Why is blackmail illegal?

Lizzie Widdicombe of the New Yorker on David Letterman and blackmail:

[CBS producer Robert Joel] Halderman, as everyone knows, is being prosecuted for attempted grand larceny (he has denied wrongdoing), but the act he is accused of committing is blackmail, a crime that, in philosophical and legal circles, presents a conundrum. Lindgren is the author of a paper called “Unraveling the Paradox of Blackmail,” which raises the question: why is blackmail considered a crime? The thinking goes like this: It’s perfectly legal for Halderman to write, or threaten to write, a screenplay (or an e-mail to TMZ) exposing the fact that David Letterman had flings with “Late Show” employees. It’s also legal for Halderman to ask Letterman for money as part of a business transaction. So why are the two things illegal when you put them together? In other words, Lindgren said, “Why is it illegal to threaten to do what you can do legally anyway?”
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Tagged: law, psychology

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