The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has no sympathy for people who try to extort money from Full House'’s Uncle Jesse. This week, the court upheld the sentences of two defendants who were convicted in a celebrity extortion plot involving beloved actor John Stamos.
The Cincinatti-based appellate court rejected the defendants’ appeals of indictment deficiencies and downward adjustment errors, proving that you don't mess with Uncle Jesse.
Scott Edward Sippola and Allison Lenore Coss tried to extort $680,000 from John Stamos in 2009. Coss met Stamos at the Walt Disney World Pleasure Island nightclub in 2004, and struck up a friendship with the actor. When Coss began dating Sippola in 2008, Sippola suggested that they could use pictures of Stamos from 2004 to get money from the actor.
Sippola and Coss contacted Stamos to ask for money for the photos, both through aliases and through Coss's email account. Stamos called his lawyer, who got the FBI involved. Arrangements were made for one of Stamos's associates to provide Sippola's alias with $680,000 in cash in exchange for the photographs. Coss and Sippola were arrested near the scene of the planned exchange prior to the scheduled deal.
The pair was indicted and convicted on charges of conspiracy to extort money by use of interstate communications and transmission of interstate communications of threat to injure the reputation of another with intent to extort money. They were each sentenced to a total of 72 months of imprisonment.
Coss and Sippola appealed their convictions and sentences to the Sixth Circuit, challenging the sufficiency of their indictments, the constitutionality of the applicable statutes, and the length of their sentences.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the defendants' convictions and sentences on Monday. The appellate court concluded that the indictment was sufficient, and that the statute under which Sippola and Coss were charged was not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad as applied to them. The Sixth Circuit further concluded that the district court did not clearly err in denying a downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility.
Celebrity extortion plots were a semi-popular get-rich-quick scheme over the last few years, but the law is not on the extortionists' side. As the John Stamos extortion case demonstrates, federal courts will uphold convictions and sentences for these crimes.