Court Of Appeals Affirms Extortion Conviction and Other Offenses
In People v. Harris, the defendant was convicted of extortion and other offenses. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, and the Michigan Supreme Court granted leave to appeal. The case originated in Saginaw County Circuit Court. This opinion was released on April 3, 2014.
On appeal, the Supreme Court found that according to the plain language of the extortion law, the crime is complete when:
(a) the defendant says or writes a threat;
(b) to accuse another of a crime or to injure them or their property; and
(c) with the intent to gain money or financial advantage or to stop another from an act against his or her will. A couple of Court of Appeal cases have stated that the act demanded of the victim must also have a serious consequence in order to convict a person of that crime. However, the Supreme Court found that this went against the plain meaning of the law. In other words, the Court decided that the level of seriousness of the consequences of the forced act was not important.
Having overruled the earlier Court of Appeals cases named Fobb and Hubbard, the Court looked solely at the text of the Michigan law and decided that there was enough evidence to uphold the defendant’s extortion conviction. In this case, the defendant used foul language, threatened to silence the victim, and waved the gun around. There was a malicious verbal threat made that compelled the victim to act against his will—that is, to continue working on fixing the defendant’s truck.
There is little doubt that this case will make it easier for prosecutor’s to get convictions for extortion in Michigan. The crime of extortion is often added to a criminal complaint in order put the prosecution in a better negotiating position. For more information regarding the crime of Extortion in Michigan, CLICK HERE.
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