United States v. Knox

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Dodge County Juvenile Court

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 396 US 77 (1969)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1969
DECIDED: Dec 08, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Knox

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1969 in United States v. Knox

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Hamburg, in number 17, United States against Knox.

Are you ready?

Mervyn Hamburg:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The issue involved in this case is related to the proceeding when -- in that involves a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 1001 for making false statements in purported compliance with other statutes, in this case, certain sections of the Internal Revenue Code relating to wagering taxes.

The precise issue here is whether an individual may properly assert the privilege against self-incrimination as a complete defense to a charge of making false statements on wagering tax returns.

The District Court in the Western District of Texas held that the privilege was such a defense and dismissed false statement charges against the appellee, James Knox.

The case is here on the Government's appeal of that dismissal.

The indictment was filed before this Court decided the Marchetti and Grosso cases.

This indictment charged the appellee with four counts of failing to file wagering tax returns, that is Form 11-C, a copy of which we've included in our appendix, and with failure to pay the special occupational tax, covering various prior to October 14, 1965.

The indictment also contains two counts, Counts Five and Six, which charge that the appellee made false statements on returns which he did file on October 14 and on October 15, 1965.

The statements being that he declared under penalties of perjury that the returns were to the best of his knowledge, true, correct and complete whereas in truth, they were not in that the number of employees he had claimed had been understated and misrepresented.

Now prior to trial, this Court decided Marchetti versus United States and Grosso versus United States and in those cases, this Court recognized that an individual charge with failing to file wagering tax forms which invariably contained information incriminating him under other laws, could properly assert that privilege, the privilege against self-incrimination as a complete defense.

Thereafter, the appellee moved to dismiss all of the charges against him including Counts Five and Six, the false statement Counts alleging that such a disposition was required as a result of the holding of the Marchetti and Grosso.

The Government responded that it intended to pursue only Counts Five and Six and as to those counts it argued in effect that their validity had not been affected by Marchetti and Grosso.

The District Court disagreed with the Government's position and in a brief memorandum, dated July 24, 1968, the Court -- that Court held that the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination prevents prosecution for failure to answer the form in any respect.

Judge Roberts relied upon Grosso in particular where charge of conspiracy to evade payment of the excise tax on wagering was dismissed along with the substitute charges of failing to pay the excise tax and failing to pay this special computational tax.

In the Government's view, Judge Roberts misinterpreted and misapplied the Court's decisions, particularly Grosso.

Thus I believe, it's appropriate to begin with the discussion of the difference between Grosso and this situation.

In Grosso, the Court held that a conspiracy charge had to fall with other counts since it was bottomed solely on allegations of invasion of the excise and occupational taxes.

The courts words, the conspiracy raise “Questions identical with those presented by the substitutes counts.”

In contrast to Grosso, the false statement counts are not identical.

They are not even similar to the charges of failure to file a wagering tax return or pay the tax.

While we no longer contest that privilege against self-incrimination as an appropriate defense to one charged with failure to file, we don't believe that that privilege protects an independent act of making a false statement on a form which the appellee did in fact filed.

In order words, the problem of incrimination arises at the threshold when one decides whether or not to file and face -- if he files perhaps, he might face prosecution under some state gambling laws or if he fails to file prosecution under a federal statute.

The appellee here resolved this question of whether to stand on his privilege or not.

He didn't avail himself of the what we believe to be the customary means by which statutes are challenged by non compliance.

Instead, he purported to comply and in this purported compliance, he lied.

He is now charged with a substantive offense of making false statements in violation of a statute having no connection with the wagering tax laws except insofar as the tax laws form that framework within which the appellee committed violations of this wholly distinct criminal statute.

Thus in our view, the Fifth Amended privilege should not control the outcome of the case in the District Court.

Our stand is not novel by any means.