Justices uphold extortion conspiracy conviction

AP News
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Posted: May 02, 2016 12:51 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has upheld the conspiracy conviction of a former Baltimore police officer for his role in a repair shop extortion scheme.

The court's 5-3 decision Monday holds that Samuel Ocasio took part in a conspiracy when he received cash payments for steering people with cars damaged in accidents to a body shop.

Ocasio was among 10 Baltimore officers who were convicted for their arrangement with Majestic Auto Repair Shop in Baltimore County to send customers to the shop. Officers would receive $150 to $300 for each referral from the two brothers who owned the business.

The case probed whether Ocasio's agreement with the body shop owners amounted to an extortion conspiracy under the federal Hobbs Act.

Ocasio argued that he couldn't be charged with conspiring with the business owners to receive money from them. Their actions would amount to a conspiracy only if they were trying to extort money or property from a third party, Ocasio said.

But Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court that Ocasio's argument "is contrary to age-old principles of conspiracy law."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying that what took place in this case cannot be called a conspiracy under federal law. Joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Sotomayor wrote that "the everyday understanding of their agreement is that they intend to obtain property from someone outside of their conspiracy."

Justice Clarence Thomas also dissented.

The case is Ocasio v. U.S., 14-361.