Going Private's readers are generally in the top quartile of people I "meet" on a daily basis. Not a hard standard to exceed though, since I spend most of my time with bankers and lawyers. By no means are they some kind of fawning groupie base. Many of the emails I get are critical or at least in disagreement with my posts. They have, however, been, almost to a letter, respectful. So imagine my surprise today when I recieved an email from a reader claiming to have discovered my identity and threatening to "out" me. Imagine my further surprise when the email went on to demand some kind of payment for this reader's continued discression. Rather bold, no?
"...how bad do you not want me to disclose who you are?" he/she writes. It is sort of like being in a bad horror film plot. I keep picturing a dark room with a badly scarred, bald guy with a big signet pinkie ring methodically stroking a long-haired, white Persian with a diamond collar. "Put zee private equity blackmail plan inzoo effect." How thrilling! And how criminal. It is all fun and games until someone commits a felony.
Extortion and blackmail are federal offenses and carry federal prison terms varying from 1 to 20 years. The interstate transmission of threats of this kind is itself a crime, even without any other action. To wit, 18 U.S.C. 875(d) "Interstate communications" provides in part:
Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
Since the threat was made over email and probably crossed state lines there's probably a federal wire fraud charge for an eager prosecutor to dig up as well.
Sounds like my reader has already made him or herself a three count felon with about 20 seconds of effort. Woops. I'm sure badly scarred, bald guys with pinkie rings and Persian cats wearing diamond collars generally have a good legal defense fund socked away though.
This, of course, is before we even get to New York state law or the laws of the state in which my faithful reader is resident.
Of course, pressed to disclose what it was he or she knew about me, where I work or any other details the reader could not provide any answers of substance. But, 18 U.S.C. 875 doesn't require the threat to be plausible, and there is no capacity requirement, only that the threat was made. Still a felony. Woops #2. I'm sort of assuming it was a careless game. Still, a dangerous one.