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In a rebuff of Donald Smaltz — that other independent counsel — the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that makes it tougher to convict someone for handing out gratuities to a federal official. Smaltz has long been pursuing a corruption case involving former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, who himself was acquitted in December of 30 counts of accepting illegal gifts from a California raisin-and-nut cooperative. In reversing a conviction against the cooperative, Sun-Diamond Growers, the court said prosecutors must prove that a gift was linked to an official act, rather than part of an effort to merely curry favor.

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