Ocasio v United States

Ocasio sought review of his conspiracy conviction arguing he could not be guilty of conspiring with a body shop owner to obtain money under color of official right when he steered car owners to the shop in exchange for payments form the shop owner as no property was obtained from anyone outside eh conspiracy. The Court, 5-3, affirmed. The majority held that under 18 USC 371, a conspirator does not need to commit the underlying offense or even be capable of committing the underlying offense so long as there is agreement among conspirators that someone commit the offset and that something more than acquiescence or bare consent must be proved. Applying here, the majority held that because Ocasio committed the underlying offense and agreed with the shop owners, the government proved its case and the conviction must be affirmed. The majority rejected Ocasio’s arguments to the contrary holding the shop owners shared the common criminal objective of having Ocasio obtain money from the shop owners under color of official right, that federalism concerns were rejected as to the underlying offense of Hobbs Act extortion and there is no reason not to extend it to conspiracy cases, the “with the consent’ language will not always be satisfied thus not all official brie receipt cases will result in a successful 371 charge. Breyer added a concurrence questioning whether the precedent equating extortion to bribe taking was correctly decided, but, acknowledging it remains good law and leads to the result adopted by the majority. Thomas dissented arguing the precedent equating extortion and bribery was wrongly decided and if not overturned should at least be limited to the substantive crime and not extended to conspiracy prosecutions and the majority’s decision expands federal criminal liability in conflict with federalism principles. Sotomayor, joined by Roberts, dissented arguing that the ordinary meaning of “from another” is someone outside of the reference person or group and for purposes of Hobbs Act conspiracy the reference group is the conspiracy not the individual conspirator. She also argued that the general principles relied upon by the majority were actually applications of the specific language of the Mann Act and thus do not provide support for the majority’s decision.