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In a situation where a lesser included offense statute under which a defendant was convicted is relatively remote textually from the greater offense statute under which he was charged or where the logical connection between the statutes is not obvious or well established, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit might hold that the lesser included offense conviction could not stand for want of proper notice in the indictment. In such a situation, the courts holding would depend on the precise record of the case and the terms of the specific statutes involved.
Daniel B. Brewster, a United States senator, allegedly had accepted money intended to influence his vote. Brewster appealed his conviction – three counts of an indictment charging violations of 18 U.S.C. § 201(c) (1), Bribery of Public Officials and Witnesses.
Was Section 201(g) erroneously designated and charged as a lesser included offense under section 201(c) (1)?
The court held that accepting an illegal gratuity was a lesser included offense of bribery. At issue was whether the proof on the elements differentiating the two crimes was sufficiently in dispute so that the jury could consistently find Brewster innocent of the greater and guilty of the lesser included offense. The primary differing element was intent, in that bribery required corrupt intent, while accepting illegal gratuities required only that it be done otherwise than as provided by law, and intent had been vigorously argued at trial. Furthermore, Brewster was put on notice of the need to defend against the lesser included offense by the similar language, textual proximity, and logical relationship of § 201(c)(1) and § 201(g). The court held that § 201(g) was not unconstitutional for vagueness or overbreadth. The statute gave persons of ordinary intelligence reasonable opportunity to know what was prohibited. However, the court reversed because the jury instructions as a whole could have misled the jury as to, inter alia, the element of intent.