Thursday, July 30, 2009

William Jefferson's Case In the Hands of the Jury

The press (e.g., Washington Post here; here; BLT Blog here) is reporting that the jury will receive ex-congressman's William Jefferson's case tomorrow. The Indictment  included counts related to bribery, RICO, money laundering, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and Obstruction of Justice. 

From these press reports, it sounds like one interesting question that the jury will be examining is whether his activities meet the definition of an "official act" for purposes of the bribery statute. The government is required to prove that the accused acted corruptly to influence an official act.  The statute defines "official act" as "any decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy, which may by law be brought before any public official, in such official's official capacity, or in such official's place of trust or profit." The definition has been the subject of prior court controversy.  For example, in the case of U.S. v. Muntain(DC Cir. 1979) the defendant argued "that his actions were not 'official acts'  in that they did not involve matters that would be brought before him in his official capacity. The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals accepted this argument, finding that the promotion of group automobile insurance was not a matter that would be brought before Muntain in his capacity as the Secretary of Labor Relations at HUD." See Podgor & Israel, White Collar Crime in a Nutshell 4th 115 (2009).


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