In the meantime, legal experts said the courts decision would likely prompt federal prosecutors to largely abandon the honest services statute, although several said prosecutors had already been avoiding such charges pending the outcome of the Supreme Court challenges.
Instead, prosecutors are expected to rely on existing statutes such as false statement prohibitions and disclosure regulations.
The sky is not falling on federal prosecutors, said Levenson, a former U.S. attorney. Theres plenty of weapons still left in their arsenal. ... In many of those cases there are other statutes that will apply. I think it became too easy for prosecutors to rely on this one.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Thursday that the ethics watchdog group is pushing Congress to fill the gap with a new provision.
This is definitely a big problem. This was the single crime most charged against public officials, and now you cant use it. Sloan said. This is a great boon for corrupt public officials everywhere.
The group is advocating the expansion of a federal law that currently applies only to executive branch employees, prohibiting those individuals from using their official positions to affect their personal financial interests.
Were already meeting with people on the Hill, Sloan said. They recognize it as a problem.
The Supreme Court issued its ruling in a case involving former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who argued that the honest services law was too vague.
The court also heard appeals on the law in separate cases involving ex-Hollinger International Chairman Conrad Black and Alaska state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R).
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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