According to a story in the San Antonio Express-News, husband-and-wife legal partners Ted H. and Mary Schorlemer Roberts received money in a curious sequence of events. Mary, claiming to seek “no strings” discreet encounters, would seduce men over an Internet dating service. Ted would then write the men (in legal documents sometimes typed by Mary) and notify them that he planned to seek intrusive and public civil discovery to investigate whether the affair brought forward potential causes of action that were flimsy at best; the men would pay tens of thousands of dollars for a release and confidentiality agreement.
Two San Antonio, Texas, lawyers, married to each other, face a trial on theft charges based on allegations that the wife had sexual liaisons with four men whom the husband subsequently threatened with litigation unless they compensated him for his emotional distress.
You’ll never guess how the Roberts’ lawyer defends them:
[Michael] McCrum contends the state is trying to prosecute his clients for something that civil lawyers do all the time — send demand letters and present petitions they plan to file under Rule 202.
“By stretching statutory words to an unprecedented interpretation, the state seeks to criminalize as “theft the presentment and subsequent settlement of potential claims authorized under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure,” Mary and Ted Roberts alleged in one of several motions to quash their indictments that Harle dismissed in October 2006. …
[Baker Botts attorney Rod] Phelan says there is “a kernel of truth” in the point that McCrum is making. “The line between extortion or blackmail and making a demand to settle a colorable claim is gray,” he says.
The prosecutor distinguishes the two by noting that Ted Roberts was acting pro se. (Mary Alice Robbins, “Married Lawyers Face Trial for Payment Demands After Wife’s Affairs”, Texas Lawyer, Feb. 6). Note that these are theft, rather than extortion charges, however; a stretch, to be sure, but the prosecutors decided that Texas law does permit extortion in these circumstances. (It does seem rather appalling under the prosecutors’ view that the only thing Roberts needed to accomplish his blackmail is to expand the conspiracy to a third person.) Unfortunately for the extortion victims, their identities were revealed by the indictment and the Texas Lawyer coverage. A job for ReputationDefender?