Supreme Court Takes Second ‘Honest Services’ Fraud Case
By Andrew Ramonas | June 30, 2022 12:09 pm

The Supreme Court gave itself another opportunity yesterday to look at a case involving “honest services” fraud — a popular charge used by the Justice Department.

The high court granted certiorari Monday to the “honest services” fraud case of former Alaska Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch. The former lawmaker said prosecutors can’t claim he defrauded Alaskans when he secretly tried to work for an oil field business while the legislature was in session, McClatchy reported. He said his actions were legal under state law and shouldn’t be illegal under federal “honest services” mail fraud laws, according to McClatchy.

We previously reported that DOJ has used “honest services” charges as the lead charge against 79 defendants in fiscal 2007, up from 28 in 2000. We noted that Northern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has made liberal use of the statute.

In April, the Supreme Court agreed to review the 2007 conviction of former newspaper mogul Conrad Black, who was prosecuted by Fitzgerald’s office. Black, who controlled Hollinger International, the company that owned the Chicago Sun Times among other publications, was found guilty of not “honestly serving” the company’s shareholders by diverting corporate funds to his own pockets.

By taking on the Weyhrauch and Black cases, the Supreme Court will be able to completely review how “honest services” fraud is applied to cases involving the public and private interests. A severe limitation on the law’s use could be unwelcome news for the Justice Department, which has used the statute in the successful prosecutions of imprisoned Mississippi trial attorney Paul Minor in 2007 and ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 2008. The department is also using the statute in the prosecution of Abramoff associate Kevin Ring.

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