Guest (defendant) and five other defendants were indicted for criminal conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. §241 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The indictment alleged that defendants conspired to deprive African Americans citizens of their Fourteenth Amendment rights. The charge arose from the shooting by defendants of Lemuel Penn, an African American reserve officer. The defendants allegedly conspired to “injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate” African American citizens for the purpose of preventing them from exercising their Fourteenth Amendment rights to utilize public facilities. The defendants were indicted by the United States federal government (plaintiff) after being acquitted of murder in Georgia state court. In federal district court, the defendants successfully moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that it did not allege a violation of the “laws of the United States” because no state actors were involved in the conspiracy. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.