Blackmail is a demand for something from someone by threatening to accuse that person of a crime or immoral conduct that would tend to disgrace him or her. It does not matter if the accusation was truthful or not, or whether the accusation was later made or not. It does help the criminal, however, provided that the blackmailee thinks there might be something to the accusation.
There are many federal and state laws prohibiting blackmail. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 875(d) states that:
- Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
- United States v. Jackson, 196 F.3d 383 (2d Cir. 1999)