Leona's Fate Undecided Jury Quizzes Judge On Extortion Rap

Posted: August 30, 1989

NEW YORK — Extortion - and whether or not Leona Helmsley conspired to commit it - was on jurors' minds yesterday as they deliberated for a fourth day without reaching a verdict in her tax-fraud case.

The panel asked Manhattan Federal Court Judge John Walker if, for example, extortion was committed when the victim had nothing to lose but new business.

The judge said no. The victim had to be cut off from income he was already receiving, Walker said.

This was good and bad news for Helmsley. She was accused of shaking down an RCA television salesman for three free televisions in exchange for doing business with her hotel chain. That was new business.

She also was accused of demanding kickbacks from liquor salesmen for doing business with the hotels. That, too, was new business.

But one liquor salesman testified that Helmsley's aide later demanded that his company rent a suite in a Helmsley hotel, the Carlton House, if he wanted to continue to do business.

Explanation of extortion was the only request the jury made yesterday. Previous requests have included: the testimony of two liquor salesmen who claimed to be extortion victims, the testimony of Chase Manhattan bank officials involving a partnership they had with the Helmsleys, and testimony involving co-defendant Joseph Licari, a former Helmsley vice president.

The jurors will try again today.

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