United States v. Yermian
468 U.S. 63 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Yermian, 468 U.S. 63 (1984)

United States v. Yermian

No. 83-346

Argued March 27, 1984

Decided June 27, 1984

468 U.S. 63

Syllabus

Title 18 U.S.C. § 1001 provides that

"[w]hoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States knowingly and willfully . . . makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements . . . shall be fined. . . ."

Respondent was convicted in Federal District Court of violating § 1001 on the basis of false statements he furnished his defense contractor employer in connection with a Department of Defense security questionnaire. At trial, respondent admitted having actual knowledge of the falsity of the statements, but requested a jury instruction requiring the Government to prove not only that he had actual knowledge of the falsity but also that he had actual knowledge that the statements were made in a matter within the jurisdiction of a federal agency. The District Court rejected this request and instead, over respondent's objection, instructed the jury that the Government must prove that respondent "knew or should have known" that the information was to be submitted to a federal agency. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the District Court erred in failing to give respondent's requested instruction.

Held: Both the plain language and legislative history of § 1001 establish that proof of actual knowledge of federal agency jurisdiction is not required to obtain a conviction under the statute. Pp. 468 U. S. 68-75.

(a) Any natural reading of § 1001 establishes that the terms "knowingly and willfully" modify only the making of "false, fictitious or fraudulent statements," and not the predicate circumstance that those statements be made in a matter within the jurisdiction of a federal agency. Once this is clear, there is no basis for requiring proof that the defendant had actual knowledge of federal agency jurisdiction. Pp. 468 U. S. 68-70.

(b) The legislative history supports the plain language of the statute. That Congress, when it amended the statute in 1934 and 1948, did not include any requirement that the prohibited conduct be undertaken with specific intent to deceive the Government, or with actual knowledge that false statements were made in a matter within federal agency jurisdiction, provides convincing evidence that the statute does not require actual knowledge of federal involvement. Nor is there any support in the legislative history that the term "knowingly and willfully" modifies

Page 468 U. S. 64

the phrase "in any matter within the jurisdiction of [a federal] agency." Pp. 468 U. S. 70-74.

(c) Respondent's argument that, absent proof of actual knowledge of federal agency jurisdiction, § 1001 becomes a "trap for the unwary," imposing criminal sanctions on innocent conduct, is not sufficient to overcome the express statutory language of § 1001, and does not authorize this Court to amend the statute in a manner unintended by Congress. Pp. 468 U. S. 74-75.

708 F.2d 365, reversed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 468 U. S. 75.

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