Does the Britney "Sex Tape" Really Exist?

11/14/2006 1:55 PM PST

Does the Britney "Sex Tape" Really Exist?

Internet posts about an alleged Britney Spears and Kevin Federline sex tape are nothing new. For the record- both Brit and K-Fed have previously denied (in sworn court documents no less) that a sex tape featuring the two of them does not exist.

But, the "story" has moved beyond obscure blog sites and message boards onto the digital pages of the Philadelphia Daily News. Their headline exclaims: "K-Fed dangling Brit sex video in custody row." According to a British tabloid, Federline is allegedly using a tape of the former couple engaged in various demonstrations of, ahem, showing their love for each other. This whole affair reminded me of my law school days and in particular a legal theory called "extortion." We've all heard the term thrown around movies, tv shows and news stories. But, what does it really mean? Well, under the California Penal Code, it means the following:

"Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer,
induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right."

The Code further defines "fear":

"Fear, such as will constitute extortion, may be induced by a threat, either:

1. To do an unlawful injury to the person or property of the individual threatened or of a third person; or,
2. To accuse the individual threatened, or any relative of his, or member of his family, of any crime; or,
3. To expose, or to impute to him or them any deformity, disgrace or crime; or,
4. To expose any secret affecting him or them."

So, let's read all this together in plain English. A person could be found guilty of extortion by obtaining the property of another (for example, money) by wrongful use of fear caused from threats of exposing "disgrace" or "any secret" about the person who is handing over the property to avoid the exposure. So, basically, if I were to say to someone "give me money" or I'll tell the world about your secret, whether that secret is a "disgraceful" one or not, I could be found guilty of extortion and sent to jail. To wit, if someone was separating from a major music star who is poised for a big comeback, it is quite likely that any little secrets they had about naughty sexual romps, particularly if captured on video tape, could instill some "fear" in a star who didn't want the world to know about these kinds of exploits.

I look to legal concepts here not to accuse anyone of anything, since we don't know all the facts, but simply to provide one framework to view this type of alleged behavior. Now, is it possible that someone is dumb enough to publicly act in a way that brings into question the criminal penal code? I'll leave that one for you to answer for yourself. Now, nothing in the legal world is ever "cut and dry" -- but it doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a lawyer!) to see how one could quickly find themselves in legal jeopardy if they made demands for money based solely on their ability to expose a dirty little secret. That leads me to believe the tape may not exist since I can't imagine someone being this dumb. Or, if it does exist, I can't imagine someone being simple-minded enough to use it to obtain more money in such a high profile split. Then again, maybe there is someone out there this dumb.