How can attempted blackmail with someones private, and, stolen photos not be illegal?
The blackmail attempt happened during ongoing negotiations with over potential legal claims against one another. The defense will argue that they were playing hardball and using dirty and distasteful tactics that is still legal. Prosecutors will argue that this goes far beyond it.
It's weird that Pecker and the company lawyers choose take the risk. They are in no-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors under conditions that the firm can't do any crimes in next two years or the deal is off.
> They are in no-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors under conditions that the firm can't do any crimes in next two years or the deal is off
These two facts are crazy to me, because the prosecution doesn't have to win in court to tear up the deal. The prosecution generally just has to show that they made a determination in good faith that a crime was committed.
So there is a _much_ lower bar to tear up the deal if the prosecution thinks something smells criminal.
I just don't get why you would possibly risk the immunity deal for this. The reward doesn't seem worth the risk at all.
A leopard knows it can't afford to get kicked in the head by a zebra. But hunting is the way it evolved to live. Even if it has a close call or gets injured, it can't afford to stop hunting.
AEI had a close call with the deferred prosecution. Im guessing the organizational culture or business pressures do not allow the company to alter course significantly for years required.
Because the investigation they are trying to kill is bound to uncover serious crimes that are not covered by the non-prosecution agreement that in aggregate present much more serious exposure. I mean, that would be a rational motive, at least.
This is where AMI's argument falls apart.
1. The photos were somehow acquired without permission. Meaning Bezos and/or Sanchez were victims of some sort of (likely illegal) invasion of privacy.
2. AMI is threatening to publish the photos despite not having permission to reproduce the photos from the copyright holders (Bezos/Sanchez).
3. AMI is making this threat on the dubious legal grounds of "fair use" by claiming that nude photos of a businessman's girlfriend are "newsworthy" because that somehow speaks to his business judgment.
4. Aren't seeking a monetary settlement but instead are asking the victims to (i) sign a legal document stating they have not in fact been victims of a crime at all and (ii) make a public statement that is both against their interests and untrue.
That is _far_ from a good faith negotiation and it was only one way. AMI has no claim to release against Bezos or Sanchez, they're only offering to not do what they legally can't do anyway: publish pictures they do not own without permission.
 From proposed settlement terms: "AM affirms that it undertook no electronic eavesdropping in connection with its reporting and has no knowledge of such conduct."
I have trouble imagining that Bezos was actively considering ending washington post coverage against the enquirer or negotiating as such.
This is not really true. It is possible to extort someone with the threat of legal action (and for a lawyer, a potentially disbarrable offense). Conversely, negotiating a legal settlement not to commit a threatened illegal act (including tortious acts, not just criminal acts) does not make the threat any less blackmail than it already was.
The fact that they haven’t attacked him at all in the press makes me think that they are shitting bricks and that they really didn’t think he would publicly expose them.
They may not have ususlly targeted CEOs before; the other report I've seen recently is from a reporter. I would guess they look for whoever is the weak link in the chain of responsibility for an unwelcome story, and often both sufficient ability to avoid the problem they seek to avoid and sufficient vulnerability to provide leverage exists somewhere below the CEO level.
It probably started with WaPo looking into the Kashoggi murder on their own, but this mystery AMI magazine promoting MBS is another point on the trail. Bezos is probably really close to getting all of AMI indicted on treason charges and that's the value being exchanged in a possible extortion charge.
AMI can't be indicted on treason charges for two reasons: (1) it's not illegal to do business with the Saudis, who are technically our allies despite having funded 9/11, Al Qaeda, and numerous other terrorist groups worldwide, and (2) treason requires us to be in a declared state of war with Saudi Arabia, which we are not.
There are other potential charges that might be at play but unfortunately treason isn't one of them.
Example: accept the terms or we’ll submit these pictures as evidence.
I can’t see how this isn’t illegal and literally blackmail. They are threatening him to make some pictures public, in order to embarrass him and to damage his marriage, and not in the context of a lawsuit, but in a newspaper.
And if these threats are legal, then the legal system is broken.
For your specific hypothetical, it depends. First, are those pictures relevant to the litigation between the parties? Second, would the threatening party be allowed to submit those pictures as evidence regardless of what the victim decided? If the answer to both of those is yes, then threatening to introduce the pictures as evidence in court would generally not be blackmail.
However, AMI and Bezos aren't currently engaged in litigation since no lawsuit has yet been filed. The legal system is not yet involved in this matter, so your criticism of the legal system as it applies in your comment is unfounded.
This comes down to the contents of the pictures themselves. If they are private pictures of himself or his GF, then generally the burden is on AMI to show that the pictures are somehow relevant to the public interest. This is an extremely high bar for them to clear, since they need to show that the nude photos are (1) relevant to the public interest in Bezos' divorce, and (2) that the public's interest in seeing the photos overrides Bezos' and Sanchez's interests in keeping their private photos private. (Note: this is just a very simplified layman's overview. An in-depth discussion would be the length of a law-review article.)
AMI seems to believe publishing JB's dick pics is legal for journalistic reasons. Maybe he uses an iPhone instead of a Fire Phone? That's something people should know!
Personally I hope he bankrupts that trash rag.
BTW I also think it was fine for Alex Jones to get deplatformed and sued for encouraging people to harass school shooting victims. Free speech doesn't mean libel, slander, blackmail, targeted harassment, sex abuse, etc. won't get you sued.
What is alleged with the National Enquirer here is much worse. It looks a lot like they are acting as blackmail enforcers for Trump and/or the Saudis. Like I said others are now coming forward.
Whenever a magazine publishes some trash story attacking someone they should ask themselves what's the worst that could happen.
When you attack people like Bezos and Thiel, you better be sure of what you're doing.
The law should be the same for everyone.
Are Thiel and Bezos above the law, or are they the only ones that can afford the protection of the law?
If so, then we have failed as a society.
I'm pretty sure this has been done. Normally, they get out in front of it, so they can at least cash in. Personally, I'm not thrilled with rich people being able to shut down publications that they don't like. That said, I don't know how to feel about the Gawker case. It's easy not to care, when the victim is so unsympathetic.
What’s even more strange is that AMI’s lawyer had worked at Amazon for 8 years. You’d think that lawyer would have had some familiarity with Bezos and known not to mess with him, but I guess not.
If they do however publish the picture everyone talks about, I'm pretty sure they will be destroyed just like Gawker was in the Hulk Hogan case.
As for the the value of the request, couldn't Bezos & co. argue that discovering the process and methods of how these private messages were obtained cause damage to AMI? Especially if the security expert he hired believed that a "government entity" may have been behind it.
"Advice of counsel defense", a Quote from Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School (taken from business insider article)
> The advice-of-counsel defense "doesn't apply if both the lawyer and the client are on the same page that what they are doing is illegal in some way," Ohlin said. "According to Cohen, both he and Trump understood that they were paying hush money to influence an election, and then covered it up to hide the illegality."
However, in this case, did both parties know that something illegal was going on? That's more of a stretch here. If I met with a lawyer and said "lets illegally commit extortion", obviously that's illegal. If my attorney just does it, as a part of an ongoing legal dispute, it's far less clear (lots of legal disputes can seem like extortion; eg. settle with us now or you'll have to pay even more to defend, is a standard strategy). That lack of clarity could be plenty of motivation to dissuade prosecutors from bringing charges; especially if they're on good terms with the party and happily using them in an ongoing investigation.
AMI's lawyers are on very shaky ground here and there's a realistic chance they end this decade disbarred.
> This reasoning is why, for example, a lawyer can send someone a letter saying their client will agree to settle a lawsuit if certain terms are met.
AMI has an agreement with the DOJ not to commit any crimes until 2021 lest they be charged for crimes stemming from the Trump porn star saga.
Question is did they commit any crime ?
If you take these laws at completely face value many things such as out of court monetary settlements would be bordering on illegal which is certainly not the case.
If I were running the National Enquirer and wanted to make a list of the best ways to ruin my company and likely myself, going after Bezos in this fashion would be very near the top of the list.
So IANAL, but my understanding after some research is that this is well-trod territory resolved by deciding whether there was a ‘lack of nexus’. To quote State v. Pauling, which I have not read in full,
> Molotov Pauling was convicted of second degree extortion under former RCW 9A.56.130 (1975) for threatening to disseminate and, in actuality, disseminating nude photos of a former girl friend to collect a valid $5,000 small claims court judgment he had against her. The Court of Appeals, stating that the statute lacked a requirement that the threat be wrongful, declared former RCW 9A.56.130 unconstitutionally overbroad because it prohibited threats that constituted protected speech and reversed Pauling's conviction. We hold that a limiting construction is available, requiring that the evidence shows a “lack of nexus” between the threat made and the claim of right. This construction confines the statute's application to only extortionate threats that are inherently wrongful and are not protected speech.
> There are significant differences between, on the one hand, threatened disclosures of such matters as consumer complaints and nonpayment of dues, as to which the threatener has a plausible claim of right, and, on the other hand, threatened disclosures of such matters as sexual indiscretions that have no nexus with any plausible claim of right.
> Id. (emphasis added). The court held, “where a threat of harm to a person's reputation seeks money or property to which the threatener does not have, and cannot reasonably believe she has, a claim of right, or where the threat has no nexus to a plausible claim of right, the threat is inherently wrongful․” Id. at 71 (emphasis added). Although a person might have a legal right to collect a judgment, there is no nexus between the exercise of that right and the threat to post embarrassing nude photos on the Internet. On the other hand, a person with a legal right to collect a judgment would have a nexus to a threat to institute garnishment proceedings.
I found about about this through a good article by the Washington Post.
Although I cannot confirm any of this—it's not my field—I can say for certain that I think this should be textbook blackmail, and it's hard to imagine the case actually failing.
I would expect House Committees and the DOJ to be all over this in the coming months.
Bezos' pretense that he's standing up for the powerless doesn't ring true to me ("If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?") when contrasted against his attitudes towards his employees' working conditions.
This story to me is Bezos did something, that while increasingly common in modern America, remains viewed as a foolish thing to do. Nothings going to change that, not a criminal extortion attempt by AEI, not even a heartfelt medium post. I see no dominant strategy Bezos can choose that avoids the Pyrrhic conclusion of his private photo being shared widely across the Internet on services he helped create.
It could be that they are both right in this situation.
Just because he is, by all indications, a terrible person (well, pretty regular for a founder) doesn't mean that one should blackmail him like that.
Bezos rightly understood that AMI had no leverage and were on shaky ground.
Again impossible to formulate a compelling picture without more context.