The Difference Between Extortion and Blackmail
What do Tiger Woods, Katie Holmes, John Stamos, and Cindy Crawford have in common? Aside from being high-profile names in their chosen professions in the sports and entertainment industries, these famous celebrities have also been victims of blackmail or extortion.
Blackmail and extortion are criminal acts commonly associated with allegedly scandalous situations involving people who are subject to public scrutiny. Being famous or infamous, however, does not preclude victimization by others who seek to extort or intimidate others.
Blackmail vs. Extortion
In the federal criminal justice system of the United States, the term extortion is often used to describe acts whereby an offender seeks to extract money or valuable items from someone else through coercion, which can involve physical force, verbal threats or psychological intimidation. Blackmail, on the other hand, almost always involves threats and may extend to demands for performing services, actions or sexual favors.
Legal Action For Blackmail and Extortion
Blackmail and extortion are essentially crimes against property that can be found in the criminal or Texas Penal Codesacross the United States. Once a perpetrator crosses state lines to commit either crime, federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors may become involved. The potential for victimization in these instances is significant since the perpetrators often resort to anonymity or plausible deniability to conceal their identity and cover their tracks.
Defenses For Extortion and Blackmail Cases
Many of the acts associated with extortion and blackmail can be prosecuted as felonies. These actions include bribery, threats, intimidation, and ransom. As with other felony cases, prosecutors must bear the burden of proof and provide sufficient evidence to prove defendants guilty beyond the shadow of doubt.
An early defense strategy in blackmail and extortion cases is to challenge the credibility of the alleged threats. If at any time the alleged victim reacted in a manner that could be construed as extortive, the defendant’s counsel may be able to establish a strategy that counters the accusations. The prosecution must also establish that the defendant was indeed capable to carry out the alleged threats or blackmail scheme.