A 41-year-old man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for a string of robberies committed over the course of a year. The police were able to tie him to 10 robberies during that period. The man targeted stores such as The Family Dollar, Dollar General, and auto parts retailers. The man and his brother were targeted by the FBI under The Hobbs Act. In other words, they faced federal charges related to this string of robberies.
For taking a plea under The Hobbs Act, the federal government dropped a litany of other charges related to the individual crimes. In this case, the man was charged only with interference in interstate commerce (The Hobbs Act) and bringing a weapon to a crime of violence.
Analyzing the robberies
These were more like bank robberies than simple smash and grabs. The employees were held at gunpoint and placed in restraints while the assailants loaded merchandise. In other words, they committed actual crimes of violence against the employees and yet, were never charged with those crimes. Instead, they were charged with interfering with interstate commerce which tells you all you need to know about the priorities of the federal government.
The Hobbs Act was passed in 1946 and essentially prevents the use of strongarm tactics that influence interstate commerce. Essentially, the law was passed after the mafia began infiltrating major unions and used “Old World” methods of influencing market partners. While individual store robbers are seldom charged under the Hobbs Act, there is no reason why they can’t be. In Chicago, for instance, Hobbs Act prosecutions involve piracy of UPS trucks and things of that nature. Because there is the use of a weapon and a demand to comply with the robbers’ requests, they can be prosecuted under The Hobbs Act.
As far as interstate commerce goes, the connection to interstate commerce can be tenuous. We’re seeing the FBI step into prosecutions in Chicago because of Trump-era initiatives to help street-level cops deal with complex gang violence and other organized crime. It is unclear that President Trump offered the same support to Florida, a political ally.
While the defendants likely had little to no defense against the actual charges of robbery (both took pleas in this case) the defendants could have raised the point that their crime did not actually impact interstate commerce. At that point, they could have been charged under state law or charged with any of the other 40+ charges they faced for unlawful imprisonment, assault, battery, and more. In other words, even if the charges were inappropriate to a Hobbs Act prosecution, the state had them dead to rights on a number of other charges. They had no leverage to try to avoid a Hobbs Act prosecution and there is a chance that they could have faced stiffer penalties under state law if the case was kicked back to the state level.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
Facing federal charges? The West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the Skier Law Firm, P.A. can help. Call today to schedule an appointment and we can discuss your best moves as your case proceeds.