Photograph of 11 members of the National Committee of the Communist Party of the United States during their Smith Act Trial: seated, from left, Robert Thompson, Henry Winston, Eugene Dennis, Gus Hall and John Williamson; standing, from left, Jack Stachel, Irving Potash, Carl Winter, Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., John Gates, and Gilbert Green. On July 20, 1948, a federal grand jury indicted 12 party members for conspiring to subvert the government. The indictment listed the acts of subversion as: organizing a political party dedicated to Marxism-Leninism; promoting Marxism-Leninism in publications; and establishing schools to teach the need to overthrow the government by force or violence. The "New York 12" were indicted under the Smith Act, which made it a crime to knowingly or willfully advocate the overthrow of any government in the U.S. by force or violence. The case of National Chairman William Z. Foster was severed from the trial, because Foster was seriously ill. The trial of the remaining 11 defendants began on Jan. 17, 1949, in the U.S. District Courthouse in Foley Square, New York City. At the conclusion of the nine-month trial, 10 defendants were fined $10,000 and sentenced to five years in prison. Robert G. Thompson was sentenced to only three years because he had received the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery during World War II. Defendants appealed their convictions, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 1951 upheld the trial court's decision.
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