Attorneys for Greg Lindberg, the North Carolina businessman accused of attempting to bribe the state's insurance commissioner, are asking a court to dismiss his charges, saying his actions fall short of meeting the bribery and fraud threshold.
Lindberg's motion to dismiss says the charges against him raise several constitutional issues. "Most notably, prosecutions of this nature will inhibit the rights of all Americans to make demands of their elected representatives—and vote and contribute accordingly," the filing says.
The case has ensnared not just Lindberg and his insurance business, but also the former chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and other Lindberg associates.
According to a federal indictment, Lindberg held a series of secret meetings with North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey in the spring of 2018. During those meetings, he asked Causey to remove a senior deputy in charge of overseeing Lindberg's Durham-based insurance business - Global Bankers Insurance Group.
Lindberg believed that the deputy, Jacqueline Obusek, was trying to hurt his reputation, and he wanted her replaced with a deputy he had handpicked, according to the indictment.
At one of the secret meetings held at the Statesville Regional Airport, Causey alledgedly asked Lindberg, "What's in it for me?" Lindberg then allegedly offered to funnel up to $2 million to Causey's campaign.
According to the indictment, the money was funneled to the campaign in August 2018 through the North Carolina Republican Party and other political accounts, and the state GOP's chairman, Robin Hayes, actively worked to facilitate the deal.
Meanwhile, Causey had been in contact with the FBI since January 2018 and had been secretly recording his conversations with Lindberg, Hayes, and others. He turned over the money after it was received.
Argument for dismissal
The federal government indicted Lindberg, Hayes, and two other Lindberg associates in April 2019, charging them with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. Hayes was also charged with lying and making false statements to the FBI.
In a court filing this week, Lindberg's lawyers say his actions did not constitute fraud or bribery, and that the case against him is "legally flawed," "infirm" and "deficient." They base their arguments on two technicalities:
First, the attorneys argue that according to a 2016 Supreme Court decision (McDonnell v. United States), an act of bribery must include an "official act" that results in a specific outcome or decision - for example, in a lawsuit or an agency hearing. The attorneys argue that requesting a staffing change does not constitute an "official act" under the Supreme Court's interpretation.
Second, the attorneys cite a 2010 Supreme Court decision (Skilling v. United States) that says honest services fraud requires both parties to turn a profit. Lindberg "did not profit" from the alleged scheme, the attorneys say, and so he can't be charged with fraud.
The attorneys go on to argue that convicting Lindberg would have a chilling effect on citizens who donate to political candidates while pressuring them to enact certain policies or political nominations.
"A citizen has a right to petition the government, ask for changes, and make campaign contributions," the attorneys write, adding that "the government's prosecution of Mr. Lindberg will 'cast a pall of potential prosecution' over citizens' demands for better representative government."
Lindberg, Hayes, and the two other man have pleaded innocent to all charges.