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Understanding the Crime of Extortion in New York in the Context of Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman

Extortion is an ugly word. Merely hearing it conjures up thoughts of violence, threats and blackmail. While we all have our own perception or idea as to what constitutes the crime or offense of Extortion, each state has its own criminal definition or statutes establishing the crime. For New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and his alleged extorter, Louise Neathway, the New York Penal Law defines the relevant law and what prosecutors will pursue over the next few days and months.

THE “FACTS”

Briefly, and before assessing the potential crimes of Grand Larceny that are the basis of any Extortion allegation in New York, let’s take a moment to understand the facts to better understand how they interact with the criminal code. According to reports, Neathway, who also goes by Louise Meanwell, and Cashman allegedly had a relationship outside of Cashman’s marriage. Whether or not there was an affair, it is claimed that Neathway threatened to make public the alleged adulterous behavior unless Cashman gave the scorned lover $15,000. It is further claimed that Cashman in fact gave Neathway $6,000 to keep her quite and appease her. Beyond this conduct, there are other lesser allegations including Stalking and Aggravated Harassment, both misdemeanors (Neathway also has a separately pending Aggravated Harassment case in Manhattan Criminal Court under the name Louise Meanwell that is scheduled for February 12, 2012). While these lesser crimes and offenses are certainly worth noting, the analysis of the applicable criminal statutes in this entry will involve only felony offenses.

GRAND LARCENY BY EXTORTION

Most crimes relating to theft and larceny in New York have the degree of their offense and potential sentence directly connected to the value of the stolen property. Extortion crimes, however, not only have a value base assessment, but also are prosecuted as felonies based merely on conduct. In other words, should you steal a $500 handbag from a Starbucks, the crime would be a misdemeanor Petit Larceny (NY PL 155.25) because the value of the property is $1,000 or less. If you perpetrate and Extortion for $500, while you may be charged with Petit Larceny due to the value, your conduct and the means of the theft, i.e., the Extortion, automatically will elevate the crime to a felony.

First, if true, the theft of $6,000 is considered a violation of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. One is guilty of New York Penal Law 155.35(1) if and when that person steals property and the value exceeds $3,000, but is less than or equal to $50,000. As a “D” level felony, this crime is punishable for a first time offender by no prison, but up to as many as two and one third to seven years. A person with a prior felony in the past ten years would face a mandatory two to four years in prison and a maximum of three and one half to seven years.

According to New York Penal Law 155.05(2)(e), blackmail and Extortion occurs when you force a person to give you property out of fear that you will act in a certain manner as set forth by law. For the purpose of the Neathway / Meanwell Extortion, those threats would include exposing a secret, whether true or not, that would tend to subject the target of the Extortion to ridicule or perform an act that would serve no benefit to the extorter, but would damage the business or reputation of the extortee. To put this into the context here, the argument from the prosecution will likely be that that Neathway coerced Cashman into giving her money in order to keep secret their affair. Exposing the affair, whether or not it actually happened, would not serve Neathway any benefit and it certainly would expose Cashman to ridicule or impact negatively his life, business, persona, etc.

Assuming the elements of NY PL 155.05(2)(e) have been satisfied, there are two specific crimes for Extortion. The first, and not applicable here, is the more serious of the two. That offense is Grand Larceny in the Second Degree pursuant to New York Penal Law 155.40(2). Generally, that offense involves either threats of violence or ones role as a public servant. Alternatively, if you have acted in a manner described above without the threat of physical injury or other actions set forth in the more serious offense, then you have violated the crime of Extortion through Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree. New York Penal Law 155.30(6) is an “E” felony punishable by up to one and one third to four years in prison as a first time offender and a minimum of one and one half to three with a maximum of two to four as a “predicate felon.”

Any Extortion case involving a minor or major celebrity is often sexed up in the tabloids. That being said, the issues in this case will be no different than any other lesser known prosecution. Was this merely a relationship gone bad? How can the defendant answer why she received $6,000? Are there recordings of her alleged threats? For what reason did she repeatedly text or call Cashman? Even if prosecutors vote out an indictment, there is a fairly unique requirement that any indictment for this offense must specifically plead the Extortion (as opposed to merely stating there was a theft). If prosecutors fail to address this formality, can the defense obtain a dismissal on procedural grounds?

If nothing else, Cashman now joins Letterman as a famous New Yorker who was the target of a potential Extortion scheme. What happens next is anyone’s guess…

To learn about Grand Larceny and Extortion, follow the links above or below to Crotty Saland PC resources.

Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm. The New York criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC represent clients accused of Grand Larceny and white collar offenses throughout New York City and the surrounding suburbs.

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