Judge agrees with jury in 1933 $20 decision

Nov. 10 hearing puts coins' fate closer to resolution
Published : 11/14/11
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The fate of the 10 Langbord 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles came closer to finality in a brief Nov. 10 hearing in Philadelphia where Judge Legrome D. Davis agreed with a jury’s decision that awarded the coins to the government.

On July 20, a 10-member jury found that the government owns 10 1933 double eagles that were allegedly found in 2003 by Joan Langbord in a safe deposit box that belonged to the Langbord family. While the government claims that her father, Israel Switt, effectively stole the coins from the Mint, the Langbord family has argued that there was a short window of opportunity when gold for gold trades occurred at the Mint, and that 1933 double eagles could have been legally paid out from the Mint Cashier’s window.

On Nov. 10, Judge Davis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held a hearing to allow the government and the Langbord family to present additional evidence and oral arguments on the pending declaratory judgment claim. Judge Davis could grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law if he decided after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government that the evidence was insufficient for the jury to reasonably reach its conclusion.

The Langbord family has contended that the government failed to prove that the coins were taken from the Mint with specific criminal intent, and that the jury had insufficient evidence to reasonably decide on whether the coins were paid out legally.

Judge Davis noted at the hearing that he could not make any findings that were inconsistent with the jury, and that he did not intend to do so. In describing the trial, Judge Davis organized the testimony into two groups. The first dealt with the circumstances at the Mint and its accounting practices around 1933, and the second was about the evidence and information regarding the circumstances of Switt’s possession and knowledge of the coins.

Judge Davis went on to state, “I find as a fact that the records are complete,” finding that the records as presented by the government at trial fully accounted for the movement of the 1933 double eagles and that they conclusively established that none of the coins were paid out by the Mint’s Cashier. Judge Davis concluded, based on the evidence, that with every coin accounted for, legal title could not have passed to anyone other than the government.

Regarding the Langbord’s witnesses, Judge Davis stated that he found Joan Langbord’s testimony unconvincing and that it was both “self-serving” and not believable because of the number of trips that she had made to the safe deposit box prior to the coin’s alleged discovery.

At the trial, records were presented showing that Mrs. Langbord made numerous trips to the safe deposit box that contained the 1933 double eagles, although in those trips she allegedly only examined jewelry and was not aware that the coins were in the box. Judge Davis said that her testimony — and the discovery of the coins only after the example allegedly owned by Egypt’s King Farouk sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $7.59 million — “did not ring true.”

While Judge Davis ruled in favor of the government on its motion for declaratory judgment, he concluded the hearing by complimenting the lawyers on both sides, telling them that the case was well-tried and that it had been a pleasure to work with them. ■

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