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Sears v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
343 F.2d 139 (1965)


Facts

The federal government (plaintiff) prosecuted Julian Sears (defendant), the sheriff of Coffee County, Georgia, for conspiring with Harris Johnson and Beecher Wright to violate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) laws against bootlegging untaxed whiskey. Johnson and Wright were severed from the case, so Sears was tried separately. The federal district court trial evidence established that Sears once helped Dorsey Davis carry on a bootlegging operation. Davis had since gone straight, and had agreed to work undercover so that federal agents could nab Sears. Davis told Sears that he planned on getting back into bootlegging, and would pay Sears to warn him if any IRS agents showed up in Coffee County. Sears accepted, and Davis paid him $1,000. Meanwhile, Davis persuaded Johnson and Wright to let him join them in operating their illegal still. Federal agents later moved in, destroyed the still, and arrested Sears, Johnson, and Wright. There was no evidence that Sears ever had contact with Johnson or Wright or knew of their connection to Davis. However, there was some evidence that Sears knew that Davis had collaborators other than himself. Sears requested a jury instruction that his conviction for conspiracy required proof that Sears knew he was acting in concert with at least one person who actually intended to break the IRS laws. The judge denied Sears's request, and the jury convicted Sears. Sears appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bell, J.)

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