Rutgers' Whistleblower to Face Extortion Charges?

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By Andrew Lu on April 11, 2013 10:25 AM

The FBI has gotten involved in the Rutgers basketball scandal involving coach Mike Rice. Surprisingly, the target of the FBI investigation is whistleblower Eric Murdock, and possible extortion charges, and not Rice himself.

Before the video of Rice abusing players was leaked to ESPN, a lawyer representing Murdock allegedly reached out to Rutgers University and demanded $950,000. Murdock had been an assistant coach under Rice and had just been recently terminated, reports The New York Times.

The university failed to pay the money to Murdock and the assistant coach eventually leaked the video of Rice kicking players, throwing basketballs at them, and taunting them with homophobic slurs.

Murdock was terminated as a coach on the team after the 2012 season because he allegedly left Mike Rice's basketball camp early and without permission, said Rutgers officials. However, Murdock claims that he was wrongfully terminated and retaliated against for being a whistle-blower, reports the Times.

Regardless of the dispute over the reason for his termination, Murdock may have violated federal law by attempting to extort the university. Generally, extortion means that the suspect tries to obtain money or property from the victim through threats of harm, intimidation, or false claim of a right.

In Eric Murdock's case, the assistant coach may have used the video of Rice throwing a tantrum as a threat to the university. Basically, if the school did not pony up nearly a million dollars, the embarrassing video would be leaked. If this threat was true, Murdock later eventually followed through and released the tape, causing harm to the university.

Whether Murdock is charged with extortion may depend upon what evidence the FBI finds. For example, it may be hard to prove intent, given that the alleged extorting letter came from Murdock's attorney. It's also not clear if Murdock made an explicit threat that if he was not paid, this failure would directly lead to the release of the video.

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