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SANSONE v. UNITED STATES

decided: March 29, 1965.

SANSONE
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT.

Warren, Black, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Goldberg

Author: Goldberg

[ 380 U.S. Page 344]

 MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Sansone was indicted for willfully attempting to evade federal income taxes for the year 1957 in violation of § 7201 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. Section 7201 provides:

"Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax imposed by this title or the payment thereof shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution."

The following facts were established at trial. In March 1956 petitioner and his wife purchased a tract of land for $22,500 and simultaneously sold a portion of the tract for $20,000. In August 1957 petitioner sold another portion of the tract for $27,000. He did not report the gain on either the 1956 or 1957 sale in his income tax returns for those years.*fn1 Petitioner conceded that the 1957 transaction was reportable and that, in not reporting it, he understated his tax liability for that year by $2,456.48. He contended, however, that this understatement was not willful since he believed at the time that extensive repairs on a creek adjoining a portion of the tract he retained might be necessary and that the cost of these repairs might wipe out his profit on the 1957 sale.

To counter this defense, the Government introduced the following signed statement made by petitioner during the Treasury investigation of his tax return:

"I did not report the 1957 sale in our joint income tax return for 1957 because I was burdened with a

[ 380 U.S. Page 345]

     number of financial obligations and did not feel I could raise the money to pay any tax due. It was my intention to report all sales in a future year and pay the tax due. I knew that I should have reported the 1957 sale, but my wife did not know that it should have been reported. It was not my intention to evade the payment of our proper taxes and I intended to pay any additional taxes due when I was financially able to do so."

At the conclusion of the trial, petitioner requested that the jury be instructed that it could acquit him of the charged offense of willfully attempting to evade or defeat taxes in violation of § 7201, but still convict him of either or both of the asserted lesser-included offenses of willfully filing a fraudulent or false return, in violation of § 7207,*fn2 or willfully failing to pay his taxes at the time required by law, in violation of § 7203.*fn3 Section 7201 is a felony providing for a maximum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for five years. Both §§ 7203 and 7207 are misdemeanors with maximum prison sentences of one year under each

[ 380 U.S. Page 346]

     section, and maximum fines of $10,000 under § 7203 and $1,000 under § 7207.

The requested instructions were denied.*fn4 Petitioner was found guilty by the jury of ...


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