forward for collection, whereby said sum was lost to said association; that said sum was so willfully misapplied to the use and benefit of the Indianapolis Cabinet Company as aforesaid."

Under the second head -- those definite as to date and amount, but indefinite in the statement of the method by which the wrong was committed -- are embraced counts 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Of these, the eighth is the first in order of time, and reads as follows:

"The grand jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do further charge and present that Theodore P. Haughey, late of said district at the district aforesaid, on, to-wit, the twenty-third day of September, in the year of our Lord 1892, the said Theodore P. Haughey then and there being the president of a certain national banking association, then and there known and designated as the Indianapolis National Bank, in the City of Indianapolis, in

Page 156 U. S. 437

the State of Indiana, which said association had been heretofore created and organized under the laws of the United States of America, and which association was then and there carrying on a banking business in the City of Indianapolis, State of Indiana, did then and there, by virtue of his said office as president of said bank, unlawfully, feloniously, and willfully misapply the moneys, funds, and credits of the said association, without authority of the directors thereof, with intent to convert the same to the use of the Indianapolis Cabinet Company, and to other persons to the grand jurors unknown, in a large sum, to-wit, the sum of three thousand nine hundred and sixty dollars and eighty-four cents, by then and there paying, and causing said sum to be paid out of the moneys, funds, and credits of said association, upon certain divers checks drawn upon said association by the Indianapolis Cabinet Company, which checks were then and there cashed and paid out of the moneys, funds, and credits of said association aforesaid, which said sum aforesaid, and no part thereof, was said Indianapolis Cabinet Company entitled to withdraw from said bank, because said company had no funds in said association to its credit; that said Indianapolis Cabinet Company was then and there insolvent, as the said Theodore P. Haughey then and there well knew, whereby said sum because lost to said association; that all of said acts, as aforesaid, were done with intent to injure and defraud said association; that, as such president aforesaid, the said Theodore P. Haughey was entrusted and charged by the board of directors of said national banking association with the custody, control, and care of the moneys, funds, credits, and assets of said association, and the general superintendence of all its affairs."

"And the grand jurors aforesaid do further say that Francis A. Coffin and Percival B. Coffin and Albert S. Reed at the district and State of Indiana aforesaid, did unlawfully, willfully, knowingly, and feloniously, and with intent to injure and defraud said association, on, to-wit, the twenty-third day of September in the year of our Lord 1892, aid and abet the said Theodore P. Haughey, as aforesaid, to wrongfully, unlawful, feloniously,

Page 156 U. S. 438

and willfully misapply the money, funds, and credits of said association, to-wit, the sum of three thousand nine hundred and sixty dollars and eighty-four cents aforesaid."

The other counts under this classification substantially vary only as to date and amount.

Under the third head -- those which, while charging a willful misapplication of the funds of the bank for a definite amount, are indefinite as to the date or dates upon which the acts took place and also fail to specify in any definite way the particular methods by which the wrong was accomplished -- are embraced counts 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36. Of these counts, the first in order of time is the seventeenth, which is as follows:

"The grand jurors aforesaid, upon their oaths aforesaid, do further charge and present that Theodore P. Haughey, late of said district at the district aforesaid, on, to-wit, the first day of January, in the year of our Lord 1891, and on divers times between said date and the 25th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1893, the said Theodore P. Haughey, then and there being the president of a certain national banking association, then and there known and designated as the Indianapolis National Bank, of Indianapolis, in the State of Indiana, which said association had been heretofore created and organized under the laws of the United States of America, and which said association was then and there carrying on a banking business in the City of Indianapolis, State of Indiana, did then and there, by virtue of his said office as president of said bank, and without authority of the board of directors, unlawfully, feloniously, and willfully misapply the moneys, funds, and credits of said association with intent to convert the same to the use of the Indianapolis Cabinet Company, a more particular description of said moneys, funds, and credits being to the grand jurors unknown, in a large amount, to-wit, the sum of three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, by then and there cashing, discounting, and paying, for the use and benefit of said Indianapolis Cabinet Company, out of the funds of said association, a large

Page 156 U. S. 439

number of worthless and insolvent notes, drafts, and bills of exchange, being drawn upon and by divers persons, firms, and companies, and corporations, each and all of whom were then insolvent, as the said Theodore P. Haughey then and there well knew, whereby said sum was wholly lost to said association, with intent then and there and thereby to injure and defraud said association; that, as such president aforesaid, the said Theodore P. Haughey was entrusted and charged by the board of directors of said national banking association with the custody, control, and care of the funds, credits, and assets of said association, and the general superintendence of its affairs, and agent of said association in the transaction of all its business."

"And the grand jurors aforesaid do further say that Francis A. Coffin, Percival B. Coffin, and Albert S. Reed, at the District and State of Indiana aforesaid, did unlawfully, willfully, knowingly, and feloniously, and with intent to injure and defraud said association, on, to-wit, the first day of January, in the year of our Lord 1891, and on divers times between said date and the 25th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1893, aid and abet the said Theodore P. Haughey, as aforesaid, to wrongfully, unlawfully, feloniously, and willfully misapply the moneys, funds, and credits of said association, to-wit, the sum of three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars aforesaid."

The vagueness of the date, as fixed in this charge, is somewhat mitigated in four of the counts coming under this head -- counts 13, 14, 15, and 16 -- wherein the offense is stated to have been committed

"on May 9, 1893, and at divers times between said date and June 18, 1893, . . . on June 19, 1893, and at divers times between said date and July 13, 1893, . . . on the 3d day of March, 1893, and on divers dates between said date and the 8th day of May, 1893,"

and "on May 8, 1893, and at divers times between that date and June 18, 1893." In all the other counts, the offense is said to have been committed between January 1, 1891, and July 25, 1893, except in one, wherein the last date is averred to be July 26, 1893,

Page 156 U. S. 440

instead of July 25. The sum averred to have been misapplied in counts 13, 14, 15, and 16 is different from that charged in count 17, it being in the fourteenth, $9,132.19; in the fifteenth, $12,732.51; in the thirteenth and sixteenth, $10,106.08. In the other counts, where the date of the offense is stated as being between 1891 and 1893, the amount of the alleged misapplication varies, being placed in some at $375,000, and in others at $350,000.

The method by which the misapplication is alleged to have been accomplished is not indefinitely stated in all the other counts, as in the seventeenth, which we have just quoted. In some, instead of charging that the checks or "insolvent" notes, drafts, and bills were drawn "by or upon divers persons, firms, companies, and corporations," it is specified that the checks or the notes discounted were drawn by the Indianapolis Cabinet Company. With this exception, all the counts under this head are equally vague in regard to the specific methods of the misapplication. Some of them state that it was made by paying out the money of the bank on worthless checks of the Indianapolis Cabinet Company, without giving the dates or the amounts of the checks. More allege that the misapplication was brought about by allowing overdrafts, without giving the dates of such overdrafts or specifying the various checks through which the overdrafting was done. Others again allege that the misapplication was accomplished by loaning the money of the bank to the Indianapolis Cabinet Company, in excess of ten percent of the capital stock, without giving the dates or the precise amount of the loans. Again, it is charged that the misapplication was concealed by discounting and entering to the credit of the Indianapolis Cabinet Company a number of worthless notes and bills, without stating who were the drawers of the notes, or giving the dates and amounts of the entries which it is charged were made for the purpose of concealing the misapplication. Indeed, whatever may be the difference between the counts under this head, there is, as has been stated, a uniformity in one respect -- their failure to disclose the specific methods by which the alleged offenses were committed, by giving dates and amounts. The only partial exceptions to this are found in counts 35 and

Page 156 U. S. 441

37, wherein the general charge of payment of

"a large number of worthless and insolvent drafts and bills of exchange in large amounts, a more particular description of which is to the grand jurors unknown, executed by and upon divers persons, firms, companies, and corporations, in large amounts, to-wit,"

is followed by an enumeration of certain persons or corporations, with a lump sum as against each person or corporation named. The intent with which the misapplication is charged to have been committed is not uniform in all the counts. In some, it is averred that the misapplications were made to injure and defraud the bank and certain companies, bodies politic, bodies corporate, and individual persons whose names are to the grand jurors unknown; in others, that it was made to defraud the bank alone; again, that entries of the worthless checks paid, or "insolvent" paper taken, were made on the books of the bank with intent to conceal the misapplication, and to deceive certain officers of the corporation, whose names are to the grand jurors unknown, or to deceive certain agents appointed or to be appointed by the Comptroller of the Currency, etc.

Under the fourth head -- those which charge the making of false entries in the books of the bank -- are embraced counts 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, and 46. The counts under this head very only as to the particular false entry complained of, the date when made, and the folio of the account book where entered. Each particular false entry specified, except one, covers two counts, one charging it to have been made with intent to injure and defraud the association (bank), the other averring it to have been made to deceive any agent appointed, or who might be thereafter appointed, to examine the affairs of the bank, "the names of said agent or agents being to the grand jurors unknown."

The remaining counts belong to the fifth class -- that is, relate to false entries which it is alleged were made in statements of the condition of the bank furnished to the Comptroller of the Currency.

A trial was begun under the indictment on the 10th of April, 1894, and progressed until the 25th of that month, when,

Page 156 U. S. 442

by consent of all parties, the jury was discharged because of the corrupt misconduct of one of the jurors. The court thereupon set the cause down for trial on the first of May. The defendants applied for a continuance upon two grounds: (1) because of the accidental wounding of the leading counsel for the accused, and his consequent inability to take part in the defense, and (2) because the general nature of the charges involved hundreds of transactions, covering thousands of dollars, and a long period of time, necessitating the examination of over two thousand entries in the books of the bank, which were in the hands of the officers of the government, who denied access thereto. The court refused the motion for continuance, and exception was duly reserved. The trial commenced on May 4.

During the course of the trial, many exceptions were reserved to the admission or rejection of testimony. They went not only to the admissibility of the proffered testimony under particular counts, but were also taken to the admission of any evidence whatever, upon the theory that the entire indictment charged no offense, therefore no proof could be made under it. Other objections were also reserved to comments made by the court upon the evidence as it was adduced, etc. On the close of the case for the prosecution, the defendants moved the court to oblige the government

"to elect and specify the particular transactions in each count of the general counts of the indictment in this case, to-wit, from the 17th to 36th, both inclusive, upon which it relies as a substantive charge, and upon which it will claim a conviction of the defendants, or either of them, said election to be made before the evidence on behalf of the defendants is commenced, to the end that they, and each of them, may know to what particular charge in each count their evidence is required to be addressed."

To the refusal of the court to grant this motion exception was reserved. The reason for refusing the request is not stated, but in the charge of the court to the jury, the following language was used, which indicates its opinion on the subject:

"The particular acts of misapplication described in the several specific counts must be established by proof as therein respectively

Page 156 U. S. 443

charged. If, however, there are any willful misapplications shown by the evidence which are not covered by special or specific counts, they may be included under the general counts, and a verdict thereon rendered accordingly."

Before the case went to the jury, the prosecution abandoned the forty-seventh, forty-eighth, forty-ninth, and fiftieth counts of the indictment, thus eliminating from it one of the specific counts and all those which referred to false entries in official statements as to the condition of the bank made to the Comptroller. On the close of the case, the defendants proffered to the court forty-five written requests to charge, and, upon the court's refusing them all, excepted to such refusal as to each, or rather as to forty-four thereof. To the charge of the court actually delivered to the jury, the defendants reserved twenty-six exceptions. A controversy exists as to whether one of the twenty-six exceptions was properly taken. The facts, as stated in the bill of exceptions, are as follows:

After the court had delivered its charge to the jury, and before it retired, the court said:

"If it is the desire of counsel for defendant to reserve any exceptions to the charges given and refused, the practice in this court requires that that shall be done before the jury retires."

"Mr. Miller: It is, of course, if your honor please, the desire on behalf of defendants to reserve exceptions to the refusal of such instructions as were requested and refused, and to parts of the instruction given. Without having a little time to examine these instructions, it is impossible for us now to designate the particular parts. We would like to have time to look at them for that purpose."

"The Court: What length of time would you desire?"

"Mr. Miller: I do not know, if your honor please, how long it would take. It has taken an hour to read them."

"Mr. Duncan: They can be made, when made, as of this time, with permission of the court."

"The Court: Except so far as any mere verbal changes are concerned, which, if the court's attention was drawn to, it would at once correct, I have no objection to that method of procedure. "

Page 156 U. S. 444

"Mr. Miller: Of course, anything that is formal, of that character, that won't go to the substance of the matter, we should not expect to insist on. But, as your honor can see it, it is impossible for us, from hearing the instructions read for an hour, to select the parts."

"The Court: There are the instructions you propose (indicating), and these instructions I do not care to have mislaid or lost (indicating)."

"Mr. Miller: No, sir, of course, not. For that matter, every syllable of them has been taken down by two stenographers here -- all of your instructions, as you read them -- so there cannot be any possibility of any trouble about them. We take them and make --"

"The Court: Where is the bailiff?"

"Mr. Taylor: You may take these forms of the verdict and the indictment."

"Gentlemen of the jury, you may retire with your bailiff."

The bill of exceptions then states that, at the time this colloquy took place, the assistant attorney for the prosecution was present in the courtroom, heard the conversation, and assented to the arrangement thus made.

It further states that a few minutes after three in the afternoon, the jury retired to consider their verdict; that the defendants' counsel took the instructions given by the court which were typewritten, and noted thereon, by enclosing the same in a parenthesis mark with pencil, the parts of such instructions so given by the court to which exceptions were taken, the parts thus marked being respectively numbered; that at nine o'clock that night, the defendants' counsel returned to the courtroom and handed the instructions which had been so marked and numbered by them to the judge in open court, saying that the parts marked in parentheses and numbered were those to which the defendants excepted, and to which they reserved their bill, under the understanding previously had; that immediately thereafter the jury, which had not reached a conclusion, was brought into court, and informed by the judge that he would be within call until eleven o'clock to receive a verdict, and if they did

Page 156 U. S. 445

not agree by that time, they might seal their verdict and bring it into court on Monday morning, it being then Saturday evening.

On May 28, the defendants, through their counsel, wrote out in full their exceptions to the various parts of the charge, as marked and numbered, and presented them to the court, which declined to sign them because of the twenty-second exception, which it considered not properly taken, under the understanding between court and counsel above stated. However, the court signed the bill of exceptions, writing therein a narrative of the facts, and predicating its objection to the twenty-second exception on the ground that the matter covered by it was merely verbal, and at the time the parties were given the right to take their bill, the court did not include any mere verbal error, which would have been corrected if attention had been called to it in proper time. The language contained in the charge covered by the disputed exception is as follows:

"I do not wish to be understood as meaning that the intent to injure, deceive, or defraud is conclusively established by the simple proof of the doing of the prohibited act which results in injury. What I do mean is this: that when the prohibited acts are knowingly and intentionally done, and their natural and legitimate consequence is to produce injury to the bank, or to benefit the wrongdoer, the intent to injure, deceive, or defraud is thereby sufficiently established to cast on the accused the burden of showing that their purpose was lawful, and their acts legitimate."

On the 28th day of May the jury returned a verdict against the plaintiffs in error of guilty as charged on all the counts of the indictment. After an ineffectual motion for a new trial, which restated the various grounds of objection raised to the admissibility of evidence under the indictment and which had also been urged in the charges which had been requested and refused, the defendants moved in arrest. After argument upon this motion, the court sustained the same as to the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22d 23d 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32d 33d 34th, 35th, and 36th counts.

This reduced the indictment first, to those counts which

Page 156 U. S. 446

were specific as to date, amount, and method; second, to those which, while specific in amount and date, were not specific as to method; third, to four counts, Nos. 13, 14, 15, and 16, which were not specific as to date or method, leaving in addition all the counts charging false entries in the books of the bank. The errors assigned here are 78 in number, and cover all the objections which were made to the rulings of the court below during the trial, and the exceptions based on charges requested and refused, as well as charges given.

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