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Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412 (1943)

Pendergast v. United States

No. 183

Argued December 14, 15, 1942

Decided January 4, 1943*

317 U.S. 412


1. Revised Statutes § 1044, providing that

"No person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any offense, not capital, . . . unless the indictment is found, or the information is instituted, within three years next after such offense shall have been committed,"

applies to a prosecution for criminal contempt. P. 317 U. S. 416.

2. The act of inducing a federal court, through misrepresentations by attorneys, to issue decrees effectuating a corrupt settlement of litigation, including a distribution of impounded funds, if assumed to be "misbehavior" in the "presence" of the court within the meaning of Jud.Code § 268, is a criminal contempt, and an "offense" against the United States within the meaning of R.S. § 1044. P. 317 U. S. 416.

3. The time when the three-year limitation of R.S. § 1044 begins to run against a prosecution for a criminal contempt under Jud.Code § 268 is the time when the act of misbehavior in the presence of the court was committed, and, in a case of alleged contempt committed by inducing the court by false representations to order a distribution of impounded funds, effectuating a fraudulent scheme, the offense was complete when the misrepresentations were made,

Page 317 U. S. 413

and the three years are counted from that time. The bar of the statute cannot be deferred upon the ground that the offense was a continuing one, and was not complete until the litigation ended or until further acts dehors were committed in the execution of the scheme. P. 317 U. S. 419.

128 F.2d 676 reversed.

Certiorari, post, p. 608, to review judgments affirming sentences for contempt. For opinions of the trial court, see 35 F.Supp. 593, 39 F.Supp. 189.

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