Benanti v. United States

PETITIONER: Benanti
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Wolverine Tube, Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 231
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 355 US 96 (1957)
ARGUED: Oct 29, 1957
DECIDED: Dec 09, 1957

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Benanti v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 29, 1957 in Benanti v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 231, Salvatore Benanti, versus United States of America.

Mr. Todaro.

George J. Todaro:

May -- Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

I don't want to transgress on the previous case but I had an idea with regard to these so-called beeps that are heard on the telephone.

The reason for it is to indicate to the other party to the telephone that there is --

Earl Warren:

Yes.

George J. Todaro:

-- a tap going on --

Earl Warren:

Sure.

George J. Todaro:

-- and that's a very obvious reason therefore the person knows that there is a telephone message being tapped in an indirect manner.

Earl Warren:

Yes.

George J. Todaro:

I wanted to get down to this case.

In this case, the petitioner was convicted of violating the federal act in that he had in his possession, 11 cans of alcohol without proper stamps affixed thereto and in transporting those 11 cans of alcohol.

A part of this situation, if Your Honor please, is that the police of the State of New York, pursuant to the authority of the State of New York and the law of the State of New York, had tapped a bar known as the Reno Bar.

And on May the 10th, a message was intercepted wherein the petitioner informed someone else that 11 pieces was going that night.

The officers -- the state officers thought that the 11 pieces meant 11 pieces of narcotics, and following that interception and that – that and having obtained that information, they followed the car and when they stopped the car and arrested the driver, instead of 11 pieces of narcotics, they found 11 cans of unpacked alcohol, thereupon -- thereupon turned over to the federal authorities for prosecution.

Now, the heart of this question -- this case is whether a federal statute that prohibits both interception and divulgence of a telephone message and which goes on to the -- to prohibit the -- the use of intercepted message thus it's used in the federal court.

It seems to me that every case that I've read up to the present time even this last case, the Rathbun case.

They started with the principle that the state officer could not testify.

Otherwise then they -- they wouldn't have to go on to the next question as to whether it constituted an interception.

Earl Warren:

The state officer could not testify in the federal court.

George J. Todaro:

In the federal court, yes.

Earl Warren:

Is that so?

George J. Todaro:

That's exactly the point of this you're here, whether a state officer can testify in the federal court in violation of 605.

Earl Warren:

Yes.

George J. Todaro:

Now, in the court below, the court stated that -- that despite the fact that the state officer was acting pursuant to the laws of the State of New York and pursuant to a warrant of the State of New York, as soon as he testified under the federal court, he was violating the federal law, 605.

Whether --

John M. Harlan:

Do you say that's been held?

George J. Todaro:

I beg your pardon?

John M. Harlan:

Do you say that's been held?

George J. Todaro:

By the lower court in this case, the Circuit Court -- the Second Circuit.