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I'm referencing a movie, The taking of Pelham 123. In it, as a part of the protagonists back story, he is accused of taking a bribe from a Japanese manufacturer to win a contract to supplying trains to the New York metropolitan transport authority. He seems like a good and moral man which begs the question, why would he take a bribe. It is eventually revealed that he took the money for a respectable reason and that he only accepted the so called bribe because he was going to recommend that specific manufacturer anyway.

What I'm asking is, assuming he had a way of sufficiently proving he had already made that decision and that it wasn't swayed by the money, would he be guilty of taking a bribe? If not, what, if anything, would he be guilty of?

Edit: as mentioned in a comment below, what if he took the bribe money, law enforcement had evidenceof this transaction, then he ends up choosing a different manufacturerthus not honoring the bribe. Would he still be charged, if so what would he be guilty of?

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    Another question is: What if he took the money, allowing it to appear that it was in exchange for his promise to choose that company, and then he ended up choosing another? Oct 20, 2023 at 18:32
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    Still bribery. See my answer below.
    – bdb484
    Oct 20, 2023 at 21:17
  • @MichaelHardy "An honest copy is one who stays bribed". Oct 20, 2023 at 22:44
  • What it he took the money, knowing that they mistakenly thought he could influence the decision, when in fact he had nothing to do with it? Fraud? Bribery? Oct 21, 2023 at 21:16

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New York Penal Law § 200.10:

A public servant is guilty of bribe receiving in the third degree when he solicits, accepts or agrees to accept any benefit from another person upon an agreement or understanding that his vote, opinion, judgment, action, decision or exercise of discretion as a public servant will thereby be influenced.

Under the statute, then, it doesn't matter if you're a "moral man" or that you took the money "for a respectable reason."

The question instead will be whether the protagonist did the following:

  1. solicited, accepted, or agreed to accept a benefit
  2. based on an agreement or understanding that it would influence his vote, opinion, action, etc. as a public servant.

In The Taking of Pelham 123, the facts of the story are never quite clear enough to establish whether Garber actually accepted a bribe, as he indicates that he already made his decision when he took the money, but never indicates how or why it was given to him.

If the subway manufacturer was unaware that he had made his decision and understood the money to be payment for him to make a decision in its favor, that would pretty clearly be a bribe, even though the decision was made.

If the subway manufacturer was just elated to to learn that it was going to get the contract and wanted to give him a $35,000 gift, that would probably not technically be bribery, though it would probably be a violation of New York Penal Law § 200.10.

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  • You're right, the movie never goes that deep into that whole incident but for the purposes of my question assume the manufacturer was made to believe he was paying a bribe and that Walter only took the bribe because he, having already made his decision, didn't think it was wrong. If he could prove that his decision wasn't swayed by the money, would his crime not be more similar to fraud as he took the money under false pretenses?
    – Ethan
    Oct 20, 2023 at 21:28
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    Might also be fraud, but it would also clearly still be bribery. The law is written to take the public servant's actual intentions out of the equation and instead ask whether the money traded hands because of the understanding between the two parties. If the manufacturer believed he was paying to influence Garber's decision, that's bribery.
    – bdb484
    Oct 20, 2023 at 21:45

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