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NCJ Number: 135633 Find in a Library
Title: Good Government by Prosecutorial Decree: The Use and Abuse of Mail Fraud
Journal: Arizona Law Review  Volume:32  Issue:1  Dated:(1990)  Pages:137-171
Author(s): G H Williams
Date Published: 1990
Page Count: 35
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The mail fraud statute, passed in 1872, is one of the oldest Federal criminal provisions in continuous use. While some have praised its ability to cover a wide range of criminal activity, others have criticized its broad application.
Abstract: Over the past 2 decades, the mail fraud statute has been used to prosecute and convict a number of public officials on the basis that failure to conduct the duties of their office honestly constituted fraud or a denial of "good government" to the electorate. However, two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases narrowed the coverage of the mail fraud statute. In McNally v. United States, the court held that the statutory language "scheme to defraud" does not include as a fraud deprivation the public's right to good government, but there must be a demonstration of loss of property or other tangible rights. In Carpenter v. United States, the court reinforced the narrow view of the mail fraud statute and warned prosecutors to more carefully analyze prosecutions. In 1988, Congress overturned the McNally decision by adding many of the problems identified in that case to the Drug Abuse bill. The author maintains it is up to Congress or the courts to resolve ambiguities such as the meaning of "honest services" in light of these two decisions. Furthermore, Federal prosecutors should develop guidelines delineating the criteria for Federal intervention in the prosecution of governmental and corporate corruption. 223 notes
Main Term(s): Postal crimes
Index Term(s): Corruption of public officials; Legislative impact; US Supreme Court decisions
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