Goldmann, Freund and Foley. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.
Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction entered upon a jury verdict in Camden County Court for unlawfully placing a child for adoption and receiving money, in violation of N.J.S. 2A:96-7. Segal was sentenced to a term of three to five years in State Prison.
The statute under which Segal was convicted reads as follows:
"No person, including a natural parent or parent by adoption, and no firm, corporation, association or agency, other than an agency approved to place children for adoption as provided by law, shall
place, offer to place, or in any manner assist in the placement of a child in the home of any other person or persons for the purpose of adoption and, in so doing, take, receive or pay any money or anything of value, or undertake or discharge any financial obligation, except in connection with the birth and any illness of the child. Any person, including a natural parent or parent by adoption, and any firm, corporation, association or agency, other than an agency approved to place children for adoption as provided by law, violating this section, shall be guilty of a high misdemeanor."
The essential facts presented at the trial were these. Perry De Jesus was born September 9, 1960 at Cooper Hospital in Camden, N.J. He was the natural son of Leo and Florence De Jesus, residents of Camden. Several months before Perry's birth, Segal telephoned and later visited Mrs. De Jesus concerning the disposition of her unborn child.
Mrs. De Jesus testified that she told defendant she did not wish to bring the child home from the hospital because her husband had typhoid fever. The doctor had warned her not to bring the child home until her husband's health had improved. Defendant was in the meantime to temporarily place the child. In contrast, defendant testified that Mrs. De Jesus requested that he place the child permanently for adoption, since she was unemployed and both she and her husband were ill.
Perry was Mrs. De Jesus' fifth child. She did not know where the other four were, since "Segal took care of it." She was originally "referred to him by a girl, Tootsie"; and "he made all the arrangements with the children I had." "The first child I received $40, second $15, third one nothing, fourth one $40." She repeatedly denied, however, receiving any money for Perry.
Some time in April or May 1960 Sheldon and Iris Adler, residents of Philadelphia, Pa., contacted defendant by telephone seeking the adoption of a baby. A few days later, a meeting was held in defendant's office in Philadelphia. According to Adler, defendant said at this meeting that a baby was to be born about Labor Day 1960 and that defendant, for a fee of $1,500, "would take care of all the arrangements."
Mr. Adler's understanding was that the fee would be used to pay for the mother's prenatal care, doctor and hospital expenses. On rebuttal, Mr. Adler added that $500 of the fee was to pay for "an obstetrician for prenatal care, and a private or semi-private bed in a good hospital * * * as it had in some cases in the past. The balance of the $1,000 was to be paid to Mr. Segal as a fee for himself, the other attorney and other incidental expenses at the hospital." Mrs. Adler, who accompanied her husband to Segal's office, substantially corroborated Mr. Adler's testimony concerning the application of the $1,500.
Of the total $1,500, one-third was to be paid to Segal May 14, a few days after the initial meeting. Another third of the fee was to be paid "upon delivery of the child," and the final third was to be given when the adoption was officially approved in Pennsylvania. There is a sharp conflict in the testimony concerning how much money Segal turned over to Mr. and Mrs. De Jesus. Defendant admitted that on May 14, 1960 he received $500 in cash from the Adlers and testified that he began making weekly payments of $20 in cash to Mrs. De Jesus -- allegedly for her prenatal care. These payments continued until September 8, when Mrs. De Jesus entered the hospital, and amounted to a total of $380.
Mrs. De Jesus, as noted, repeatedly denied receiving any money from Segal. Although she admitted writing several letters in July 1960 which implied that she was receiving money from him, Mrs. De Jesus testified that defendant never gave her any money because she refused to "give him my son." She stated that later, when she demanded Perry's return, defendant attempted unsuccessfully to offer her $700 to gain her acquiescence to the adoption.
Adler testified that after Segal learned of Perry's birth, defendant called Adler "at my office to congratulate me and to tell me that I was now a daddy and had a little son. The boy born was Perry De Jesus in the Cooper Hospital in Camden." Segal ...