I’m Mark Bennett. I Solve Problems.

When an old client came to me this afternoon with the story of how a former acquaintance of his had turned up demanding $15,000 not to disclose some years-ago alleged malfeasance to the government, I gave him my best legal advice: whether you have a guilty conscience or not, whether the threat of exposure is real or not, never pay a blackmailer a dime.

I know it’s hard advice to take. When the bad guy comes knocking with a threat to expose secrets that might harm you and hurt your family, it’s tempting to pay him off and hope for the best. But the truth is that it’ll only encourage him, and there is nothing to stop him (blackmailers not being noted for their sense of honor) from returning to the well for more. Further, it’s illegal to make an agreement to pay someone not to report something to the police. So, all in all, the best response to a blackmailer’s demand is “go to Hell.” That’s what I told the client to say.

The client thought the message might have more force coming from me. As he and his family have been good and faithful clients, I consented. (Something they never tell you in law school: often what we do in this glorious business of ours involves extralegal problem-solving; sometimes we get to play Winston Wolfe.)

I got suited up and drove through rain and rush hour traffic to his office. I set up video, formulated a plan, and settled in to await the bad guy’s arrival. As it turned out, the bad guy failed to post. I gave the client further advice: if the extortionist appears again, refer him to me with the suggestion that I need to draw up the papers to make the whole thing legal. Then I’ll have the pleasure of telling him to go to Hell.

I wrote about extortion six months ago today, and now I’m dealing with another extortionist. Am I the only one that has this issue come up?

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0 responses to “I’m Mark Bennett. I Solve Problems.”

  1. Your timing is impeccable, Mark. Just last week I printed out the following and posted it above my desk:

    My new motto: “That’s 30 minutes away. I’ll be there in 10.”

    A few minutes ago the department secretary asked me what I’d do if I wasn’t a professor. Without hesitation, I told her “criminal defense lawyer.”

    She didn’t believe me. “You’re too nice,” she said.

    “Maybe so,” I replied, “but everyone deserves a vigorous defense, even, and perhaps especially, meanies.”

  2. loved the youtube scene. I thought about it yesterday when interviewing a client with severe meth issues who kept going on about how it wasn’t fair that I can drink but he can’t use once in awhile. I almost responded, Winston-style, that if I wasn’t saying please it was because we didn’t have time for niceties, but thought the better of it as he was distraught enough to go off on somebody soon. I’ll think of that scene a lot in those situations, however, and might even ask if they’ve seen it. Thanks for the blog.

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