Public corruption refers to a form of white collar crime that involves a breach of public trust, or abuse of power performed by a public official. Corruption can occur at the state or federal level when the corrupt person receives or solicits a bribe. All states including Massachusetts have laws that relate to public corruption, but a federal corruption charge can be more likely when the alleged person works in the federal government, or when there is a conspiracy to operate a public corruption scheme that goes over state lines. A federal government corruption charge is thought to be among the most serious that are currently prosecuted by the federal government.
Some of the related corruption criminal charges include:
- Official misconduct: This refers to unauthorized use of your official power; can also be refraining from doing public duties that are required by your employment.
- Bribery of a public official: This is where money is offered or accepted by a public official in return for influence on an action, vote, opinion or judgement.
- Official oppression: If you use your office to subject other people to any form of mistreatment, including arrest, seizure or detention, or attempted to prevent or deny other people from enjoying rights, you also can be charged with corruption.
Laws at the federal level on corruption outlaw a government official from demanding, soliciting, accepting, agreeing to or asking for any item that has value in return for changing or altering their federal official duties in any way, shape or form. A corruption charge is related to bribery. This is the charge at the federal level that is used when a person offers any public official an item of value to achieve an illegal advantage or gain in any type of public matter.
Corruption Crimes and Charges
Most states, including Massachusetts, recognize both felony and misdemeanor corruption charges, which can relate to an accidental or unintentional corruption act that related to some form of negligent or reckless behavior. Note that a federal corruption charge can be made worse with a state corruption charge, which is where the alleged act may have taken place. If you are charged with corruption, know that crimes is also related to:
- Bribery: The offering of an item of value to any state or federal public official for an illegal purpose. Corruption can be initiated by the corrupt person, but most state and federal corruption charges relate closely to bribery. For bribery to occur, there must be two people working together; this can be prosecuted as a federal conspiracy crime.
- Graft: This is illegally obtaining access to public money by any manner or means. Corruption charges can be enhanced with graft charges, if the person allegedly solicited access to the public money during the corrupt activities.
Corruption punishment at the state or federal level usually will include a prison sentence and a fine that relates to the value of the goods, money or services fraudulently obtained. If you are brought up on federal corruption charges, you can receive a prison sentence of 20 years or more. Those who are convicted of corruption are usually not permitted to run for office again. But the statute of limitations for a federal corruption charge is only five years.
Massachusetts Corruption Penalties
According to Massachusetts state statutes, a person who is found guilty of corruption in the state can be fined up to $100,000, and be put in prison for up to 10 years. If the corruption involves lower amounts, the possible sentence could be jail for up to 2.5 years. (MAlegislature.gov).
Federal and state corruption charges usually are filed with other charges. The defense your attorney chooses will vary on several factors.
- Your attorney must force the prosecutor to prove every element of the corruption charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Your attorney may question whether your title of ‘public official’ is valid or not.
- If there is a failure to show intent of committing corruption or there was no equal exchange, then there was no corruption crime.
Federal corruption cases have been going on for centuries, but these state and federal investigations are more common today as bigger corruption crimes are being committed. Below are some notable corruption cases:
- The FBI called the ‘Five Aces’ corruption case as one of the biggest in US history. The heart of corruption case involved an allegation of contract corruption and bribery that was estimated in the range of $50 million.
- Another famous corruption scandal at the federal level was the ‘Janet McDonald’ affair, which occurred in Detroit. In this case, there were many cases of extortion that were intended for many brothels in the city, as well as gambling houses. There eventually was a conviction of more than 150 people.
- In 2006, DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff was found guilty of corruption in one of the biggest cases in the history of the United States.
- Budd Dwyer: This public official was the Treasurer of Pennsylvania in the early 1980s. He was discovered to have engaged in a corruption scheme involving a $300,000 kickback on a $4.6 million contract. He refused to a plea deal and continued to say he was innocent. He was found guilty and got a sentence of 55 years in prison. He called a press conference in January 1987 to address the situation. He issued a statement criticizing the judge on the case. Then he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head on a live news broadcast. (com)
What to Do If You’re Charged
If you face a state or federal corruption charge from the US government or the state of Massachusetts, you should obtain strong legal defense as soon as possible. The US and state governments possess massive financial resources, and they will pursue a corruption charge against you aggressively. Attorney Geoffrey Nathan has an excellent record of success defending clients from corruption charges. He could prevent the from reaching trial and may get you a good plea deal. Or, he also can effectively represent you at trial. For a free consultation, please contact him at (617) 472-5775.
- Civil Penalties for Violations of the Conflict of Interest and Financial Disclosure. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mass.gov/service-details/civil-penalties-for-violations-of-the-conflict-of-interest-and-financial-disclosure
- 4 More Examples of American Political Corruption. (2005). Retrieved from http://mentalfloss.com/article/20340/4-more-examples-american-political-corruption