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BOZZA v. UNITED STATES

decided: February 17, 1947.

BOZZA
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge, Burton

Author: Black

[ 330 U.S. Page 162]

 MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner and one Chirichillo were convicted in a Federal District Court on all counts of a five-count indictment against them which charged violation of the Internal Revenue laws in connection with the operation of a still. The Court of Appeals reversed petitioner's conviction on counts four and five because of insufficient evidence, but affirmed as to counts one, two, and three. 155 F.2d 592. We granted certiorari. 329 U.S. 698. Count one charged that the defendants had carried on "the business of distiller . . . with intent wilfully to defraud the . . . United States of the tax on . . . spirits so distilled . . . ." in violation of 26 U. S. C. § 2833 (a). Count two charged them with having had possession and custody of the still in violation of 26 U. S. C. § 2810 (a). Count three charged that they had made and fermented mash for the production of alcohol in violation of 26 U. S. C. § 2834. It is argued that the evidence was insufficient to support any of the three counts here at issue. The Government concedes its insufficiency as to counts two and three.

There was testimony to show the following: Chirichillo rented a farmhouse under an assumed name and installed a 300-gallon still with all equipment necessary to ferment mash and distill alcohol. The still was operated day and night. Chirichillo himself mixed the ingredients to make the mash in the attic of the 2 1/2-story frame building, but the alcohol distillation was carried on in another part of the building. Petitioner was at the house two or three times a week. When there he took instructions from

[ 330 U.S. Page 163]

     Chirichillo and helped him in the operation of the still; he helped manufacture the alcohol. When Chirichillo carried his products to Newark, the car in which he carried the illicitly distilled alcohol would follow along behind another car -- sometimes petitioner's, sometimes another helper's. The farmhouse where the illicit business was carried on appeared from the outside to be deserted; the windows were without shades and the house had been practically stripped of furniture.

We accept the Government's concession that the evidence fails to show that this petitioner had made, or helped to make, the mash as charged in count three. All of the evidence showed that Chirichillo alone handled and mixed the ingredients of the mash, and there is nothing whatever to indicate that the petitioner ever took any part in, or aided and abetted, this particular part of the unlawful process in any manner, or, indeed, that he was ever in or around the attic where the mash was made from ingredients stored there. The Internal Revenue statutes have broken down the various steps and phases of a continuous illicit distilling business and made each of them a separate offense. Thus, these statutes have clearly carved out the conduct of making mash as a separate offense, thereby distinguishing it from the other offenses involving other steps and phases of the distilling business. Consequently, testimony to prove this separate offense of making mash must point directly to conduct within the narrow margins which the statute alone defines. One who neither engages in the conduct specifically prohibited, nor aids and abets it, does not violate the section which prohibits it.

The sufficiency of the evidence as to count two which charged that the petitioner had custody or possession of the still is a closer question. It might be possible that petitioner's helping to make the alcohol aided and abetted in its "custody or possession." But that would be a very strained inference under any circumstances. Here again

[ 330 U.S. Page 164]

     the statutes treat custody or possession as a wholly distinct offense. Yet there was no testimony that the petitioner ever exercised, or aided the exercise of, any control over the distillery. His participation in carrying the finished product by car does not fit the category of "custody and possession" so nearly as it resembles the transportation of illegal liquor, 26 U. S. C. § 2803 -- an offense which the Circuit Court of Appeals has found the evidence insufficient to prove. Nor was there any testimony that the petitioner acted in any other capacity calculated to facilitate the custody or possession, such as, for illustration, service as a caretaker, watchman, lookout, or in some other similar capacity. Under these circumstances, we accept the Government's concession that a judgment of guilty should not have been rendered on the second count.

We think there was adequate evidence to support a finding of guilt on the first count which charged operation of the business of distilling to defraud the Government of taxes. There was certainly ample evidence to show that Chirichillo carried on the business of a distiller and that the petitioner helped him to do it. 18 U. S. C. § 550 provides that one who aids and abets another to commit a crime is guilty as a principal. Consequently, the jury had a right to find, as it did, that the petitioner and Chirichillo were equally guilty of operating the business of the distillery. See United States v. Johnson, 319 U.S. 503, 515, 518.

But, it is argued, there was no evidence that the petitioner acted with knowledge that the distillery business was carried on with an intent to defraud the Government of its taxes. The same evidence as to knowledge of this guilty purpose, however, that applied to Chirichillo was almost, if not quite, equally persuasive against both defendants. Petitioner ...


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