U.S. v. MANZO
636 F.3d 56 (2011)
UNITED STATES of America, Appellant
Louis MANZO; Ronald Manzo.
United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.
Argued January 11, 2011.
Filed: February 17, 2011.
Mark E. Coyne, Esq., Office of United States Attorney, Newark, NJ, Glenn J. Moramarco, Esq. (Argued), Office of United States Attorney, Camden, NJ, for Appellant.
Before: RENDELL, AMBRO and FISHER, Circuit Judges.
OPINION OF THE COURT
FISHER, Circuit Judge.
Defendants Louis Manzo ("Louis") and Ronald Manzo ("Ronald") were indicted as the result of a federal investigation into public corruption and money laundering in Hudson County, New Jersey. They were charged with, inter alia, conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) (the "Hobbs Act") and attempted extortion under color of official right in violation of the Hobbs Act. The District Court dismissed the conspiracy and attempt charges because it concluded that neither Louis, an unsuccessful mayoral candidate, nor Ronald, his brother and campaign manager, acted "under color of official right." On appeal, the government argues that the conduct is within the scope of the Hobbs Act based on the principles underlying the inchoate crimes of attempt and conspiracy. For the reasons stated herein, we will affirm the judgment of the District Court. Specifically, we hold that acting "under color of official right" is a required element of an extortion Hobbs Act offense, inchoate or substantive, when that offense does not involve threatened force, violence or fear.I.
The parties are in basic agreement on the facts. In May 2006, Solomen Dwek was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") on bank fraud charges. He subsequently agreed to become a cooperating witness for the FBI, assisting with an investigation into public corruption. In that role, Dwek posed as a real estate developer who was looking for assistance expediting his development projects through local government processes. Dwek surreptitiously recorded many of the meetings he attended. The investigation, dubbed "Bid Rig III," resulted in the arrest of numerous Jersey City, New Jersey politicians on July 23, 2009.1 Among those arrested were Louis and Ronald Manzo (collectively, the "Manzos").
Louis was an unsuccessful Jersey City mayoral candidate in the election held on May 12, 2009. Although he had previously held public office in other capacities, he was not a public official at the relevant time here and did not pretend to be one. Ronald is the brother of Louis, and acted as his campaign manager and political advisor for the 2009 mayoral election.
Two individuals who previously accepted corrupt payments from Dwek, Edward Cheatam and Maher Khalil,2 suggested that Dwek meet with Louis to protect his real estate development interests in Jersey City. Accordingly, the Manzos, Dwek and Cheatam participated in a series of six meetings, spanning from February 2009 to April 2009. Over the course of those meetings, Dwek agreed to make cash payments and illicit contributions to Louis's campaign in exchange for his future official assistance, action and influence. The Manzos accepted three cash payments from Dwek totaling $27,500 prior to the election. Dwek also agreed to pay the Manzos an additional $17,500 after Louis
was elected, in exchange for Louis's official assistance as mayor.