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US Supreme Court throws out conviction for disposing of fish

The U.S. Supreme Court
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The U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a Florida fisherman's conviction under an evidence-tampering provision of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley white collar crime law for disposing of fish while he was under criminal investigation.

On a 5-4 vote, the court said that fisherman John Yates' actions were not the type of conduct covered by the law, which was intended to prevent fraud of the sort committed by companies such as Enron and WorldCom.

Yates was convicted in 2011 on two of three charges, including one under the so-called anti-shredding provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley law.

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The provision penalizes the destruction or concealment of "a tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence" a government investigation.

There was not a clear majority on the legal reasoning in the high court's ruling. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote on behalf of herself and three colleagues that a "tangible object" should be defined as a object that is used to record or preserve information. Justice Samuel Alito, who provided the decisive fifth vote, said the term was intended to describe file-keeping.

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