UNITED STATES VS CORDOVA, 1950
United States District Court E.D. New York, NO- CR 42082.
J. Vincent Keogah , United States Attorney, Brooklyn, New York, for plaintiff.
Dominic M. Mello, Brroklyn, New York, for defendant, Cordova.
KENNEDY, District Judge.
On March 30 1949, one information was filed against the defendant Cordova, along with one Santano, the charge consisting of four counts:-
- That on august 2, 1948 Cordova assaulted one Machada, pilot of an airplane owned by Flying Tigers, Inc, an American corporation, while the plane was flying over the high seas from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to New York.
- That at the same time and place Cordova Assaulted one Santiago, stewardess of the air carrier.
- That at the same time and same place Cordova assaulted the co-defendant Santano.
- That at the same time and same place Santano assaulted Cordova.
As will appear shortly, after the facts have been outlined, the revision of the criminal code has no bearing on the case the relevant statutes are substantially the same now as they were at the time of the offences set forth in the information. When the trial commenced, the government moved to dismiss the fourth count of the information, a jury was waived and the cause was tied to the court. Motions appropriate to challenge the jurisdiction of the court over the offences charged were made at every stage of the case. These included a motion addressed to the information, a motion for the direction of an acquittal at the end of the government’s case, and the same motion at the end of the whole case, coupled with a motion in arrest of judgment.
The facts are simple and clear. At 6:42p.m. New York time, the carrier plane DC4 No. NC-90911 took off from San Juan Airfield in Puerto Rico, bound for New York. On board when the flight began were 60 passengers and 6 crew members. Of the passengers were 43 adults, 11 were children below 2 years of age and 6 were children over that age.
At 8:15p.m. august 2, 1948 the plane travelling at an air speed of 180 m.p.h was over the Atlantic Ocean on a course 324 degrees true bound for Charleston, having been on her course for 1 hour 30 minutes. At that time the plane became tail heavy, and indicated air speed fall. The nose was rising so fast that the automatic pilot could not make corrections which would keep the ship on an even keel, and it became necessary to adjust the instrument. At this juncture the steward notified the pilot Machada that there is a fight going in the passenger compartment. Later they found out that a crowd had gathered to see the fight which further lead to making the tail heavy of the plane.
Machada intervened, with the result that the defendant Cordova bit him on the shoulder. Cordova and Santano had been toasting each other effusively for the first part of the flight, but soon arose. Both of them started fighting. Machada began to hold Cordova’s arms. At that time weather being warm, Machada was wearing no flight jacket, and Cordova in order to free himself bit Machada in the shoulder which led to drawing blood and necessitating first aid treatment. Eventually, Cordova was locked up in a compartment.
The flight landed at La Guardia Field at 4:45a.m 3rd August 1948. Cordova and Santano were immediately apprehended in the district and charged with assault.It thus appears that the venue requirements of the statute, 28 U.S.C.A102, heretofore quoted in the margin, are satisfied if a crime within the jurisdiction of United States courts was committed. It is also plain that Cordova did, in fact, and without just cause or excuse strike and bit Marchada.
But the statute condemning striking, wounding, beating and simple assault within the admirality and maritime jurisdiction of the United States does not become operative unless the acts complained meet one of the two tests, namely:-
- Were those acts committed on the high seas, or any other waters within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of United States and out of the jurisdiction of any particular state?
- Were those acts committed within the admiralty jurisdiction of any particular state on board any vessel belonging in whole or in part to the United States or any citizen thereof or any corporation created by or under the laws of the United States or of any state, territory?
The second question gives less difficulty than the other, and perhaps should be dealt with first. The answer ought to be made turns on the question whether an airplane is a vessel, within the meaning of the statute and obviously the answer should in the negative.
The acts for which Cordova stands charged were vicious in the extreme. He jeopardized the lives of others on the plane, including a considerable number of infants.
I, therefore, find Cordova guilty of the acts charged. But I must arrest judgment of conviction since there is no federal jurisdiction to punish those acts.
Thank You. Jai Hind.
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