GARCIA V. UNITED STATES, 469 U. S. 70 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Garcia v. United States, 469 U.S. 70 (1984)

Garcia v. United States

No. 83-6061

Argued October 10, 1984

Decided December 10, 1984

469 U.S. 70


For assaulting an undercover Secret Service agent with a loaded pistol, in an attempt to rob him of $1,800 of Government "flash money" that the agent was using to buy counterfeit currency from them, petitioners were convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2114, which proscribes the assault and robbery of any custodian of "mail matter or of any money or other property of the United States." The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions over petitioners' contention that § 2114 is limited to crimes involving the Postal Service.

Held: The language "any money or other property of the United States" in § 2114 includes the $1,800 belonging to the United States and entrusted to the Secret Service agent as "flash money," and thus by using a pistol in an effort to rob the agent petitioners fell squarely within the prohibitions of the statute. Pp. 469 U. S. 73-80.

(a) "Mail matter," "money," and "other property" are separated from one another in § 2114 by use of the disjunctive "or." This means that the word "money" must be given its ordinary, separate meaning and does not mean "postal money" or "money in the custody of postal employees." P. 469 U. S. 73.

(b) There is no ambiguity in the language of the statute. But even if there were, the particular language here does not lend itself to application of the ejusdem generis rule so as to require reading the general terms "money" and "other property" following "mail matter" in a specific, restricted postal context. The term "mail matter" is no more a specific term -- and is probably less specific -- than "money." Pp. 469 U. S. 73-75.

(c) The legislative history shows no intent by Congress to limit the statute to postal crimes. Pp. 469 U. S. 75-78.

(d) The fact that the Solicitor General in a prior case presenting the identical issue conceded that § 2114 only applied to postal crimes, a concession he now states was unwarranted, does not relieve this Court of its responsibility to interpret Congress' intent in enacting § 2114. Pp. 469 U. S. 78-79.

718 F.2d 1528, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined.

Page 469 U. S. 71

STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 469 U. S. 80.

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