Supreme Court Overturns Conviction of Indiana Mayor on Bribery Charges

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2024 | Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes, Felonies |

Ruling Narrows the Scope of Federal Bribery Law

As we covered earlier this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of an Indiana mayor who was convicted in 2019 on federal bribery charges after he received $13,000 from a trucking company for consulting fees after he had previously selected the company for about $1 million worth of city contracts. In a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction, agreeing with the former-mayor’s argument that there was no quid-pro-quo to the arrangement between the company and then-mayor when the contract was awarded and represented a gift after the fact. “The question in this case is whether [the federal statute] also makes it a crime for state and local officials to accept gratuities — for example, gift cards, lunches, plaques, books, framed photos, or the like — that may be given as a token of appreciation after the official act. The answer is no.” Justice Kavanaugh wrote for the court’s majority. Fearing that the broad interpretation argued by the Department of Justice through a vague definition could “[unfairly] trap 19 million state and local officials” the court made it clear that the statute only applies to bribery and not after-the-fact gratuities. This ruling will have broad implications for anyone previously convicted under the statute or those who are facing charges at the federal level, such as former House Speaker Michael Madigan and individuals convicted in the ComEd bribery scandal who already saw their trials/sentencing postponed in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision handed down today. However, the ruling does not have an impact on those who are accused of violating state and local regulations of public officials’ ability to accept gratuities, or other federal statutes. This decision will severely impact the number of cases brought and the landscape of federal public corruption prosecutions, but the holding is limited: Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 666, criminalizes quid pro quo bribery before an act, but not gifts given in appreciation for an act that has already been completed.  Anyone under investigation or accused of accepting, soliciting, or paying a bribe should ensure they contact a criminal defense attorney familiar with the interplay between various state and federal laws and the ability of the government to prosecute alleged violations of the same.


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