The Court of Appeals, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Piggot, over a dissenting opinion, determined the trial judge properly refused to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of coercion in the second degree. Defendant was charged and convicted of coercion in the first degree. The applicable elements of both the first and second degree offenses were the same in this case. The second degree (misdemeanor) offense is reserved for rare cases where the nature of the coercion does not rise to the level of heinousness warranting a felony conviction (not easily described or discerned):
This Court long ago recognized that the crimes of coercion in the first and second degree “are identical when the coercion is committed by instilling a fear that a person will be physically injured or that property will be damaged” … . While the language of the statutes does not provide guidance on which crime is to be charged, … the legislative history reveals an intention that the felony of “coercion in the first degree be charged whenever the method of coercion was to instill a fear of injury to a person or damage to property.” * * *
… [S]econd-degree coercion should be charged as a lesser included offense only in the “unusual factual situation” in which the coercion by threat of personal or property injury lacks “the heinousness ordinarily associated with this manner of commission of the crime” … . We … left open the possibility that, based on the evidence presented in a given case, a trial court could submit second-degree coercion as a lesser-included offense of coercion in the first degree if the “threatened physical injury is not truly fearsome” … .
This case does not present one of those “unusual factual situations” warranting the lesser included charge … . The People’s evidence showed that defendant coerced his former girlfriend by threatening to drive away her clients, make it impossible for her to conduct business, hurt her physically, and even kill her. Such methods of coercion have the heinous quality contemplated by the first-degree statute, and therefore the second-degree charge was not warranted. People v Finkelstein, 2016 NY Slip Op 08585, CtApp 12-22-16
CRIMINAL LAW (UNDER THE FACTS, THE TRIAL COURT PROPERLY REFUSED TO INSTRUCT THE JURY TO CONSIDER COERCION IN THE SECOND DEGREE AS A LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSE, DESPITE THE FACT THAT COERCION IN THE FIRST DEGREE AND COERCION IN THE SECOND DEGREE HAVE IDENTICAL ELEMENTS)/COERCION (CRIMINAL LAW, UNDER THE FACTS, THE TRIAL COURT PROPERLY REFUSED TO INSTRUCT THE JURY TO CONSIDER COERCION IN THE SECOND DEGREE AS A LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSE, DESPITE THE FACT THAT COERCION IN THE FIRST DEGREE AND COERCION IN THE SECOND DEGREE HAVE IDENTICAL ELEMENTS)