CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Number One Reason the Letterman Blackmail Case Will Annoy Criminal Law Professors

Last week, in discussing a new article on blackmail, I recalled Don Dripps' observation: "In the last twenty years, there may very well be fewer reported blackmail prosecutions than articles on the subject." Well now we get a blackmail prosecution, and under New York law, it is called  "extortion," according to this article at Findlaw entitled Letterman Extortion: Producer Busted; What Is Extortion? It seems that the Letterman case falls into the classic blackmail category: a threat to do something that would be legal if it were just done (i.e., exposing Letterman's dalliances). The classic extortion case involves a threat to do something that would be illegal (e.g., punch Letterman, steal his jokes) unless Letterman surrendered something of value. Pretty soon, I'm going to stop correcting my students when they talk about someone robbing a house.
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