For most people, the term “public corruption” probably conjures up images of pinstriped politicians in a dimly-lit, smoke-filled room, exchanging promises in exchange for money (more commonly referred to as “bribes”). But public corruption encompasses a broad array of activities, including fraud, bribery and racketeering to name a few, which ultimately pose a threat to our security or way of life. Thus, Congress has passed many statutes to punish and deter corruption of public officials.
And while understanding these statutes is essential to understanding your duties and responsibilities as a person of public trust or as a person or organization that regularly deals with public officials, because the laws are so complex, it is fundamental that you consult with knowledgeable and experienced defense attorneys to protect your rights and interests as well.
Generally, most public corruption crimes are prosecuted by U. S. attorneys’ offices and the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section. These offices are armed with a wide net to catch—and ultimately charge—both high-profile defendants (like members of Congress and governors) and more innocuous, career-level government or public employees. Courts have broadly construed the title of “public official” to include: an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); a postal employee who had the responsibility of ensuring that bulk mail had the appropriate charge; and a Private in the Army. Thus, it is critical that all public officials and employees remain cognizant of both ethical and legal “red lines.”
Closer to home, recently the Attorney General for the state of Louisiana, Jeff Landry, “has vowed to make ending public corruption a priority statewide as part of his new Administration and to work closely with the FBI and other officials on these efforts moving forward.” And true to word, most recently is the guilty plea of former Homer Mayor on charges of malfeasance, the arrest of former Angola Mayor for misuse of public funds, arrest of former manager of Lafayette non-profit apartment complex for theft of public funds, the arrest of former Pointe Coupee Parish sheriff’s deputy for payroll fraud, and the arrest of former coroner for East Feliciana Parish for conspiracy. According to Attorney General Landry’s website (https://www.ag.state.la.us/Corruption), all aforementioned arrests, charges and indictments have occurred since March 2017. Convictions would mean possible job loss, restitution, probation and/or imprisonment.
While public corruption charges carry significant legal implications, they may also cause a very serious and damaging impact to your reputation as a public servant or politician; therefore, it is imperative that you have experienced and professional advocates on your side to defend your rights.
This article is intended for information only and should not be considered legal advice.
 Ashley Kircher et. al., Public Corruption, 45 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 825, 826 (2008).
 United States v. Gjieli, 717 F.2d 968 (6th Cir. 1983) (holding that an ATF agent was within the statutory definition of “public official” even though he did not have the ability to carry out the target action of the bribe).
 United States v. Gelb, 881 F.2d 1155 (2d Cir. 1989) (holding that a postal worker that was responsible for ensuring that bulk mail had the appropriate postage was a “public official” within the meaning of the federal bribery statute).
 United States. v. Kidd, 734 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1984) (dismissing defendant’s argument that Army Private was not a “public official” because she was an enlisted soldier, rather than an officer).