On error to the Essex County Court of Quarter Sessions.
For the plaintiffs in error, Samuel I. Kessler and Jacob Fox.
For the defendant in error, William A. Wachenfeld, prosecutor of the pleas, Joseph E. Conlon, first assistant prosecutor, and Leon W. Kapp, special assistant to the prosecutor.
Before Brogan, Chief Justice, and Justices Trenchard and Parker.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
TRENCHARD, J. The defendants below were indicted for the crime of conspiracy under the common law.
At the trial the defendant Profit was acquitted by order of the court. The remaining defendants were The Continental Purchasing Company, a corporation, Joseph Richter, who was its secretary, Joseph Berger, who was its vicepresident, David Bodner, who was the office manager of its Newark office, and Albert Schoen, who was the former manager of its Newark office and later manager of its Elizabeth office. Those defendants were convicted by a general verdict of guilty and they sued out this writ of error.
We shall examine and consider the assignments of error and the specification of causes for reversal in the order in which they are argued by the defendants.
The indictment charged that the defendants "being then and there evil disposed and wicked persons did unlawfully * * * conspire, confederate and agree together to enforce the collection and payment of moneys alleged to be due from divers persons to the Continental Purchasing Company, a corporation, by means of intimidation, force, coercion, oppression and threats to do civil injury." It was more specifically charged that the defendants did "unjustifiably coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, oppress and embarrass one Albert Landmesser * * * upon an alleged indebtedness due * * * to the Continental Purchasing Company * * * and by these means of duress did obtain from him his signature to certain documents, and as a result thereof the said Albert Landmesser was, on the 31st day of January, 1936, * * * discharged from his employment, impoverished and reduced to want and beggary." Also by similar means, from Cathleen D. Curran did obtain certain documents for the payment of money which resulted in the loss of her employment, causing her pain, suffering, and reducing her to want, misery and poverty; that by similar means the sum of $40 not due and owing was exacted and extorted from Anna Gann and Joseph Gann, her husband, under threat of arrest and imprisonment; that by similar means a diamond engagement ring was unlawfully exacted from Maria Van Volken, under threat of arrest and imprisonment; and that they did procure and obtain from John Van Volken, her husband, a promissory note for $250 to the corporation and a chattel mortgage upon all his household goods, there having been no relationship between the corporation and the husband, John; that by similar means one J. Haven Foote was forced to mortgage his automobile, household goods, and effects, and that thereafter a criminal complaint was made against him to his irreparable injury and degradation.
At the trial it appeared that accounts handled by the corporation had been bought up from defunct concerns. The
state concedes that basically the defendants were engaged in a lawful enterprise. But it contended, however, that the means whereby the moneys were by agreement attempted to be collected were unlawful and constituted a conspiracy. Most of the accounts were secured by promissory notes, chattel mortgages or conditional bills of ...