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William Dykeman
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  • Location: Cleveland, Ohio
  • Joined: January 2013

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United States
In the United States, the federal crime of witness tampering is defined by statute at 18 U.S.C. § 1512, which is entitled "tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant."[2][3] The statute is broad; the Justice Manual notes that it "proscribes conduct intended to illegitimately affect the presentation of evidence in Federal proceedings or the communication of information to Federal law enforcement officers" and applies to tampering with witnesses in "proceedings before Congress, executive departments, and administrative agencies, and to civil and criminal judicial proceedings, including grand jury proceedings."[3] Witness tampering is a crime even if a proceeding is not actually pending,[3][2] and even if the testimony sought to be influenced, delayed, or prevented would not be admissible in evidence.[2] Section 1512 also provides that the federal government has extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute the offenses described by the section.[2][3]

Witness tampering is a criminal offense even if the attempt to tamper is unsuccessful.[3] The offense also covers the intimidation of not only a witness himself or herself, but also intimidation of "another person" (i.e., a third party, such as a witness's spouse) in order to intimate the witness.[3]

Section 1512 was created as part of the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 (VWPA). Before that time, federal prosecutions "for attempting to or succeeding in corruptly influencing or intimidating witnesses" were prosecuted under the general obstruction of justice statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1503.[4] VWPA established section 1512 to address the specific witness tampering issue, and simultaneously removed references to witnesses from section 1503.[4][5] This led to uncertainly about whether witness tampering can now be exclusively prosecuted as a federal crime under section 1512, or whether it may also be prosecuted under section 1503 as an alternative or additional charge; the courts of appeals are split on this question.[4][5]

Notable people in the United States convicted of witness tampering include former South Dakota State Representative Ted Klaudt,[6] political operative Roger Stone,[7] real estate developer Charles Kushner,[8] and Nine Trey Gangsters figure Laron Spicer.[9]

Witness tampering via bribery is not covered by 18 U.S.C. § 1512, but is rather prohibited by a different statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1510.[3]