Grunewald v. United States,
353 U.S. 391 (1957)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Grunewald v. United States, 353 U.S. 391 (1957)

Grunewald v. United States

Argued April 3-4, 1957

Decided May 27, 1957*

353 U.S. 391


1. The three petitioners were convicted in a federal district court of violating 18 U.S.C. § 371 by conspiring to defraud the United States by preventing the criminal prosecution of certain taxpayers for fraudulent tax evasion. They had succeeded in obtaining "no prosecution" rulings from the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 1948 and 1949, and their subsequent activities were directed at concealing the irregularities through which these rulings were obtained. They were not indicted until October 25, 1954.

Held: if the main objective of the conspiracy was to obtain the "no prosecution" rulings, petitioners' prosecution was barred by the three-year statute of limitations, since no agreement to conceal the conspiracy after its accomplishment was shown or can be implied on the record in this case to have been a part of the conspiracy. Pp. 353 U. S. 399-406.

(a) After the central criminal purposes of a conspiracy have been attained, a subsidiary conspiracy to conceal the crime may not be implied from circumstantial evidence showing merely that the conspiracy was kept a secret and that the conspirators took care to cover up their crime in order to escape detection and punishment. Krulewitch v. United States, 336 U. S. 440; Lutwak v. United States, 344 U. S. 604. Pp. 353 U. S. 399-402.

(b) On the record in this case, nothing more is shown than (1) a criminal conspiracy carried out in secrecy, (2) a continuation of the secrecy after accomplishment of the crime, and (3) attempts to cover up after the crime began to come to light. Pp. 353 U. S. 402-404.

(c) The duration of a conspiracy cannot be lengthened indefinitely for the purpose of the statute of limitations merely because the conspiracy is kept secret and the conspirators take steps to bury their traces in order to avoid detection and punishment after the central criminal purpose has been accomplished. Pp. 353 U. S. 399, 353 U. S. 404-405.

2. The judge's charge to the jury was not adequate to justify petitioners' conviction on the theory that the main objective of the conspiracy was not merely to obtain the initial "no prosecution"

Page 353 U. S. 392

rulings, but to obtain final immunity of the taxpayers from criminal prosecution by preventing their prosecution until after expiration of the six-year statute of limitations applicable to their tax-evasion offenses, which did not expire until less than three years before petitioners were indicted for conspiracy -- since the judge's charge left it open for the jury to convict even though it found merely (1) that the central aim of the conspiracy was accomplished in 1949, and (2) that the subsequent acts of concealment were motivated exclusively by petitioners' fear of a conspiracy prosecution. Pp. 353 U. S. 406-415.

3. Petitioner Halperin was also convicted on other counts of the indictment charging him with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1503 by endeavoring corruptly to influence certain witnesses before a grand jury which was investigating matters involved in the conspiracy. At his trial, he answered certain questions in a manner consistent with innocence, and then, over his objection, was subjected to cross-examination which revealed that he had refused to answer the same questions, on grounds of possible self-incrimination, while he was appearing before a grand jury, under subpoena, without benefit of counsel, without the right to summon witnesses, and without any opportunity to cross-examine witnesses testifying against him.

Held: in the circumstances of this case, it was prejudicial error for the trial judge to permit cross-examination of Halperin on his plea of the Fifth Amendment privilege before the grand jury. Raffel v. United States, 271 U. S. 494, distinguished. Pp. 353 U. S. 415-424.

233 F.2d 556, reversed and remanded.

Page 353 U. S. 393

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