BLACKMAIL: Using Restraining Orders to Extort and Punish

Posted on October 14, 2014


“A blackmailer could attempt to blackmail someone with a threat to accuse him falsely, but we should expect such cases to be rare because the victim has a good remedy: sue the blackmailer for defamation. Good but not perfect, because the blackmailer may not have the resources to pay a legal judgment. Criminalizing this form of blackmail can thus be viewed as backing up the law against defamation.”

—Judge Richard A. Posner, “Blackmail, Privacy, and Freedom of Contract

In theory, the judge is right that victims of false allegations have a “good remedy”; in practice, however, he’s mistaken.

That’s not because the judge doesn’t comprehend his subject (to the contrary, his explication is very adept); it’s because the judge only considers the “attempt to blackmail someone with a threat to accuse him falsely” as a tool to extort money.

Among human economic transactions, money isn’t the only sought-after commodity.

A perusal of the e-petition “Stop False Allegations of Domestic Violence” will garner the social scientist any number of anecdotal accounts of blackmailers’ threatening to make false allegations in order to bend people to their will. Here’s a recent example:

My husband filed false child abuse charges against me to obtain full custody of our children. I cannot count the number of times that he threatened to keep the children away from me. He said he would tell people I abused them. I am a victim of domestic violence, and this allegation has just allowed him to continue the abuse.

In this instance, a husband used threats of filing false allegations of child abuse to blackmail his wife to stay with him and keep quiet about his abuse of her (cf. Dr. Tara Palmatier’s “Presto, Change-o, DARVO: Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender”). The brief account doesn’t explain why the husband made good on the threats. Maybe his wife wasn’t as compliant as he wanted—or maybe he met someone to replace her with, and she was just an albatross around his neck.

Women, of course, do the same to men, particularly to men who’ve indicated they want to break up (sometimes kids are used as leverage, sometimes not).

Here’s a recent comment on the blog from the mother of a blackmail victim of this type:

My son’s girlfriend…filed a domestic abuse CPO [civil protection order] against my son, again telling him that he shouldn’t have left her. He hasn’t been served yet—they keep missing him. She calls my son constantly, stringing him along with the idea that she “might” let it go. He’s taking her out to eat, giving her money, staying the night with her. Hoping that she’ll let it go. All that and yet two hearing dates for him have come and gone with her showing up at both his hearings asking for a continuance because he hasn’t been served.

For the uninitiated, appreciate that restraining orders alleging abuse are obtained at no cost—and in a few hours if not minutes. Getting one is cake. It costs an accuser absolutely nothing to file serial petitions, and there are no statutory limits on the number of times s/he can file (some people do this over and over for years). The commenter has herself also been repeatedly accused by the woman in her story (her son’s “former” girlfriend) of stalking the woman and causing her to fear “for her life.”

When the court date comes up, she doesn’t show, and the case is dismissed. She then goes and files a new CPO to keep the cycle going. I tried to get a CPO protection order against her, but the magistrate denied it.

This is a reality that the court is either blind to or finds it impolitic to acknowledge—and no wonder: millions of restraining orders are issued per annum, and owning that restraining orders are abused to blackmail and terrorize defendants would implicate the court as an accessory to extortion, defamation, harassment, fraud, etc.

The “remedy” proposed by the judge quoted in the epigraph, i.e., suing for defamation, is for the same reason a nonstarter. If the court entertained defamation suits brought by the victims of false restraining orders, it would have to acknowledge its own culpability. It would have to own, that is, that restraining orders are urgent and conveniently available tools of blackmail, harassment, and terrorism. It would also have to own that it’s easily duped. The court doesn’t like to admit that it makes mistakes, let alone that it’s gullible.

This writer has filed a defamation suit and has corresponded with others who’ve done the same. The court refuses to accept the claim that “testimony” can be “defamatory.” Litigants are batted away with invocations of “res judicata” (they’re told the false allegations are already “decided things” and can’t be revisited). Never mind that consequences of false testimony include defendants’ being entered into domestic violence registries and state and federal police databases, as well as being denied employment (and, for example, the right to attend their children’s school activities, coach or teach kids, etc.).

False restraining orders, in other words, not only defame but defame with the authority of the court behind them. The reputations of those accused aren’t merely “sullied”; defamatory allegations are credited as incontrovertible truths established in a court of law.

When the motive of blackmailers is to extort money, following through with the threat by exposing the person threatened means blackmailers don’t get what they want. When, however, the motive is to dominate another person, and false allegations of abuse are the threat, following through with the threat does enable blackmailers to get what they want: control.

That includes control of the truth. Some cases of blackmail this author has been informed of were instances of the parties accused knowing something about their accusers that their accusers didn’t want to get around (usually criminal activity). When the guilty parties no longer trusted that coercion would ensure that those who had the goods on them would keep quiet, they filed restraining orders against them alleging abuse, which instantly discredited anything the people they accused might disclose about their activities.

Some such activities reported to this writer have been domestic violence, immigration fraud (selling green cards), drug use, and tax evasion. All someone who’s obtained a restraining order has to say to authorities if their actions are reported is that the allegations were brought by a crank they “had to get a restraining order against.” Case closed.

Restraining orders are perfect tools of cover-up.

Contrary, then, to what the judge quoted in the epigraph concludes, people who blackmail others with threats of filing false allegations can not only make good on their threats with the expectation of impunity; they can conceal other crimes behind the shield of the court.

For blackmailers, it’s a win-win proposition.

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