just what I had instructed the jury: that a scheme or plan, or combination amongst the three need not have been in writing or even verbal or even expressed in some other way, but that there must have been some understanding which had arisen over a period of time by which all three of them had come to an understanding that they were pursuing an idea or plan to violate the prohibiting statute by compelling, because of their official position and in reliance thereof, persons who might have been apprehensive that if payment of political funds were not made that they would suffer thereby in some way.
And while the defendants had inferred more than they had argued that all three defendants had not been involved in all of the overt acts and in the remaining nine counts of the indictment, they would not have been held accountable under Count 1 of the indictment, this, again, was explained in my instructions to the jury that all three defendants were not required to commit all of the overt acts, but if one of the three who had combined to violate the law had performed any one of the overt acts, all three would have been liable. Thus, while the law in this case might have harshly charged the supervisory employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation with conspiracy, because of certain other circumstances, but particularly because they had not all been involved in all of the counts of the indictment, the argument of counsel is, nevertheless, invalid and the conspiracy charge based upon the evidence before me at the trial, must stand for jury determination.
As for the necessary element of interstate commerce, the theory upon which the law rests is very simple. The alleged victims must have been involved in interstate commerce in some way, if only in a minimal degree, and as such interstate commerce would have been affected. United States v. Gill, 490 F.2d 233, C.A. 7, 1973; United States v. DeMet, 486 F.2d 816, C.A. 7, 1973; United States v. Augello, 451 F.2d 1167, C.A. 2, 1971, cert. den. 405 U.S. 1070, 92 S. Ct. 1518, 31 L. Ed. 2d 802; United States v. Nadaline, 471 F.2d 340, C.A. 5, 1973, cert. den. 411 U.S. 951, 93 S. Ct. 1924, 36 L. Ed. 2d 414.
Actually, the effect upon commerce need be merely potential or subtle. United States v. Augello, supra. If trade in interstate commerce is affected in any way or degree by the extortion, it is a proper element. United States v. Amato, 495 F.2d 545, C.A. 5, 1974. Thus, the theory behind this necessary element is that interstate commerce is obstructed or affected in some way or degree and that money extorted from those engaged in interstate commerce has been depleted from interstate commerce.
Section 1951 of the statute does not specify the character or degree or manner in which the law would require a person to be held chargeable with obstructing, delaying or affecting commerce. However, the majority judicial determinations have held that any minimal interference with or effect upon commerce is sufficient. United States v. Provenzano, 334 F.2d 678, C.A. 3, 1964, cert. den. 379 U.S. 947, 85 S. Ct. 440, 13 L. Ed. 2d 544 (1964); United States v. Mazzei, 521 F.2d 639, C.A. 3, 1975, cert. den. 423 U.S. 1014, 96 S. Ct. 446, 46 L. Ed. 2d 385 (1975).
Where the victim of extortion purchases goods in interstate commerce, then interstate commerce is affected as a matter of law. United States v. Augello, 451 F.2d 1167, C.A. 2, 1971; United States v. Hulahan, 214 F.2d 441, C.A. 8, 1954; United States v. Lowe, 234 F.2d 919, C.A. 3, 1956.
It does not matter whether the goods shipped in interstate commerce are shipped directly to the victim of the extortion or indirectly through a wholesaler or retail merchant. United States v. Starks, 515 F.2d 112, C.A. 3, 1975; United States v. DeMet, supra; United States v. Amato, supra.
In spite of the fact that Congress in a criminal Act, such as set forth in § 1951, used broad words such as "Whoever in any way or degree obstructs . . .", it has been held sufficient if it includes any minimal nexus or connection with interstate commerce; and it accordingly is to be construed broadly and is not limited to conduct which directly and immediately obstructs the particular movement of goods in interstate commerce. United States v. Pranno, 385 F.2d 387, C.A. 7, 1967, cert. den. 390 U.S. 944, 88 S. Ct. 1028, 19 L. Ed. 2d 1132.
In United States v. Staszcuk, 517 F.2d 53, C.A. 7, 1975, where Judge Stevens wrote the opinion, a defendant was charged with accepting $3,000 for not opposing a zoning change which would have permitted certain construction and had the construction proceeded as anticipated, materials for the construction would have crossed state lines. It was held here to have had sufficient nexus with interstate commerce.
It was said that the Hobbs Act must receive an expansive instruction, that where there is a threatened effect upon interstate commerce, notwithstanding absence of any actual effect, the Act applied. It held further that the commerce element of a Hobbs Act violation is satisfied even if the record demonstrates that extortion had no actual effect on commerce; and that jurisdiction in a particular case is satisfied by showing realistic "probability" that an extortionate transaction will have some effect on interstate commerce. Three judges dissented.
The power of Congress over interstate commerce is not confined to the regulation of commerce among the states, but also extends to those activities intrastate when it so affects interstate commerce, or the exercise of the power of Congress over it, as to make regulation of them an appropriate means for the attainment of the exercise of a constitutionally granted power. United States v. Harris, 460 F.2d 1041, C.A. 5, 1972, cert. den. 409 U.S. 877, 93 S. Ct. 128, 34 L. Ed. 2d 130.
There are, however, some decisions which question the extent which Congress intended when it used the words "in any way or degree" in § 1951.
In the Staszcuk case, supra, as I said, three judges dissented on the interpretation which the majority judges of the Court of Appeals had applied and to the extent to which federal jurisdiction might also be applied. This is elaborated in the dissent, part of which is here quoted, by Judge Pell at page 62:
"I respectfully dissent from the result reached and while concurring in the dissenting opinion of Judge Sprecher, because of what I regard as a substantially incorrect extension of federal jurisdiction into a localized crime, I feel impelled to add the following comments.