Verify: Can you be prosecuted for saying I hope?

VERIFY – YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, WE’LL FIND ANSWERS

A 9NEWS project to make sure what you’ve heard is true, accurate, verified. Want us to verify something for you? Email verify@9news.com

THE QUESTION

During the questioning Thursday of former FBI Director James Comey, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) referenced a specific line in Comey’s written testimony.

Comey wrote that President Donald Trump said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Risch asked Comey whether anyone has ever been prosecuted for obstruction of justice using the phrase “I hope” or saying he or she hoped something happened.

Comey said he couldn’t name a case.

So, the Verify team decided to check whether such a conviction exists.

WHAT WE FOUND

It exists.

The case comes from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s called U.S. v. Collin McDonald and was first pointed out by New York Times reporter Adam Liptak.

The court found that while McDonald was in jail for a bank robbery, his girlfriend Tiffany Callahan recieved a letter from him that read in part:

“I hope and pray to God you did not say anything about a weapon when you were in Iowa. Because it will make it worse on me and you even if they promised not to prosecute you that’s not always true. I would hate to see you go to jail it’s a horrible place especially since you are very sensitive you would have God with you. No matter what don’t ever forget that you will also have my soul to share with you everywhere you go.”

Obviously every case is different, but as to Risch’s implication that an expression of “hope” as opposed to directly asking for a person to comply might not be enough to reach a legal threshold to prove obstruction of justice, that idea doesn’t hold up.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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