A note by Justin Weitz ’11, published in the Fall 2011 NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy, was cited twice by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in its opinion for the recent case United States v. Bravo Fernandez.
The case involved a legislator and a businessman in Puerto Rico who were convicted of bribery after the legislator, serving in the Puerto Rico senate, voted for a bill with favorable results for the businessman, who subsequently provided the senator with a lavish trip to Las Vegas. The First Circuit ruled that the district court erred in its jury instructions, which argued for the defendants’ guilt using a gratuity theory rather than a bribery theory; the federal program bribery statute under which they were convicted, 18 U.S.C. § 666, does not apply to gratuities. (The distinction between bribes and gratuities is that a bribe is agreed to as payment before an act is taken, whereas an illegal gratuity is extended after the fact.)
In its Bravo Fernandez opinion, the First Circuit included two citations of Weitz’s note, “The Devil Is in the Details: 18 U.S.C. § 666 After Skilling v. United States.” The first citation appears in a discussion of statutory context, with Weitz’s note invoked to explain how 666 stems from 18 U.S.C. § 201, which criminalizes both bribes and gratuities in connection with federal officials. Weitz’s note is cited again in a section of the opinion examining the meaning of 666—specifically, how Congress may have limited 666’s scope to bribery to avoid “federal overcriminalization.”
Weitz, currently a Department of Justice trial attorney in Washington, D.C., joined the Justice Department’s Criminal Division through its Attorney General’s Honors Program upon graduating from NYU Law. He previously clerked for Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Weitz’s note grew out of his project for Adjunct Professor Ronald Goldstock’s Corruption and Corruption Control Seminar.
Posted on October 23, 2013