Sekhar v. United States
January 11, 2013
Case #: 12-357
Court Below: Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 683 F.3d.436 (2012)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/0fed448a-74f3-42f2-b723-d352b1a8808e/1/doc/11-4298_opn.pdf
Criminal Law: Whether a government agent’s "recommendation" is intangible property capable of being extorted under the Hobbs Act and 18 U.S.C. §875(d).
Petitioner was convicted of attempted extortion under 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) (the Hobbs Act), and of interstate transmission of extortionate threats under 18 U.S.C. § 875(d), after he threatened to disclose personal information about the General Counsel of the New York State Comptroller’s Office, unless the General Counsel recanted a recommended rejection of Petitioner’s business proposal.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court and explained that under the Hobbs Act “[w]hoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do” is subject to criminal liability. Despite Petitioner’s argument that the right to make a “recommendation” is not a property right and that the right was not appropriated or exercised, the Second Circuit held that property is “any valuable right considered as a source or element of wealth” and that because a “lawyer’s stock in trade is the sale of legal services” that the General Counsel “had a property right in rendering sound legal advice to the Comptroller . . . free from threats.”
The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a “recommendation” from a government agent qualifies as intangible property capable of being extorted under the Hobbs Act and 18 U.S.C. §875(d).