Lawyer Acquitted in Blackstone Director Extortion Case

New York attorney Stuart Jackson was found not guilty of participating in an alleged extortion plot targeting Blackstone Group LP Senior Managing Director David Blitzer.

Jackson is the former lawyer for Stuart Ross, who pleaded guilty in August after being accused of trying to extort money from Blitzer, his son-in-law.

Ross, the father of Blitzer’s wife, Allison, and Jackson were charged in 2008. Prosecutors accused them of threatening to ruin David Blitzer’s life unless he paid them as much as $11 million.

“It should never have been brought in the first place,” Jackson, 81, said today of the case in a courtroom interview after the verdict in New York state court. “It was a domestic dispute between father-in-law and son-in-law.”

Jackson was acquitted of attempted grand larceny and grand larceny. Ross pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny.

In August, when he pleaded, Ross admitted demanding $5.5 million to cease harassing and communicating with Blitzer and others at the Blackstone Group, and an equal amount in exchange for giving up rights to visit his grandchildren, prosecutors said.

State Supreme Court Justice Bonnie Wittner has said she would sentence Ross to probation.

On Nov. 8, Ross filed a motion to withdraw his plea, according to prosecutors.

Helping a Client

“I was only helping my client in the ordinary course of business,” Jackson said today.

Tom Johnson, a spokesman for Blitzer, declined to comment on the verdict. Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Blackstone Group, also declined to comment. Matthew Myers, a lawyer for Ross, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., declined to comment on the verdict.

Ross made millions when he brought the Smurfs cartoon characters to the U.S. from Europe in the 1980s. Myers said in June that his client later made “some bad investments.”

Ross was charged after evidence presented to a grand jury showed he demanded that Blitzer give him large sums of money or he would harass him over the telephone and make accusations to his supervisors at Blackstone, law enforcement and the media, evidence, Wittner wrote in court papers.

Escalating Threats

“These threats escalated to a point where Ross, through his attorney, defendant Jackson, told Blitzer’s attorney, Roger Stavis, that for $5.5 million, Ross would not try to visit his daughter or grandchildren and would stop harassing Blitzer and contacting his business,” the judge wrote.

Jackson mentioned “settlement numbers” of $5.5 million to $11 million to Stavis, according to court papers filed by Jackson’s attorneys, Levitt & Kaizer. Stavis did not immediately return a call for comment today. He has declined to comment in the past.

An agreement was ultimately obtained for Blitzer to pay $250,000 to $400,000 to Ross to cease the contact, Wittner wrote. At an Aug. 21, 2008, meeting in New York, Blitzer paid Jackson and Ross $50,000 as a down payment.

The meeting was a recorded “sting,” according to Jackson’s court papers.

New York-based Blackstone, founded by Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman, is a global investment and advisory firm with 19 offices worldwide, according to its website.

Blitzer, based in London, is a senior managing director in the private-equity group, the website says.

The cases are People v. Ross, 08-062712, and People v. Jackson, 08-062713, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Freifeld in New York at kfreifeld@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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