In the past year, federal prosecutors have scored some high-profile victories in public corruption cases. Earlier this month, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to nearly 30 years in federal prison for his role in a wide-ranging scandal that produced convictions on charges of racketeering, extortion, bribery, mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, tax evasion and filing false tax returns.
Other former public officials have also been involved in illegal activities while in office. For example, in July, former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (Illinois) and his wife Sandi, a former Chicago alderman, pleaded guilty to misuse of campaign funds. In June, former US Representative Rick Renzi from Arizona was convicted of influence peddling.
Public corruption can take many forms, and according to the FBI, the frequency of official corruption investigations has increased by 60% in the last five years. In 2011, the last year for which conviction statistics are available, the federal government won 1,107 public corruption convictions.
What constitutes public corruption, how are public corruption cases investigated and prosecuted, and what is the federal conviction rate for persons convicted of public corruption? Here are three things you need to know about public corruption.
What is public corruption?
The FBI defines public corruption as “a breach of trust by federal, state, or local officials—often with the help of private sector accomplices.” Cases that involve high-profile politicians tend to grab headlines, but the majority of public corruption investigations and prosecutions are directed at ordinary individuals in positions of public trust.
Anyone, from high-ranking judges to parking meter attendants can be convicted under either federal or state public corruption statutes. Public corruption can include the theft of federal, state or local funds; fraud; bid-rigging and contracting irregularities; using a public position to influence the actions of others for personal benefit; misusing campaign funds; bribery; immigration fraud; election fraud; and even “ticket-fixing.” Generally, using the power and/or resources of a public position for personal gain is considered public corruption.
How is public corruption investigated and prosecuted?
The FBI says that public corruption cases receive the agency’s highest investigative priority because the impact of public corruption can be so negative. According to the FBI, public corruption can affect everything from national security to legislation, and wastes billions in public funds annually.
Public corruption can be prosecuted in either Federal Court or State Court. In a Federal prosecution, “official corruption” is a general category of related crimes that include bribery, money laundering, the misappropriation of federal disaster and economic stimulus funds, election-related crimes, border and immigration crimes, and using the power of an elected office to influence legislation for personal gain.
What is the federal conviction rate for public corruption?
The average federal conviction rate for all official corruption prosecutions in 2010, the last year for which comprehensive convictions analyses are available, was 90%. In that year, case filings increased by 15 percent over the previous year and case terminations dropped by 7 percent over the previous year. 57% of convicted defendants were sentenced to some form of incarceration. 26% of convicted defendants were sentenced to serve terms exceeding 3 years, and 11% of convicted defendants were sentenced to serve terms exceeding 5 years.
The FBI and other investigative agencies have significant access to sophisticated surveillance and intelligence-gathering technology. Often, the evidence they collect during surveillance is central to their case. While Federal investigators maintain that their use of these technologies is lawful, an experienced Federal criminal defense attorney may be able to prove that evidence was illegally collected or investigations were illegally conducted.
Federal public corruption charges can be serious, and can result in the possible loss of employment, the loss of personal assets, a felony conviction and incarceration. If you’re the subject of a public corruption investigation, you need the assistance of an experienced Federal criminal defense attorney like Robert M. Helfend.
Robert M. Helfend is a noted Federal criminal defense attorney located in the Los Angeles area, who practices Federal criminal defense throughout the United States. If you are facing Federal official corruption charges, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend toll-free at (800) 834-6434 or locally at (310) 456-3317, (818) 591-2809 or (805) 273-5611 for a consultation. Robert M. Helfend is an experienced Federal criminal defense attorney who can help!
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