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How To Make Lemons Out of Lemonade

Posted: August 26, 2014 12:04 p.m.
Updated: August 26, 2014 12:04 p.m.

Carl Kanowsky

 

Jim Colorado, the famous soccer player, visited me last week. It seems while in Brazil for the World Cup, he reluctantly (quite reluctantly according to him) succumbed to the wiles of the shapely football (because in the rest of the world, soccer is called football) fan, Lola Palooza, a resident of West Covina, that hotbed of drama and intrigue.

After allowing Jim to succumb several times over a three-day period, Lola left Rio and returned to West Covina.

She met with a couple of different attorneys, claiming that anything that happened with Jim was non-consensual – in other words, rape. She wanted retribution for this outrage, preferably north of $10,000,000.

Lola talked with Fred Slugger, a hard-hitting, headline-grabbing counsel. Fred told Lola she was the one being too timid. He thought an appropriate initial demand should be $100,000,000. He would send Colorado a “take no prisoners” letter, spelling out how grossly and publicly Colorado’s sexual habits were going to be (no pun intended) exposed if the case was not settled immediately.

Fred said his letter would tell Jim that he not only faced public humiliation but also criminal charges for assault, battery, and rape if he did not pay.

Fred sent that letter to Colorado, demanding he pay this vast sum of money or face criminal charges. That’s when Jim came to see me.

I recommended to Colorado that he sue both Lola and Fred for extortion and intentional infliction of emotional distress. I explained to him how this has worked in the past to the benefit of other celebrities.

For instance, Michael Flatley, of “Lord of the Dance” fame, was hit with similar demands in 2003 as a result of a liaison he shared with Tyna Robertson in Las Vegas. He got a letter from Ms. Robertson’s attorney, Dean Mauro, that threatened not only a lawsuit if Flatley did not immediately pay $100,000,000, but that all evidence of any criminal violations would be sent to “any and all appropriate authorities.”

Flatley’s response to the letter was to sue Mauro for civil extortion. The Court of Appeal ruled that the letter constituted criminal extortion. The Supreme Court agreed with that assessment.

“Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent… induced by a wrongful use of force or fear.”

Threatening to expose or impute a crime against someone is extortion. So, Mauro’s threat to report Flatley to the “appropriate authorities” was extortion.

I told Jim that if Fred had been smart and only said that he would file a lawsuit, then there would be no basis for an extortion lawsuit against Fred and Lola. But by threatening criminal action, they were both susceptible.

Colorado liked the advice and we filed the lawsuit, citing the Supreme Court case, Flatley v. Mauro. Lola quickly backed away from what was becoming a major mess without collecting anything.

I like to use Mr. Mauro as a word of caution to my clients. In cases of sexual harassment, there’s often an element of assault and battery and sometimes rape. These are all crimes, no doubt about it. But I refuse to send a demand letter where we may represent a victim of these actions, inferring or even suggesting that a call to the appropriate authorities is imminent.

In business cases where my client is convinced that his customer/competitor/employee stole from him, my initial letter won’t hint about contacting the cops. In both instances, we will thoroughly detail the basis for the claim.

If there’s evidence of unwanted touching or theft, saying that I’m going to the authorities does not anything to my demand. That evidence will often compel someone to sit at a bargaining table.

If I think a case is serious enough to warrant criminal investigation, then we contact law enforcement. If it isn’t, then we don’t threaten to do so. To paraphrase Yoda, “Call the cops or do not call the cops. There is no threaten.”

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by email at cjk@kanowskylaw.com. Mr. Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.

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