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I. Bribery, Fraud, and Related Offenses
United States v. Jenrette Criminal Case No. 80-00289 (D.D.C.) On June 13, 1980, U.S. Representative John W. Jenrette of South Carolina was indicted by a Federal grand jury in the District of Columbia. Indicted with Rep. Jenrette was John R. Stowe, a private citizen living in Richmond, Virginia.
Count I of the three count indictment charged the defendants with conspiracy,' contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 371.2 Specifically it was alleged that in late 1979 the defendants agreed with “Tony DeVito" that in return for $100,000 Rep. Jenrette would introduce in the U.S. House of Representatives a private immigration bill on behalf of a foreign businessman who desired to immigrate to the United States. Supposedly, DeVito was the foreign businessman's agent. In reality, however, DeVito was Anthony Amoroso, Jr., a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”).
Count I also alleged that on December 6, 1979 defendant Stowe met with DeVito and Melvin Weinberg (purportedly an employee of the foreign businessman, but in reality a private citizen assisting the FBI). At this meeting DeVito and Mr. Weinberg allegedly transferred $50,000 in cash to Mr. Stowe who accepted it on behalf of Rep. Jenrette and himself. Allegedly, it was agreed that Mr. Weinberg and DeVito would transfer another $50,000 to the defendants after the private immigration bill was introduced. According to the indictment, the total payment of $100,000 was to be shared by Rep. Jenrette and Mr. Stowe.
Count I also claimed that on January 28, 1980 Rep. Jenrette told DeVito that he would cause U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina to introduce in the Senate another private immigration bill on behalf of the foreign businessman. For his efforts, Rep. Jenrette would receive $125,000 after the private immigration bill was introduced. The indictment specifically stated, however, that at no time did Rep. Jenrette or Mr.
Stowe, or anyone on their behalf, discuss the subject with Senator Thurmond.
Count II charged that by seeking and receiving a sum of money in return for his promise to introduce a private immigration bill in Congress, Rep. Jenrette commited bribery, contrary to 18 U.S.C.
Specifically, conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. $ 201(c) (bribery). 218 U.S.C. $ 371 provides: If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.
$ 201(c).3 Count II also charged Mr. Stowe with aiding and abetting Rep. Jenrette in the commission of bribery. Accordingly, Mr. Stowe was charged with criminal liability as a principal, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. $ 2.4
Count III charged that by seeking $125,000 from DeVito in return for his promise to influence Senator Thurmond to introduce a private immigation bill in the Senate, Rep. Jenrette committed bribery, again contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 201(c). Once again Mr. Stowe was charged with criminal liability for aiding and abetting, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. $ 2.
On June 17, 1980, Rep. Jenrette pled not guilty to all counts.
On July 14, 1980, Rep. Jenrette filed a motion to dismiss pursu ant to the Speech or Debate Clause.5 Alternatively, he asked permission to review the minutes of the grand jury. In his accompanying memorandum, he argued that the allegation in Count I-that he never discussed immigration matters with Senator Thurmondindicated that the grand jury illegally sought to determine the occurrence and content of conversations between Members of Congress on legislative matters. If the grand jury questioned Senator Thurmond himself
, said Rep. Jenrette, or if it questioned others who might have had knowledge of communications between Rep. Jenrette and Senator Thurmond, it may have violated the Speech or Debate Clause. Accordingly, Rep. Jenrette asked the court to allow him to review the entire grand jury proceedings to determine whether impermissible examinations of legislative acts occurred.
On August 5, 1980, the Government filed its response to Rep. Jenrette's motion regarding the Speech or Debate Clause. The Government asserted that the definition of "legislative acts" did not include acts of bribery by Congressmen. The Government further asserted that its evidence at trial would include no acts done by Rep. Jenrette or Senator Thurmond in the regular course of the legislative process.
On August 28, 1980, the court, Judge John Garret Penn presiding, denied Rep. Jenrette's motion to dismiss on Speech or Debate Clause grounds. Likewise, Rep. Jenrette's request to inspect the grand jury minutes was denied. No memorandum accompanied the court's order.
On July 14, 1980, Rep. Jenrette filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of Government overreaching and entrapment. Regarding
3 18 U.S.C. $ 201(c) provides: Whoever, being a public official or person selected to be a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly asks, demands, exacts, solicits, seeks, accepts, receives. or agrees to receive, or agrees to receive anything of value for himself or for any other person or entity, in return for:
(1) being influenced in his performance of any official act; or
(2) being influenced to commit or aid in committing, or to collude in, or allow, any fraud, or make opportunity for the commission of any fraud, on the United States; or
(3) being induced to do or omit to do any act in violation of this official duty shall be fined not more than $20,000 or three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, or imprisoned for not more than fifteen years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United
States. * 18 U.S.C. § 2 provides: (a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsel, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.
(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.
5 The Speech or Debate Clause of the United States Constitution provides that "for any Speech or Debate in either House (U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives) shall not be questioned in any other place.” (art. I, § 6, cl. 1]
overreaching, it was Rep. Jenrette's contention that the nature and extent of the FBI involvement in creating and maintaining the ABSCAM operation was so outrageous as to bar prosecution under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. In support of this
contention, the defendant relied on United States v. Russell, 411 : U.S. 423 (1973); Hampton v. United States, 425 U.S. 484 (1976);
United States v. Twigg, 588 F.2d 373 (3rd Cir. 1978); and United States v. Archer, 486 F.2d 670 (2d Cir. 1973). These cases, said the defendant, indicated, first, that Government misconduct may be so egregious in a given case that prosecution will be barred regardless of whether the defendant was predisposed to commit the charged crime. Next, the defendant likened the facts of the instant case to the facts in Twigg, supra, a case in which the Third Circuit dismissed an indictment because of the Government's overinvolvement in the commission of the crime. In both Twigg and the instant case, said Rep. Jenrette, Government agents devised the illegal scheme and then initiated contact with the defendant. In fact, said Rep. Jenrette, the conduct of the Government agents in the present case was even more outrageous than in Twigg, since in Twigg evidence existed that the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime. By contrast, said Rep. Jenrette, the Government knew that he had no predisposition to engage in illegal activity, for in 1978 he had refused when undercover agents had attempted to involve him in a scheme to sell certificates of deposit overseas. In conclusion, Rep. Jenrette requested an extensive evidentiary hearing to determine whether overreaching had occurred.
In addition to seeking dismissal or an evidentiary hearing on the basis of overreaching and dismissal on the basis of entrapment, Rep. Jenrette's July 14, 1980 motion also sought dismissal on the basis of prejudicial pre-indictment publicity. In this regard, Rep. Jenrette claimed that someone connected with the ABSCAM investigation deliberately notified the national television networks that the FBI would send two agents to Rep. Jenrette's home on February 2, 1980. Accordingly, when the agents arrived, television crews were on Rep. Jenrette's front lawn ready to cover the event. The defendant further stated that FBI Director William Webster was quoted by the media as saying that the Government had a strong case against Rep. Jenrette. This statement, charged Rep. Jenrette, and the leak to the television networks regarding his February 2, 1980 interrogation, occurred prior to indictment, and represented an extreme violation of Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (regarding grand jury secrecy). Rep. Jenrette further claimed that such disclosures: (1) caused highly prejudicial publicity; (2) undermined the rule requiring secrecy throughout the grand jury process; and (3) violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution. At a minimum, concluded Rep. Jenrette, the Department of Justice should be ordered by the court
to show cause why these disclosures should not be the basis for a finding of contempt.
On August 5, 1980, the Government responded to Rep. Jenrette's July 14, 1980 motion to dismiss. Addressing first the defendant's allegations of overreaching and entrapment, the government, while conceding that its agents did approach Rep. Jenrette, argued that videotape recorded meetings with the Congressman would clearly
show that the agents did not threaten or intimidate the defendant, that they clearly spelled out the illegality of what they were proposing, and that the defendant was allowed the opportunity to consider the offer at a later date. Such conduct, claimed the Government, was no different from that of an undercover narcotics officer who approaches an individual and asks to purchase drugs. According to the Government, the only issue in either case is whether the individual who responds to the agent's invitation to commit the crime was predisposed to do so. Regarding Rep. Jenrette's argument that he was approached despite the Government's knowledge that he had previously refused to become involved in an unlawful scheme, the Government contended that court cases have held that it is permissible for Government undercover agents to initiate criminal activity even when there is no reason to believe that the defendant is engaged in wrongdoing. The Government concluded its argument by stating that if the court should decide that an evidentiary hearing on the matter was warranted, then such a hearing should take place after trial because: (1) a pretrial hearing would make it more difficult to select an impartial jury because of the extensive news coverage which would be given the hearing; (2) the court's determination of Rep. Jenrette's overreaching claim would be avoided if Rep. Jenrette was found innocent; (3) a pretrial hearing would unnecessarily delay the trial; and (4) the court would be in a better position after trial to assess Rep. Jenrette's contentions, and a post-trial hearing would avoid the need to hear the same evidence twice since most of the facts relating to the Government's alleged misconduct would probably be presented during Rep. Jenrette's entrapment defense at trial.6
With respect to Rep. Jenrette's contentions regarding pre-indictment publicity, the Government began by admitting that Government sources were indeed responsible for serious leaks regarding ABSCAM. However, said the Government, it was highly unlikely that the grand jury was biased by news reports which primarily occurred four months prior to its deliberations. In addition, argued the Government, the evidence presented to the grand jury was certainly sufficient to establish probable cause to indict, and, in any event, dismissal of an indictment is improper unless the defendant can clearly show that the grand jury was improperly influenced in its actions.
On August 11, 1980, Rep. Jenrette filed a reply to the Govern. ment's August 5, 1980 response. The defendant took issue with the Government's contention that it is permissible for Government undercover agents to initiate criminal activity even without evidence of the defendant's predisposition to commit the crime. Instead, the defendant claimed that once the Government targets anyone for any reason and learns of a lack of predisposition to violate the law, it must turn its investigation elsewhere. Rep. Jenrette also argued that it would be "naive and insensitive" to follow the Government's recommendation that any overreaching hearing be held post-verdict. In Rep. Jenrette's view, the court was compelled to hold a hearing on the overreaching issue prior to submission of the case to the jury.
6 Entrapment defenses are ordinarily presented during trial and decided by the jury.