intentionally obstruct and attempt to obstruct . . . and affect commerce by extortion . . . in that defendant obtained cash . . . and other property from . . . Raymond Vyeda . . . under color of official right." Superseding Indictment ("Indictment") at 2. This count was severed from the remaining counts and prosecuted in a separate bench trial.
Having evaluated the evidence presented at trial, the court finds that the necessary element of obstructing and affecting interstate commerce has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The court therefore finds defendant Blair not guilty on Count One.
The court sets forth below its findings of fact and conclusions of law. To the extent that any findings are included in the conclusions or endnotes they are deemed findings of fact.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. During 1985, Blair was employed as a deputy district attorney by the Alameda County District Attorney's office in California.
2. On June 27, 1985, Raymond Vyeda ("Vyeda"), a social and business acquaintance of Blair's, was arrested in Alameda County for possession of illegal fireworks without a license. A criminal complaint was filed against Vyeda by the Alameda County District Attorney's office.
3. Shortly after his arrest and prior to his first scheduled court appearance, Vyeda contacted Blair seeking a recommendation for a defense attorney. In the course of this and subsequent conversations, Blair discouraged Vyeda from retaining an attorney. Blair instead suggested that if Vyeda provided him with $ 25,000, Blair would be able to make Vyeda's fireworks charge "go away."
4. Blair was not the prosecutor assigned to Vyeda's case; Blair was working in the juvenile division of the District Attorney's office at all relevant times.
5. Vyeda agreed to Blair's proposal, and after negotiating about the amount, Vyeda eventually delivered between $ 12,000-$ 13,000 in cash to Blair, to be used by Blair to make Vyeda's case "go away." Vyeda also gave Blair four cases of liquor as part of the payment.
6. Contrary to Vyeda's expectation that Blair would funnel the money to a judge with influence over Vyeda's case, in fact Blair retained the money for his own use.
7. Although Blair kept Vyeda's money, he did work to get Vyeda's case dismissed. Blair obtained five continuances for Vyeda, the last on October 18, 1985, thereby delaying his first appearance on the fireworks case. Blair accomplished this by telephoning the assigned municipal judge's courtroom deputy, identifying himself as a deputy district attorney, and falsely stating that Vyeda needed a continuance for medical reasons. Though all five continuances were granted, the case was not dismissed.
8. In addition, on October 21, 1985, Blair met with the fire chief and a captain of the Eden Fire District, the relevant fire department in Vyeda's fireworks charge, and offered to have Vyeda make a $ 5,000 donation to the fire district's nonexistent "widows and orphans" fund if Vyeda's case were dismissed. The fire chief firmly rejected Blair's proffered "donation."
9. Finally, on November 1, 1985, Blair approached Judge Goodman, the municipal judge assigned to Vyeda's case, in chambers and asked him to dismiss Vyeda's case. Judge Goodman denied Blair's request and immediately notified the District Attorney's office, which initiated investigative proceedings resulting in Blair's termination. Blair did not attempt to bribe Judge Goodman and Judge Goodman never received any of Vyeda's cash or liquor.
10. Vyeda obtained the money given to Blair by withdrawing approximately $ 11,000 from a personal money market fund at Bank of the West and making up the difference out of pocket cash.
11. Vyeda claimed that he purchased the four cases of liquor at Liquor Barn.
12. At all relevant times, Vyeda was the sole proprietor of a small electrical contracting business, Anchor Electric. Vyeda also had some "cottage industry" side activities, including collecting antiques and memorabilia and selling fireworks. It was Vyeda's possession of the latter that led to his arrest.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
A. Hobbs Act Violation
The Hobbs Act provides for the criminal punishment of persons who interfere with commerce by the use of threats or violence. 18 U.S.C. § 1951.
The government must prove four elements beyond a reasonable doubt to establish that Blair violated the Hobbs Act. These are:
a) that Blair was a Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County;
b) that Blair caused or attempted to cause Vyeda to part with either/both money and property by inducing Vyeda under color of official right;