Article 127- Extortion
Article 127 in the Manual of Court Martial deals with extortion. The text
of the statute says that if a service member communicates a threat to
another person, intending to gain an article of value or any advantage,
immunity or acquittal, he can be held guilty of extortion and accordingly
punished by a court martial.
The elements of the offense
- A certain threat was communicated by the accused to the other person.
- The accused's intention was to unlawfully obtain an article of value,
or any advantage, immunity or acquittal from the other person.
Maximum punishment for the offense of extortion
The accused can be punished with a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of
all allowances and pay and 3 years of confinement.
Explanation for elements
In general: Extortion is said to be complete, when the accused has communicated a
threat with a specific intention. It is not necessary to prove the extent
of the success of the extortion.
Threat: The accused may have communicated the threat by any means, but it is
necessary to show that the intended victim has received the threats. A
threat can be: a threat to unlawfully injure the person or the property
of the person, the person's family member or any person that the person
holds dear; a threat to accuse the person, the person's family member
or any person that the person holds dear, of committing a crime; a threat
to impute a disgrace or deformity or to expose the person , the person's
family member or any person that the person holds dear; a threat to come
out with a secret that will affect the victim, the person's family
member or any person which the person holds dear.
Acquittance: An acquittance is a discharge or a release from paying an obligation.
Immunity or advantage: Unless the circumstances in which the threat was made are clear, the
immunity or the advantage that the accused sought from the victim should
be mentioned in the specification. An accused cannot be punished merely
on the charges that the accused had an intention to force the victim to
commit an act against his will; it will not suffice.
A case study to explain the offense under Article 127
In 2009, [United States v. Brown, 67 M.J. 147 (C.A.A.F. 2009)] a sergeant
was accused of trying to extort sexual favors from a private. The case
was brought before the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
The accused and the victim had been involved in a consensual sexual relationship
and the accused had in his possession a videotape that depicted their
sexual acts. Later, the victim decided to end the relationship and informed
the accused of her intention. After the accused heard her, he threatened
her that he would disclose the contents of the videotape unless the victim
continued their sexual relationship. When the victim hung up the phone,
the accused called her back and told her that he would leak the tape to
the victim's command, unless she complied. When the victim refused
again, the accused reportedly harassed her on the phone for several days later.
Unable to take the torture, the victim complained to her command. The accused
was later arrested and was punished after a court martial. The specification
said that the accused had, with the intention of gaining an advantage,
threatened to expose the victim's past sexual relationship with him
to other military members and to use his position, connections and rank
to discredit the victim and ruin her military career. More importantly,
the C.A.A.F held that sex can be held as an 'advantage', in a
case of extortion.