Iannelli v. United States Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Petitioners were tried under a six-count indictment alleging a variety of federal gambling offenses. Each of the eight Petitioners, along with seven un-indicted co-conspirators and six co-defendants, were charged with conspiring to violate 18 U.S.C. Section:1955, a federal gambling statute making it a crime for five or more persons to conduct, manage, supervise, direct or own a gambling business prohibited by state law.

Facts of the case


Does the traditional application of Wharton’s Rule, a rule requiring that a conspiracy indictment be dismissed before trial on a substantive, completed offense that was the target of the conspiracy, apply to a charge for conspiracy under Section:1955?


The history and structure of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (the Act) manifest a clear and unmistakable legislative judgment that more than outweighs any presumption of merger between the conspiracy to violate Section:1955 and the consummation of that substantive offense. As a result, under this exception to the Wharton Rule, punishment and prosecution for both the conspiracy and the completed offense is permitted. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.


Generally, an agreement by two persons to commit a particular crime cannot be prosecuted as a conspiracy when the crime is of such a nature as to necessarily require the participation of two persons for its commission. Wharton’s Rule requires that the conspiracy indictment be dismissed before trial the conspiracy to commit an offense and the subsequent commission of that crime normally do not merge into a single punishable act. The Court held that the conduct proscribed by § 1955 was significantly different from the offenses to which the Rule traditionally had been applied. The Court found that under § 1955 any harm was not restricted to the parties to the agreement and that those prosecuted for the conspiracy were not necessarily the same persons prosecuted for the commission of the substantive offense. The Court found that Congress defined the substantive offense punished by § 1955 in a manner that failed to specifically invoke the concerns that underlie the law of conspiracy. The Court held, therefore, that the history and structure of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, Pub. L. 91-452, 84 Stat. 922, manifested a clear legislative judgment that more than outweighed a presumption of merger between the conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C.S. § 1955 and the consummation of the substantive offense.

  • Case Brief: 1975
  • Petitioner: Iannelli
  • Respondent: United States
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 420 US 770 (1975)
Argued: Dec 17, 1974
Decided: Mar 25, 1975