Do You Need An Underlying Crime To Obstruct Justice

Having done many, many investigations as a prosecutor and a few as a defense lawyer I wondered why anyone suggested that you need an underlying crime to have an obstruction of justice crime. I could not answer it based on my experience as a defense lawyer because I was defending someone accused of a crime and never defended anyone who was charged with obstruction of justice where no crime had been committed.

On the other hand as a prosecutor where I spent most of my time I suggest the answer is quite easy. It is contained in the statement itself: “obstruction of justice.”  The crime is not “obstruction of a crime” but of justice. I suppose the best way to begin is to look at the federal statute, It is quite broad:

Under 18 U.S.C. 73 there are 21 general categories that are considered obstruction of justice. Section 1503 reads: “Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede any grand or petit juror, or officer in or of any court of the United States, or officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate, in the discharge of his duty, . . .  or corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished. . . .”

Reading that statute it is clear no underlying crime need to exist. Nor does is it make any sense there would have to be an underlying crime. Having done investigations I know that sometimes the investigation will lead to the conclusion that no crime has been committed. Let’s look at it in more simple terms by me describing situations I handled but adding to it a letter by Bill Rodney.

I’m sitting in my Norfolk DA’s office and I learn a fire occurred at a Larry Tucker’s restaurant on Southern Cross Avenue, Braintree.  Several days later arson investigators show up. They present me with evidence that they found accelerants in three widely separated places in the restaurant which would indicate it was a set fire, an arson. They ask us to assist in the investigation. I assign a couple of our detectives to work with them.

They receive a letter from an anonymous person suggesting a friend of the owner named Joe Blazer set the fire. They spend a great deal of effort in tracking down Joe’s prior movements; and do a financial analysis of Larry Tucker and his restaurant. They want to know if he owes money, is a gambler or a drug user, etc.  They want to talk to Joe in person so they head off to Florida to do that.

While they were doing their investigation I get a call from Larry Tucker’s lawyer who wants to meet with me. He has heard we believe the fire was set and are looking at his client as having been involved in doing it. He brings in records to show me Larry’s doing well with the restaurant along with other things that cause me to question the initial findings there was an arson. I ask that the accelerants be sent to the ATF laboratory in Washington, DC to get a better read  on the type of accelerant used.

While my detective are in Florida I learn from the ATF that what the arson investigators found was tar which had dripped from the roof because of the intense heat of the fire. Not having separate places of origin along with no motive, it was clear there was no arson. I make contact with the detectives in Florida. They tell me they had just interviewed Joe. He denied any involvement. He said there was a guy back in Braintree that had been harassing him for years name Bill Rodney and he was probably the one who was trying to implicate him.

When the detectives came back they confronted Bill. He admitted he sent the letter because he hated Joe, wanted to get him in trouble, and knew nothing about the fire.

As you can see this is a case where there was no underlying crime but there was obstruction of justice.

15 thoughts on “Do You Need An Underlying Crime To Obstruct Justice

  1. The point Barr made in his memo written to Sessions is that you can’t or shouldn’t charge someone with obstruction for performing a function that is part of his job, as, say, a prosecutor deciding not to prosecute a case he could properly have prosecuted.

  2. TO LIBLE A PUBLIC FIGURE ACC TO NYTIMES V SULLIVAN, YOU MUST MAKE KNOWINGLY FALSE STATEMENTS, MALICIOUSLY SO

  3. Unlike the Trump situation, wherein an active Presidential coup was thwarted and its perpetrators ,no ..Deep State .. Kafka shadows. but real and now well known federal bad actor agents were involved, your arson suspect had the benefit of an honest and competent investigator not trying to burn him simply because he owned the restaurant.

    Mueller made a travesty of the Law regarding this . He is unethical . He got more recent catechising , however, regarding his own , –Mr. Robert Mueller Your Honor Pleading Guilty To Knowingly And Willingly Obstructing Justice In Several Very High PRO Mob Murder Cases I Supervised — than he liked though .

    Why then… No Collusion Is My Conclusion.

    Thankyou Bob

    Stay rather uncomfortable until We get back to you .

    If We choose.

    1. John, we should choose to get back to him . . .Prosecute all who abuse Federal Power, especially FED Prosecutors/Investigators/BlackRobes/leakingClerks

  4. The corrupt FEDs include members of Congress like the No Nothing Naysayer NADLER AND the dimwitted delusional SCHIFFLESS, a shifty shyster who believes words are infinitely malleable like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland . . .a lot of these LEFTIES are shiftless shysters, con artists, hucksters, snake oil salesmen and saleswomen , , , , ,enemies of America, the Constitution, and Truth, and Justice. Just no good scoundrels.

  5. What happened to Rodney? Was he charged and did he go to jail? If your boss told you not to charge him or give him a break would that be Obstruction of justice? Did Rodney serve ten years for his letter as Connolly got?

    1. NC:

      Connolly got 10 years for tipping off Flemmi and Salemme about indictments coming down to take off; for lying about his involvement with Flemmi’s lawyer, for giving his supervisor Morris a bribe, and for obstruction of justice, etc. the crimes the jury found him to be guilty off.

      1. matt, I have to repeat the actual crimes John Connolly was convicted of, there were 5 of them . . .as Shelley Murphy of the Globe wrote the Jury Acquitted him of all the SERIOUS CHARGES

        REMEMBER, TOO, ONE BOSTON JUROR SAID HE WOULD NOT HAVE AGREED TO CONVICT HIM OF ANYTHING IF HE THOUGHT THE JUDGE WOULD SENTENCE HIM TO ONE DAY IN JAIL

        1. john “lied” to an FBI agent about whether or not he called a Boston Lawyer’s Office . . . .John told the AGENT, according to the AGENT’s testimony, that he did not call that office . . .John got one question wrong after talking with that agent for how long, for hours?

        2. During his 20 plus years as a top FBI agent, John was convicted of ONE CRIME . ..the corrupt, perjurious, attempted murderer John Morris, John Connolly’s boss at the FBI, said John handed him a case of wine with an envelope inside that had $1,000 in it . . .Morris couldn’t remember where the envelope was, at the bottom, on the side, Morris testified Connolly never mentioned the envelope when he gave him the case of wine, so how did MOrris know Connolly knew the envelope was inside, MOrris testified, as I’ve read the reports, that two weeks later Connolly called and asked him how he liked what was inside the case, and Morris INFERRED from his TONE OF VOICE that he was referring to the envelope . . .REMEMBER, 3 WEEKS BEFORE CONNOLLY’S TRIAL, MORRIS WAS STILL WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE FROM THE FED STERNS GANG, THE LYING BASTARDS
        2. Five years after retiring from the FBI as a private citizen, Connolly told WEEKS, the weakling, that he heard and indictment was coming down. That is not a crime. It is a free speech. PLus it never happened. Weeks invented, or was counseled to compose/recall the details of a 1995 conversation.
        3. John also was convicted of telling Weeks to tell Flemmi to tell the Truth, john Connolly again was a private citizen simply telling a former crook he handled to tell Flemmi not to lie . . .that was in 1997-8, seven or eight years after John retired from the FBI . . . .that’s what’s known as FREE SPEECH . . .
        4. JOHN was convicted of writing a letter to ajudge . . .THAT TOO IS FREE SPEECH, the letter was on Boston Police Stationary and anonymous, obviously to get the judge’s attention
        5. I forget the fifth stupid charge, for now

        Essentially, John was convicted of one crime during his 23 stellar career as an FBI agent; the other “crimes” were not crimes but made so by corrupt FED PROSECUTORS, coaching, counseling, composing WEAK, CORRUPT, PERJURIOUS FELONS, SERIAL MURDERERS AMONG THEM, to tell stories

        So, based on two lies by WEEKS, two twisted fabrications, and one whopper from Morris, and one letter (FREE Speech) and one LIE (WRONG ANSWER, AN IRRELEVANCY, “NO, I DIDN’T CALL THAT OFFICE”) the blind judge sentences the heroic man most responsible for taking down the New England Mafia to 10 years in prison.

        AN ENORMITY OF INJUSTICE, TO WREAKS TO HEAVEN FOR REDRESS

        WHAT THE CORRUPT WYSHAK DID IN MIAMI IS WORSE

        REMEMBER, MATT, LIABLE OF A PUBLIC FIGURE CONSISTS OF KNOWINGLY MAKING A FALSE STATEMENT ABOUT THEM . . . .FALSE AND DEFAMATORY . . . DO I INTEND TO DEFAME THESE FEDS? yES. IS ANYTHING I’VE SAID OR WRITTEN FALSE? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

        SIGNED UNDER THE PAINS AND PENALITIES OF PERJURY, BILL C, JUST ANOTHER SAVIN HILL BILLY

        PROSECUTE THESE POWER ABUSING PROSECUTORS AND BLACK ROBES

    2. I notice Matt did not address the question of “what happened to Rodney”. He didn’t answer because it doesn’t help his case ..I’ll tell you what happened, without even knowing a single thing about the case..NOTHiNG. Prove me wrong, Matt, can you pint us to the obstruction of justice case you brought against Rodney? Surely you didn’t give him a pass?

  6. I agree with your analysis. You can obstruct justice, during an investigation. Before I comment further, I commend you for your post yesterday on the Monroe Doctrine. I agree that this hemisphere is off limits for foreign troops, and we are bound to enforce that 200 year old principle. But negotiate, before sending in the Marines. As in the Cuban MIssile Crisis, once Russia or any other foreign power knows we mean business, they will back off. As LIncoln said, not in a trial of one thousand years will all the armies of Europe and Asia combined make track on the Blue Ridge Mountains or drink from the Ohio River . . .America’s demise will come from within , , , ,from the lestist Media, Academia, power abusing Feds,Interventionists andAtheistic Antagonists, the VALUEPHOBES, WHO HATE OUR CONSTITUTION AND VALUES AND TRADITIONS.

    Now, on the Obstruction issue The problem is corrupt FED prosecutors and some State ones, more rarely, interpret the word “influence” to mean anything I write, I say or do . . . . .Unbelievable as it seems the corrupt FEDs in Boston actually prosecuted a Man for writing a letter a judge presenting a different point of view and for telling a criminal to tell an inmate to tell the truth. YOU SEE, CORRUPT INDIVIDUALS CAN TAKE A GOOD STATUTE, LIKE THE FLORIDA MURDER BY GUN LAW, AND MISINTERPRET IT TO APPLY TO GUY SITTING IN A COTTAGE ON MARTHA’S VINEYARD WITH A SHOTGUN ON THE WALL BEHIND HIM

    IT IS THE CORRUPT FEDS, CORRUPT MEDIA MOSTLY WHO ARE THE ENEMIES OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TODAY ……Abrhaham Lincoln warned us to keep an eye on those who think words, values and traditions are infinitely MALLEABLE, and can be twisted to mean whatever the LEFTISTS want the statutes, values,, facts and history to mean.

    SO, TO A CORRUPT Media type, corrupt power abusing FED, obstruction of justice will mean saying, writing or doing anything inconsistent with their leftist liberal views

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