Cannibal Cop

Conspiracy is probably the most charged offense in the federal courts. At core, its elements are simple (generally). A and B have completed the crime of conspiracy if they (1) have an agreement to do something illegal and (2) some co-conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The overt act does not have to be illegal.

So, if Larry says to Doug, “Let’s lie through email to potential investors about how viable our real estate plan is,” then Doug says “That’s a great idea, let’s do it!” and the two put together a letter they would email to potential investors that contains a number of lies about how viable an investment is, they’ve probably conspired to commit wire fraud.

The tricky bit is that the agreement that’s at the core of a conspiracy charge — like many kinds of contracts — can be implied. It’s rare that folks in a conspiracy negotiate the terms of the conspiracy or memorialize it.

So, if Larry and Doug just sit down and work — together — on a letter that lies to investors, one may (depending on the other facts in the case) think that the two have an implied agreement to commit fraud and that they’re guilty of participating in a fraud conspiracy.

The tricky part is when one person says, in essence, it would be really freaking cool to do X (where X is illegal) but doesn’t really mean that she wants to do X.

For example, some people may think that it would be funny to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly. But just because Doug tells Larry that it would be cool to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly, and Larry then looks up Justice Scalia’s next public appearance, does not necessarily mean that either one of them actually intends to storm Justice Scalia’s security detail just to blow on the Justice’s stomach.

And, of course, a jury is most likely to find that Doug and Larry are guilty the more they’re doing something that the jurors themselves think of as not funny and, in fact, really quite repugnant.

Like kidnapping, killing, and eating women, or trying to foment a jihad….

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Gilberto Valle, aka the ‘Cannibal Cop’

Sitting in judgment of another human being is difficult. This case in particular has not been an easy one … [with] material that degrades the human spirit.

– Judge Paul Gardephe, thanking the jury that just convicted Gilberto Valle, the so-called “cannibal cop,” of conspiracy to kidnap.

(More about this grisly case, after the jump.)

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* The Fifth Circuit upheld a federal law banning gun sales to people under 21 years old. Oh! The humanity! What will the nation’s teenagers do without booze or their own guns? [WSJ Law Blog]

* A New York cop is charged with planning to kidnap, cook, and eat 100 women. Gross. I wonder if this will tarnish the NYPD’s sterling reputation. [Daily Intel / New York Magazine]

* Scratching your nuts in public is gross, but it’s not the same as, uh, some other grosser, more illegal activities. It would behoove this woman to learn to recognize the difference. [Legal Juice]

* Should wearing “personality” glasses count against a criminal defendant? I dunno, but as a guy who has to wear glasses I find it bizarre that people choose to wear them as fashion accessories. Might as well wear a useless prosthetic arm too; I hear they’re the next hip trend. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Another intra-family lawsuit: Geoffrey Richards, who teaches at Northwestern Law School, has been sued by his 95-year-old grandfather over a family financial dispute. The grandfather is also calling Richards a “scoundrel” and the “greatest disappointment” in his life. Ouch. [DealBreaker]

* President Obama has endorsed several same-sex marriage ballot proposals. Nice work, Barry. [BuzzFeed]

* Insights and advice for people interested in fashion law (from Ron Coleman and others). [Likelihood of Confusion]