Can a Man Steal His Own Letters?

In the United States Circuit Court at New York, on Tuesday, William Slavin, alias Sawyer, was put on trial for stealing his own letters from the post office. We quote from the Commercial Advertiser. The defendant went by the name of Slavin in Rhode Island, and on moving to New York, took the name of Sawyer. He was in the habit of receiving letters at the post office addressed to him by the name of Sawyer. The post office agent, suspecting that he took letters not belonging to him, placed a decoy letter containing, among other papers, a bogus check on the Bank of the Republic. Slavin got the letter, took the check to the bank and was in the act of endorsing it when he was arrested. A point was raised that he took a letter addressed to him by his adopted name and consequently could not steal his own letter.

The judge charged that a man could be guilty of crime when in reality the letter was addressed to him, if, after obtaining it, he discovered it was not intended for him and appropriated the contents to his own use. But the indictment charged him with a letter not addressed to him. This was not so. The letter was addressed to him, and the indictment was consequently irregular, and, in case of mistakes, the prisoner was entitled to the benefit of them.

The jury found a verdict of not guilty. In reply to a question, by a juror, the Court stated that the government had a right to indict a decoy letter.

Charleston (South Carolina) Courier Tri-Weekly, January 31, 1860.