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United States v. Irali

decided: September 12, 1974.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division - No. 72 CR 951 Thomas R. McMillen, Judge.

Swygert, Chief Judge, Sprecher, Circuit Judge, and Poos, Senior District Judge.*fn1

Author: Swygert

SWYGERT, Chief Judge.

Defendant-appellant Silvio J. Irali was indicted on two counts, extortion in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Hobbs Act) and making a false declaration before the grand jury in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1623. He was convicted on both counts after a jury trial and received consecutive one-year sentences.

In October 1969 Mrs. Geraldine Svedman (whose name was Geraldine Zaczynski at the time) purchased a tavern at 4932 West Armitage in Chicago which she named Gerri's Lounge. After borrowing $2500 from her mother, she made an initial downpayment of $1500 and agreed to pay the balance of the $2500 price in monthly payments of $135.

Concurrently with her purchase, Mrs. Svedman went to the Shakespeare Avenue Police Station and filled out a liquor license application. Police Officer Greenwich assisted her. She then went to the city hall, filed the application, and paid her fee. Officer Greenwich was assigned to investigate Mrs. Svedman's application, and she had to return to him with additional information between ten and fifteen times before the license was finally approved.

On November 8, 1969 Mrs. Svedman was in another tavern with her future husband when they struck up a conversation with defendant Irali. They told him of the delay in obtaining a liquor license. He said that he was a clerk in City Hall and that he might be able to help her. (At the time, Irali was a principal clerk in the liquor license department of the City Collector's office.)

Irali asked for the name of the license officer. Mrs. Svedman said that it was Greenwich. He said he knew Greenwich and could find out what was causing the delay. He gave her his office telephone number and asked that she call him in a few days. When she called two days later, Irali said that he had not contacted Greenwich and asked her to call back. Two days later she called again with Dennis Svedman, her husband, listening on an extension and asked if Irali had spoken to Officer Greenwich. Irali said that, "Greenwich wanted $500 for his troubles." Mrs. Svedman said that it was "ridiculous" and that she did not "have that kind of money." Mrs. Svedman testified that Irali said "that because he was a friend of [hers], he would talk to Officer Greenwich again, but that all the license officers down there, that's the way they do things." She further testified that he stated "that Greenwich was a hardnose and he wouldn't waive any money" and that he would try talking to Greenwich again.

On November 17, 1969 Mrs. Svedman called the defendant and asked if her license had been approved. He said that Greenwich wanted $250. She said that she did not have that kind of money. Irali replied that he would see if there was anything he could do. After the telephone conversation, she told her husband, who had again been listening to the conversation on the telephone, that she thought she would have to pay the money or she would never be able to open her tavern. On November 19, 1969 she called the defendant and asked if he had spoken with Greenwich. Irali asked her if she could come up with $100 or $150. She told him that she would talk to her mother. After her mother agreed to lend her $150, she called Irali. He said that he would check with Greenwich and call her back. Later that day Irali called her and said that Greenwich would take the $150. The next day she went to the bank with her mother who withdrew $150 and gave the money to Mrs. Svedman. They then went to the city hall accompanied by Dennis Svedman where Mrs. Svedman gave Irali the $150. Irali told them, "For sure, you will get your license now." She received her license five days later and immediately opened her tavern for business.

The evidence established that Mrs. Svedman purchased liquor for her tavern from three Illinois distributors who had purchased their supplies from out of state.

To prove the false declaration count, the Government introduced the grand jury transcript of Irali's testimony in which he denied having ever received $150 from Geraldine Zaczynski Svedman in connection with the issuance of her liquor license.


The defendant contends there was no proof that the commerce was of an interstate character, that commerce was affected by the extortion demand, and that the Hobbs Act was not meant to reach "low level local matters" such as a $150 payoff.

The first contention is based on an argument that the liquor sold to Gerri's Lounge had come to rest in Illinois before its sale and distribution and thus was no longer part of interstate commerce. We have rejected that argument in three recent decisions. United States v. Pacente, 503 F.2d 543, en banc (7th Cir. 1974) sl. op. at 10; United States v. DeMet, 486 ...

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