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Corruption Cases Against Public Officials, Law Enforcement Rising

May 4, 2021 by TWN Staff
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who began service a six-year sentence for coruption last year, has been released a federal prison on furlough, while he awaits potential placement to home confinement. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Prosecutions for “official” corruption — a catch-all meaning bribery, graft, conflicts of interest and other violations by federal, state, local officials and law enforcement — have been rising steadily during the first six months of FY 2021, according to a report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The data used for the analysis was collected from the U.S. Department of Justice via a Freedom of Information Act request.

It shows that in the first six months of FY 2021, the government reported 236 new official corruption cases. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 472 for this fiscal year.

This estimate is up 38% over the past fiscal year when the number of prosecutions totaled 342 according to the internal case-by-case government records obtained by the Clearinghouse.

These cases brought by federal government attorneys involve the prosecution of governors, judges, federal and state legislators, and other federal, state, and local public officials who have been prosecuted for their criminal actions while in public office.

Additional cases include the prosecution of government employees charged with misconduct in public office, including attempts by private citizens to bribe or otherwise corrupt them.

Official corruption cases actually peaked in FY 1998 when records show 906 defendants were prosecuted. Since then, prosecution numbers have generally slowly fallen with only short periods where prosecutions briefly increased.

During the Trump years, prosecutions reached their lowest levels. The increase during the first six months of FY 2021 largely involved federal-level corruption matters, rather than the prosecution of state and local government officials or employees, the Clearinghouse said.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Louisiana — New Orleans — filed public corruption charges against the largest number of defendants—more than were filed by any other U.S. Attorney office.

The full report, including examples of the specific defendants charged and their offenses and the top ten most active districts in bringing these cases, can be read here.

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