On February 26, 2019, a three-judge appellate panel decided the Middlesex County case of State v. Robert Aloi. The principal issue was whether there was whether there was jurisdiction in New Jersey to charge a defendant in Maryland with attempted extortion for communicating threats to victim’s attorney in New Jersey.
The court held in relevant part: Defendant is charged with attempted extortion under N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and N.J.S.A. 2C:20-5(c). By definition, theft by extortion is committed where a person “obtains property of another by purposely threatening” various conduct. To support the charge in the indictment based on the allegations against defendant, the State was required to present some evidence to the grand jury that defendant purposely and unlawfully attempted to obtain H.R.’s property by “purposely threatening to expose or publicize any secret or any asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject H.R. to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute.”
To establish criminal attempt, the State was required to present some evidence defendant “purposely” did “anything which, under the circumstances as a reasonable person would believe them to be, is an act constituting a substantial step in a course of conduct planned to culminate in his commission of the crime” of extortion. Here, defendant allegedly committed the offense charged in the indictment by attempting to obtain H.R.’s property through his communication of threats concerning H.R. to the attorney while she was in New Jersey.
Although the evidence showed the threats originated from defendant while he was in Maryland, it was the attorney’s receipt of the threats in New Jersey through which defendant completed the alleged attempt to extort H.R.’s property. Based on the evidence presented to the grand jury, absent proof the threats were actually received by the attorney, there would be insufficient proof of the crime of attempted theft by extortion under to support the charge in the indictment.
Our criminal code provides broad bases for criminal jurisdiction. The focus is usually on the location of the actor or alleged victim. The location of either one in New Jersey will almost always be enough to permit prosecution in New Jersey.