FRANCE V. UNITED STATES, 164 U. S. 676 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

France v. United States, 164 U.S. 676 (1897)

France v. United States

No. 495

Argued November 13, 1896

Decided January 4, 1897

164 U.S. 676


The plaintiffs in error were engaged in the management and conduct of two lotteries at Covington, Kentucky, opposite Cincinnati, Ohio, where there were drawings twice a day. They had agents in Cincinnati, each of whom, before drawing, sent a messenger to Covington with a paper showing the various numbers chosen and the amounts bet, and the money, less his commissions. After the drawing, what was termed "an official print" was made which consisted of a printed sheet showing the numbers in their consecutive order as they came out of the wheel, and on the line beneath the numbers were arranged in their natural order. In addition to the "official print," these messengers, after the drawing had been had, brought back to the agents at Cincinnati what was known as "hit slips." These were slips of paper with nothing but the winning numbers on them, together with a statement of a sum in dollars. The money to the amount named on the paper was brought over by the messenger to the agent in Cincinnati. Some of these messengers were arrested as they were coming from Covington, walking across the bridge, and just as they came to the Cincinnati side. They had with them in their pockets the official sheet and the hit slips, as above described, containing the result of the drawing, which had just been concluded at Covington. They had the money to pay the bets, and were on their way to the various agents in the City of Cincinnati. Procuring the carrying of these papers was the overt act towards the accomplishment of the conspiracy upon which the conviction of plaintiffs in error was based. There was nothing on any of the papers which showed that any particular person had any interest in or claim to any money which the messengers carried. The plaintiffs in error were indicted, under Rev.Stat. § 5440, for conspiring to violate the Act of March 2, 1895, c.191, "for the suppression of lottery traffic through national and interstate commerce."

Page 164 U. S. 677

Held that the carrying of such books and papers from Kentucky to Ohio was not, within the meaning of the statute, a carrying of a paper, certificate, or instrument purporting to be or represent a ticket, chance, share or interest in or dependent upon the event of a lottery, so called gift concert, or similar enterprise, offering prizes depending upon lot or chance, as provided for in such statute, as the lottery had already been drawn, as the papers carried by the messengers were not then dependent upon the event of any lottery, and as the language as used in the statute looks to the future.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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