Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Powder Mountain Update: Let's Talk Extortion

One WCF reader believes what happened at the Weber County Commission meeting last night may have been the Commission caving in to a well-orchestrated plan of extortion

By Ima Believer

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)

Columbia Encyclopedia
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….

Law Encyclopedia
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?


accomplice liability said...

If WAH is guilty of extortion, the State Legislature is an accessory to the crime.

Vote out all incumbents in November!

King Tut said...

While if may be a stretch to accuse the Powder Mountain people of extortion, it sure fits the description of the law. These developers are capable of anything to make money.

Also the Weber County Commissioners were complicit setting up a conflict of interest regarding the appointment of a well known Powder Mountain family member to the OVPC.

Even when the conflict was pointed out, they refused to remove her or demand that she recuse herself from any discussion or vote on Powder Mountain. That was willful malfeasance by the Weber County Commissioners, refusing to undo their obvious blunder in making the appointment in the first place.

Bischoff is toast already, but Zogmaister is up for reelection in November. This will be the voters chance to replace her with someone that cares about doing the right thing.

Danny said...

I agree that the Powder Mountain people are guilty of these crimes in the way they have been described here. But on the other hand, it seems all they did was hard-nosed pushing to get what they wanted. Our commissioners shrank from the battle. Ironically, the commissioners were holding the high cards, as the government almost always is.

They caved in. People need to be found who share environmental preservation values. We then need to elect them.

If we don't want the valley to become LA, that is what we must do.

Simply voting and hoping never works. The Realtors will eventually wear down weak minds with their money and quiet threats. We need to find strong people who will enjoy telling the Realtors to go screw themselves.

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