Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Roberson: Upholding Section 666 Bribery Convictions

In United States v. Roberson, No. 18-14654 (Wilson, Branch, Restani (Int’l Trade)), the Court affirmed the defendants’ convictions for bribing an Alabama state representative.

The Court first held that the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant’s bribery convictions under 18 U.S.C. 666.  The Court rejected the defendants’ argument that the “official acts” requirement recognized in McDonnell for the bribery statute in 18 U.S.C. 201 also applied to Section 666.  The Court rejected the defendants’ argument that the official was not “agent of Alabama” but rather an agent of the Alabama legislature.  And it rejected their argument that the “retainer” theory of liability was invalid and implicated their First Amendment rights.

The Court next found no reversible error with regard to the jury instructions, rejecting similar arguments made in the sufficiency context.

Finally, the Court found no abuse of discretion in refusing to sever the defendants for trial.  The defendant argued that joinder with his attorney resulted in the exclusion of certain evidence that prevented him from making an advice-of-counsel defense.  The Court rejected that argument because the evidence was essentially cumulative and had relatively little probative value.