S.Ct. 1424] Argued October 6, 2015
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
S.Ct. 1425] [194 L.Ed.2d 522] Petitioner Samuel Ocasio, a
former police officer, participated in a kickback scheme in
which he and other officers routed damaged vehicles from
accident scenes to an auto repair shop in exchange for
payments from the shopowners. Petitioner [136 S.Ct. 1426] was
charged with obtaining money from the shopowners under color
of official right, in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C.
§ 1951, and of conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. At trial, the District
Court rejected petitioner's argument that--because the
Hobbs Act prohibits the obtaining of property " from
another" --a Hobbs Act conspiracy requires proof that
the alleged conspirators agreed to obtain property from
someone outside the conspiracy. Petitioner was convicted on
all counts, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed. Petitioner now
challenges his conspiracy conviction, contending that he
cannot be convicted of conspiring with the shopowners to
obtain money from them under color of official right.
defendant may be convicted of conspiring to violate the
Hobbs Act based on proof that he reached an agreement with
the owner of the property in question to obtain that
property under color of official right. Pp. ___-___, 194
L.Ed.2d, at 525-534.
The general federal conspiracy statute, under which
petitioner was convicted, makes it a crime to "
conspire . . . to commit any offense [194 L.Ed.2d 523]
against the United States." 18 U.S.C. § 371.
Section 371's use of the term " conspire"
incorporates age-old principles of conspiracy law. And
under established case law, the fundamental characteristic
of a conspiracy is a joint commitment to an " endeavor
which, if completed, would satisfy all of the elements of
[the underlying substantive] criminal offense."
Salinas v. United States, 522 U.S. 52,
65, 118 S.Ct. 469, 139 L.Ed.2d 352. A conspirator need not
agree to commit the substantive offense--or even be capable
of committing it--in order to be convicted. It is
sufficient that the conspirator agreed that the underlying
crime be committed by a member of the conspiracy
capable of committing it. See id., at 63-65, 118
S.Ct. 469, 139 L.Ed.2d 352; United States v.
Holte, 236 U.S. 140, 35 S.Ct. 271, 59 L.Ed. 504;
Gebardi v. United States, 287 U.S. 112,
53 S.Ct. 35, 77 L.Ed. 206. Pp. ___-___, 194 L.Ed.2d, at
These basic principles of conspiracy law resolve this case.
To establish the alleged Hobbs Act conspiracy, the
Government only needed to prove an agreement that some
conspirator commit each element of the substantive
offense. Petitioner and the shopowners reached just such an
agreement: They shared a common purpose that
petitioner and other police officers would obtain
property " from another" --that is, from the
shopowners--under color of official right. Pp. ___-___, 194
L.Ed.2d, at 529.
Contrary to petitioner's claims, this decision does not
dissolve the distinction between extortion and conspiracy
to commit extortion. Nor does it transform every bribe of a
public official into a conspiracy to commit extortion. And
while petitioner exaggerates the impact of this decision,
his argument would create serious practical problems. Under
his approach, the validity of a charge of Hobbs Act
conspiracy would often depend on difficult property-law
questions having little to do with culpability. Pp.
___-___, 194 L.Ed.2d, at 529-533.
750 F.3d 399, affirmed.
P. Davis argued the cause for petitioner.
B. Verrilli Jr. argued the cause for respondents.
Kedem argued the cause for respondents.
J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Kennedy,
Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a
concurring opinion. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Roberts,
C. J., joined.
S.Ct. 1427] Alito, Justice
Samuel Ocasio, a former officer in the Baltimore Police
Department, participated in a kickback scheme with the owners
of a local auto repair shop. When petitioner and other
Baltimore officers reported to the scene of an auto accident,
they persuaded the owners of damaged cars to have their
vehicles towed to the repair shop, and in exchange for this
service the officers received payments from the shopowners.
Petitioner was convicted of obtaining money from the
shopowners under color of official right, in violation of the
Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, and of conspiring to
violate the Hobbs Act, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.
He now challenges his conspiracy conviction, contending that,
as a matter of law, he cannot be convicted of conspiring with
the shopowners to obtain money from [194 L.Ed.2d 524] them
under color of official right. We reject this argument
because it is contrary to age-old principles of conspiracy
Alexis Moreno Mejia (known as Moreno) and Edwin Javier Mejia
(known as Mejia) are brothers who co-owned and operated the
Majestic Auto Repair Shop (Majestic). In 2008, Majestic was
struggling to attract customers, so Moreno and Mejia made a
deal with a Baltimore police officer, Jhonn Corona. In
exchange for kickbacks, Officer Corona would refer motorists
whose cars were damaged in accidents to Majestic for towing
and repairs. Officer Corona then spread the word to other
members of the force, and eventually as many as 60 other
officers sent damaged cars to Majestic in exchange for
payments of $150 to $300 per referral.
began to participate in this scheme in 2009. On several
occasions from 2009 to 2011, he convinced accident victims to
have their cars towed to Majestic. Often, before sending a
car to Majestic, petitioner called Moreno from the scene of
an accident to ensure that the make and model of the car, the
extent of the damage, and the car's insurance coverage
would allow the shopowners to turn a profit on the repairs.
After directing a vehicle to Majestic, petitioner would call
Moreno and request his payment.
S.Ct. 1428] Because police are often among the first to
arrive at the scene of an accident, the Baltimore officers
were well positioned to route damaged vehicles to Majestic.
As a result, the kickback scheme was highly successful: It
substantially increased Majestic's volume of business and
profits, and by early 2011 it provided Majestic with at least
90% of its customers.
Mejia, petitioner, and nine other Baltimore officers were
indicted in 2011. The shopowners and most of the other
officers eventually pleaded guilty pursuant to plea deals,
but petitioner did not.
superseding indictment, petitioner was charged with three
counts of violating the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, by
extorting money from Moreno with his consent and under color
of official right. As all parties agree, the type of
extortion for which petitioner was convicted--obtaining
property from another with his consent and under color of
official right--is the " rough equivalent of what we
would now describe as 'taking a bribe.'"
Evans v. United States, 504 U.S. 255, 260,
112 S.Ct. 1881, 119 L.Ed.2d 57 (1992). To prove this offense,
the Government " need only show that a public official
has obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing
that the payment was made in return for official acts."
Id., at 268, 112 S.Ct. 1881, 119 L.Ed.2d 57.
and another Baltimore officer, Kelvin Quade Manrich, were
also charged with violating the general federal conspiracy
statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371. The indictment alleged that
petitioner and Manrich conspired with Moreno, Mejia, and
other Baltimore officers to bring about the same sort of
substantive violations with which petitioner was charged.
trial, petitioner began to raise a variant of the legal
argument that has brought his case to this Court. He sought a
jury instruction stating that " [i]n order to convict a
[194 L.Ed.2d 525] defendant of conspiracy to commit extortion
under color of official right, the government must prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that the conspiracy was to obtain
money or property from some person who was not a member of
the conspiracy." App. 53. In support of this
instruction, petitioner relied on the Sixth Circuit's
decision in United States v. Brock, 501
F.3d 762 (2007), which concerned two bail bondsmen who made
payments to a court clerk in exchange for the alteration of
court records. The Sixth Circuit held that " [t]o be
covered by the [Hobbs Act], the alleged conspirators . . .
must have formed an agreement to obtain 'property from
another,' which is to say, formed an agreement
to obtain property from someone outside the conspiracy."
Id., at 767. The District Court did not rule on this
request prior to trial.
codefendant, Manrich, pleaded guilty during the trial, and at
the close of the prosecution's case and again at the
close of all evidence, petitioner moved for a judgment of
acquittal on the conspiracy count based on Brock.
The District Court denied these motions, concluding that the
Fourth Circuit had already rejected Brock 's
holding in United States v. Spitler, 800
F.2d 1267 (1986).
District Court also refused to give petitioner's proposed
instruction. Instead, the court adopted the sort of standard
instructions that are typically used in conspiracy cases. See
generally L. Sand et al., Modern Federal Jury Instructions:
Criminal § 19.01 (2015). In order to convict petitioner
of the conspiracy charge, the jury was told, the prosecution
was required to prove (1) that two or more persons entered
into an unlawful agreement; (2) that petitioner knowingly and
willfully became a member of the conspiracy; (3) that at
least one member of the [136 S.Ct. 1429] conspiracy knowingly
committed at least one overt act; and (4) that the overt act
was committed to further an objective of the conspiracy. The
court " caution[ed]" " that mere knowledge or
acquiescence, without participation in the unlawful plan, is
not sufficient" to demonstrate membership in the
conspiracy. App. 195. Rather, the court explained, the
conspirators must have had " a mutual understanding . .
. to cooperate with each other to accomplish an unlawful
act," and petitioner must have joined the conspiracy
" with the intention of aiding in the accomplishment of
those unlawful ends." Id., at 192, 195.
jury found petitioner guilty on both the conspiracy count and
the three substantive extortion counts, and the District
Court sentenced him to concurrent terms of 18 months in
prison on all four counts. On appeal to the Fourth Circuit,
petitioner's primary argument was the same one he had
pressed before the District Court: that his conspiracy
conviction was fatally flawed because the conspirators had
not agreed to obtain money from a person who was not a member
of the conspiracy. The Fourth Circuit rejected
petitioner's argument and affirmed his convictions. 750
F.3d 399 (2014).
granted certiorari, 574 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 1491, 191 L.Ed.2d
430 (2015), and we now affirm.
longstanding principles of conspiracy law, a defendant may be
convicted of conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act based on
proof that he [194 L.Ed.2d 526] entered into a conspiracy
that had as its objective the obtaining of property from
another conspirator with his consent and under color of
analyzing petitioner's arguments, we begin with the text
of the statute under which he was convicted, namely, the
general federal conspiracy statute, which makes it a crime to
" conspire. . . to commit any offense against
the United States." 18 U.S.C. § 371 (emphasis
added). Section 371's use of the term "
conspire" incorporates long-recognized principles of
conspiracy law. And under established case law, the
fundamental characteristic of a conspiracy is a joint
commitment to an " endeavor which, if completed, would
satisfy all of the elements of [the underlying substantive]
criminal offense." Salinas v. United
States, 522 U.S. 52, 65, 118 S.Ct. 469, 139 L.Ed.2d 352
(1997); see 2 J. Bishop, Commentaries on the Criminal Law
§ 175, p. 100 (rev. 7th ed. 1882) (" Conspiracy, in
the modern law, is generally defined as a confederacy of two
or more persons to accomplish some unlawful purpose" );
J. Hawley & M. McGregor, The Criminal Law 99-100 (3d ed.
1899) (similar); W. LaFave, Criminal Law 672 (5th ed. 2010)
Although conspirators must " pursue the same criminal
objective," " a conspirator [need] not agree to
commit or facilitate each and every part of the substantive
offense." Salinas, supra, at 63, 118
S.Ct. 469, 139 L.Ed.2d 352. A defendant must merely reach an
agreement with the " specific intent that the underlying
crime be committed " by some member of the
conspiracy. 2 K. O'Malley, J. Grenig, & W. Lee,
Federal Jury Practice and Instructions: Criminal §
31:03, p. 225 (6th ed. 2008) (emphasis added); see also
id., § 31:02, at 220 (explaining that a
defendant must " intend to agree and must intend that
the substantive offense be committed "
(emphasis added)). " The government does not have to
prove that the defendant intended to commit the underlying
offense himself/herself." Id., § 31:03, at
226. Instead, " [i]f [136 S.Ct. 1430] conspirators have
a plan which calls for some conspirators to perpetrate the
crime and others to provide support, the supporters are as
guilty as the perpetrators." Salinas,
supra, at 64, 118 S.Ct. 469, 139 L.Ed.2d 352; see
Sand, supra, § 19.01, at 19-54 (" [W]hen
people enter into a conspiracy to accomplish an unlawful end,
each and every member becomes an agent for the other
conspirators in carrying out the conspiracy" ).
simple examples illustrate this important point. Entering a
dwelling is historically an element of burglary, see,
e.g., LaFave, supra, at 1069, but a person
may conspire to commit burglary without agreeing to set foot
inside the targeted home. It is enough if the conspirator
agrees to help the person who will actually enter the
dwelling, perhaps by serving as a lookout or driving the
getaway car. Likewise, " [a] specific intent to
distribute drugs oneself is not required to secure a
conviction for participating in a drug-trafficking
conspiracy." United States v. Piper,
35 F.3d 611, 614 (CA1 1994). Agreeing to store drugs at
one's house in support of the conspiracy may be
only is it unnecessary for each member of a conspiracy to
agree to commit each element of the substantive [194 L.Ed.2d
527] offense, but also a conspirator may be convicted "
even though he was incapable of committing the substantive
offense" himself. Salinas, supra, at
64, 118 S.Ct. 469, 139 L.Ed.2d 352; see United
States v. Rabinowich, 238 U.S. 78, 86, 35 S.Ct.
682, 59 L.Ed. 1211 (1915) (" A person may be guilty of
conspiring although incapable of committing the objective
offense" ); Sand, supra, § 19.01, at 19-3
(" [ Y ]ou may find the defendant guilty of conspiracy
despite the fact that he himself was incapable of committing
the substantive crime" ).
Court applied these principles in two cases involving the
Mann Act. See Act of June 25, 1910, ch. 395, 36 Stat. 825.
Section 2 of the Mann Act made it a crime to transport a
woman or cause her to be transported across state lines for
an immoral purpose.  In United States v.
Holte, 236 U.S. 140, 35 S.Ct. 271, 59 L.Ed. 504
(1915), a federal grand jury charged a woman, Clara Holte,
with conspiring with a man named Chester Laudenschleger to
violate this provision. The District Court dismissed the
charge against Holte, holding that because a woman such as
Holte could not be convicted for the substantive offense of
transporting herself or causing [136 S.Ct. 1431] herself to
be transported across state lines, she also could not be
convicted of conspiring to commit that offense.
succinct opinion by Justice Holmes, the Court rejected this
argument, stating that " plainly a person may conspire
for the commission of a crime by a third person," even
if " she could not commit the substantive crime"
herself. Id., at 144-145, 35 S.Ct. 271, 59 L.Ed.
504.  The dissent argued that this holding
effectively turned every woman who acquiesced [194 L.Ed.2d
528] in a covered interstate trip into a conspirator, see
id., at 148, 35 S.Ct. 271, 59 L.Ed. 504 (opinion of
Lamar, J.), but the Court disagreed. The Court acknowledged
that " there may be a degree of cooperation"
insufficient to make a woman a conspirator, but it refused to
rule out the possibility that a woman could conspire to cause
herself to be transported. Id., at 144, 35 S.Ct.
271, 59 L.Ed. 504. To illustrate this point, the Court
provided the example of a woman who played an active role in
planning and carrying out the trip. 
Court expanded on these points in Gebardi v.
United States, 287 U.S. 112, 53 S.Ct. 35, 77 L.Ed.
206 (1932), another Mann Act conspiracy case. A man and a
woman were convicted for conspiring to transport the woman
from one state to another for an immoral purpose.
Id., at 115-116, 53 S.Ct. 35, 77 L.Ed. 206. In
deciding the case, the Gebardi Court explicitly
reaffirmed the longstanding principle that "
[i]ncapacity of one to commit the substantive offense does
not necessarily imply that he may with impunity conspire with
others who are able to commit it." Id., at 120,
53 S.Ct. 35, 77 L.Ed. 206. Moreover, the Court fully accepted
Holte 's holding that a woman could be convicted
of conspiring to cause herself to be transported across state
lines. See 287 U.S., at 116-117, 53 S.Ct. 35, 77 L.Ed. 206.
But the Court held that the evidence before it was
insufficient to support the conspiracy convictions because it
" show[ed] no more than that [the woman] went willingly
upon the journeys for the purposes alleged."
Id., at 117, 53 S.Ct. 35, 77 L.Ed. 206. Noting that
there was no evidence that the woman was " the active or
moving spirit in conceiving or carrying out the
transportation," the Court held that the evidence of her
" mere consent" or " acquiescence" was
not enough. Id., at 117, 123, 53 S.Ct. 35, 77 L.Ed.
S.Ct. 1432] Holte and Gebardi make
perfectly clear that a person may be convicted of conspiring
to commit a substantive offense that he or she cannot
personally [194 L.Ed.2d 529] commit. They also show that when
that person's consent or acquiescence is inherent in the
underlying substantive offense, something more than bare
consent or acquiescence may be needed to prove that the
person was a conspirator.
basic principles of conspiracy law resolve this case. In
order to establish the existence of a conspiracy to violate
the Hobbs Act, the Government has no obligation to
demonstrate that each conspirator agreed personally to
commit--or was even capable of committing--the substantive
offense of Hobbs Act extortion. It is sufficient to prove
that the conspirators agreed that the underlying crime be
committed by a member of the conspiracy who was capable
of committing it. In other words, each conspirator must have
specifically intended that some conspirator commit
each element of the substantive offense. 
exactly what happened here: Petitioner, Moreno, and Mejia
" share[d] a common purpose," namely, that
petitioner and other police officers would commit
every element of the substantive extortion offense.
Salinas, 522 U.S., at 63-64, 118 S.Ct. 469, 139
L.Ed.2d 352. Petitioner and other officers would obtain
property " under color of official right,"
something that Moreno and Mejia were incapable of doing
because they were not public officials. And petitioner and
other officers would obtain that money from "
another," i.e., from Moreno, Mejia, or
Majestic. Although Moreno and Mejia were incapable of
committing the underlying substantive offense as principals,
they could, under the reasoning of Holte and
Gebardi, conspire to commit Hobbs Act extortion by
agreeing to help petitioner and other officers commit the
substantive offense. See Holte, 236 U.S., at 145, 35
S.Ct. 271, 59 L.Ed. 504 (" [A] conspiracy with an
officer or employé of the government or any other for
an offence that only he could commit has been [136 S.Ct.
1433] held for many years to fall within the conspiracy
section . . . of the penal code" ); see also
Salinas, supra, at 63-64, 118 S.Ct. 469,
139 L.Ed.2d 352; Gebardi, supra, at
120-121, 53 S.Ct. 35, 77 L.Ed. 206; Rabinowich, 238
U.S., at 86, 35 S.Ct. 682, 59 L.Ed. 1211. For these reasons,
it is clear that petitioner could be convicted of conspiring
to obtain property from the shopowners with their consent and
under color of official right.
effort to escape this conclusion, petitioner argues that the
usual rules do not apply to the type of Hobbs Act conspiracy
charged in this case. [194 L.Ed.2d 530] His basic argument,
as ultimately clarified,  is as follows. All members of a
conspiracy must share the same criminal objective. The
objective of the conspiracy charged in this case was to
obtain money " from another, with his consent . . .
under color of official right." But Moreno and Mejia did
not have the objective of obtaining money " from
another" because the money in question was their own.
Accordingly, they were incapable of being members of the
conspiracy charged in this case. And since [136 S.Ct. 1434]
there is insufficient evidence in the record to show that
petitioner conspired with anyone other than Moreno and Mejia,
he must be acquitted. See Reply Brief 3-11, 17-20.
argument fails for a very simple reason: Contrary to
petitioner's claim, he and the shopowners did
have a common criminal objective. The objective was not that
each conspirator, including Moreno and Mejia, would obtain
money from " another" but rather that petitioner
and other Baltimore officers would do so. See App. 36-37,
Superseding Indictment ¶ 11 (" It was a purpose of
the conspiracy for Moreno and Mejia to enrich over 50 BPD
[Baltimore Police [194 L.Ed.2d 531] Department] Officers . .
. in exchange for the BPD Officers' exercise of their
official positions and influence to cause vehicles to be
towed or otherwise delivered to Majestic" ). Petitioner
does not dispute that he was properly convicted for three
substantive Hobbs Act violations based on proof that he
obtained money " from another." The criminal
objective on which petitioner, Moreno, and Mejia agreed was
that petitioner and other Baltimore officers would
commit substantive violations of this nature. Thus, under
well-established rules of conspiracy law, petitioner was