United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of Cal., 526 U.S. 398 (1999)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit

No. 98-131. Argued March 2, 1999—Decided April 27, 1999

Respondent trade association was charged with violating, inter alia, 18

U. S. C. 201(c)(1)(A), which prohibits giving "anything of value" to a present, past, or future public official "for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official." Count One of the indictment asserted that respondent gave illegal gratuities to former Secretary of Agriculture Michael Espy while two matters in which it had an interest in favorable treatment were pending before Espy. The indictment did not, however, allege a specific connection between either of those matters (or any other Espy action) and the gratuities conferred. In denying respondent's motion to dismiss Count One because of this omission, the District Court stated that, to sustain a 201(c)(1)(A) charge, it is sufficient to allege that the defendant provided things of value to the official because of his position. At trial, the court instructed the jury along these same lines. The jury convicted respondent on Count One, and the court imposed a fine. The Court of Appeals reversed that conviction and remanded for a new trial, stating that, because 201(c)(1)(A)'s "for or because of any official act" language means what it says, the instructions invited the jury to convict on materially less evidence than the statute demands—evidence of gifts driven simply by Espy's official position. In rejecting respond-ent's attack on the indictment, however, the court stated that the Government need not show that a gratuity was given "for or because of" any particular act or acts: That an official has relevant matters before him should not insulate him as long as the jury is required to find the requisite intent to reward past favorable acts or to make future ones more likely.


1. In order to establish a 201(c)(1)(A) violation, the Government must prove a link between a thing of value conferred upon a federal official and a specific "official act" for or because of which it was given. The Government's contention that 201(c)(1)(A) is satisfied merely by a showing that respondent gave Secretary Espy a gratuity because of his official position does not fit comfortably with the statutory text, the more natural meaning of which is "for or because of some particular

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