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The Case
The Verdict
The Precedent

The Case

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant to the Attorney General, Mr. John Lord O’Brian. Charles Schenck, was the general secretary of the Socialist Party in the United States. In 1919 he was arrested for conspiring to print and circulate papers that encouraged people not to join the army and avoid the draft. He was charged on three counts. The first count for which Schenck was charged is the conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act of June 15th 1917. The second count was the conspiracy to commit an offence against the United States. Finally, the third count being the use of the mail system of the United States to commit said conspiracies. In his defense Schenck said that the Espionage Act violated his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and press. This violation of the first amendment is a very big charge. He also mentioned that the pamphlets were obtained without a reasonable doubt of a crime. These however did not save him in the eyes of the court. The judges responsible for the case countered by saying that in times of war acts that are normally protected, must be expended in order to insure victory.

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