This is a discussion on Blackmail and Extortion within the Law and Justice System forums, part of the US Discussion category; Note: My apologies in advance. This is a very long post. Query: Is it legal to threaten someone as in "pay me or I will ...
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Blackmail and Extortion
Note: My apologies in advance. This is a very long post.
Query: Is it legal to threaten someone as in "pay me or I will tell" or "do this thing or I will tell" if you are gay, or cheating on your spouse, or your sex life is a tad -- ahem -- unusual? Etc.?
Answer: NO. NEVER.
If you are not a "public figure" such as a movie star or politician, the law protects you from any "invasion of privacy". If another person became aware (and could prove) that you are gay (or kinky, or cheating, or whatnot) and disclosed that fact to anyone else -- and you suffered any economic loss as a result -- you could not only sue for damages, in some states you could file a police report that (should) result in their arrest for harassment or aggravated harassment, and other charges might be possible depending on how they came by their information.
If someone threatened to out you, regardless of whether you were a public figure, you could file a police report. The charges to be levied would depend on the circumstances, but of course if they demanded most anything as a quid pro quo for their silence, the charges would include attempted extortion and/or attempted blackmail. "Sleep with me or I will out you" might be charged as attempted rape.
Outing, for the arrests described above, does not just mean mailing a letter and a copy of your USMB or AFF profile to your employer. Any act calculated to lead to the revelation and intended to do so would suffice. So, for example, if I were to post a link to your AFF profile over on my facebook page along with a comment like "Go see what Joe Smith is really like" I could be arrested, because a facebook post is very likely to come to the attention of your employer.
But let's say there is no economic loss involved. Let's say, for example, that you are a retired Catholic priest who is on AFF actively seeking a lover and posting stories about your sex life. By disclosing that you are sexually active, I would doubtless cause you to lose face among your peers and parish, but likely no economic loss. Am I guilty of a crime? The answer depends in part on which state I live in and how I obtained this information. If I live somewhere without certain harassment laws and I learned of this by having an affair with you, no. If I tapped your telephone to listen in on your private conversations, yes. (Same with hacking into your pc or listening to your cell phone convos, hiring a PI to follow you, stealing your mail, and so on.)
Note: determining that the outter is not liable for arrest is not an answer to the question "can I sue?". You can sue in EVERY case in which an arrest can be made...and in many, many cases in which an arrest cannot be made. These lawsuits include "negligent outting" that results in an economic loss to you. What I am struggling with is whether, if you seen at a Dungeon or gay niteclub and the viewer repeats that factoid to someone else, suit will lie. My brief answer to this one is "It depends". Chances are, if you suffered an economic loss you can sue successfully...and in my opinion, anyone who is outted as gay or kinky or cheating or whatnot can make the economic loss showing. Loss of reputation among anti-gays, etc. is so severe it cannot help but limit your future. However, I think you would also have to prove the negligence was gross, verging on or reaching the level of actual malice.
So is outing ethical? No, never. There is no moral excuse for the damage done to the closeted gay person, etc., along with their families and loved ones. If someone is annoying you -- sexually or otherwise -- and you are tempted to out them to punish them, be aware that not only is that evil, but a shitstorm of hurt may well rain down on you and yours for your vile actions.
Personally, I despise the extortionist above most all criminals. "Sleep with me, or I'll out you." "Sell me your business, or I'll out you." "Resign, or I will out you." I have successfully obtained compensation -- in the millions -- for a victim of attempted extortion and will be most joyful to explain to anyone else who'd like to know the methods for repelling such attacks and keeping your life intact.
A pox on the outters. Your private life BELONGS to you and no one has the right to expose it to public view BUT you.
What should you do if you are fearful of blackmail?
I fucking hate blackmailers and those who aspire to blackmail. And make no mistake, "do what I say or I will use your sex life against you" is attempted blackmail, attempted extortion, and in some instances, attempted rape. Meaning that these acts are CRIMINAL.
Most folks who suffer these outrages are terrified -- and with good reason --- which is why these crimes are sometimes successful. As a rule, you cannot enforce someone else's silence. So, to begin coping, accept that your secret may be revealed. MAY.
But your aspiring blackmailer has a secret now too -- one that can have him or her doing up to 25 years in state prison. I think you'll agree, that is a fate worse than whatever you are envisioning happening to you after they speak out about your private life. That imbalance between what might happen to you and what might happen to them gives you leverage.
What should you do? Collect whatever evidence you can of HOW it is the attempted blackmailer came to learn about your secret. Did they see you at a Dungeon? If so, did the Dungeon admit only those who agreed to maintain the privacy of everyone else in attendance? Get a copy of the signage or consent form agreeing to maintain confidentiality, and any proof you might be able to obtain that they were there. And find out what the hell a blackmailer was doing at a Dungeon anyway. If he is also kinky, maybe you can arrange a Mexican stand-off.
Did they follow you or have you followed? If so, and you have access to their financial records, get copies of any payments to a private investigator and so on. Did they hack your computer? There are computer security experts around...usually, for under $500, you can obtain proof that you were hacked and (almost always) who did it. Did they tap your telephone or eavesdrop on your cell phone calls? If so, same advice. Etc. depending on the facts, these acts are crimes like stalking, harassment and invasion of privacy.
I know you don't think any of this will help -- but in many cases, the actions of the attempted blackmailer in obtaining your information were separate crimes, such as interfering in the US mail (theft of mail, etc.) or eavesdropping...and new laws exist to protect your on-line privacy as well. So criminal charges for the illegal acts of the attempted blackmailer can be laid which do NOT require that you "out yourself" since it matters not why they did it or what they learned.
After doing the above, gather any evidence you can that the attempted blackmailer has threatened you. In some states (not all) you can legally record any telephone conversation that you are a party to. Obviously, text messages and voice mail are great evidence, so take steps to preserve them. Same with email. In fact, any writing from the attempted blackmailer is great, no matter how "implied" the threat in it may be.
Note: No one will know you have a tape of the blackmail threat unless you tell them that you do or play it for them. But it is NEVER legal for a private person to record the telephone calls of others to which he is not a party. NEVER. And this includes recording calls between the folks you live with and anyone calling them, by use of any nifty-neato spy shop electronics.
What next? Depends. If you are being blackmailed in a business setting, and you can afford it, see a criminal defense lawyer for advice. (You have committed no crime, but that lawyer has experience in criminal law and can best advise you on which law enforcement agency to approach and how to do so.) If you are being blackmailed in a social setting ("Leave this GLBT Group or I will out you") pretty much same advice. But if you cannot afford a one-time consult with a criminal defense lawyer (which often is free) don't hesitate to see the police. If you live somewhere that you fear the local cops are unsophisticated, see the FBI agent at the office having jurisdiction over your home.
FBI — Federal Bureau of Investigation Homepage
If you are being blackmailed in a sexual setting ("Don't divorce me or I will out you" or "Sleep with me or I will out you", etc.) see a domestic relations lawyer -- one with a reputation as a mother-fucker. Bend that spouse of yours over a chair and take any amount of money or other quid pro quo you wish in exchange for YOUR silence as to their criminal acts. It is a CRIME of RAPE to force a person to have sex by threat of outting them as kinky or gay, or as an embezzler, or whatever. Threats like this are crimes of attempted rape. Most prosecutors would agree that "don't divorce me" implies "sleep with me" and marriage is NEVER a defense to rape.
Note: A threat in the context of dependent children is somewhat different. ("Don't divorce me or I will seek custody of the kids because you are kinky or gay." "Move away from this neighborhood, or I will call Child Protective Services and report that you are kinky." Etc.) If this is your situation, the acts of your blackmailer in gathering information against you may have been legal and the threat itself is not illegal, as they may have a legitimate interest in the welfare of their kids or yours. However, do not despair. No one lives a perfectly legal and above-board life...and most folks would prefer that their community never learn that were so inadequate, their spouses sought sexual release on the fringes. You almost certainly have as much or more leverage against them as they have against you...and 99% of the time, a Mexican stand off results if you return aggression with aggression (in the sense of making legal threats of your own -- not in a physical combat sense.)
Note: many, many times even if you cannot have the attempted blackmailer arrested, you can sue them successfully for damages. In EVERY case in which they are liable for arrest, you can sue. Damages for attempted blackmail can and have reached the eight figures, and no insurance policy will pay for a damage award against the wrong-doer or pay for their defense lawyer, because blackmail is an intentional crime or tort.
I won't sugar-coat this, attempted blackmail involving child custody is a bitchfest of the first order. But it can be repelled....it has been by others, and it can be by you. If you need help, see the National Sexual Freedom Coalition's Kink-Friendly Professional ads for a lawyer near you.
Just an aside: Every cop and every lawyer has heard weird shit that makes your sex life look like a big old yawn-fest, I promise you. You need not fear that if you reveal yourself to an attorney who is not himself gay, he will react badly. And anything you tell a lawyer in the context of considering hiring him must remain confidential always. He can never, ever repeat what you've said without your consent. So feel free to shop around for a lawyer to handle this just as you would for any other legal service.
Peace out, my fellow USMB-ers.
And to the blackmailers of the world:
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