Law School Case Brief
United States v. Alfisi - 308 F.3d 144 (2d Cir. 2002)
The corrupt intent necessary to a bribery conviction is in the nature of a quid pro quo requirement; that is, there must be a specific intent to give something of value in exchange for an official act. The element of a quid pro quo or a direct exchange is absent from the offense of paying an unlawful gratuity. To commit that offense, it is enough that the payment be a reward for a past official act or made in the hope of obtaining general good will in the payee's performance of official acts off in the future.
Defendant, a representative of a produce broker, was caught in a sting operation paying funds to a United States Department of Agriculture produce inspector. Under 18 U.S.C.S. § 201, the bribery provision, 18 U.S.C.S. § 201(b)(1)(A), required that the payor intended to influence an official act corruptly, while the payment of an unlawful gratuity, which was a lesser included offense of bribery, required only that the payment be "for or because of" an official act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 201(c)(1)(A). In the initial jury charge, the district court confused the distinction, but when the jury requested clarification, the district court properly instructed it on the specific intent of corruption and quid pro quo element. The defendant was convicted in the District Court. On appeal, defendant argued that the district court’s jury instructions did not adequately distinguish the elements of bribery from those of paying unlawful gratuities.
Did the jury’s instructions adequately distinguish the elements of bribery from those of paying unlawful gratuities, thereby, justifying defendant’s conviction?
The Court of Appeals noted that the jury evidently found the district court’s instructions somewhat ambiguous with regard to the difference between bribery and paying unlawful gratuities and asked the court for clarification. In response, the district court described bribery as the giving of money to a public official "for or because of an official act [and] with a corrupt intention specifically to influence the outcome of the official act." The Court held that the modified instruction clearly set out the quid pro quo requirement, and, accordingly, any ambiguity in the original jury instructions was cured.
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