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Our lawyers are experienced in defending elected officials, government employees and business people in federal bribery cases.

What Counts as Bribery?

A wide variety of acts by elected and appointed government officials and government employees may be categorized as public corruption.  Customarily,acts of public corruption involve bribery, an abuse of power, or misappropriation of funds. Incidences of public corruption can take place in any branch and at all levels of government.  Cases come from local police departments and city commissions all the way up to the U.S. Congress and federal executive agencies. Public corruption laws are on the books to ensure that our government is operated fairly and that taxpayer funds are not misused. Regrettably, the numerous federal statutes used to prosecute public corruption tend to be rather ambiguous.  This, coupled with the level of understanding elected officials have of these laws, has led to many prosecutions (and convictions) for acts that were not clearly criminal.

Some of the federal statutes govern bribery of public officials and acceptance of bribes by public officials. Federal bribery statutes forbid individuals or organizations from corruptly giving, offering, or promising anything of value to a federal public official or appointee with the intent of influencing him or her to perform an official act or to commit fraud. The statute also prohibits the act of receiving those same types of bribes by public officials and appointees. Bribery statutes also prohibit the payment and receipt of “illegal gratuities.”  The term “illegal gratuity” describes payments or gifts given in exchange for some official act, but without the “quid pro quo” of an actual bribe. Whereas conviction for giving or receiving an illegal gratuity can get you a 2-year prison sentence, a bribery conviction carries up to 15 years of incarceration and potentially enormous fines.

A Recent Examples of Federal Bribery Allegations

Bribery may happen in a broad swath of exchanges. Unpopular public officials are often accused of bribery in certain circumstances.  Similarly, unpopular decisions made by elected officials are often assumed to indicate that a bribe was involved.  For example, the Department of Justice has been reportedly investigating outgoing President Donald Trump for possibly taking bribes for his the recent pardons he has been granting certain individuals. According to the BBC, the DOJ believes that persons “appear to have “acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials without complying with the registration requirements” for such activity.”  They say the goal “may have been to secure “a pardon or reprieve of sentence” for another unidentified individual.”  They have confiscated emails as part of their investigation into this matter.

Legislation Used as Tools by Prosecutors in Bribery Cases

In bribery proceedings, prosecutors have been known to employ certain tools for prosecuting state and local officials. Among these are the the Hobbs Act, federal Mail and Wire Fraud statutes and the RICO Act. Although these laws were not created by Congress to be used in this manner, the courts have consistently permitted federal prosecutors to wield them at their discretion to prosecute “offenses ” committed by state and local officials. One perverse outcome of this unintended use of these laws is that federal prosecutors can opt to indict officials on charges that carry a lower burden of proof for them.  Another advantage is that they result in far higher penalties on conviction  than the actual bribery statute. On top of that, the broader, more ambiguous offenses frequently make it possible for the government to seize a defendant’s assets prior to trial. Often, the lack of assets deprives him of the ability to hire an attorney.

The Hobbs Act and RICO Act prohibit racketeering.  The word “racketeering” is a general word referring to organized crime. Nevertheless, it has now come to encompass a wide variety of acts not traditionally considered organized crime—including bribery of public officials.  This approach is subject to the creativity of federal prosecutors. In a racketeering case, prosecutors are obligated to demonstrate a pattern of certain predicate behaviors, such as as bribery, fraud,extortion,murder, embezzlement or drug trafficking. So, in a case where a public official accepted more than one bribe and the purpose of the bribes are somehow connected, he may then be prosecuted as a racketeer. If you get convicted under the RICO Act (with predicate acts of bribery), you could get a 20-year sentence, pay criminal fines as high as $250,000 (or twice the amount of any illegal profits), civil forfeitures of your real estate and personal property, and liability for civil damages of triple the amount of losses caused to others.

Possible Defenses in Federal Bribery Cases

An seasones attorney can successfully combat federal bribery charges using a number of different methods. To begin with , he will hold the prosecution to its burden of proving every single element of the crime charged. Frequently, a prosecution will fall apart where an “intent to influence” cannot be demonstrated, or where there is no clear indication of the “quid pro quo” exchange required to get a bribery conviction. In other scenatios, a defense could be raised on the grounds that a defendant is not at the time of arrest, a “public official” as defined by law, in which case a public corruption charge will fail.

Call Us Today

Our federal criminal defense team has successfully represented mayors, legislators, police officers, and other state and local government officials facing a long list of charges. We have experience in defend public officials facing charges for bribery, racketeering, money laundering, fraud, embezzlement and other offenses. If you are facing charges of government corruption and related crimes, call us today for your free consultation.


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