United States v. Peoni

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United States v. Peoni, 100 F.2d 401 (2d Cir. 1938), was a criminal case that the prosecution must establish that the mental state (mens rea) of an accomplice to a crime include a purpose to aid or encourage, and thereby facilitate the criminal conduct of the principal.[1][2]:761 This showing of purpose is contrasted with showing knowledge that the principal would commit the crime, which does not necessarily imply that the purpose of acting to aid or abet was to facilitate the criminal act of the principal.[2]:761

Factual background[edit]

The defendant Peoni possessed bills that he knew to be counterfeit, he sold the bills to Regno, and Regno sold the bills to Dorsey. Dorsey was arrested with the bills while trying to pass them in Brooklyn, at the trial level, Peoni was convicted as an accomplice to Dorsey's possession of the counterfeit bills.[3]


In an opinion by Judge Learned Hand, the Second Circuit reversed Peoni's conviction, the court looked to the statute under which Peoni was indicted, 18 U.S.C. §550 (the predecessor to 18 U.S.C. §2), which punished anyone who "aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures" the commission of a crime. The court read this language to require purpose, and held that Peoni had no purpose regarding the use of the counterfeit bills once he had passed them to Regno. Peoni had no purpose regarding Dorsey's possession because Regno was free to do whatever he wanted with the bills.[4]


  1. ^ Bonnie, R.J. et al. Criminal Law, Second Edition. Foundation Press, New York, NY: 2004, p. 692
  2. ^ a b Criminal Law - Cases and Materials, 7th ed. 2012, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business; John Kaplan, Robert Weisberg, Guyora Binder, ISBN 978-1-4548-0698-1, [1]
  3. ^ Bonnie, p. 691
  4. ^ Bonnie, p. 692