Don’t toss that fish!

There have been some recent prosecutions under 18 U.S.C. §1519, which criminalizes destruction of evidence in connection with an investigation by the Federal government.  Kurt Mix was tried for disposing of a bunch of text messages regarding the BP oil spill.  A Halliburton employee was indicted for destroying some cement tests.  18 U.S.C. §1519 is definitely worth a close read for anyone involved in information governance.

Well, the Supreme Court is taking a look at the use of that section of the Federal criminal code, enacted post-Enron and Arthur Andersen, to prosecute someone for throwing out a dead fish.

“Supreme Court Objects to Application of Sarbanes-Oxley on Commercial Fisherman.” [Wall Street Journal online November 5, 2014]  A Federal game warden arrests a fisherman for taking under-sized grouper.  Betwixt the arrest and when the boat gets to shore, some of the fish may have been tossed overboard.  The fisherman got convicted of a violation of that section, and could have been sentenced to 20 years.  For tossing out a dead fish.

The law applies to paper and email and such as well.  And it doesn’t have to be in connection with an criminal investigation; it’s the disposal, modification, or concealment of anything to influence the proper administration a matter within the jurisdiction of a US government department or agency.  But we all knew that, right?


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