Hobbs Act and interstate commerce

There is a GQ burried in here, I promise. Hopefully one of the practicing lawyers can help.

This question comes to mind because of a recent abduction case here in Connecticut. The three suspects are currently being held on federal charges of violating the Hobbs Act, rather than state charges of kidnapping:

I also recall that initially John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo (the DC sniper suspects) were also held on Hobbs Act charges.

I see that the Hobbs Act, (US Code Title 18 section 1951) makes it a crime to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion, robbery , or threats of violence. The definitions state:

The victim in the abduction case, I should say, is a money manager for an investment firm.

My question is what “commerce” is being interfered with in these cases? The definition (anachronistically, perhaps) seems to look at commerce as moving goods or money across state lines. I assume the case law has broadened the definition, but I’d like to know how and to what extent.


Oh. crap. Can some helpful mod clean this up for me? I only meant to post this once.

IANAL, but presumably as a money manager his firm received and distributed funds across state lines. The standard for interstate commerce is not very difficult to meet.

In the case of the snipers, it was probably justified by some businesses closing or being disrupted which were involved in interstate commerce.