The Seventh Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Hawkins – written by Easterbrook – presents a fascinating legal defense. When is getting money from someone for side benefits from the government bribery and when is it fraud?
Mr. Hawkins and his co-defendant Mr. Racasi worked in Chicago for the Board of Review – the entity that hears tax assessment appeals. They took money from a cop – Haleem – who they thought was dirty and, in fact, was – he was so dirty he was acting as an undercover officer to work his time down on some other criminal conduct of his.
It is an interesting question whether a dirty cop who has turned cooperator because his dirtiness has led to its own charges is truly “undercover” but let’s elide over that for a minute.
Messrs. Hawkins and Racasi took Mr. Haleem’s money so that they could work some influence at the Board that lowers tax assessments on some property Haleem owned. One of the properties didn’t have its assessment reduced, but the rest did.
They were charged with bribery and fraud in connection with the bribery. They were also charged with conspiracy, but that’s just because these days AUSAs get made fun of at the NAC if they don’t add a conspiracy charge to every case.