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UNITED STATES v. HOFFA

September 22, 1967

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES R. HOFFA, BENJAMIN DRANOW, ZACHARY A. STRATE, JR., S. GEORGE BURRIS, ABE I. WEINBLATT, CALVIN KOVENS AND SAMUEL HYMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Austin, District Judge.

OPINION AND FINDINGS

Following a trial by jury, defendants were found guilty in August 1964 of conspiracy and mail and wire fraud and on appeal these convictions were affirmed. United States v. Hoffa, et al., 367 F.2d 698 (C.A. 7, 1966). Thereafter, petitions for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States were filed. In response thereto, the Solicitor General, sua sponte, advised the Court that on December 2, 1963, some six months after the indictment, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, through use of electronic recording equipment installed by trespass in the office of a Benjamin Sigelbaum, overheard and recorded a conversation between the defendant Burris and Sigelbaum. This equipment had been installed and maintained on Sigelbaum's office for about a year previous thereto. He also informed the Court that the recording was only "peripherally relevant to the charges underlying [Burris'] conviction;" that the information thus obtained "was not introduced into evidence at trial, that it was never the basis of any investigative lead, and that it was in part already known, through Burris' own statements to government attorneys." The Court nevertheless was impelled to grant each of the defendants an opportunity to evaluate the Solicitor General's revelation and "to establish, if he can, that the interception of this particular conversation, or any other conversations, vitiated in some manner his conviction." Hoffa, et al. v. United States, 387 U.S. 231-233, 87 S.Ct. 1583, 18 L.Ed.2d 738 (1967). In remanding, the Supreme Court directed the District Court to "confine the evidence presented by both sides to that which is material to the questions of the content of this and any other electronically eavesdropped conversations, and of the relevance of any such conversations to the petitioners' subsequent convictions." Hoffa, et al. v. United States, supra, pp. 233-234, 87 S.Ct. p. 1584.

The indictment in this case was the third of a series involving the defendant Hoffa and the Sun Valley development in Florida. The original indictment was returned on December 7, 1960 at Orlando, Florida and dismissed on July 12, 1961 because of the improper empanelling of the Grand Jury. United States v. Hoffa, et al., 196 F. Supp. 25 (D.C.Fla. 1961). A second indictment involving the same defendant and the same subject matter was returned on October 11, 1961 at Orlando, Florida. That indictment was dismissed on June 4, 1963, the same day that the Chicago indictment was returned. In point of time, therefore, the overheard conversation of December 2, 1963 was nearly three years after the return of the original Florida indictment and six months after the return of this indictment.

The government has now introduced in evidence two Federal Bureau of Investigation Reports, which are summaries of the admitted overhearing of December 2, 1963. Plaintiff's Exhibits 2-3 and 3-1. Except for the December 2, 1963 overhearing and nine additional overhearings, the government has sworn by affidavit that the Federal Bureau of Investigation after diligent search of its files, records and indices had found no other records of any overhearings of any conversations by defendants. The records of the nine overhearings were tendered to the Court in a sealed envelope for an in camera inspection, Plaintiff's Exhibit 1-A. The Court has carefully read this Exhibit which discloses extremely brief overhearings that contain no information either remotely or peripherally relevant to the transactions and evidence on which these defendants were indicted and convicted. Plaintiff's Exhibit 1-A has been resealed and is available for review purposes. Affidavit evidence was also presented by the government that the Internal Revenue Service had caused a diligent search to be made of its records, files and indices and found no record of any electronically eavesdropped overhearings of any conversation by these defendants.

The next phase of the government's evidence was directed to establish that not only was all the information contained in the December 2, 1963 electronically eavesdropped overhearings known to the government long prior to the overhearings, but that the information so procured did not furnish the government any investigative leads. Plaintiff's Exhibits 4-27.

A log of the December 2, 1963 overhearing reveals eleven items of information, Plaintiff's Exhibit 1: (1) Burris' interest in Sun Valley; (2) Dranow's interest in Sun Valley; (3) Sigelbaum's interest in Sun Valley; (4) Hoffa's interest in Sun Valley; (5) that either Dranow's or Sigelbaum's interest in Sun Valley was subject to a bank claim; (6) that there was a $57,000 transaction with Irving Kipnis; (7) that Willis was the Trustee; (8) that Burris got money from "The Airport"; (9) the protections surrounding the granting of loans from the pension fund; (10) that Hyman spent the loans differently than he should have; and (11) the use of the word "bail-out".

As to each of these items, the Court finds that the evidence establishes prior knowledge by the government of

(1) Burris' interest in Sun Valley from (a) Burris' sworn testimony before the McClellan Committee on 6/29/59 and 10/21/59 set forth in government's Additional Appendix, pp. 74 and 92; (b) an FBI interview with Burris dated 10/2/62, Plaintiff's Exhibit 19; (c) an interview with J. Friedman dated 11/15/60, Plaintiff's Exhibit 5.

(2) Dranow's interest in Sun Valley from the same sources as Burris' and also a statement of Edwin H. Willis dated 12/22/60, Plaintiff's Exhibit 9.

(3) Sigelbaum's interest in Sun Valley from (a) an FBI interview with Sigelbaum dated 11/15/60, Plaintiff's Exhibit 4; (b) an FBI interview with J. Friedman dated 11/15/60, Plaintiff's Exhibit 5; (c) a statement of Edwin H. Willis, dated 12/22/60, Plaintiff's Exhibit 9.

(4) Hoffa's interest in Sun Valley from an FBI interview with Burris dated 6/12/60, Plaintiff's Exhibit 17.

(5) a bank having a claim with reference to Dranow's or Sigelbaum's interest in Sun Valley, from Lou Poller's Grand Jury testimony of October 1962, Plaintiff's Exhibit 25, pp. 45-46.

(6) the $57,000 transaction with Irving Kipnis, from (a) an FBI interview with Kipnis dated 7/2/62, Plaintiff's Exhibit 6; (b) an FBI contact with Kipnis dated 7/31/62, Plaintiff's Exhibit 7; (c) an FBI interview with Kipnis dated 10/31/63, Plaintiff's Exhibit 8; (d) a signed statement by Kipnis dated 5/31/63, Plaintiff's Exhibit 11; (e) an IRS interview with Kipnis dated 8/6/62, Plaintiff's Exhibit 12; (f) Grand Jury testimony of Kipnis dated 9/18/62, Plaintiff's Exhibit 22; (g) Grand Jury testimony of Kipnis dated 9/18/62, Plaintiff's Exhibit 23.

(7) Willis being Trustee, from (a) an FBI interview with Sigelbaum dated 11/15/60, Plaintiff's Exhibit 4; (b) an FBI interview with Friedman ...


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