Saturday, 2:15 PM
Prosecutors hoping to keep victim's identity secret in blackmail case
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff
Federal prosecutors today defended their controversial recommendation that a suspected prostitute receive only six months in jail for allegedly extorting $280,000 from a prominent businessman, saying a longer sentence might prompt her to go to trial, which the businessman wanted to avoid to keep his identity secret.
"Here, the victim's interest in avoiding a trial in which his identity would in all likelihood be revealed is a factor which the government has weighed heavily in calculating its recommended sentence," Assistant US Attorney James P. Dowden said in a 13-page filing.
He also contended that a requirement that the alleged prostitute spend three years on supervised release -- during which she would be forbidden from disclosing the identity of the businessman -- was a significant constraint on her and would enable her to get employment training and find an honest job.
Keeping the businessman's name a secret, he added, would encourage victims of similar blackmail threats to come forward "even in circumstances where the extortion victim himself has engaged in inappropriate (and even illegal) behavior."
Dowden filed the explanation today in response to an order by US Chief District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf, who wanted to know why prosecutors and the lawyer for Michelle Robinson were recommending a sentence that would likely result in her immediate release.
Robinson, 29, of Canton, has been held since her arrest on Aug. 13, and the tentative plea agreement would give her credit for time served.
Federal sentencing guidelines ordinarily would recommend that Robinson, who intends to plead guilty Friday to wire fraud and threats in interstate communication, serve 33 to 41 months in prison, Wolf wrote.
The criminal case against Robinson was the focus of a Globe story Tuesday in which several legal specialists criticized prosecutors' efforts to withhold the name of the Boston-area businessman. He is described in court papers as a prosperous married man in his 60s and identified only as LB, for local businessman, and BP, for business person.
He hired former US Attorney Donald K. Stern after paying the woman $280,000 to keep quiet about liaisons that allegedly took place between January 2007 and June 2008, authorities said. Stern arranged an Aug. 7 meeting with a federal prosecutor and an FBI agent, who had the businessman tape phone calls with the woman. The tapes revealed that she demanded another $300,000, prosecutors said.
She was arrested by FBI agents in a Costco parking lot in Dedham after the businessman handed her a bag she thought contained the cash, authorities said. She had threatened to reveal their relationship to an unidentified man she sometimes said was a journalist and other times said was a government official.