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A Miami Criminal Defendant Goes to Trial for Extortion: What Happens Next?

July 13, 2018

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South Florida and Miami, in particular, have their fair share of strange cases. Last week, a Miami jury convicted a Miami Beach realtor for extorting two of his rival real estate agents. The alleged victims are two high-profile female real estate agents known as the "The Jills". The jury convicted Kevin Tomlinson of two counts of extortion after a weeklong trial. During the trial, the State presented evidence that the defendant demanded $400,000 from each of the alleged victims. The victims are known for finding and selling residences to wealthy clients in the South Florida area. The victims are also successful South Beach realtors specializing in high price, luxury condominiums. Our Miami criminal defense attorneys have analyzed the news reports, and here's what we think the defendant can expect.

A Miami Trial for Extortion
According to the State, the defendant believed that the two victims had been manipulating the data stored on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS is a database that can only be accessed by real estate agents and brokers. Evidence was presented that showed that the defendant believed that the two victims were hiding properties on the MLS that had been up for sale in excess of six months. Allegations were also made that the victims manipulated the system to show that their properties moved quickly and also to hide listings that were expiring on the database to prevent other realtors from moving in on the properties. The victims admitted during the trial that they violated the MLS rules. The State argued that the violation of the MLS rules did not give the right to the defendant to extort the victims. The criminal defense lawyers representing Tomlinson argued that the defendant was merely a whistleblower and was not engaged in criminal activity. The victims testified that the defendant required payment of $400,000 from each in exchange for not reporting the wrongdoings regarding the MLS.

Pursuant to Florida Statute 836.05, the crime of extortion is defined as whoever, either by verbal or written means, maliciously threatens to accuse another person of a crime or offense; or maliciously threatens to injure to another's person, property or reputation of another; or threatens to expose another to disgrace, with the intent to extort money or any pecuniary advantage or to compel the person threatened to do (or refrain from doing) any act against his or her will. The jury, after hearing all of the evidence, apparently believed the version presented by the State over that present by the defense. The judge remanded the defendant into custody after the verdict was read.

As in most cases, upon a conviction by a jury, a defendant will be taken into custody. The sentencing hearing will be set out 60 to 90 days. During that time, the probation department will conduct a pre-sentence investigation, which is a comprehensive investigation of the defendant's background. Probation will generate a pre-sentence investigation report, which will be provided to the defense, the State, and the judge. The instrument will be used by the judge to determine an appropriate sentence for the defendant. The judge can sentence this particular defendant up to 30 years in prison, as extortion is a second degree felony. A more likely sentence will include probation and some jail time, as the defendant apparently has no prior contacts with the criminal justice system.

References: The Miami Herald
Categories: Felonies
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