Criminal Law, Pages 568–572

Standefer v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States, 1980

Facts:

Defendant was indicted on four counts of making gifts to a public official and five counts of aiding and abetting a revenue official in accepting compensation in addition to that authorized by law. However, Niederberger the IRS agent he was bribing had been acquitted on some of the counts defendant was charged as accomplice to.

Issue:

Can one be convicted as an accomplice of one who was acquitted?

Defendant's Argument:

Niederberger was acquitted of the crime, so defendant cannot be convicted of helping him commit the crime. This was not intended in the federal aiding and abetting statute, and collateral estoppel prevents retrying the issue of Niederberger's guilt in this case.

Reasoning:

  • The federal aiding and abetting statute made all accessories principals. This shows a clear intent to permit the conviction of accessories despite the acquittal of actual prosecutors.

  • Collateral estoppel should not apply because the government often does not have a "full and fair opportunity to litigate." It is limited in discovery, it cannot receive a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial because an acquittal was contrary to the weight of the evidence, and the defendant could have been acquitted because of jury nullification.

Rule/Holding:

Yes, one be convicted as an accomplice of one who was acquitted.

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