Ocasio v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: March 2, 2015
  • Case #: 14-361
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 750 F.3d 399 (4th Cir. 2014)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the federal statute forbidding extortion requires a conspiracy to commit extortion to target a victim outside the conspiracy.

Petitioner is a police officer. He is one of many officers who took bribes from the owners of an auto repair shop for referring customers who had been involved in accidents. The FBI charged Petitioner with several counts of extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion.

The trial court denied Petitioner’s motion to dismiss the conspiracy charge for failure to state a claim, rejected Petitioner’s proposed jury instruction, and denied Petitioner’s motion to acquit; all of which were based on U.S. v. Brock, 501 F.3d 762 (6th Circ. 2007). Brock held that a conspiracy to extort must target a victim outside the conspiracy. The trial court, and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, relied on U.S. v. Spitler, 800 F.2d 1267 (4th Cir. 1986), which distinguished between conspirators who “merely acquiesced” and those who “actively participated” in the conspiracy. This has created a split between the fourth and sixth circuits regarding the ability of a conspiracy to commit extortion to extort one of its conspirators.

The thrust of Petitioner’s argument is that the plain language of the statute requires an extorter to receive property “from another.” Viewed from the perspective of a conspiracy to commit extortion, the conspirators must be obtaining property from “another,” that is, someone outside the conspiracy.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to settle the split among the circuit and to determine the ability of a conspiracy to commit extortion to extort one of its conspirators.

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