Many commentators over the years have compared litigation to extortion. In Texas, it turns out that there’s at least some line between the two. Last week, San Antonio attorney Ted Roberts was convicted on three of five counts of theft for his role in a blackmail scheme. The scheme — previously discussed on Overlawyered in Jun. 2004 , Sep. 2005, and Feb. 2007 — involved having his wife, Mary, pick up married men on the internet, have sex with them, and then threaten to sue them (and reveal their sexual activities) for ruining his marriage unless they paid him big sums of money.
If you think that’s low, consider that Roberts falsely told his victims that the money they paid would go to a charity; he instead spent almost all of the money on a new $635,000 home. It was that fact that apparently convinced the jury, which didn’t have much sympathy for the adulterous men, to vote to convict.
It might sound unconscionable to normal people, but Roberts had found someone to defend him:
Support for the accused Ted H. Roberts and for his creative response to his wife Mary’s adultery came from an accomplished fellow attorney with more than 44 years’ experience, including a term as president of the State Bar of Texas.
Testifying for the defense, Broadus A. Spivey voiced no qualms about the way Roberts extracted $155,000 from four of his wife’s lovers by threatening to file litigation that would embarrass them and alert their wives and employers to their infidelities.
“Litigation is coercive,” Spivey explained to jurors. “That’s part of the nature of the beast.”
The seasoned lawyer offered a voice of experience, and the defense took care to note for jurors his multiple board certifications, awards and various distinctions.
Spivey might not quite be an impartial witness, though; he represents the Roberts duo in their civil lawsuit against the newspaper that first reported their scheme.
Still to come: the trial of Roberts’ wife on the same charges.