Abbate v. United States

In Abbate v. United States, 359 U.S. 187, 79 S.Ct. 666, 3 L.Ed.2d 729 (1959), Petitioners had been indicted and convicted in an Illinois state court for violating a state statute making it a crime to injure or destroy the property of another and were thereafter indicted and convicted in the federal court for conspiracy, in violation of a federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 1362, to destroy certain communications facilities operated or controlled by the United States. The same misconduct was the basis of both convictions. Petitioners asked the court to override United States v. Lanza, 260 U.S. 377, 43 S.Ct. 141, 67 L.Ed. 314 (1922), wherein it had squarely upheld a federal prosecution arising out of the same facts which had been the basis of a state conviction. The Court, however, found no persuasive reason for departing from the firmly established principle to which we have just alluded. On the contrary, it observed that "undesirable consequences would follow if Lanza were overruled." Abbate v. United States, 359 U.S. at 195, 79 S.Ct. at 671. In Abbate, an express federal statute made it illegal to conspire to destroy telephone facilities which were essential parts of communications systems operated and controlled by the federal government. See 18 U.S.C. 371, 1362. This was an offense distinct from the state crime of conspiracy to injure and destroy the property of another. The Court recognized as much in its reasoning that defendants' actions had "impinge(d) more seriously on a federal interest than on a state interest." 359 U.S. at 195, 79 S.Ct. at 671.