Remember Robert “Joe” Halderman, who blackmailed David Letterman by demanding $2 million from him, or else he would divulge Mr. Letterman’s affairs? Or how about the 1932 kidnapping of famous aviator Charles Linbergh’s 20-month-old son, when the kidnapper demanded $50,000 in exchange for the boy? Remember the Watergate scandal, when corporations bribed President Nixon to curry favors with government officials? And let’s not forget “protection money,” wherein businesses were forced to pay gangs to prevent harm to their body and business. These are all examples of extortion.
What is Extortion?
Extortion is when someone consents to giving you something (such as money, valuables, information, or to receive kickbacks) because you threatened him or her in a way that caused fear. Fear is instilled by the threat to:
cause injury or harm to a person, property, or someone else;
accuse the person or relative of a crime;
expose or attribute the person of a deformity, disgrace, or crime;
expose a secret affecting the person; or
to report the person’s immigration status, even if untrue.
What are the Punishments for Extortion?
Extortion is considered a felony, carrying a punishment of imprisonment for up to four years in California, and up to 20 years in federal prison. Extortion is a misdemeanor, but the punishment relies greatly on the facts of the case. A person who attempts but fails to actually commit extortion may be imprisoned for up to one year. Aside from imprisonment, we have seen convicted extortionists fined up to $10,000 in California, and over billions of dollars in federal court.
What are the Potential Defenses for Extortion?
There are several defenses for extortion. An attorney may argue:
You did not actually force the alleged victim into agreeing to give up property;
You did not intend to induce the alleged victim to give up property; or
There is insufficient proof to support a conviction for extortion.
Help for Your Extortion Case
If you have further questions regarding extortion, contact Nicco Capozzi, a Fresno extortion attorney at (559) 374-2012.