Justices Take Up Cop’s Extortion Convictions

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A former Baltimore police officer can appeal his extortion convictions to the nation’s highest judicial authority, the Supreme Court said Monday.
     Samuel Ocasio had been one of nine Baltimore police officers indicted in March 2011 after investigators perceived a conspiracy in the department to take bribes from Majestic Auto Repair Shop in exchange for sending that business any wrecked automobiles in the city.
     Later that year, all of the originally indicted officers except for Ocasio had reached plea agreements. A superseding indictment named only Ocasio and a fellow officer who had not been indicted in March as defendants.
     Herman Moreno and Edwin Mejia, brothers who owned Majestic, also took plea deals and testified at the officers’ joint trial in 2012.
     Ocasio’s co-defendant struck a plea deal after the prosecution rested, but Ocasio called five witnesses in his defense.
     The jury convicted him of all the charges against him: three counts of Hobbs Act extortion, and one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion.
     A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit affirmed those convictions in April 2014, but did vacate the $1,870 in restitution that the court had ordered Ocasio to pay Erie Insurance.
     “The United States Attorney and the grand jury did not see fit to charge Ocasio with an insurance fraud scheme, and it would thus be inappropriate to penalize him as though he was also convicted of that offense,” the ruling says. “Because Erie was not a ‘victim’ under the VWPA [Victim Witness Protection Act], the district court’s award of restitution to Erie Insurance must be vacated.”
     The U.S. Supreme Court granted Ocasio a writ of certiorari Monday but did not otherwise comment on the case, as is its custom.

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