Burton v. United States (196 U.S. 283)

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United States Supreme Court

196 U.S. 283

Burton  v.  United States

 Argued: November 30, December 1, 1904. --- Decided: January 16, 1905

The plaintiff in error having been convicted in the district court of the United States for the eastern district of Missouri of a violation of the Revised Statutes of the United States, § 1782 (U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, p. 1212), and set forth in the margin, has brought the case here directly from that court by writ of error.

U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, p. 1212.

Sec. 1782. No senator, representative, or delegate, after his election, and during his continuance in office, and no head of a department, or other officer or clerk in the employ of the government, shall receive or agree to receive rectly, for any services rendered, or to be rendered, to any person, either by himself or another, in relation to any proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest, or other matter or thing in which the United States is a party, or directly or indirectly interested, before any department, court-martial, bureau, officer, or any civil, military, or naval commission whatever. Every person offending against this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be imprisoned not more than two years, and fined not more than ten thousand dollars, and shall, moreover, by conviction therefor, be rendered forever thereafter incapable of holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the government of the United States.

The defendant was a member of the Senate of the United States, representing the state of Kansas. The indictment under which he was tried contained nine counts. The first count, after averring that the defendant was a senator from the state of Kansas, averred that on the 26th day of March, 1903, he received, at St. Louis, Missouri, from the Rialto Grain & Securities Company, $500 in money, as compensation for his services theretofore on November 22, 1902, and on divers other days between that day and the 26th day of March, 1903, rendered for the company before the Postoffice Department of the United States, in a certain matter then and there pending before that Department, in which the United States was directly interested, that is to say: Whether the company had violated the provisions of § 5480 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, p. 3696), in that the company had, through its officers, devised a scheme and artifice to defraud, which was to be effected through correspondence by means of the postoffice establishment of the United States, and whether the correspondence of the company at St. Louis, Missouri, should not be returned with the word "fraudulent" plainly written or stamped upon the outside, as authorized by law. It is also averred that the services rendered by defendant to the company consisted in part of visits to the Postmaster General, the chief inspector, and other officers of the Postoffice Department, and of statements made to the Postmaster General, the chief inspector, and other officers, which visits and statements made by the defendant were made with a view and for the purpose of inducing the Postmaster General, the chief inspector, and other officers to decide the question then pending before the Post-office Department in a way favorable to the Rialto Company. The second count of the indictment was the same as the first, except that it averred the United States was "indirectly," instead of "directly," interested in the question as to whether or not a "fraud" order should be issued. Upon the third count the jury rendered a verdict of not guilty. Upon the fourth and fifth counts the government entered a nolle prosequi. The third, fourth, and fifth counts concededly charged but one offense, which was the same as that charged in the first and second counts, and all of these counts were based upon the payment of $500 in cash to defendant, at St. Louis, on the 26th of March, 1903. The sixth count averred the receipt by defendant, at the city of St. Louis, in the state of Missouri, of a check for the payment of $500, which was received by the defendant on the 22d of November, 1902, the check being drawn upon the Commonwealth Trust Company, of St. Louis, payable to the order of the defendant, and by him duly indorsed, and such check was paid by the trust company to defendant at St. Louis, as compensation for his services to the company between the 22d of November, 1902, and the 26th of March, 1903, before the Postoffice Department, in a matter in which the United States was directly interested. The count then contained the same averments of the character of the question pending before the Postoffice Department as are set forth in the first count. The seventh count is the same as the sixth, except that it averred the making of a check and the payment thereof to the defendant on the 15th day of December, 1902, at the city of St. Louis, in the state of Missouri, for the sum of $500; all other averments being the same as the sixth count. The eighth count averred the giving of a check for the sum of $500 on the 22d day of January, 1903, at the city of St. Louis, in the state of Missouri, in payment of services of the same nature as stated in the sixth and seventh counts. The ninth count is the same as the sixth, seventh, and eighth, except that it averred the receipt of a check by the defendant, dated the 16th day of February, 1903, at the city of St. Louis, in the state of Missouri, for the same class of services and upon the same matter them pending before the Postoffice Department. The defendant demurred to the indictment on the ground that it stated no crime, and that it showed that the United States had no interest, direct or indirect, in the matter before the Postoffice Department, inasmuch as the interest of the United States, under the statute, must be either a pecuniary or property interest, which may be favorably or unfavorably affected by action sought or taken in the given matter pending before the Department. The demurrer was overruled, and the defendant then pleaded not guilty.

John F. Dillon, Fred. W. Lehmann, Harry Hubbard, John M. Dillon, and W. H. Rossington for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 287-291 intentionally omitted]

Solicitor General Hoyt for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 291-294 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Justice Peckham, after making the foregoing statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court:

Notes[edit]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).