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People v. Fichtner

New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 2nd Department
114 N.E.2d 212 (1952)


Facts

Fichtner (defendant), the manager of the Hill Supermarket in Nassau County, New York, along with McGuinness (defendant), the store’s assistant manager, witnessed a customer, Smith, leave the store with a canister of coffee without having paid for it. After immediately confronting Smith, Fichtner informed him that he was going to call the police and have him arrested unless Smith paid $75 and signed a statement indicating that he had unlawfully taken items from the store without paying for them during the course of several months totaling that amount. Smith insisted that he had never stolen items totaling that amount, but eventually signed the statement admitting he had taken $50 worth of merchandise over a four-month period.  That evening, Smith paid the two men $25 in cash and promised to pay $5 in weekly installments thereafter. Subsequently, Fichtner and McGuinness were charged with two counts of extortion. At trial, Smith testified that he was induced to sign the statement and make the payments because Fichtner and McGuinness (collectively “defendants”) threatened to accuse him of petit larceny and expose him in the public newspapers. The defendants argued that the $25 received from Smith was for the benefit of the store and its owner, not to them personally. Defendants testified that over the course of several weeks they saw Smith steal things amounting to $5.61 and they honestly believed that during that time he had been shopping, he had stolen merchandise worth $75. Fichtner and McGuinness were found guilty of extortion and they appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Johnston, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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Dissent (Wenzel, J.)

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