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.