United States v. Livingston

The Facts

The co-defendant approached defendant, Livingston, and informed him that he knew of the embezzlement that was taking place at the certain company.  They looked for an attorney who could be engaged to assist in ‘trading’ with information about the embezzlement for $ 200,000 from the embezzled company. They talked to the lawyer who thereafter drafted a contract between himself, defendant, co-defendant and a fourth individual.  According to the contract the lawyer should contact the embezzled company and the aforementioned sum of money was to be divided among the parties to the contract.

Procedural History

At the initial trial the government and defendant reached a plea bargain. Pursuant to the bargain the government dismissed three of the counts in exchange for his agreeing to plead guilty in extortion. The defendant sought review of the district court’s order in line with conviction. The appellate court  reversed judgment of guilty and the case was remanded to the initial trial court. On remand, appellant was to be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea at his option.


Extortion, as defined in 18 U.S.C.S. § 1951(b)(2), does not subsume ‘trading’ with information about embezzlement when an informer does not have any control over the embezzlement and hang over to cause the embezzlement to continue.

The Issue

Whether the facts on which trial court has judged were sufficient to form a basis for finding that the defendant travelled in interstate commerce in furtherance of an extortion scheme.

The Holding/Reasoning

The court found that the facts presented to the trial court are insufficient to accept the guilty plea. “The wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear was clearly an essential element of the crime of extortion. The facts relied upon by the district court did not evidence an intent by appellant wrongfully to use force, violence or fear to obtain money from the furniture company”.

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