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The Supreme Court overturned the bribery conviction of a former Indiana mayor on Wednesday in an opinion that narrows the scope of public corruption law.

The high court’s 6-3 opinion along ideological lines sided with James Snyder, who was convicted of taking $13,000 from a trucking company after prosecutors said he steered about $1 million worth of city contracts the company’s way.

The decision continues a pattern in recent years of the court restricting the government’s ability to use broad federal laws to prosecute public corruption cases. The justices also overturned the bribery conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2016, and the court sharply curbed prosecutors’ use of an anti-fraud law in the case of ex-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling in 2010.

Snyder, a Republican, has maintained his innocence, saying the money was payment for consulting work. His attorneys argued before the high court that prosecutors hadn’t proved there was a “quid pro quo” exchange agreement before the contracts were awarded and that prosecuting officials for gratuities given after the fact unfairly criminalizes normal gift giving.

The Justice Department countered that the law was clearly meant to cover gifts “corruptly” given to public officials as rewards for favored treatment.

But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the conservative majority, said “the government’s interpretation of the statue would create traps for unwary state and local officials.”

A gratuity or reward could be unethical or illegal under other laws, but it doesn’t violate the law Snyder was charged with breaking, he said.

In a sharply worded dissent joined by her liberal colleagues, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said that that reading ignores the plain text of the law. She said Snyder’s argument was an “absurd” reading of the law that “only today’s court could love.”

Snyder was elected mayor of the small Indiana city of Portage, located near Lake Michigan, in 2011 and was reelected four years later. He was indicted and removed from office when he was first convicted in 2019.

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