Friday, December 7th, 2007

Graft Dodger

United States v. Ganim, No. 03-1448-cr (2d Cir. December 4, 2007) (Jacobs, Sotomayor, Wesley, CJJ)

Until his downfall, Joe Ganim was the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 2003, he was convicted of racketeering, bribery and other offenses arising out of a bribery and kickback scheme. In essence, he had a fee-splitting arrangement with public relations and engineering firms to which he would steer city business in exchange for “cash, meals, fitness equipment, designer clothing, wine, [and] jewelry.” At trial, he acknowledged receiving these “gifts,” but asserted that they represented tokens of friendship and legitimate lobbying activity. The jury felt otherwise, however, and Ganim ultimately received a 108-month sentence.

On appeal, he took issue with the district court’s jury instructions with respect to the various bribery-related crimes of which he was convicted: bribery, bribe receiving, extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, and “honest services” mail fraud. His claim was that in situations where a bribe is given in exchange for a future act, the government is required to prove a “direct link” between the benefit received and a specifically identified future official act. The court disagreed, and affirmed his conviction. The “requisite quid pro quo … may be satisfied [by] a showing that a government official received a benefit in exchange for his promise to perform official acts or to perform such acts as the opportunities arise.” The government need not draw “direct link” between the bribe and a particular future act.

Hmmm. The court’s rule sure sounds like it covers plain old lobbying. But, anyway, that’s the law.

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