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Prosecution of DC Federal Public Corruption Cases

Public corruption cases are often prosecuted very seriously and often in a very public way. As a result, it is important that if faced with these charges you know what to expect and what needs to be proven against you. To discuss your charges in further detail and begin planning a defense, consult with a DC federal public corruption lawyer. Should you want the advice, a skilled attorney can walk you through what to expect from the prosecution of DC federal public corruption cases.

Definition Public Corruption

Public corruption is a breach of trust or the abuse of an individual’s position. It is any scenario where someone is in a federal, state, or a local public position and accepts something of value to be influenced in the performance of their duties.

Public corruption is often in the form of bribery. There are also kickbacks, meaning, a government official is in charge of selecting a company to perform a contract working with the government and agrees to select a particular bidder in exchange for that bidder making a payment to them. That is the type of public corruption that the US Attorney’s Office takes extremely seriously. They have a specifically designated unit, the Public Corruption Unit, to follow-up and root that out.

What Needs to Be Proved

In the prosecution of DC federal public corruption cases, the focus many times is on intent and the transaction that took place. In any type of corruption or bribery case, there has to be intent, this requirement is encompassed in the bribery statutes. There is also a focus on the thing of value that was given. Sometimes the focus is not always on the allegation, it is on money and the benefit conferred in exchange for that thing of value. This is sometimes difficult to prove.

Who Prosecutes Bribery and Corruption Cases

The United States Attorney’s Office has a specific section called the Fraud and Public Corruption Section. Prosecutors in this section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecute bribery and corruption cases. Typically, prosecutors try to record people’s phones and search emails. They subpoena phone records, tax records, and social media accounts. They talk to witnesses and use cooperating witnesses and potentially, undercover agents to prove the elements in bribery cases.

Intensity of the Prosecution

Federal public corruption cases tend to be vigorously prosecuted. The US Attorney’s Office has a specific public corruption unit to prosecute these cases. Situations of rape, murder, and horrendous violent crimes are always prosecuted vigorously. But those cases, except in DC, are rarely prosecuted by federal prosecutors because they involve violations of state law.

However, there are federal murder cases when the murder crosses state borders, involves drug trafficking, or occurs on a ship at sea. When a federal elected or appointed official or a law enforcement officer or judge is murdered; that is also prosecuted at the federal level.

The District of Columbia is unique because federal prosecutors handle state level cases. They vigorously pursue violent offenses in DC Superior Court. However, white collar crime federal court cases and public corruption cases are their highest priorities because they completely undermine the bedrock principles of our democracy. To have a public official bribed is considered horrendous by the US Attorney’s Office and therefore the prosecution of DC federal public corruption cases is significant.

Public Nature of the Offense

Their very nature dictates that they are prosecuted in a more public way. Due to the fact that it involves public officials, the media is more interested. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in DC places a high priority on these cases, even issuing press releases. In public and through the media, the perception is that they vigorously prosecute these cases. They want to be known as the office that vigorously and aggressively prosecutes government corruption cases.

Evidence Typically Presented in Corruption Cases

Regarding intent, if there is often no direct evidence such as a conversation captured on a wiretap or an e-mail. Rather, investigators look at circumstantial evidence to prove intent. They look for witnesses and at the level of sophistication alleged in the transaction to show intent. They look at the circumstances surrounding the transaction to see if they can prove intent; which can be a difficult thing to show in a bribery case.

Any or all of these elements are going to be hotly contested in court. These are some of the most aggressively litigated types of cases because, for the person who is accused, their reputation and their career are at stake. When a public official is accused of corruption, even the charge being brought carries such a stigma, even more so than a lot of other cases. As a result, these types of charges are contested very vigorously.

Proving a Promise that Never Materialized

In the process of building their case, prosecutors first look for direct evidence. They look at emails and other communications where they might find an indication. However, sometimes the prosecution alleges that a promise took place even though an exchange of goods never did. In that case, they tend to examine the timing of certain actions and the chronology of events becomes important. For instance, there may be phone calls, but investigators do not know what was said during them, but after those phone calls, a particular action was taken. They try to derive from that the promise or the agreement that was made.

Key Aspects of a Bribery Case

When it comes to prosecution of DC federal public corruption cases, the key aspects are that prosecutors look for evidence of a promise, evidence of the conferring of a benefit or thing of value, any evidence they can find. Prosecutors focus on the chronology of events, for example, the timing of phone calls, when contracts are granted, or when other benefits or what could be determined to be deemed benefits are transferred.

These are the primary things prosecutors look for. Facts that they can drive home to a jury to help their case.

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