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Blackmail and Extortion - Modern Federal Statutes

official act hobbs court

Federal statutes make many particular kinds of extortion or blackmail illegal. For example, extortion by officials of the federal government is a crime (18 U.S.C. § 872). It is blackmail to demand or receive a valuable thing by offering not to inform against anyone who has violated federal law (18 U.S.C. § 873). It is also prohibited to mail or transmit in interstate commerce certain threats with the intent to extort, including threats to accuse of a crime or to injure person, property, or reputation (18 U.S.C. §§ 875–877). The Travel Act (18 U.S.C. § 1952) also punishes certain kinds of blackmail and extortion.

The federal extortion statute that has generated the most litigation is the 1946 "Hobbs Act" (18 U.S.C. § 1951), which prohibits racketeering in interstate commerce. The act prohibits robbery and extortion when these would affect interstate commerce. The U.S. Supreme Court interpreted official extortion under the Hobbs Act in two cases from the early 1990s. In McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257 (1991), the Court held that there was a requirement of an explicit quid pro quo in official extortion cases involving campaign contributions. Then, in Evans v. United States, 504 U.S. 255 (1992), the Court held that (1) there is no requirement of inducement for official extortion; (2) official extortion does not require coercion; (3) bribery is not a defense to extortion; (4) official extortion is not limited to false pretenses; and (5) the government "need only show that a public official has obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was made in return for official acts." Thus, bribery and extortion under color of official right substantially overlap.

The most controversial interpretations of the Hobbs Act have been in the area of labor extortion. In United States v. Teamsters Local 807, 315 U.S. 521 (1942), the Court restricted the operation of the Hobbs Act's predecessor so that is did not cover labor violence used to seek work or wages. In Enmons v. United States, 410 U.S. 396 (1973), the Court held that no extortion had occurred, although a union had allegedly blown up a power station to enforce its demands for higher wages. Apparently, only two basic types of union extortion are illegal under the Hobbs Act: where the work sought is totally unwanted or unneeded, and where a union official is seeking a personal payoff or kickback. In essence, the Court has refused to apply the Hobbs Act to unions that seek almost any legitimate objective, no matter what means are used to obtain that objective.

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about 7 years ago

seeing as not only federal personnel are found to be involved with some shaddy things, our local sheriff was found to be the biggest extorter of all, abusing the justice system, and resources to force people into the system due to his wanting to save his own but...go figure, elected official guilty of extortion blackmail, even drug dealing and embezzlement, human rights violations, harassment and even having people assaulted, oh and the best part, releasing cia personnel files that he did not have clearance to have, good job joe, you looser

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over 7 years ago

I would propose that the Sate of South Carolina is using extortion or extortive processes to collect money from the families of prisoners. The act is charging restitution...medical fees...fines..etc to the
prisoners who have no income and cannot work for the money. They then
attach these charges to the commisary
accounts of these prisoners and the
friends and/or families have to pay
it or the prisoner remains for their
full incarceration without anything
except what they are willing to provide which is little to nothing.
Not even the ability to hear a TV
show and very substandard products..lye soap etc. for females.
This needs to stop.

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over 9 years ago

I am asking the Calif. Appellate court to void a dismissal with prejudice based on extortion: I was accused of felony embezzlement and an offer to keep silent if I surrendered spousal and child support was made via the mail to my attorney. The accusation was false, the accuser had no standing and now they want to call it 'litigation privilege'. See Earls v Amdahl, brief just submitted.