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State v. Toscano

New Jersey Supreme Court
 378 A.2d 755 (1977)


Facts

William Leonardo, was the architect of an insurance fraud scheme whereby various individuals would fake medical injuries in order to obtain monetary settlements by false pretenses from insurance companies after completing and submitting fraudulent insurance claims. Dr. Joseph Toscano (defendant) was instructed by Leonardo to complete the fraudulent medical reports used in the scheme. Toscano was not only afraid of Leonardo, but also owed money to Leonardo’s brother for gambling debts. Consequently, Toscano went along with the fraudulent acts. Leonardo called Toscano’s home on a number of occasions and in a “boisterous and loud” and “vicious” tone would threaten Toscano and his wife with physical harm if he did not complete the medical reports. Toscano complied out of fear for his and his wife’s safety. After he completed his tasks, Toscano and his wife moved and they changed their telephone number in hopes of avoiding contact by Leonardo. Leonardo, Toscano and 11 others were charged with conspiring to defraud the Kemper Insurance Company. Leonardo pled guilty. Toscano went to trial and testified that he completed a false medical report, but did so under duress. After Toscano’s testimony, the trial judge granted the prosecution’s motion to exclude any further testimony in connection with Toscano’s claim of duress, and announced his decision not to charge the jury on that defense. The jury convicted Toscano and he appealed. The appellate court affirmed Toscano’s conviction and the New Jersey Supreme Court reviewed the status of duress as an affirmative defense in a criminal case.

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Holding and Reasoning (Pashman, J.)

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