THREATENING LETTER. Sending threatening letters to persons for the purpose of extorting money is said to be a misde meanor at common law. 4 Bla. Com. 126. The threat must be of a nature calculated to overcome a firm and prudent man ; but this rule has reference to the general nature of the evil threatened, and not to the probable effect of the threat on the mind of the par ticular party addressed ; 1 Den. Cr. Cas. 512. The party who makes a threat may be held to bail for his good behavior. See Com. Dig. Battery (D).
By act of congress of Sept. 26, 1888, the sending of any postal card or mail matter with threatening language on the outside thereof is forbidden and made punishable by fine and imprisonment ; R. S. 1 Supp. 621. Postal cards held within the act were: One from a creditor threatening to "place the claim with our law agency for collection ;" U. S. v. Bayle, 40 Fed. 664, 6 L. R. A. 742 ; de manding payment and threatening to place it in the hands of a lawyer for collection ; id.; so of the deposit in the mails of a stamp ed envelope on the face of which was print ed in large red letters : "$1,000 reward will be paid to any person who sumaps Ex-Gov. Taylor and returns him to Kentucky authori ties ;" Warren v. U. S., 183 Fed. 718, 106 C. C. A. 156, 33 L. R. A. (N. S.) 800; and of let ters threatening to accuse certain per sons to whom they were sent of crimes and disgraceful matters ; U. S. v. Horman, 118 Fed. 780. But a newspaper without a wrap per, though containing scurrilous and de famatory matter marked with blue pencil and so folded as to expose the same, is not non mailable matter within section 12, Cr. Code ; U. S. v. Higgins, 194 Fed. 539. Held not within the act: notice that a debt is past due and that a collector has called several times ; U. S. v. Bayle, supra; and notice that rent was due and if not paid would be placed in the hands of an officer ; U. S. v. Elliott, 51
Fed. 807. Extraneous evidence is not admis sible to show that the language of a postal card on its face threatening or abusive, was not so intended by the sender, and not so understood by the recipient ; Griffin v. Pem broke, 2 Mo. App. Repr. 980.
Statutes exist in many of the states, though they vary somewhat in their provisions, some of them requiring the threatening to have been done "maliciously," others "knowingly." The indictment for this offence need not spec ify the crime threatened to be charged, for the specific nature of the crime which the prisoner intended to charge might intention ally be left in doubt; State v. Morgan, 3 Heisk. (Tenn.) 262 ; Biggs v. People, 8 Barb. (N. Y.) 547. The threat need not be to accuse before a judicial tribunal ; 2 M. & R. 14; People v. Braman, 30 Mich. 460. A person whose property has been stolen has himself no power to punish the thief without process of law, and cannot claim the right'to obtain compensation for the loss of his property by maliciously threatening to accuse him of the offence, or to do an injury to his person or property, with intent to extort property from him ; State v. Bruce, 24 Me. 71; Cora. v. Coolidge, 128 Mass. 55. A mere threat that the prosecutor would be indicted or com plained of has been held to be within the statute, even though no distinct crime was spoken of in the letter, because of the likeli hood of threatening letters being written with as much disguise and artifice as possible, but still being sufficient to accomplish the pur pose intended ; State v. Patterson, 68 Me. 473 ; State v. Linthicum, 68 Mo. 66.