Commerce between any place in a State and any place outside of that State, or within any possession of the United States (not including the Canal Zone) or the District of Columbia, and commerce between places within the same State but through any place outside of that State. 18 U.S.C.

The Hobbs Act

The Hobbs Act provides that '[w]hoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by . .. extortion or attempts or conspires so to do . . . shall be fined . . . or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.' 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1951(a). '[A]n effect on interstate commerce is established by proof of an actual impact, however small, or in the absence of actual impact, by proof of a probable or potential impact.' We have upheld convictions under the Hobbs Act even where the connection to interstate commerce was slight. See, e.g., id. (defendant threatened to deliver embarrassing audio tapes to his victim's employer, a corporation engaged in interstate commerce); U.S. v. Hanigan, 681 F.2d 1127, 1130-31 (9th Cir.'82) (defendant robbed three undocumented alien farm workers, affecting the movement of labor across borders); U.S. v. Phillips, 577 F.2d 495, 501 (9th Cir.'78) (defendant's extortion 'threatened the depletion of resources from a business engaged in interstate commerce'). In U.S. v. Davis, 707 F.2d 880 (6th Cir.'83), the Sixth Circuit upheld the Hobbs Act conviction of a county sheriff who extorted political contributions from his deputies, several of whom received funds from federal programs.

The court held that the diversion of these federal funds into the sheriff's political 'war chest' had a sufficient impact on interstate commerce to bring the extortion within the scope of the Hobbs Act. Id. at 884. See U.S. v. Buffey, 899 F.2d 1402, 1405 (4th Cir.'90) (no effect on interstate commerce where the victim, the majority stockholder in a company engaged in interstate commerce, probably would have paid defendant out of personal rather than corporate assets); United States v. Mattson, 671 F.2d 1020, 1025 (7th Cir.'82) (no effect on interstate commerce where the victim paid defendant out of personal assets, even though the victim was employed by a business engaged in interstate commerce); United States v. Blair, 762 F. Supp. 1384, 1394 (N.D.Cal.'91) (no effect on interstate commerce where defendant was paid with personal funds withdrawn from money market account held in a bank engaged in interstate commerce).