Supreme Court upholds Baltimore City Police extortion conviction

Supreme Court upholds Baltimore City Police extortion conviction

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Photo: Davis Staedtler

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 5-3 decision that participants in a conspiracy can steal property from themselves and it still can qualify as a crime.

Samuel Ocasio, a Baltimore police officer, was arrested and charged under the Hobbs Act for extortion and bribery and conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery in his official capacity as a police officer. The Hobbs Act makes it illegal to engage in a conspiracy (an agreement to commit a crime) to extort property.

The prosecution alleged Ocasio, in his official capacity as a police official facilitated a kickback scheme between officers and the brother-owners of a car repair shop, Majestic Auto Repair. The Moreno and Mejia brothers, agreed to pay Ocasio and the other officers an amount ranging from $150 to $300 for every car Ocasio and other officers steered toward the shop after wrecks.

Ocasio and the brothers were arrested and charged under the federal conspiracy act, the Hobbs Act.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Court’s opinion in Ocasio v. United States that  the federal government only needs to prove intent.

The Court explained in its opinion: “Moreno, and Mejia “share[d] a common purpose,” namely, that petitioner and other police officers would commit every element of the substantive extortion offense.”

Both Associate Justice Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor filed dissenting opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts joined Sotomayor’s dissent.

In Thomas’ dissent he said, “[T]he Court holds that an extortionist can conspire to commit extortion with the person whom he is extorting… and exposes the flaw in this Court’s understanding of extortion.”

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