In New York, the Office of the Attorney General's Public Integrity Bureau investigates and pursues criminal charges of public corruption, especially involving fraud, government corruption, and abuse of authority. Depending on the nature of the crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation can also investigate these charges.
There are several state and federal laws under which a public official can be charged in public corruption cases. Often the prosecution charges the public official being prosecuted with multiple charges, such as enterprise corruption or grand larceny. In federal court, public officials are often charged with "honest services fraud." One common state crime that public officials are frequently charged with is receiving a bribe.
Bribery in New York State can be charged when a person gives or promises to give a public servant a benefit in order to influence that public servant's vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision, or exercise of discretion as a public servant. This is the typical quid pro quo situation that most people think of when they think of bribery. All bribery charges are felonies. However, receiving or soliciting a bribe of over $10,000 can lead to prosecution for second-degree bribery, which comes with stiffer penalties. For the person giving the bribe, the fact that a public official demanded the bribe through extortion can be used as a defense to a bribery charge. A public official accused of or convicted of bribery may also face an administrative investigation or civil penalties.
It is important to note that the law on bribery does not require the public official to have taken the actual benefit offered as a bribe to be convicted. A solicitation of the bribe is sufficient for a conviction. Additionally, the public official does not have to actually act on the promised action on a bribe for a prosecution to result in a conviction. For example, if the public official solicited a bribe, or accepted one in order to vote as the person giving the bribe required, but never actually made the vote, a prosecutor may still be able to get a conviction on the bribery charge.
In terms of evidence, the proof of either the solicitation of or acceptance of a bribe is normally elicited from witness testimony. However, a criminal investigation can also look at financial statements, telephone records, emails, and other documents that may contain a paper trail of the bribe. The investigation stage can therefore be a difficult time for a public official suspected of wrongdoing and may negatively affect the official's career prior even prior to an arrest. If you are a public official and discover you are being investigated by state or federal authorities regarding conduct that could lead to a public corruption charge, you need to consult with an attorney before making any statements that could harm you later on.
Contact a Syracuse Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are a facing New York State or federal public corruption charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney representing you. Contact experienced Syracuse criminal defense attorney George F. Hildebrandt for a consultation.