Marinello v. United States

(Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2017 1 Syllabus NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Syllabus MARINELLO v. UNITED STATES CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT No. 16–1144. Argued December 6, 2017—Decided March 21, 2018 Between 2004 and 2009, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intermit- tently investigated petitioner Marinello’s tax activities. In 2012, the Government indicted Marinello for violating, among other criminal tax statutes, a provision in 26 U. S. C. §7212(a) known as the Omni- bus Clause, which forbids “corruptly or by force or threats of force . . . obstruct[ing] or imped[ing], or endeavor[ing] to obstruct or impede, the due administration of [the Internal Revenue Code].” The judge instructed the jury that, to convict Marinello of an Omnibus Clause violation, it must find that he “corruptly” engaged in at least one of eight specified activities, but the jury was not told that it needed to find that Marinello knew he was under investigation and intended corruptly to interfere with that investigation. Marinello was convict- ed. The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting his claim that an Omnibus Clause violation requires the Government to show the defendant tried to interfere with a pending IRS proceeding, such as a particular investigation. Held: To convict a defendant under the Omnibus Clause, the Govern- ment must prove the defendant was aware of a pending tax-related proceeding, such as a particular investigation or audit, or could rea- sonably foresee that such a proceeding would commence. Pp. 3–11. (a) In United States v. Aguilar, 515 U. S. 593, this Court interpret- ed a similarly worded criminal statute—which made it a felony “cor- ruptly or by threats or force . . . [to] influenc[e], obstruc[t], or imped[e], or endeavo[r] to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due ad- ministration of justice,” 18 U. S. C. §1503(a). There, the Court re- quired the Government to show there was a “nexus” between the de- fendant’s obstructive conduct and a particular judicial proceeding. The Court said that the defendant’s “act must have a relationship in 2 MARINELLO v. UNITED STATES Syllabus time, causation, or logic with the judicial proceedings.” 515 U. S., at 599. In reaching this conclusion, the Court emphasized that it has “traditionally exercised restraint in assessing the reach of a federal criminal statute, both out of deference to the prerogatives of Congress and out of concern that ‘a fair warning should be given to the world in language that the common world will understand, of what the law intends to do if a certain line is passed.’ ” Id., at 600. That reasoning applies here with similar ...

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