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Conviction for Threatening Sham Sex Suit Against Singer Upheld

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Conviction for Threatening Sham Sex Suit Against Singer Upheld

April 13, 2021


A man sentenced to 70 months’ imprisonment for threatening to file a frivolous sexual assault lawsuit against a well-known singer failed to overturn his conviction for attempted extortion but may be entitled to a reduced sentence, according to a Ninth Circuit opinion issued Tuesday.

Threats of sham litigation can qualify as wrongful conduct punishable as extortion under the Hobbs Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled. Courts weighing these cases should consider the circumstances surrounding such threats to determine whether the defendant used wrongful means or whether he made the threats in order to obtain property to which he knew he had no legal claim, the court said.

The decision by Judge Bridget S. Bade upholds the conviction of Benjamin Koziol for threatening to bring false sexual assault allegations against a “well-known singer-songwriter” left unnamed by the court. Koziol, whose wife was previously hired as a masseuse by the singer’s manager, threatened to bring falsified charges against the singer unless the singer paid him $1 million, the court said.

Bade said Koziol’s conviction for extortion under the Hobbs Act was valid. The prosecution’s evidence “strongly supports the conclusion that Koziol lied in his claims that the entertainer assaulted him and that he knew he had no lawful claim against the entertainer,” she said….

The case is United States v. Koziol , 9th Cir., No. 19-50018, 4/13/21 .