Robbins: Breathing together, conspiring together |

Robbins: Breathing together, conspiring together

To respire. To breathe.

To conspire. Literally, to breathe together.

And if you think of it, this COVID-19-aspirated world of ours notwithstanding, that is the crux of if. When one — or really two or more — put their heads together, breathing the same villainous air — that is the very essence of conspiracy.

More formally, a conspiracy may be defined as a combination or confederation between two or more persons formed for the purpose of committing, by their joint efforts, some unlawful or criminal act, or some act which is lawful in itself, but becomes unlawful when done by the concerted action of the conspirators, or for the purpose of using criminal or unlawful means to the commission of an act not itself unlawful.

Whew. Let’s take a breath.

Let’s forge on a bit further and then set about untangling this.

A person is guilty of conspiracy with another person (or persons) to commit a crime if with the purpose of promoting or facilitating its commission s/he: (a) agrees with such other person(s) that they — or one or more of them — will engage in conduct which constitutes a crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit a such crime; or (b) agrees to aid such other person(s) in the planning or commission of such crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime.

One last nasty bit …

A conspiracy may be continuing; like a game of pick-up softball, players (or “actors” really) may drop out and others may drop in. The details of the operation may change from time to time. The members need not know each other, or the part played by others. A member need not know all the details of the plan or operations; s/he must, however, know the purpose of the conspiracy and agree to become a party to a plan (however shifting it may be) to effectuate that purpose.

OK, now, let’s wade through this.

It takes two to tango

The first part is easy; in order for a crime to constitute a conspiracy, the parties must “breathe together.” And, as in the tango, it takes two — or sometimes more — and lots of heavy breathing. 

Being no expert in the tango, but having witnessed it in its birthplace along with the Rio de la Plata in Buenos Aires, even though it is a partnered dance, much like a conspiracy, there may be many paired-off couples whirling about the dance floor all at once. As so long as they are dancing the same steps, ay, ay, ay, a conspiracy is born!

OK, so the first part is knocking heads together with plan.

Unlike many other crimes, in order for a conspiracy to blossom, it need not be committed. Say what? Say you dream about committing an illicit act. You fluff your pillows beneath your head at night, and instead of visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in your head, what you think about is pulling off the ultimate Ocean’s Eleven heist. 

Well, unless you actually do, knock yourself out. No one is going to crawl into your tortured cranium to see what evil lurks there. Conspiracy is different. Sure, committing a contemplated crime will be ah … a crime. But so too is the planning. Once the plan leaks from your tortured brain and melds into another, and steps are taken towards its fulfillment, you have crossed a line.

Now to be clear, nattering with someone about how neat it might be to play the real life roles of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, once a plan begins to hatch, oops, that might just be more than simple fantasy or clowning.

And here’s the other thing that might just have you scratching a bald spot on your pate. The object of the conspiracy itself need not necessarily be illegal. If the means to accomplish a legal purpose are themselves illegal, when you may just find yourself knee deep in a crime. 

Feeding the beast

An example here might help. Financial investing is a common and licit practice. Chipping 10 percent of your monthly take-home into your Schwab or Merrill Lynch account is a healthy and appropriate way to brood your nest egg. But let’s now say, you hatch a plan to grow your nest egg just a wee bit faster and you breathe together with another person to do so in a not-so-kosher way. That the end itself may be licit, the path to reach that goal may not.

Then there’s this. Let’s say you help your buddy plan a crime. Ultimately, he — and he alone — actually commits the crime. Yikes, at least as regards the conspiracy — the planning part — you’re likely taking the same ride to the pokey as he is.

Back now to our sandlot game.

Think of the hatchling of the conspiracy as a beast that must be fed and nurtured. You take your turn in feeding it. Others do so too, contributing a certain this and that to the maturing varmint. Over time, some lose interest and fade away. Others take their place. Not everyone who feeds the beast knows who all the others are or exactly what part they may be playing. 

So long as you have contributed, the precise details don’t matter or give you a pass when hands are caught in the cookie jar of the conspiracy. So long as you have fed and nurtured — even if you don’t know the precise species of the beast — you’ll likely have some serious ‘splainin’ to do.

Conspiracy is a legal chimera; it’s some of this and some of that. What the sine quo non of it is, however, is the blended breath of one or more persons trying to get ahead by illicit means or to an illicit end.

At least forgodsake wear a mask!    

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User