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Thomas Swartz
Thomas Swartz, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 3002
Experience:  Twenty one years experience as a lawyer in New York and New Jersey. Former Appellate Law Clerk.
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A co-worker and friend of mine and i were exchanging texts -

Customer Question

A co-worker and friend of mine and i were exchanging texts - some were not the most appropriate and sexual in tone. His husband came across them, took screenshots of the messages and sent them to his phone. He is now threatening to take them to our employer and disclose them to others in our personal lives to embarrass and hurt us. While our texts were not appropriate, they were not illegal and were a private conversation between us he should not have gained access to. Is his using them to harm me in my professional and personal life illegal?
Submitted: 16 days ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Thomas Swartz replied 16 days ago.

Hello Jay,

There is a crime in New York known as Coercion. This crime is similar to or also known commonly as the crimes of Blackmail and Extortion. In New York the crime of Coercion in the Second Degree - Penal Law Section 135.60 occurs when someone "exposes a secret or publicizes an asserted fact which tends to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule;" or "perform any other act which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his or her health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships." I invite you to read the complete text of the Coercion in the Second Degree statute in the link above.

So, there is the possibly this husband would be committing the crime of Coercion in the Second Degree if he discloses these texts to your employer or others. He is clearly doing so to harm your career and reputation. Now it is always up to the discretion of a local prosecutor whether he/she wants to prosecute a particular crime. So whether a prosecutor will actually brings charges of Coercion against the husband is hard to say. But it is a possibility if you inform you local authorities. And if the husband is made aware of the statute, he may refrain from doing so

Additionally, there is also the possibility that you could bring a civil lawsuit against the husband for civil coercion or extortion if you are damaged by the disclosure.

I hope this answers your question.


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