Friday, November 27, 2009

Sexual Extortion in New Haven

Today's New Haven Register reports the case of a young woman sent to prison for extortion. It turns out the she and several others were shaking down a lawyer for cash. Several years ago, the lawyer asked someone to find him some companionship. Two young women appeared at the lawyer's office, and he was given what prosecutors described as a "full body massage," paying the women $40 a piece.

That was the down payment.

One of the women had a cell phone with a camera and was quick with the click. A naughty picture was sent to the lawyer soon thereafter, and he paid $5,000 to keep things quiet. This followed additional requests for cash. And then threats, visits to his office, even a menacing visit to his home. The lawyer paid more than $200,000 before turning to police.

The paper refused to name the lawyer. Although comments to the on-line version of the paper this morning named one suspect, and gave enough information to make it sound credible. Those comments have since been removed from the paper's Internet edition. No point in attracting a libel suit, I suppose. Or was it really libelous at all?

The Rules of Professional Conduct were recently amended to prohibit what it should have taken no rule to make off limits: sex with clients. Sex and power are related. Taking advantage of one to get the other really is a boundary violation.

Reading the Register's story, it appears that the mark of this extortion plot relied upon a former client to set up assignations with a few working girls. That may be just this side of the line insofar as sexual misconduct with a client goes, but it is still tawdry and shameful.

I cannot understand those who turn to their clients for sexual release. The relationship between lawyer and client is not mutual. Clients place their trust in us. We are sought in hope; taking advantage of all that hope entails is wrong.

The Register's decision to keep the lawyer's name out of print is troubling to me. Newspapers typically elect to keep the names of sexual assault victims out of the paper. This man is no victim of a sex crime. He was the victim of extortion, and, should be treated no differently that the victim of any economic crime.

I wonder why the Register walked away from the truth in this case.

Read it and weep: