AUSTIN – Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled to reject the aggressive interpretation of the portion of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act used to convict John Yates, a fishing boat captain who faced 20 years in prison for supposedly destroying evidence.
 
In 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service boarded Yates’ ship to inspect his catch. Yates allegedly disposed of evidence by throwing three undersized groupers overboard. Normally, this conduct would result in a civil fine or permit sanctions. Instead, he was arrested and prosecuted under the “anti-shredding provision” of Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was intended to punish the destruction of document evidence in financial crimes, and carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
 
“This is a remarkable step toward rationality and fairness in the criminal justice system,” said Marc Levin, Director of the Center for Effective Justice. “With this ruling, overzealous prosecutors have had a powerful cudgel removed from their hands. While there were different opinions, the court was effectively unanimous in finding that a statute at issue went too far in criminalizing too much conduct, though five justices thought it could be reasonably construed in a way as to not cover Mr. Yates’ conduct.”
 
Texas Public Policy Foundation filed an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Yates, and TPPF Center for Effective Justice Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy wrote about the case in The Federalist.
 
For more information, or to schedule an interview with Marc Levin or Vikrant Reddy, please contact Caroline Espinosa at cespinosa@texaspolicy.com or (512) 472-2700.

Marc A. Levin is director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.  
 
Vikrant Reddy is senior policy analyst with the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.

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