By Ima Believer
LET’S TALK EXTORTION
Just my opinion, but I think what happened at the WC Commission meeting last night may have been the commission caving in to a well-orchestrated plan of extortion. I’m not a Utah lawyer; fact, I’m not even a lawyer, but I know a little about extortion, and I think we may well have seen it here. Here’s some random stuff from the net (in no particular order):
n, 2. Illegal use of one’s official position or powers to obtain property, funds, or patronage.
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia
Unlawful exaction of money or property through intimidation or undue exercise of authority (emphasis added here and elsewhere)
In most states of the United States, extortion is more widely defined to include the obtaining of money or property of another by inducing his consent through wrongful use of fear….
The obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened…fear, or under color of official right.
Virtually all extortion statutes require that a threat must be made to the person or property of the victim. Threats to harm the victim’s friends or relatives may also be included.
Under the common law and many statutes, an intent to take money or property to which one is not lawfully entitled must exist at the time of the threat in order to establish extortion.
n, Obtaining money or property by threat to a victim’s property or loved ones, intimidation, or false claim of right….
Most states define extortion as the gaining of property or money by almost any kind of force, or threat of 1)violence, 2)property damage, 3)harm to reputation, or 4)unfavorable government action.
Utah Code Ann. 76-6-406 Theft by Extortion
(1) A person is guilty of theft if he obtains or exercise control over the property of another by extortion and with a purpose to deprive him thereof.
(2) As used in this section, extortion occurs when a person threatens to:
(b)Subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint;….
Utah Code Ann. 76-8-104 Threats to influence official or political action.
(1)A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if he threatens any harm to a public servant,…with a purpose of influencing his action, decision, opinion, recommendation, nomination, vote, or other exercise of discretion.
(2) As used in this section:
(a)”Harm” means any disadvantage or injury, pecuniary or otherwise, including disadvantage or injury to any other person or entity in whose welfare the public servant…is interested.
So here’s the deal: it appears that the essence of extortion is a threat to do something, even something the extortionist may otherwise have a perfect right to do, for the purpose of obtaining something the extortionist has no right to have (in this case, zoning density well beyond what’s on the property when it was bought, if the Pronaia boys or their predecessors had taken the time and trouble to look.)
In fact, in some other states, extortion can occur when that threat is made even if the extortionist has a right to the property sought and the right to take the action that is threatened! Remember, it’s the threat that’s bad. Here’s how that works. Let’s say A writes B a bad check. B has an obvious right to the money, and can sue A for it, civilly. B also has the right to go to the prosecutor and file bad check charges against A. What he does NOT have the right to do is to threaten A that he will go to the prosecutor unless A pays the money. That’s extortion.
If, having gone to the prosecutor, B receives an offer from A to pay the money, or even if B receives payment and drops the criminal case, no problem. But if B says to A “I’ll only drop the charges if you agree to pay me twice what you owe me,” that’s extortion. Isn’t this fun?
Are we getting the picture, here? Now, once again, that may not be the way things work here in Utah, where the law isn’t quite as well developed as in other states, but then again, it may be. Either way, it sure leaves a bad taste when it happens, doesn’t it? And when the Pronaia boys threatened to continue their campaign to establish their town and hold the citizens captive, without a vote, unless the county commissioners gave them more than twice the density to which they were entitled, the commissioners didn’t say: “Hey, that sounds like extortion!” They said: “That sure sounds reasonable to us.”
Wonder what they’ll demand next?