Federal Trial of Florida Criminal Defense Attorney For Conspiracy to Solicit Bribes and Extorts Criminal Defendants
June 9, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. News & Announcements Social Share
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have one of the most important jobs in our society. Prosecutors are charged with ensuring that the public remains safe by convicting criminals and offering diversion programs where necessary to reduce recidivism rates. Defense attorneys have the hard job of protecting the constitutional rights of the defendant. A skilled criminal defense attorney can present arguments to have the charges dropped or convince a jury that the prosecution has not met their burden of proof.
Last year, a criminal defense attorney and State Attorney were indicted for a conspiracy to bribe and extort the criminal defendants for preferential treatment. The following blog will explain the conspiracy and charges involved.
What is the Conspiracy
In February 2021, State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister and criminal defense attorney Marion O’Steen were indicted under federal charges of conspiracy to solicit bribes and extort criminal defendants for reduced charges, reduced sentences, and dismissed charges. Jeff Siegmeister was elected as State Attorney in the Third Judicial Circuit of Florida in 2012. The facts in the indictment allege that the conspiracy took place between November 2017 through May 2019. The clients, in this case, have been given code names for anonymity (Client A, Client B, and Client C). The indictment contained twelve different charges, this blog will focus on the conspiracy charges which are counts one through three.
Client A was charged with attempted first-degree murder, arson, possession of a firebomb, and violation of a domestic violence injunction. On November 8, 2017, O’Steen contacted Siegmesiter requesting leniency for Client A claiming that the victim in the case didn’t want the client to go to prison. On November 9, 2017, in exchange for leniency, Siegmeister requested that O’Steen purchase one of his bulls. The Assistant State Attorney offered a five-year sentence, but that wasn’t lenient enough for O’Steen, he wanted the charges reduced further. Months later on April 16, 2018, Siegmeister dropped the attempted murder charge and recommended a plea deal for 13 months of prison time and eight years’ probation. Later that same day, text messages were exchanged about the purchasing of Siegmeister’s bulls.
Client B was charged with keeping a gambling house, which is a felony offense. On August 16, 2018, O’Steen told the client that if he could come up with tens of thousands of dollars, then O’Steen could make the charges go away. The next day, after meeting with Siegmeister, O’Steen contacted the client again stating that he could make the charges go away (via nolle pros, which is a process where the prosecutor decides to drop the charges) if the client paid him $75,000 with a few days. The client paid tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for a pre-trial intervention program.
Client C was charged with battery and trespass after a warning. On March 11, 2019, O’Steen and Siegmeister worked out a deal where the client would participate in a pre-trial intervention program to avoid jail and prison time. This was done over the objection of the Assistant State Attorney signed to the case who claims that the victim’s family did not want the client to be approved for pre-trial intervention. The same day, Siegmeister solicited money from O’Steen for campaign contributions.
Former Florida State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister entered a guilty plea on February 22, 2022. Siegmeister pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud, and filing false tax returns. He faces 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud, 5 years for conspiracy to facility bribery and extortion, and 3 years for filing a false tax return.
The trial of O’Steen started on June 6, 2022. However, there is no telling how long the case will take for each side to present its case. While not all witnesses on the witness list are called in a trial, the witness list can be telling of how long the trial may be. The government’s witness list is 23 people and the defense’s witness list is 56 people.
What is a Conspiracy?
Conspiracy is when there is an agreement between two people to commit an unlawful activity. In order to be charged with the conspiracy, the prosecutor must show that the accused agreed to the conspiracy and requires that the accused did something to further the conspiracy. In this case, even the communications back and forth, constitute furtherance of the conspiracy. The accused does not have to be successful in committing unlawful activity to be charged with the conspiracy. Read our blog here to learn more about conspiracy laws in Florida here.
Count One: Conspiracy to use Facility of Commerce for Unlawful Activity
O’Steen has been charged under 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a)(3). The elements of the crime under this law are:
- Siegmeister and O’steen knowingly and willfully combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with one other
- There are multiple texts, emails, and recorded calls that suggest O’Steen agreed with the conspiracy.
- To use a facility interstate commence
- In this case, using the cellphone and wire transactions triggers interstate commerce
- To promote, manage, establish, carry on, and facilitate the promotion of management, establishment, and carrying on of unlawful activities.
- To prove this element the prosecutor is likely going to show the texts to the clients asking for money in exchange for the charges to be dropped, among other evidence mentioned above.
- The unlawful activity was a violation of Florida Statute Section 838.015 (bribery) and Florida Statute Section 836.05 (extortion)
Florida Statute Section 838.015 outlaws bribery of public officials, including State Attorneys. The Statute reads:
Bribery means to knowingly and intentionally give, offer, or promise to any public servant, or, if a public servant, to knowingly and intentionally request, solicit, accept, or agree to accept for himself or herself or another, any pecuniary or other benefit not authorized by law with an intent or purpose to influence the performance of any act or omission which the person believes to be, or the public servant represents as being, within the official discretion of a public servant, in violation of a public duty, or in performance of a public duty.
This means that a person who offers, promises, or agrees to exchange either money, some service, or good in order to influence the actions of a public official is committing bribery. The law also punishes a public servant who accepts such a bribe.
Florida Statute Section 836.05 outlaws extortion. Extortion means that the accused threatened another person with the intention to extort money from them. In this case, the clients were extorted for money. The threat was that the only way the O’Steen could help them is if they gave him extra money, which was then given to Siegmeister.
Count one carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.
Count Two: Conspiracy to Interfere with Commerce by Extortion and Count Three Interference with Commerce by Extortion
Counts two and three are an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C § 1951 which reads:
Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
The Statute further explains that robbery means an unlawful taking from another person against their will or by actual or threatened force. This includes the use of fear of an injury, whether occurring immediately or in the future. Extortion is similar but the key difference is that the person consents to give their property due to the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear.
In this case, the law has been violated when O’Steen and Siegmeister extorted tens of thousands of dollars out of Client B in exchange for the dropped gambling charges for a pre-trial intervention program.
Count two and count three both carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
While this particular case received a lot of attention in the media due to its ongoing trial, any criminal charge can seem extremely scary. Navigating the legal world is not something you want to go about on your own. Luckily you won’t have to. Don Pumphrey and his Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across the state for various criminal charges. We understand the importance of strategizing a strong defense and will work tirelessly to ensure your freedom. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message for a free consultation today.
Written by Melissa MacNicol