Ocasio v. United States

PETITIONER: Samuel Ocasio
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Majestic Auto Repair Shop

DOCKET NO.: 14-361
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2016- )
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 578 US (2016)
GRANTED: Mar 02, 2015
ARGUED: Oct 06, 2015
DECIDED: May 02, 2016

ADVOCATES:
Allon Kedem - for the respondent
Ethan P. Davis - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Samuel Ocasio was a police officer of the Baltimore Police Department who was indicted in connection with a kickback scheme involving payments to police officers in exchange for referrals to Majestic Auto Repair Shop (Majestic). The indictment charged Ocasio with conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act by agreeing to unlawfully obtain money or property under color of right from Majestic. The jury convicted Ocasio, and he appealed by arguing that he cannot be guilty of conspiring to commit extortion with the owners of Majestic because they were also the victims of the conspiracy, and the victim of a Hobbes Act conspiracy must be a person outside of the alleged conspiracy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed Ocasio’s conviction.

Question

Does a conspiracy to commit extortion require that the conspirators agree to extort money or property from a third party outside of the conspiracy?

Media for Ocasio v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 06, 2015 in Ocasio v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 02, 2016 in Ocasio v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Today's orders of the Court have been duly entered and certified and filed with the clerk.

Justice Alito has our opinion this morning in case 14-361, Ocasio versus United States.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

This case involves a conspiracy to violate the Hobbs Act.

Petitioner Samuel Ocasio, a former police officer, participated in a kickback scheme in which he and other Baltimore officers routed damaged vehicles from accident scenes to an auto repair shop in exchange for payments from the shop owners.

Petitioner was charged with obtaining money from the shop owners under color of official right in violation of the Hobbs Act and of conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act and violation of the general federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. §371.

At trial, the District Court rejected petitioner's argument that because the Hobbs Act prohibits the obtaining of properly “from another”, the Hobbs Act conspiracy requires proof that the alleged conspirators agreed to obtain property from someone outside the conspiracy.

Petitioner was convicted on all counts and the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

Petitioner now challenges his conspiracy conviction contending that as a matter of law he cannot be convicted of conspiring with the shop owners to obtain money from them under color of official right.

We reject this argument because it is contrary to age-old principles of conspiracy law.

Under established case law, the fundamental characteristic of a conspiracy is a joint commitment to and endeavor that if completed would satisfy all of the elements of the underlying substantive offense.

A conspirator need not agree to commit the substantive offense or even be capable of committing it in order to be convicted.

It is sufficient that the conspirator agreed that the underlying crime be committed by a member of the conspiracy capable of committing it.

These basic principles of conspiracy law resolved this case.

To establish the alleged Hobbs Act conspiracy, the government only needed to prove an agreement that some conspirator commit each element of the substantive offense.

Petitioner and the shop owners reached just such an agreement.

They shared a common purpose that petitioner and other police officers would obtain property from another that is from the shop owners under color of official right.

We thus affirm the decision of the Fourth Circuit.

Justice Breyer has filed a concurring opinion.

Justice Thomas has filed a dissenting opinion.

Justice Sotomayor has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice has joined.

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