United States v. Staats
THIS case came up from the Circuit Court for the Northern District of New York, on a certificate of division in opinion between the judges thereof.
It was an indictment under the act of March 3d, 1823, entitled 'An act for the punishment of frauds committed on the government of the United States.' (3 Stat. at L., 771, 772.)
By the first section it is enacted,-'That if any person or persons shall falsely make, alter, forge, or counterfeit; or cause or procure to be falsely made, altered, forged, or counterfeited; or willingly aid or assist in the false making, altering, forging, or counterfeiting, any deed, power of attorney, order, certificate, receipt, or other writing, for the purpose of obtaining or receiving, or of enabling any other person or persons, either directly or indirectly, to obtain or receive, from the United States, or any of their officers or agents any sum or sums of money; or shall utter or publish as true, or cause to be uttered or published as true, any such false, forged, altered, or counterfeited deed, power of attorney, order, certificate, receipt, or other writing as aforesaid, with intent to defraud the United States, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited; or shall transmit to, or present at, or cause or procure to be transmitted to, or presented at, any office or officer of the government of the United States, any deed, power of attorney, order, certificate, receipt, or other writing, in support of, or in relation to, any account or claim, with intent to defraud the United States, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited; every such person shall be deemed and adjudged guilty of felony, and being thereof duly convicted, shall be sentenced to be imprisoned and kept at hard labor for a period not less than one year, nor more than ten years; or shall be imprisoned not exceeding five years, and fined not exceeding one thousand dollars.' The first count of the indictment charged that one David Goodhard was a claimant for a revolutionary pension, and did claim and receive the same; and that 'Thomas Staats, Jr.,' contriving and intending to injure and defraud the said United States of America, and to cause and induce the said United States of America to pay unto the said David Goodhard divers large sums of money, did cause and procure to be transmitted to the Commissioner of Pensions of the said United States of America, and to be presented at the office of the said Commissioner, a certain writing, purporting to be made, subscribed, and sworn to by one Benjamin Chadsey. After setting forth the contents of the paper, it proceeded, that the said Staats, 'knowing the said affidavit to be false and untrue,' and that Benjamin Chadsey did not know what had been stated in the paper, 'did transmit, and did cause and procure to be transmitted, to the said Commissioner of Pensions of the said said United States of America, the said false writing and affidavit, as a true writing in support of the aforesaid claim of the said David Goodhard, with intent to defraud the United States of America.'
The second count charged, that David Goodhard was a claimant for divers sums of money as a pensioner, the that in support of the said claim one William Bowsman did subscribe and make oath unto a certain affidavit therein mentioned; whereas, in truth, Bowsman did not know what was so set forth. 'And the said Thomas Staats, Jr., well knowing the premises, and well knowing that the said affidavit or writing was false and untrue, * * * did cause and procure to be transmitted and presented to the Commissioner of Pensions of the said United States of America, the said false and untrue affidavit or writing as a true writing, in support of the claim of the said David Goodhard, with intent to defraud the said United States of America.'
The accused was found guilty. A motion was afterwards made to arrest the judgment upon the verdict, when the judges were opposed in opinion on the following questions:
1. Whether the said indictment is fatally defective for the reason that the acts charged to have been committed by the said defendant are not in said indictment charged to have been committed feloniously or with a felonious intent?
2. Whether the acts charged in the said indictment to have been committed by the defendant do constitute an offence within the provisions of the first section of the act of Congress, approved March 3d, 1823, entitled 'An act for the punishment of frauds committed on the government of the United States'? Mr. Johnson (Attorney-General), on the part of the United States, contended,--
1. That, in an indictment for such an offence as is stated in the indictment in this case, it is not necessary to charge that the acts were done feloniously. United States v. Elliott, 3 Mason, 156; United States v. Gooding, 12 Wheat., 460; United States v. Lancaster, 2 McLean, 431.
2. That the acts charged are an offence within the first section of the act.
Mr. Justice NELSON delivered the opinion of the court.
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