Law School Case Brief
Evans v. United States - 504 U.S. 255, 112 S. Ct. 1881 (1992)
In order to prove the offense of extortion "under color of official right" in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 1951, the Government need only show that a public official has obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was made in return for official acts.
As part of an investigation of allegations of public corruption in Georgia, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as a real estate developer initiated a number of conversations with petitioner Evans, an elected member of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. The agent sought Evans' assistance in an effort to rezone a tract of land and gave him $ 7,000 in cash, which Evans failed to report on his state campaign-financing disclosure form or his federal income tax return. In a subsequent prosecution by respondent United States, Evans was convicted in a federal district court of, among other things, extortion under the Hobbs Act, which was "the obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right." In affirming the conviction Evans' appeal, the court of appeals acknowledged that the district court's jury instruction did not require a finding that Evans had demanded or requested the money, or that he had conditioned the performance of any official act upon its receipt. However, it held that "passive acceptance of the benefit" was sufficient for a Hobbs Act violation if the public official knew that he was being offered the payment in exchange for a specific requested exercise of his official power.
In order to be convicted under the Hobbs Act, was it required that a public official make a demand or request for money in exchange for a specific requested exercise of his official power?
The Supreme Court of the United States held that an affirmative act of inducement by a public official, such as a demand, was not an element of the offense of extortion "under color of official right" prohibited by the Hobbs Act. According to the Court, unless otherwise shown, Congress was presumed to have adopted the common-law definition of extortion, which did not require that a public official make a demand or request. The Court ruled that in the case at bar, the government needed only to show that Evans obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was made in return for official acts. The wrongful acceptance of a bribe established all the inducement that the statute required. The offense was deemed consummated when Evans accepted the $ 7,000 from the agent—the fulfillment of the quid pro quo was not an element of the offense. The Court affirmed the decision of the appellate court.
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