Abbate v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Calvert’s Tavern

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 359 US 187 (1959)
ARGUED: Oct 22, 1958
DECIDED: Mar 30, 1959

Charles A. Bellows - for the Petitioner
Leonard B. Sand - For the Respondent

Facts of the case

In the midst of a labor strike against Southern Bell Telephone Company, Louis Joseph Abbate, Michael Louis Falcone, and Norman McLeod met with James Shelby, a union official, in a Chicago tavern. Shelby requested the others’ assistance in carrying out plans to bomb certain Southern Bell facilities in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Abbate and Falcone did not go through with the plan and instead informed Chicago police when McLeod obtained dynamite and traveled to Mississippi. The State of Illinois subsequently charged all four with the crime of conspiring to destroy the property of another. Abbate and Falcone pled guilty and were sentenced to three months in prison each. Because several of the targeted facilities were used exclusively by the military and federal agencies, federal prosecutors subsequently charged Abbate, Falcone, and Shelby with conspiring to destroy property essential to the U.S. communications systems. At trial in federal district court, McLeod testified against his former co-conspirators, and the jury found them guilty. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgments against Abbate and Falcone on appeal. In their petition to the Supreme Court, Abbate and Falcone argued that the federal prosecution subsequent to their convictions under Illinois law violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prevents someone from being tried more than once for the same crime.


Does the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibit federal prosecutions that are based on the same facts that underpin a defendant’s conviction under state law?

Media for Abbate v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 22, 1958 in Abbate v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 7, Louis Joseph Abbate and Michael Louis Falcone, Petitioners, versus United States of America.

Mr. Bellows.

Charles A. Bellows:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The petitioners in this case were indicted with two others on the charge of conspiracy to destroy government communications.

All four of them were convicted and all four of them were sentenced to terms in the penitentiary.

The conviction was taken up to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Two of the defendants -- their case was reversed and remanded for a new trial because the trial court had failed to give some cautionary instructions relating to the statements made by the two petitioners.

This happened more than 15 months ago.

The other two defendants in the case have not been tried.

Prior to the indictment in the federal court in Mississippi, the two defendants had been indicted, with one of the men who was indicted in the federal court of Mississippi on the charge of conspiracy to destroy the properties of the Southern Bell Telephone Company.

I represented the two petitioners in the trial in Cook County in Chicago, and on a plea of guilty, they were both sentenced to a term of not more than three months.

The sole question in this case is whether or not the petitioners were placed in jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment because of the fact that they had been convicted twice in the state court and then convicted again in the -- in the federal court.

Now, the facts in this case are of extreme importance.

The law has been very carefully analyzed.

I know of Mr. Fisher personally from Chicago.

As Your Honors have said, he's a very able lawyer.

He made a great research under the law in this case.

And much of the law that I have in my brief frankly comes from conversation with him and from reading his brief and of course some personal research on our part.

But the facts in this case are extremely important because the Government raises questions that the two offenses were not actually dissented.

And so, I would like to briefly state the facts in this case.

The indictments arise out of activities of some men in connection with a -- with a strike of the Southern Bell Telephone Company.

A man by the name of Shelby, who was an international representative of the -- of the union, came to Chicago and communicated with a man by the name of (Inaudible)

Apparently, he was seeking somebody to help him destroy the communications on the properties of the Southern Bell Telephone Company for the purpose of expediting the settlement of the strike.

This man, (Inaudible), that is the record, communicated with Abbate and told him that he would receive a call from somebody from the South.

Mr. Shelby the representative was a southerner from -- also from Mississippi and lived at the time in Maryland and a man by the name of Perry, who was the -- the president of the local in Jackson, Mississippi where the act of violence had taken place.

And so, we find that Shelby contacts Mr. Abbate and there is a meeting between Abbate, Falcone and a man by the name of McLeod who was not indicted in this case and Shelby.

Shelby has with him the plans for the destruction of the -- of the various installations marked.

Shelby had worked for the Southern Bell Telephone Company.

He knew the whereabouts of the various installations.

So, on the plans, they were located at various spots where he thought they ought to destroy.