United States v. Aguilar, 515 U.S. 593 (1995)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 94-270. Argued March 20, 1995—Decided June 21, 1995

Respondent Aguilar, a United States District Judge, was convicted of illegally disclosing a wiretap in violation of 18 U. S. C. 2232(c), even though the authorization for the particular wiretap had expired before the disclosure was made. Because he lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents during a grand jury investigation, he also was convicted of endeavoring to obstruct the due administration of justice under 1503. The Court of Appeals reversed both convictions, reasoning that Aguilar's conduct in each instance was not covered by the statutory language.

Held: 1. Uttering false statements to an investigating agent who might or might not testify before a grand jury is not sufficient to make out a violation of 1503's prohibition of "endeavor[ing] to influence, obstruct, or impede . . . the due administration of justice." The "nexus" requirement developed in recent Courts of Appeals decisions—whereby the accused's act must have a relationship in time, causation, or logic with grand jury or judicial proceedings—is a correct construction of 1503's very broad language. Under that approach, the accused must take action with an intent to influence such proceedings; it is not enough that there be an intent to influence some ancillary proceeding, such as an investigation independent of the court's or grand jury's authority. Moreover, the endeavor must have the "natural and probable effect" of interfering with the due administration of justice, see, e. g., United States v. Wood, 6 F. 3d 692, 695, and a person lacking knowledge that his actions are likely to affect a pending proceeding necessarily lacks the requisite intent to obstruct, Pettibone v. United States, 148 U. S. 197, 206-207. The Government did not show here that the FBI agents acted as an arm of the grand jury, that the grand jury had subpoenaed their testimony or otherwise directed them to appear, or that respondent knew that his false statements would be provided to the grand jury. Indeed, the evidence goes no further than showing that respondent testified falsely to an investigating agent. What use will be made of such testimony is so speculative that the testimony cannot be said to have the "natural and probable effect" of obstructing justice. Pp. 598-602.


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