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People v. Lauria

    Brief Fact Summary. In an investigation of call-girl activity, the police focused their attention on three prostitutes actively plying their trade on call, each of whom were using the Defendant, Lauria’s (Defendant) telephone answering service, presumably for business purposes. The Defendant and the three prostitutes were eventually indicted for conspiracy to commit prostitution.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The intent of a supplier who knows of the criminal use to which his supplies are put to participate in the criminal activity connected with the use of his supplies may be established by: (1) direct evidence that he intends to participate, or (2) through an inference that he intends to participate based on, (a) his special interest in the activity, or (b) the aggravated nature of the crime itself.

    Facts. On January 8, 1965, Stella Weeks (Weeks), a policewoman, signed up for the Defendant’s telephone answering service. During the course of her conversation with the Defendant’s office manager, Weeks hinted that she was a prostitute and that she was concerned about confidentiality. Weeks was reassured by the office manager that the service was discreet and about “as safe as you can get.” On February 11, Weeks spoke to the Defendant and told him that she was in the business of modeling and that Terry, one of the three prostitutes under investigation, had referred her to the Defendant’s service. Weeks also told the Defendant that she had lost two valuable customers, referred to as “tricks.” The Defendant defended his service and told her that “his business was taking messages.” On April 1, the Defendant and the three prostitutes were arrested. Subsequently, the Defendant told the police that he kept separate records for known or suspected prostitutes for the convenience of himself
    and the police, but that his service did not tell the police about the activity as long as the prostitutes paid their bills. Later, during grand jury testimony, the Defendant admitted that he knew that some of his customers were prostitutes, including Terry who used his service for 500 calls per month.

    Issue. Under what circumstances does a supplier become part of a conspiracy to further an illegal enterprise by furnishing goods or services, which he knows are to be used by the buyer for criminal purposes?

    Held. There is no proof that the Defendant took any direct action to further, encourage, or direct the call-girl activities of his co-defendants and there is also an absence of circumstances from which his special interest in their activities could be inferred. As a result, although the Defendant had knowledge of the call-girl activity, there was insufficient evidence that he intended to further their criminal activities and hence insufficient proof of his participation in a criminal conspiracy with his co-defendants to further prostitution.

    Discussion. The court based its decision upon the fact that, although the Defendant had knowledge of call-girl activity, he did not intend to further their criminal enterprises. Among the evidence that points to this conclusion include the fact that excessive charges were not added for standard services and that there was not an unusual volume of business with call-girls. Further, the court noted that the offense that the Defendant was charged with furthering was a misdemeanor. The court found that there is a much greater duty to disassociate from felonious activity than there is for misdemeanor activity.


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