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United States v. Same

May 2, 1945

UNITED STATES
v.
JOHNSON. SAME V. SOMMERS ET AL.



Author: Major

Before SPARKS, MAJOR and MINTON, Circuit Judges.

MAJOR, Circuit Judge.

On October 23, 1940, the District Court entered judgment against the defendants upon a jury's verdict which had found them guilty of income tax evasions for the years 1936 through 1939. The defendants appealed to this court, which reversed the conviction. United States v. Johnson, 7 Cir., 123 F.2d 111. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed this court. United States v. Johnson, 319 U.S. 503, 63 S. Ct. 1233, 87 L. Ed. 1546.

Before the mandate of the Supreme Court issued, the defendants filed in that court a motion for a stay of amndate until they could take such steps in this court pursuant to Rule 2(3) of the Criminal Appeals Rules, 18 U.S.C.A., following section 688, as were necessary to have the case remanded to the District Court for the purpose of permitting the defendants to file a motion for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence. Upon a motion of the defendants filed in this court, we remanded the case to the District Court to consider and dispose of any motion filed under Rule 2(3) of the Criminal Appeals Rules and any motion collateral thereto, and authorized the District Court to assume jurisdiction of the causes for such purposes.

The District Court assumed jurisdiction and permitted the defendants to file their motion for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence, together with supporting affidavits and papers; and the government was given time to respond. The so-called newly discovered evidence was directed to showing that one of the government's chief witnesses, William Goldstein, had testified falsely on the original trial of the defendants. When the various pleadings had been filed, a hearing was had, and the District Court overruled the motion. From that order denying their motion for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence, the defendants appealed to this court, which affirmed the District Court. United States v. Johnson, 7 Cir., 142 F.2d 588. The defendants then petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari.

While their petition for certiorari was pending in the Supreme Court, the defendants asked that court to consider some additional information which they contended proved conclusively that William Goldstein had testified falsely on the original trial. The Supreme Court refused to consider these new facts, because they were no part of the record, but did agree to withhold consideration of the petition for certiorari until the defendants could apply to this court for leave to reopen the proceedings on the motion for a new trial so as to present this new information.

The defendants applied to this court to reopen the proceedings on their former motion for a new trial. On November 16, 1944, this application was granted. We vacated our former order which had affirmed the District Court's denial of the defendants' original motion for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence and again remanded the case to the District Court, this time with directions to consider and dispose of the defendants' amended motion and to certify its ruling back to this court at an early date.

Upon the filing of the certified copy of our order of November 16, 1944, the District Court on its own motion ordered the defendants to file on or before December 4, 1944, their motion and supporting papers as authorized by our order, and further ordered that the United States should respond thereto on or before December 7, 1944. December 11, 1944 was set as the date for the defendants' reply and for oral arguments on the motion. Motion, response and reply were filed, a hearing was had, and on December 15, 1944, the District Court in a memorandum opinion overruled the amended motion for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence and entered judgment accordingly. The defendants' present appeal is from that judgment.

The original motion alleged that William Goldstein testified falsely at the trial in relation to the ownership of ten items of property, referred to as the "Bon Air," the "Curran Farm," the "Green House," the "White House," the "Gas Station," the "Dells property," "9730 Western Avenue property," the "$10,000 Escrow," the "$7,500 Escrow," and the "Albany Park Bank Building." The proof offered in support of the original motion had to do with all of these ten pieces of property, while the additional proof offered in connection with the amended motion had to do only with the "Albany Park Bank Building."

That Goldstein's testimony was material and, if false, was highly prejudicial to the defendants, is not in dispute. The falsity of Goldstein's testimony was the essential issue presented and decided by the court below, both on the original and on the amended motion, and the correctness of those decisions is the only issue presented to this court. As stated in the government's brief filed in this court on the original motion: "It seems obvious therefore that the finding by the District Court that Goldstein did not testify falsely completely and effectively disposed of all purported justification for a new trial, and his order and the appeal therefrom presents to this Court only a question of fact, namely, did Goldstein testify falsely at the trial?"

And again it is stated in the same brief: "In short, the question presented by the defendants in the court below was: Did Goldstein tell the truth when he testified in the trial of this case? An examination of the defendants' brief discloses that basically this same question is the sole question presented to this Court. After considering all of the affidavits introduced in support of the defendants' motion for a new trial Judge Barnes found that Goldstein did tell the truth. It is patent that such a finding is a finding of fact."

In discussing the proof bearing upon the issue of falsity, it is important to have in mind the circumstances under which Goldstein testified as a government witness. It appears that the Grand Jury was engaged in an investigation of the income of the defendant Johnson and of one William Skidmore. Goldstein, who was a personal friend as well as the attorney for Skidmore, testified before the Grand Jury. In an effort to protect Skidmore, he gave certain testimony which resulted in his indictment for perjury. He and Skidmore were also indicted as co-defendants with Johnson in the instant case. On the day the case was called for trial, the charge against Goldstein and Skidmore was dismissed, and shortly thereafter Goldstein took the witness stand for the government and gave the testimony now alleged to be false. He denied on the witness stand that he had been promised immunity, but stated, "My lawyer has not told me anything about what the deal was." After the perjury indictment was returned, he furnished bond but after the trial in the instant case was released upon his own recognizance. The perjury indictment has not been tried and so far as this record discloses is still pending. Furthermore, it is shown by affidavit that in the summer of 1942 a complaint was filed with the Chicago Bar Association, the designated agent of the Supreme Court of Illinois for the determination of misconduct of attorneys. With reference to this complaint, William J. Dempsey, of counsel for Johnson, in a letter to the Attorney General under date of June 25, 1943, stated: "The complaint requested that an investigation be made of Goldstein's perjury and that appropriate action be taken. When Mr. Woll (United States District Attorney) learned that such an investigation was to be undertaken, he saw fit to request the Bar Association to defer any investigation of this matter until after the United States Supreme Court had decided the Johnson case. This investigation was deferred again at Mr. Woll's request after the Supreme Court's decision of June 7, 1943."

This statement is not denied either by the United States Attorney or by any official of the Chicago Bar Association.

All of the proof in support of and in opposition to the motion and the amended motion is in the form of affidavits and documents.Much of it, as far as we can ascertain, is immaterial to the issue. In our consideration, we shall attempt to confine our discussion to that which we think is relevant. We shall first consider the testimony of Goldstein with reference to the "Albany Park Bank Building" for the reason that all of the proof offered in support of the amended motion concerns Goldstein's testimony relative to this property. In our opinion, the government makes an ill advised attempt to escape defendants' contention that Goldstein testified that Johnson was the owner of the properties in question but embraced nothing more than the bare fact that in the purchase of the various properties involved the money for such purchases was received from Johnson. Especially is this true in light of the fact that the cornerstone of the government's case was that Johnson was the owner. Based largely on Goldstein's testimony, the government has succeeded in convincing the jury and court after court that such was the case.

Concerning the Albany Park Bank Building, Goldstein testified: "I was requested by Mr. Johnson to go out there and purchase the (Albany Park Bank) building for him. * * I purchased that property at the request of Mr. Johnson. * * Title to that property was taken in the name of Ted W. Goldstein, my son. Subsequently there was a quit claim deed delivered to Mr. William R. Johnson by my son. This Albany Park Building property was purchased July 16, 1937."

The court below accurately paraphrased this testimony as follows: "Goldstein testified on the trial that he purchased this property for Johnson and paid for it with currency given him by Johnson; that he took title in the name of his son Ted Goldstein, and subsequently caused a quit claim deed to be delivered to Johnson."

It is difficult to discern how Goldstein could have any more definitely placed the ownership of this property in Johnson. That the government squarely relied upon this testimony as proving ownership in Johnson is shown in its brief on reargument before the Supreme Court, wherein it cites Goldstein's testimony alone for the following statement: "Johnson was shown to be the owner of the building" (referring to the Albany Prk Bank Building).

At least two of the affidavits refer to Goldstein's perjury generally, as distinguished from that with reference to any particular property, and we shall first consider these affidavits and briefly state the reason they were cast aside by the trial court. Maurice Green, who for many years had been a personal friend of Goldstein, makes two affidavits. In the first he states that he was told by Goldstein, "his testimony regarding purchases of properties for said William R. Johnson was false." Goldstein told the affiant "that he had to so testify to help himself because of charges of contempt, conspiracy and perjury pending against him and to help Skidmore." Affiant discussed with Goldstein the making of an affidavit telling the truth and Goldstein stated "that he would like to, but that if he did he would certainly be disbarred." In the second affidavit, Green states that when he left his place of employment, i.e., Schwefer's Bakery, Goldstein was waiting for him and the following colloquy took place:

"'Maurice, I didn't think that you would go out of your way to hurt me.' That I replied, 'I didn't do anything to hurt you. I simply told the truth.' Whereupon Mr. Goldstein said, 'Why did you go out of your way to help Johnson?'

"That I replied, 'If my telling the truth helps Johnson that's all right, and if it hurts you, I'm sorry.'

"That Mr. Goldstein said, 'Skidmore knows about the Affidavits you made.'

"That I replied, 'That's all right with me. If Skidmore sent you to see me it makes no difference. If Skidmore was a man he'd tell the truth himself and tell you to tell the truth.'

"That Mr. Goldstein said, 'I can't do that because if I did I'd certainly be disbarred, and I might as well be dead as disbarred.'

"That I replied to Mr. Goldstein, 'You should have thought of that, Bill, before you gave the kind of testimony you did.'"

An affidavit by Engelbretson verifies the fact that Goldstein was waiting for Green and engaged him in conversation at the time and place related in Green's second affidavit.

Goldstein denies making any of the statements attributed to him by Green. He even denies that he had a conversation with Green. The court casts aside Green's testimony and accepts Goldstein's, largely on the ground that Green is a disbarred lawyer. Green is not shown to have had any connection with the case or any interest in the parties, and no motive is disclosed which would account for a false affidavit by him. We do not think it can be presumed that even a disbarred lawyer will commit perjury. On the other hand, as will be disclosed in this opinion, Goldstein had the most urgent motive to deny the affidavit made by Green, and no reason appears on the face of the record as to why he should be believed in preference to Green.

Edward J. Hess, an attorney in good standing in this court, makes an affidavit that while the appeal from the judgment of conviction was pending in this court, defendant Johnson, accompanied by his brother John E. Johnson, an attorney, met William Goldstein in his office, and states in part as follows: "He, Johnson, opened the conversation by saying in substance that he was glad to have an opportunity to talk, which he followed by inquiring of Goldstein as to why he testified that 'he bought those properties for me when you know you bought them for Skidmore. Why did you lie?' Goldstein replied in substance that he was sorry that he did but that he was a victim of circumstances and stated that he preferred not to discuss the matter."

This affidavit is corroborated by defendant's affidavit and by the affidavit of John E. Johnson. Goldstein makes an affidavit denying these affidavits in toto. He states: "It was purely a frame-up on the part of Mr. Hess to get me in his office so Mr. Johnson and his brother could be there. Mr. Johnson and his brother, John E., threatened me and made attempts to strike me and for a moment it appeared as though they were going to commit murder."

Hess makes another affidavit in which he makes a logical explanation as to how the parties happened to be at his office at the particular time, reaffirms the substance of his previous affidavit, and denies that Goldstein was threatened by the Johnsons.

That the court had difficulty in discounting the testimony of Hess is rather plain. After pointing out that Hess was at one time counsel for some of the co-defendants in the case, the court places a strained construction upon his testimony by stating that it "could as well be taken to mean that he (Goldstein) was sorry he had testified at all, as it could be taken to mean that he was sorry he had lied." We do not think the testimony of Hess is capable of such construction. Even though we lay aside the affidavits of the defendant and his brother, which corroborate Hess, we have a direct issue between Hess, a reputable member of the Bar, and Goldstein. Any kind of logic or reason of which we are aware requires the acceptance of Hess' version as true and that of Goldstein as false.

Title to the Albany Park Bank Building was conveyed to Ted W. Goldstein (son of William Goldstein) on July 6, 1937. On the next day, Ted W. Goldstein executed a lease on said premises wherein it was recited that the premises had been purchased by him. The rent of $250.00 per month was paid to William Goldstein by check, which checks were endorsed by William Goldstein, Agent, and also bore the additional endorsement of William Goldstein individually. This property was again leased on September 29, 1941 to the Hines Realty and Construction Company, for a term of five years, expiring September 30, 1946. The lease was signed Theodore Goldstein, by William Goldstein, his duly authorized agent. It provides for a rental of $250.00 per month for the first nineteen months, and $300.00 per month thereafter.

The affidavit of one Leo Blockus, employed in the County Treasurer's Office of Cook County, discloses that a receiver was appointed for this property on July 26, 1943, on account of non-payment of taxes.He states that William Goldstein came to his office and offered to pay $150.00 per month to apply upon such delinquency, which offer was rejected. William Goldstein subsequently came to the office and offered to pay $250.00 per month to apply upon such taxes. Blockus inquired of William Goldstein who he was representing, and Goldstein replied: "That is my building, that is my property." Goldstein also advised him that the federal government had a lien against this property and if the County Treasurer did not accept his offer of $250.00 per month, he (Goldstein) would turn the property over to the government. On July 28, 1943, William Goldstein was again at the office, and Blockus states that Goldstein said four or five times, "The property is mine, you will have to remove the receivers from my property." The court below again relies upon Goldstein's denial of these statements by Blockus and affidavits by Levine and Sampson. A reading of these latter affidavits discloses that the most which can be said of them is that affiants did not hear Goldstein say four or five times, "The property is mine." Furthermore, Levine made a subsequent affidavit in which he stated that Goldstein was talking to Blockus when he arrived at the office and obviously he did not know what was said before his arrival. Also, the other statement by Blockus in which Goldstein asserted "that is my property" is denied by nobody but Goldstein.

A significant circumstance which has been overlooked and which strongly corroborates Blockus is the fact that Goldstein was at the County Treasurer's office attempting to settle the claim for taxes. If, as he testified at the trial, this property belonged to Johnson, why was Goldstein so interested in preventing the property from being sold at a tax sale? Blockus certainly could have had no motive in making a false affidavit as to what Goldstein stated, and we see no basis for a finding other than that his testimony was true and that of Goldstein false.

At the insistence of the County Treasurer, while the property was in receivership, Goldstein took out insurance on the property, the premium on which was over $300.00. In none of the numerous affidavits filed by Goldstein is any claim made that he was authorized to act for Johnson as agent in the management of this property. He never made any report to Johnson concerning rentals and never tendered to Johnson any of the rents collected. He never made even a single report to Johnson concerning the property, its maintenance, upkeep, management or rental.On the contrary, Marian Giles Sommer makes an affidavit that she was employed by William Goldstein from January 1938 to June 1939 as a stenographer, and that on the first of each month she typed income and disbursement statements relative to this building from longhand statements given to her by Goldstein, and that at the direction of Goldstein such statements were enclosed in envelopes addressed by her and mailed to William R. Skidmore. Goldstein denies the Sommer affidavit and, referring to the Albany Park Bank Building, states: "No statements were mailed or given to Mr. Skidmore or Mr. Johnson by me or anyone else."

Goldstein, in an affidavit dated September 8, 1943, states that he is holding the rent money on this building until such time as he is "released from the Internal Revenue Department which served me with a lien to hold all funds and property belonging to William R. Johnson." He does not state when such notice was served and there is nothing in the record to corroborate the fact that it was served. As will be subsequently shown, Goldstein offered the same excuse with reference to his retention of a $7500 escrow fund which he testified at the trial he received from Johnson. It has also been suggested that Goldstein was retaining this rent money in trust for Johnson. This is another novel and unbelievable theory. If Goldstein conveyed title to this property to Johnson, as he testified ...


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