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COLOMBO V. NEW YORK, 405 U. S. 9 (1972)

U.S. Supreme Court

Colombo v. New York, 405 U.S. 9 (1972)

Colombo v. New York

No. 71-352

Decided February 22, 1972

405 U.S. 9


Petitioner refused to answer a grand jury's questions despite a grant of immunity. A trial judge found the questions to be proper and directed petitioner to answer. Petitioner refused, and the judge found that, by

"his contumacious and unlawful refusal . . . to answer any legal and proper interrogatories and for his willful disobedience to the lawful mandate of this Court,"

petitioner had "committed a criminal contempt of court" in violation of N.Y.Judiciary Law § 750. He was sentenced to 30 days and fined $250. His offer to testify thereafter was refused, and he paid his fine and served his sentence. Petitioner was then indicted under N.Y.Penal Law § 600 "for his contumacious and unlawful refusal . . . to answer legal and proper interrogatories." The trial court dismissed the indictment on double jeopardy grounds, but the appellate court reversed . The New York Court of Appeals, sustaining the reversal, held that there were two acts of contempt, one before the grand jury and the other the refusal to obey the court order, and that the trial judge had committed petitioner for civil, not criminal, contempt.

Held: Petitioner was penalized for criminal contempt for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause, and, in view of the state court's misconception of the nature of the contempt judgment, and the substantial question of state law arising from the State's response that it considers the two acts of contempt as being partially intertwined, the judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to the state court.

Certiorari granted; 29 N.Y.2d 1, 271 N.E.2d 694, vacated and remanded.

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