Section 2 of the Mann Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 398, imposes a penalty upon any person who shall knowingly transport or cause to be transported, or aid or assist in obtaining transportation for, or in transporting in interstate or foreign commerce any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery or for any other immoral purpose. Transportation of a woman or girl whether with or without her consent, or causing or aiding it, or furthering it in any of the specified ways, are the acts punished, when done with a purpose which is immoral within the meaning of the law.
Petitioners, a man and a woman, not then husband and wife, were indicted in the District Court for Northern Illinois, for conspiring together, and with others not named, to transport the woman from one state to another for the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse with the man. At the trial without a jury there was evidence from which the court could have found that the petitioners had engaged in illicit sexual relations in the course of each of the journeys alleged; that the man purchased the railway tickets for both petitioners for at least one journey, and that in each instance the woman, in advance of the purchase of the tickets, consented to go on the journey and did go on it voluntarily for the specified immoral purpose. On review, the Court found that the mere acquiescence of the women transported was not intended to be condemned by the general language of the Mann Act punishing those who aided and assisted the transporter. The Government argued that the woman could be convicted of conspiracy even if she could not commit the substantive offense. The Court determined that the failure of the Mann Act to condemn the woman's participation in those transportations which were effected with her mere consent was evidence of an affirmative legislative policy to leave her acquiescence unpunished. The Court concluded that the woman was not guilty of a conspiracy to violate the Mann Act and that there was no proof that the man conspired with anyone else to bring about the transportation.
Was the evidence presented sufficient to support the conviction?
The court held that a woman who is the willing object of such transportation, but who does not aid or assist otherwise than by her consent, is not guilty of the offense. Moreover, it was stated that woman merely acquiescing in her transportation by a man, for immoral conduct between them, in violation of § 2 of the Mann Act, does not thereby commit the crime of conspiring to commit the substantive offense of which by the transportation he alone becomes guilty. Thus, upon the ground that as Congress set out in the Mann Act to deal with cases which involve consent and agreement on the part of the woman in every case in which she is a voluntary agent at all, the failure of the Act to condemn her participation in transportation effected with her mere consent evinces an affirmative legislative policy to leave her acquiescence unpunished. This policy would be contravened were it to be held that the very passage of the Mann Act effected a withdrawal, by the earlier conspiracy statute, of that immunity which the Act itself confers