Elements at common law (very different from modern extortion):
  • 1. Corrupt
  • 2. Collection of unlawful fee
  • 3. By officer
  • 4. Under color of office
Elements (modern): property taken by intimidation rather than threat of physical harm
  • 1. Maliciously
  • 2. Threaten to accuse/injure
  • 3. With intent to extort pecuniarily or compel victim to act against will
State v. Harrington
  • Scheme to catch husband in infidelity, worked, lawyer asked for $175,000 ($500,000 available) to avoid alimony, etc.
  • Lawyer prosecuted for extortion.
  • Extortion elements:
    • 1. Use of a threat (qualifying threat)
    • 2. Attempt to obtain/obtain
    • 3. Property of another or some action on part of another
  • How to avoid extortion?
    • Not clear!
United States v. Jackson
  • Autumn (convicted of extortion), claims to be daughter of Bill Cosby (who is not married).
  • Cosby had been providing for her with money for education.
  • She wanted more money ($40 mil!)—or would see story to tabloids.
  • Court suggests "claim of right" defense
    • Legitimate compensation is not a wrongful threat. (CA explicitly rejected this idea—see grocery store case.)
    • Only real way to avoid it is if a claim of right defense actually exists, otherwise it’s a very, very fuzzy line.
McCormick v. United States
  • Extortion under common law: color of official right, rather like bribery…
    • 1. Money or property
    • 2. Obtaining
    • 3. Under color of office
  • Court comes around to the idea that there must (Diamon, p. 561, middle) be quid pro quo.
  • Money must be the reason for changing position.
  • Otherwise to close to normal campaign contributions.
  • Not recording it as a contribution, there’s an implication of quid pro quo.
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