Under this act it is an offence to perform an act which is intended to and does intimidate a person who the offender knows or believes to be involved with a criminal case with the intention of disturbing the proceedings. § 1512, which defines it as "Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant." The punishment for such an offense is up to 20 years if physical force was used or attempted, and up to 10 years if physical force was only threatened. The Supreme Court ruled that Section 1512 had been misinterpreted by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and reversed the decision of the lower court which had found the firm guilty of violating the section.
In situations where intimidation or retaliation against witnesses is likely (such as cases involving organized crime), witnesses may be placed in witness protection to prevent suspects or their colleagues intimidating them.Gotti was sentenced to life without parole, while Gravano was sentenced to five years on a relatively minor charge, following which he entered the federal Witness Protection Program.Witness tampering is the act of attempting to alter or prevent the testimony of witnesses within criminal or civil proceedings.A famous case of attempted witness intimidation was that of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano in New York City, an organized crime figure who turned state’s evidence against John Gotti in 1991 in exchange for reduced charges against himself.A public relations campaign against Gravano ensued, with posters of Gravano’s head superimposed on the body of a rat pasted throughout the city.