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What is meant by an “overt act” in the context of Watergate?

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armyboy7 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted November 16, 2012 at 1:57 AM via web

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What is meant by an “overt act” in the context of Watergate?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 16, 2012 at 2:52 AM (Answer #1)

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The idea of “overt acts” is important to the Watergate scandal because overt acts can be used to prove that a conspiracy has taken place.

In the Watergate case, there was a conspiracy to commit various crimes.  According to the law, it is not necessary for people to actually commit a crime in order for them to be convicted of conspiracy.  However, it is easier to convict them if they have committed one or more “overt acts” in furtherance of the conspiracy.  These are acts that show that the conspirators have started to execute the plan that they have conspired to create.  The acts do not need to be illegal in and of themselves, but they need to show that someone is starting to act based on the plan the conspirators have made.

Therefore, when the grand jury indicted the Watergate conspirators, they included a list of overt acts that the conspirators allegedly committed.  This list included 45 different acts.  The term “overt acts,” then, is relevant to the Watergate scandal because overt acts can be used as evidence of conspiracy and many of the Watergate defendants were convicted of that crime.

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