Legal terms we hear in the news defined: Obstruction of justice, perjury, treason, bribery


AS we follow the investigations being done by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and those of Congress in the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence, meddle, interfere in the 2016 US presidential elections—which allegedly put down Clinton and helped Trump win—I told you I will write about legal terms we often hear in the news:  “obstruction of justice,” “perjury,” “treason,” and “bribery”.

Below are the definitions of these terms as explained by the Legal Information Institute of the Cornell College of Law:

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE is defined in the omnibus clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1503, which provides that “whoever . . . . corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense).” Persons are charged under this statute based on allegations that a defendant intended to interfere with an official proceeding, by doing things such as destroying evidence, or interfering with the duties of jurors or court officers.

A person obstructs justice when they have a specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial proceeding. For a person to be convicted of obstructing justice, they must not only have the specific intent to obstruct the proceeding, but the person must know (1) that a proceeding was actually pending at the time; and (2) there must be a nexus between the defendant’s endeavor to obstruct justice and the proceeding, and the defendant must have knowledge of this nexus.

§ 1503 applies only to federal judicial proceedings. Under § 1505, however, a defendant can be convicted of obstruction of justice by obstructing a pending proceeding before Congress or a federal agency. A pending proceeding could include an informal investigation by an executive agency.

Perjury

A person may be ruled to be guilty of perjury

(1) having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true; or

(2) in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury as permitted under section 1746 of title 28, United States Code, willfully subscribes as true any material matter which he does not believe to be true;

is guilty of perjury and shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. This section is applicable whether the statement or subscription is made within or without the United States.

Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Bribery

Bribery refers to the offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving of any item of value as a means of influencing the actions of an individual holding a public or legal duty. This type of action results in matters that should be handled objectively being handled in a manner best suiting the private interests of the decision maker.

Bribery constitutes a crime and both the offeror and the recipient can be criminally charged.

Proof of bribery requires demonstrating a “quid pro quo” relationship in which the recipient directly alters behavior in exchange for the gift. Because the relationship does not occur directly enough, campaign donations from corporations or individuals to political candidates do not constitute bribery.

Another element of proving bribery includes proving intent to influence the discharging of another’s official duties. Some statutes also require proof that both parties understand and agree to the arrangement.

Attempts to bribe exist at common law and under the Model Penal Code, and often, the punishment for attempted bribery and completed bribery are identical.

Solicitation of a bribe also constitutes a crime and is completed regardless of whether the solicitation results in the receipt of a valuable gift.

Economists consider bribery to negatively impact economic growth because it encouraged rent seeking behavior. Rent seeking behavior refers to an individual’s or corporation’s attempt to illicitly influence the open market in order to provide that individual or corporation with a disproportionate amount of wealth. Such an environment results in a sub-optimal allocation of resources, which results in depressed economic growth.

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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