Unpublished Disposition, 937 F.2d 614 (9th Cir. 1991)

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 937 F.2d 614 (9th Cir. 1991)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,v.Stefan PAAL, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 90-10480.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Submitted June 11, 1991.* Decided July 5, 1991.

Before BEEZER, NOONAN and FERNANDEZ, Circuit Judges.


Stefan Paal appeals his conviction of using a visa procured by means of fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001, 1546. We affirm.

* Each of Paal's allegations of error is essentially that there was not sufficient evidence to support the district court's findings and conclusions. In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the government and determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Arriaga-Segura, 743 F.2d 1434, 1435 (9th Cir. 1984).

Paal's first contention is that the evidence was insufficient to support the finding that Paal was asked, in the course of applying for his visa, Question 35, which required him to state whether he had ever been involved in Nazi persecution. Paal's actual visa application no longer exists. However, Paal's visa was granted in January 1983 and the question relating to Nazi persecution became a part of the application form in mid-1982. Mary von Briesen, who was Chief of the Visa Section of the Stuttgart Consulate in 1982 and 1983, testified that Question 35 was considered the most important question on the form and that after it was added to the form, her staff refused to accept the older forms. She testified further that the old and new forms were dramatically different, so that it was very unlikely that an old form would have been accepted by mistake. This is sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the district court's finding that Paal's visa application form included Question 35.

Paal next contends that the court erred in finding that he answered "no" to Question 35. Paal stated that if he had answered such a question, he would have answered negatively. Furthermore, von Briesen testified that visa applications were reviewed twice and that no visa would have been issued if Question 35 was unanswered. She also testified that if an application answered "yes" to Question 35, the visa would not have been issued without an interview, in which case the passport would be stamped to indicate that the visa could not be issued immediately. Paal's passport did not contain such a stamp. This is sufficient evidence to support the district court's finding that Paal answered "no" to Question 35 on his visa application.1 

Paal's final argument is that the only evidence that he was a camp guard at Auschwitz was his own admission and that there was not sufficient independent corroboration of this admission to support the finding that he was a guard.2  "The government must introduce sufficient evidence that tends to establish that a defendant's admission is trustworthy." United States v. Miller, 874 F.2d 1255, 1279 (9th Cir. 1989). It is sufficient, however, if the corroboration " 'merely fortifies the truth of the confession, without independently establishing the crime charged.' " Id. at 1280 (quoting Smith v. United States, 348 U.S. 147, 156 (1954)). Independent evidence is important because it shows the trustworthiness of the admission. See id.; United States v. Taylor, 802 F.2d 1108, 1117 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1094 (1987).

The district court found that Paal was a camp guard at Auschwitz on the basis of his "uncontroverted" statement, "buttressed by Paal's tattoo, description of his uniform, German ethnicity, and the fact that he remembered the Birkenau commander's name as Kramer." With the exception of the last fact, this evidence supports only the fact that Paal was a member of the Sonechutzstaffel (SS); it is irrelevant to establishing where he served as an SS member.

An expert on modern German history testified that both the Commandant and Deputy Commandant of the Birkenau-Auschwitz death camp were named Kramer, and that such information was highly confidential. Additional corroboration of Paal's admission is found in his statement that the barracks in which he lived while at Auschwitz were outside the camp. The expert testified that all SS guard units were housed in a complex outside the camp. These two pieces of evidence "fortify the truth" of Paal's admission sufficiently to establish that the admission was trustworthy.


The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.


The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a); Ninth Circuit Rule 34-4


This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by Ninth Cir.R. 36-3


Paal also argues that his own admission is the only evidence that he ever completed a visa application or answered "no" to Question 35. The discussion above disposes of that contention


During the course of his interview with the INS agent, Paal admitted that he was stationed at Auschwitz, but stated that he did not serve as a camp guard there. He then stated that, on occasion, he did work as a guard inside the camp. An expert on modern German history testified that all SS guards at Auschwitz served as camp guards and were involved in persecution. If Paal was indeed at Auschwitz, this testimony is sufficient to support the finding that he participated in persecution. See Fedorenko v. United States, 449 U.S. 490, 512-13 n. 34 (1981)