IANNELLI V. UNITED STATES, 420 U. S. 770 (1975)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Iannelli v. United States, 420 U.S. 770 (1975)

Iannelli v. United States

No. 73-64

Argued December 17, 1974

Decided March 25, 1975

420 U.S. 770


Each of the eight petitioners, along with seven unindicted coconspirators and six codefendants, was charged with conspiring to violate (18 U.S.C. § 371), and with violating, 18 U.S.C. § 1955, a provision of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Act) aimed at large-scale gambling activities; and each petitioner was convicted and sentenced under both counts. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that prosecution and punishment for both offenses were permitted by a recognized exception to Wharton's Rule. Under that Rule, 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 necessarily to require the participation of two persons for its commission, in such a case the conspiracy being deemed to have merged into the completed offense.

Held: Petitioners were properly convicted and punished for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1955 and for conspiring to violate that statute, it being clear that Congress, in enacting the Act, intended to retain each offense as an independent curb in combating organized crime. Pp. 420 U. S. 777-791.

(a) Traditionally, conspiracy and the completed offense have been considered to constitute separate crimes, and this Court has recognized that a conspiracy poses dangers quite apart from the substantive offense. Wharton's Rule is an exception to the general principle that a conspiracy and the substantive offense that is its immediate end do not merge upon proof of the latter. Pp. 420 U. S. 777-782.

(b) The Rule -- which traditionally has been applied to offenses such as adultery where the harm attendant upon commission of the substantive offense is confined to the parties to the agreement and where the offense requires concerted criminal activity -- has current vitality only as a judicial presumption to be applied in the absence of a contrary legislative intent. Pp. 420 U. S. 782-786.

(c) Here such a contrary intent existed, for, in drafting the Act, Congress manifested its awareness of the distinct nature of a conspiracy

Page 420 U. S. 771

and the substantive offenses that might constitute its immediate end, as well as a desire to provide a number of discrete weapons for the battle against organized crime. Pp. 420 U. S. 786-789.

(d) The requirement of participation of "five or more persons" as an element of the § 1955 substantive offense reflects no more than an intent to limit federal intervention to cases where federal interests are substantially implicated, leaving to local law enforcement efforts the prosecution of small-scale gambling activities. Pp. 420 U. S. 789-790.

477 F.2d 999, affirmed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in Part II of which STEWART and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 420 U. S. 791. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 420 U. S. 798.

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