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United States v. Hoffman.

decided: December 8, 1950.

UNITED STATES
v.
HOFFMAN.



Author: Hastie

Before GOODRICH, KALODNER, and HASTIE, Circuit Judges.

HASTIE, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania adjudging the appellant, Samuel L. Hoffman, guilty of criminal contempt, and sentencing him to imprisonment for five months.

The issue raised is whether the appellant was privileged to refuse to answer certain questions put to him by a federal grand jury on the ground that his answer might incriminate him of a federal offense.

The grand jury in question was duly impaneled and sworn on September 14, 1950, and thereupon undertook an "investigation concerning frauds upon and conspiracies to defraud the Government of the United States, involving violations of the customs, narcotics, and internal revenue liquor laws of the United States, as well as violations of the White Slave Traffic Act, perjury, bribery, and other criminal laws of the United States, and conspiracy to commit all such offenses."*fn1

Pursuant to subpoena issued by this jury, the appellant, Hoffman, appeared as a witness on October 3, 1950. He refused to answer certain questions propounded to him by the grand jury on the ground that his answers might incriminate him of a federal offense.*fn2 Subsequently, he appeared before the district court where the claim of privilege was challenged by the government. The court heard the questions propounded to the witness and the answers he made thereto. After hearing argument of counsel for the witness, it found that the witness had been subjected to no real and substantial danger of incrimination for a federal offense, and ordered him to reappear before the grand jury and answer the questions which he had theretofore refused to answer.

The appellant stated in open court and in the presence of his counsel that he would not obey this order. The court thereupon found him guilty of contempt of court by wilful disobedience of its lawful order constituting misbehavior in its presence, and sentenced him.*fn3

The only issue before us on this appeal is whether the appellant's claim of privilege was properly overruled.

The questions and answers in issue fall into two groups. The first concerns appellant's occupation, and is as follows:

"1. Q. What do you do now, Mr. Hoffman? A. I refuse to answer."

"2. Q. Have you been in the same undertaking since the first of the year? A. I don't understand the question.

Q. Have you been doing the same thing you are doing now since the first of he year? A. I refuse to answer."

The second concerns appellant's knowledge of the whereabouts of one William ...


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