Court says extortion law violation must include 'property'

June 26, 2013 at 12:11 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday trying to force someone to recommend an investment to an employer does not violate a federal extortion law.

Investments for the employee pension fund of the state of New York and its local governments are chosen by the fund's sole trustee, the state comptroller. After the comptroller's general counsel recommended against investing in a fund managed by FA Technology Ventures, the general counsel began receiving anonymous emails.

The emails demanded the general counsel recommend the investment, or an alleged affair would be disclosed to his wife, government officials and the media.

Some of the emails were traced to the home of Giridhar Sekhar, a managing partner of FA Technology Ventures.

Sekhar was convicted of attempted extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, a law originally targeting mobsters. The act defines defines "extortion" to mean "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear, or under color of official right."

A federal appeals court affirmed but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed.

In the prevailing opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said, "Attempting to compel a person to recommend that his employer approve an investment does not constitute 'the obtaining of property from another' under the Hobbs Act."

Under the act, the "property must be transferable" from one person to another.

Five other justices joined Scalia's opinion. Three others joined in an opinion concurring in the judgment.

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