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United States v. Covino

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
837 F.2d 65 (1988)


Alfred Covino (defendant) was the director of network services at NYNEX Mobile Communications Company (NYNEX), a telephone-service provider and cell-site builder. Great Northeastern Building and Management Corporation (GNBM) was a small, three-employee company half-owned by Robert Brennan. GNBM had been hired by NYNEX to build cell sites in a contract that accounted for about 90 percent of GNBM’s business. As director, Covino had control over the selection, supervision, and payment of the contractors that were hired to build cell sites. Covino learned that a former GNBM employee had improperly billed $3,200 to a NYNEX credit card. Covino showed the bills to Brennan and warned Brennan that it would not be good if Covino’s superior found out about the bills. Brennan offered to pay the bills, but Covino said that he would handle the bills himself. Shortly thereafter, Covino asked Brennan for help in building a sun deck for Covino’s home. Covino reminded Brennan about the improper bills, and as a result, Brennan agreed to build the deck at a low cost. Ultimately, Brennan built an entire sunroom for Covino, expending more than $20,000. Covino later induced Brennan to pay for other improvements on Covino’s house and demanded various cash payments totaling to $85,000. At the time, GNBM was almost entirely dependent upon its construction contract with NYNEX. Covino was charged with a violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, which criminalizes extortion by the wrongful use of fear of economic loss. At trial, Brennan testified that he feared Covino would use his position as director to destroy GNBM if Brennan did not comply with Covino’s demands. Covino was convicted and moved for judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict. The district court granted the motion, citing insufficient evidence of the use of wrongful fear. Covino appealed from other related convictions, and the government cross-appealed from the district court’s Hobbs Act acquittal.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Winter, J.)

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