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State v. Burns

Supreme Court of Washington
297 P. 212 (1931)


A company hired Mr. Burns (defendant) to determine if money was being embezzled by any of the company’s employees. Burns confronted Leland Frease, an employee of the company, and accused Frease of embezzling $6,800. Burns threatened that Frease would be imprisoned unless Frease confessed to stealing $5,000 and also repaid the $5,000. Even though Frease denied taking the money, Frease signed a confession and paid $4,000 to Burns. Burns was charged with extortion on the basis that, with the intent to extort and gain $5,000, Burns had threatened to accuse Frease of larceny and that Burns had extorted $4,000 through these threats. The statute that Burns was accused of violating provided that any person who extorted or obtained money by force or threat to accuse another person of a crime was guilty of extortion. At trial, Frease testified that he had not embezzled any money from his employer. Burns proffered documentary evidence meant to show that Frease had, in fact, taken money from his employer. The judge rejected Burns’s evidence, stating that whether Frease had actually embezzled money from his employer was irrelevant to the issue of Burns’s guilt. Burns was convicted and appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Beeler, J.)

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