Evans v. United States, 504 U.S. 255, 15 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 255 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

given the number of appellate court decisions, together with the fact that many of them have involved prosecutions of important officials well known in the political community,22 it

is obvious that Congress is aware of the prevailing view that common-law extortion is proscribed by the Hobbs Act. The silence of the body that is empowered to give us a "contrary direction" if it does not want the common-law rule to survive is consistent with an application of the normal presumption identified in Taylor and Morissette.


An argument not raised by petitioner is now advanced by the dissent. It contends that common-law extortion was limited to wrongful takings under a false pretense of official right. Post, at 279-280; see post, at 281 (offense of extortion "was understood . . . [as] a wrongful taking under a false pretense of official right") (emphasis in original); post, at 282. It is perfectly clear, however, that although extortion accomplished by fraud was a well-recognized type of extortion, there were other types as well. As the court explained in Commonwealth v. Wilson, 30 Pa. Super. 26 (1906), an extortion case involving a payment by a would-be brothel owner to a police captain to ensure the opening of her house:

"The form of extortion most commonly dealt with in the decisions is the corrupt taking by a person in office of a

2d, at 393-394; United States v. Price, 507 F. 2d 1349 (CA4 1974); United States v. Braasch, 505 F. 2d, at 151.

22 For example, in United States v. Hall, supra, the Governor of Oklahoma was convicted of extorting money "under color of official right," in violation of the Hobbs Act; in United States v. Kenny, 462 F. 2d 1205, 1211 (CA3 1972), each of the eight defendants, who was part of a scheme to interfere with interstate commerce in violation of the Hobbs Act, "was, or had been, a highly placed public official or political leader in Jersey City or Hudson County or both"; and in United States v. Jannotti, 673 F. 2d, at 578, the Government operation, which came to be known as ABSCAM, led to the trial and conviction of various local and federal public officials, which, in other phases of the operation, included several Congressmen.


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