RSA 637:5, I (2007) provides that a person is guilty of theft as he obtains or exercises control over the property of another by extortion and with a purpose to deprive him thereof. The statute provides eight specific circumstances in which extortion occurs, as well as a catchall provision, RSA 637:5, II(a)-(i). The catchall provision states that extortion occurs when a person threatens to do any other act which would not in itself substantially benefit him but which would harm substantially any other person with respect to that person's health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships. RSA 637:5.
Defendant, a lawyer, threatened to sue a beauty salon for discrimination because of its differing prices for haircuts. The owner paid him $500 to settle the matter, although defendant did not represent a client and had not himself been a salon customer. A jury convicted defendant of theft by extortion under RSA 637:5, II(i) (2007). On appeal, the state supreme court court affirmed defendant’s conviction.
Did RSA 637:5, II(i), which provided eight specific circumstances in which extortion occurs as well as a catch-all provision, prohibit defendant’s conduct?
RSA 637:5, II(i) applied to defendant's conduct. It was apparent that defendant, acting as an attorney, sent a letter to the salon demanding money and threatening to file a lawsuit if it did not pay him. Defendant did not have a client who had suffered from the alleged discriminatory pricing at the salon, nor had he been a client of the salon himself. The money defendant demanded, and eventually received, was for his own personal gain. The threatened action would not have substantially benefited defendant.