The Supreme Court this term has narrowed the scope of three federal criminal statutes in three different cases.
In Ciminelli v. U.S., 143 S.Ct. 1121 (2023), the Court, in construing 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (wire fraud) held that the right-to-control theory cannot form the basis for a conviction under this statute because the right to control one’s assets is not property for purposes of the statute. The government’s theory in this case was that the defendant deprived a governmental entity of potentially valuable economic information necessary to make a discretionary economic decision. The court held that the right to control is not grounded in a traditional property interest and reversed and remanded.
In Perrocco v. U.S., 143 S.Ct. 1130 (2023), the Court held that jury instructions—which stated that the defendant owed a duty of honest services in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1346 if he dominated and controlled any government business, and, if people working in the government relied on him due to his special relationship with the government—were too vague, and reversed the conviction. Over Perrocco’s objection, the trial court instructed the jury that Perrocco could be found to have had a duty to provide honest services to the public during the time when he was not serving as a public official if the jury concluded, first, that he “dominated and controlled any governmental business” and, second, that people “working in the government actually relied on him because of his special relationship he had with the government.” The Supreme Court found that this instruction was too vague and reversed the conviction.