Sansone v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: United States Post Office and Courthouse

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 380 US 343 (1965)
ARGUED: Mar 10, 1965
DECIDED: Mar 29, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for Sansone v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 10, 1965 in Sansone v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 365 Michael C. Sansone Petitioner v. United States.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Archibald Cox:

Mr. Chief Justice, I am on the admission of Mr. Paul Bender of the district of the Columbia Bar, the purpose of arguing the case just to call on behalf of the United States.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Bender, you may be admitted for that purpose.

Mr. Silverstein.

Merle L. Silverstein:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the court.

This appeal involves a criminal prosecution for the felony of income tax evasion.

But the court below, the petitioner was indicted in two counts for the years 1956 and 1957.

He was acquitted as to the 1956 count but convicted as to the 1957 count.

The district court then assessed punishment as 15 months imprisonment and a $2000 fine.

Now the sole question presented here on this appeal is whether or not the jury should have been given lesser offence instructions.

This would have given them the alternative of convicting the defendant on a misdemeanor under Section 7203 of the Internal Revenue Code which is the Section which makes it a misdemeanor to willfully fail to pay a tax when do and also the failure to give the jury a lesser offense instruction under rule -- under Section 7207 of the Internal Revenue Code which makes a misdemeanor for any person willfully to file a false return.

These instructions were both specifically requested by the defense below and they were refused by the district court, that action was affirmed by the Eighth Circuit Certiorari of course was sought and granted.

We feel of course that in order to consider this question, there should be some fearful consideration to the facts involved in the case.

In this particular instance, the omitted income which was the basis of the indictment involved only a single capital gain transaction in each of the two years in question.

Briefly in March of 1956, the tax payer purchased a large track of land for $20,000.

He merely sold a small piece of that track for $22,500.

Then the following year, he sold another small piece of a large track for $27,000.

Neither of these two transactions were reported on his 1956 and 1957 returns.

Now none of these facts were disputed at the trial.

That was freely conceded by the defense that these sales were made and that these sales were not reported on either return.

But the sole issue that was contested at the trial below was that of the tax payer’s intent.

The only evidence the government had to prove intent was a statement which the tax payer gave to a special agent of the intelligence unit in May of 1960 about two years after the 1957 return had been filed.

In this statement the tax payer admitted all of the facts and questions that the income -- that the sales were, that they were not put in his return and that he intentionally omitted them from his return and then the statement concludes in regards to the 1957 return with this, I knew I should have reported the 1957 sale but my wife did not know that it should have been reported.

It was not my intention to evade the payment of our proper taxes and I intended to pay any additional taxes due when I was financially able to do so.

This was the –-


Merle L. Silverstein:

It was a joint return but only –-


Merle L. Silverstein:

She was not indicted.