The convictions of a group of defendants for the separate offenses of having violated the general conspiracy statute in 18 USCS 371 and the Organized Crime Control Act's prohibition of illegal gambling businesses (18 USCS 1955) is permissible under the latter statute; the presumption created by Wharton's Rule that the offense of conspiracy and the substantive offense merge when the substantive offense is proved must defer to, and is outweighed by, the congressional intent to retain in 18 USCS 1955 the option to impose an additional sanction for conspiracy to violate that section.
Eight defendants were convicted of having violated the Organized Crime Control Act's prohibition of illegal gambling businesses (18 USCS 1955) and the general conspiracy statute (18 USCS 371). Each defendant was sentenced on these separate offenses. Petitioner prisoners challenged the affirmance of convictions by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for conspiring to violate and violating 18 U.S.C.S. § 1955. Petitioners were granted certiorari to the United States Supreme Court to resolve the conflicts caused by the federal courts' disparate approaches to the application of Wharton's Rule (Rule) to conspiracies that violate § 1955. Petitioners contended that Wharton's Rule did not permit prosecution and punishment for both offenses under § 1955. The Court affirmed the convictions of petitioner prisoners for substantive and conspiracy counts for which they were charged.
Are convictions for both conspiracy and commission of the substantive offense permissible under 18 U.S.C.S. § 1955.
Generally, an agreement by two persons to commit a particular crime cannot be prosecuted as a conspiracy when the crime is of such a nature as to necessarily require the participation of two persons for its commission. Wharton's Rule requires that the conspiracy indictment be dismissed before trial the conspiracy to commit an offense and the subsequent commission of that crime normally do not merge into a single punishable act. The Court held that the conduct proscribed by § 1955 was significantly different from the offenses to which the Rule traditionally had been applied. The Court found that under § 1955 any harm was not restricted to the parties to the agreement and that those prosecuted for the conspiracy were not necessarily the same persons prosecuted for the commission of the substantive offense. The Court found that Congress defined the substantive offense punished by § 1955 in a manner that failed to specifically invoke the concerns that underlie the law of conspiracy. The Court held, therefore, that the history and structure of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, Pub. L. 91-452, 84 Stat. 922, manifested a clear legislative judgment that more than outweighed a presumption of merger between the conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C.S. § 1955 and the consummation of the substantive offense.