PERRIN V. UNITED STATES, 444 U. S. 37 (1979)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Perrin v. United States, 444 U.S. 37 (1979)

Perrin v. United States

No. 78-959

Argued October 3, 1979

Decided November 27, 1979

444 U.S. 37


Petitioner, with others, was indicted for violating and conspiring to violate the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1952, which makes it a federal offense to travel or use a facility in interstate commerce to commit, inter alia, "bribery . . . in violation of the laws of the State in which committed." Petitioner and his codefendants were charged with using facilities of interstate commerce to promote a commercial bribery scheme in violation of the laws of Louisiana, i.e., a scheme to exploit geological exploration data stolen from a Louisiana-based company by an employee of the company who was promised a percentage of the profits realized from exploitation of the information. Petitioner was convicted, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting the contention that Congress intended "bribery" in the Travel Act to include only bribery of public officials.

Held: Bribery of private employees prohibited by state criminal statutes violates the Travel Act. Pp. 444 U. S. 41-50.

(a) By 1961, when the Act was enacted as part of a legislative program directed against "organized crime," the common understanding of "bribery" had extended beyond its early common law definitions limiting it to bribery of public officials. In 42 States and in federal legislation, "bribery" included the bribery of individuals acting in a private capacity. Pp. 444 U. S. 41-45.

(b) The generic definition of bribery, rather than a narrow common law definition limited to public officials, was intended by Congress. References in the legislative history to the purposes and scope of the Travel Act, as well as other bills included in the package of "organized crime" legislation aimed at supplementing state enforcement, indicate that Members, Committees, and draftsmen used "bribery" to include payments to private individuals to influence their actions. Congress recognized in 1961 that bribery of private persons was widely used in highly organized criminal efforts to infiltrate and gain control of legitimate businesses, an area of special concern of Congress in enacting the Travel Act. Cf. United States v. Nardello, 393 U. S. 286. Pp. 444 U. S. 45-49.

(c) Federalism principles do not dictate a narrow interpretation of "bribery" here. So long as the requisite interstate nexus is present (sufficiency of the nexus no longer being at issue in this case), the statute

Page 444 U. S. 38

reflects a clear and deliberate intent on Congress' part to alter the federal-state balance in order to reinforce state law enforcement. Rewis v. United States, 401 U. S. 808, distinguished. Pp. 444 U. S. 49-50.

580 F.2d 730, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except WHITE, J., who took no part in the decision of the case.

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