California letter carrier Henry Lee Monday appealed his conviction for stealing $40 from a “test letter” planted by Postal Inspectors, claiming he wasn’t going to keep the money. Here are excerpts from the case:
Henry Lee Monday appeals his conviction by a jury of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1709, which, in pertinent part, provides felony penalties for a United States Postal Service employee entrusted with mail who “steals, abstracts, or removes from any such letter, package, bag, or mail, any article or thing contained therein . . . .” Monday does not dispute the essential facts of the case, which establish that, while delivering mail as a Postal Service letter carrier, he opened a letter containing a birthday card, removed $40 in cash from the card, and used a portion of those funds to purchase snack food from a liquor store. Monday’s sole contention is that the district court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that, to convict, the government was required to prove that Monday had the specific intent permanently to deprive the owner of the money that he removed.
We conclude that the statute, in prohibiting Postal Employees from removing contents from mailed items, contains no such specific intent requirement. We therefore affirm Monday’s conviction.
A factual twist in this case is that the incriminating letter was a “test letter” placed in the mail by postal inspectors who were conducting an investigation of Monday for mail theft. At trial, Monday attempted to turn this fact to his advantage by testifying that he “knew the letter was a ‘plant’ ” but opened it “because [he] had a lot of things on [his] mind that [he] had wanted to discuss with the postal inspectors, and [he] figured at that time that they would come and arrest [him] or do what they had to do so [he] could talk to them.” He stated that he did not intend to steal the money. Had the district court instructed the jury that conviction required proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Monday “intended to permanently deprive” the Government of its money, as Monday proposed, this rather novel defense might at least have made theoretical sense. Under the instruction actually given by the court, however, the only mental element that the Government had to prove was that Monday took the money “knowing that it belonged to someone else,” a fact to which Monday had already attested.
Monday was properly convicted of removing money from a mailed letter in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1709. That offense does not include an element of specific intent permanently to deprive the owner of the money of its property. The district court accordingly did not err in refusing to instruct the jury on that element. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
Here is the full decision– United States of America v. Henry Lee Monday, Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California