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BROWN V. UNITED STATES, 359 U. S. 41 (1959)

U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. United States, 359 U.S. 41 (1959)

Brown v. United States

No. 4

Argued October 16, 1958

Decided March 9, 1959

359 U.S. 41


Subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury which was investigating possible violations of Part II of the Interstate Commerce Act, petitioner refused, on grounds of possible self-incrimination, to answer questions which were concededly relevant to the grand jury's inquiry. The grand jury sought the aid of the district judge, who heard extensive arguments on the subject, ruled that petitioner would be accorded immunity as extensive as the privilege he had asserted, and ordered petitioner to answer the questions. After returning to the jury room, petitioner persisted in his refusal, and he was again brought before the district judge, who addressed the same questions to him in the presence of the grand jury, explicitly directed him to answer them, and, upon his refusal to do so, adjudged him guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced him to imprisonment for 15 months.

Held: the judgment is sustained. Pp. 359 U. S. 42-52.

1. Section 205(e) of the Motor Carrier Act, 49 U.S.C. § 305(d), clothed petitioner with statutory immunity coextensive with his constitutional privilege not to incriminate himself, and therefore he had an unqualified duty to answer the questions as he was directed to do. Pp. 359 U. S. 44-47.

2. Since petitioner's disobedience of the court's order occurred in the court's presence, it was proper for the court to proceed under Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the court's action in affording petitioner a locus penitentiae before finally adjudicating him in contempt was entirely proper. Pp. 359 U. S. 47-52.

3. The sentence of 15 months' imprisonment was not an abuse of the District Court's discretion. P. 359 U. S. 52.

247 F.2d 332 affirmed.

Page 359 U. S. 42

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