The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS — The recent charges against three St. Louis aldermen and their subsequent resignations has made national news. In this week’s Legal Lens, Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen, explains what happened from a legal standpoint.

“A federal grand jury charged them with basically accepting bribes from small business owners in exchange for legislation authorizing property tax breaks or special contracts,” said McNairy. “Reed was charged with two counts of bribery. The allegations say that he took money in exchange for getting city contracts for his trucking company. Boyd was charged with two counts of bribery as well, and he also faces a separate indictment for wire fraud relating to the allegations that he made insurance claims for damages on vehicles he didn’t own. Collins-Muhammad was charged with two counts of bribery and one count of honest services bribery and wire fraud.”

What constitutes the crime, and what are the consequences?

“There are several state statutes in the city ordinances at play here, and it’s everywhere from bribery to misdemeanors,” said McNairy. “So, there’s a Missouri state statute that makes it a felony for any public servant to accept a benefit or a bribe, direct or indirect or both. There is another statute in Missouri that makes it a misdemeanor for any public servant to knowingly receive any reward in exchange for any favor. Finally, there is a city ordinance that basically says any office or employee should not grant any gift or favors in their official capacity.”

So, what brought the FBI in?

“The FBI got involved, basically a premise on the Missouri laws we just talked about that they allege were violated,” said McNairy. “There’s federal codes that make it a federal crime for any state employee, including an alderman who’s an agent of the City of St. Louis, to solicit or demand bribes in excess of $5,000. Another law for the United States code is that it’s a federal crime to mail or basically use any federal facility in interstate commerce. Here, it was a cell phone.”