United States Supreme Court Reverses Tax Conviction, Placing Significant Restrictions on the Government’s Use of the Omnibus Clause

In this tax prosecution, the Government pursued a theory that the defendant impeded an investigation regardless of whether he knew he was under investigation. Defense requests for a jury instruction that the Government must prove that the Defendant knew about the investigation coupled with the act that purportedly impeded the investigation was refused.

The Defendant was convicted and the Second Circuit affirmed.

The U.S. Supreme Court, through an opinion written by Justice Breyer, decided that the Omnibus Clause, which specifically forbids “corruptly or by force or threats of force (including any threatening letter or communication) obstruct[ing] or imped[ing], or endeavor[ing] to obstruct or impede, the due administration of [the Internal Revenue Code],” referred to specific interference with targeted governmental tax-related proceedings, such
as a particular investigation or audit.

The Court concluded that, to secure a conviction under the Omnibus Clause, the Government must show (among
other things) that there is a “nexus” between the defendant’s conduct and a particular administrative proceeding,
such as an investigation, an audit, or other targeted administrative action. That nexus requires a “relationship
in time, causation, or logic with the [administrative] proceeding.”

The case is Marinello v. United States; 16-1144.


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