February 9, 2007
DC Circuit Reverses Illegal Gratuities Conviction of Police Detective
The D.C. Court of Appeals en banc (7-5) reversed the conviction of a veteran D.C. police detective who had been convicted of three counts of accepting an illegal gratuity under section 201(c)(1)(B) of title 18. In Valdes v. U.S., the D.C. Circuit found that the acts did not meet the statute and that the jury charge was in error. The court stated that "both the precedent and the language of the statute make clear that section 201 is not about officials' moonlighting, or their misuse of government resources, or the two in combination." The court discusses the appropriate definition of what constitutes an "official act" under this statute noting that "[b]ecause the government failed to show that the payments received by [ ] were for any 'decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy, which may at any time be pending, or which may by law be brought before any public official' as required by 18 U.S.C. s 201, the judgment of conviction is reversed."
An NACDL press release summarizes the facts as follows:
Valdes, a decorated cop, was working security at a D.C. nightclub when he was befriended by an FBI undercover agent posing as a federal judge, who asked him to retrieve publicly available information from his police department computer. The phony judge insisted on tipping Valdes for the favors, but the detective demurred. When Valdes reluctantly accepted [$300] in gifts from the "judge," the FBI pounced.
An amicus brief was filed in this case by Attorneys Blair G. Brown and Barak Cohen of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.
(esp) (w/ a hat tip to jack King)
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Congratulations are in order to Valdes' counsel Paul Zukerberg, Washington, DC, who has been zealously litigating this case for quite nearly 6 years! DOJ's overly broad interpretation of "for or because" of an "official act" has been giving them the gift of prosecuting public officials where no actual crime occurred.
Cf. "perjury trap"
Posted by: G Jack King | Feb 11, 2007 5:59:31 AM