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Woodward v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska
855 P.2d 423 (1993)


Facts

The wife of Michael Woodward (defendant) loaned $8,000 to Mike Lyle. To pay back the loan, Lyle went to the bar at which Woodward’s wife worked and, upon finding that she was not there, left the money with George Cooper, who agreed to give the money to Woodward’s wife. However, instead of giving the money to Woodward’s wife, Cooper kept the money. After Woodward learned that Cooper had kept the money, Woodward demanded that Cooper pay the money, threatening to break Cooper’s legs if Cooper did not. Cooper told police of the threats, and Woodward was arrested shortly afterward. Woodward was charged with extortion in violation of Alaska’s extortion statute, Alaska Stat. § 11.41.520(a)(1), which defines extortion as obtaining the property of another by threatening that physical injury will be inflicted upon someone. The statute includes seven types of threats that constitute extortion and outlines a limited claim-of-right defense for the three types of extortion where the property at issue was obtained by a threat of accusation, lawsuit, or other invocation of official action. At trial, Woodward requested a jury instruction for acquittal if the jury found that Cooper actually owed Woodward the money that Woodward demanded. The trial judge refused the instruction and instead told the jury that Woodward’s claim of right to the money held by Cooper was not a defense to the extortion charge. Woodward was convicted. Woodward appealed, objecting to the jury instruction and also arguing that, because the money Woodward was seeking to recover was his own, the money was not property of another, as required by the extortion statute.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bryner, C.J.)

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