The Staten Island lawyer best known for his demand to settle scamming allegations with an old-timey duel pleaded guilty in a separate—but no less outlandish—case on Monday, without ever stepping foot inside the battle arena.
Richard Luthmann of Staten Island wound up indicted on a slew of extortion-related charges in 2017, roughly two years after his infamous call for a trial by combat. (We will get to that, don't worry.) According to the Staten Island Advance, federal investigators accused Luthmann of "kidnapping, kidnapping conspiracy, money laundering, brandishing a firearm to commit a crime, aggravated identity theft, and extortion conspiracy" in connection with a fairly bonkers scrap metal scheme they say Luthmann helped architect from his law office in 2015.
A brief synopsis of the grift, per the NY Times:
Prosecutors said that Mr. Luthmann joined forces with a blind man and two reputed mobsters to pack shipping containers with "cheap filler material" and fraudulently sell them to a group of local businesses as scrap metal. In the midst of the plot, prosecutors claim, Mr. Luthmann turned on one of his partners and had him held at gunpoint to collect a $7,000 debt.
Additionally, prosecutors said that Luthmann engineered aggressive social media campaigns against perceived political adversaries, and set in motion wild plots intended to take down his nemeses. For example: Luthmann allegedly attempted to pay an exotic dancer $10,000 to accuse Staten Island's district attorney Michael E. McMahon of rape, while also trying to bribe people into saying McMahon's wife—Justice Judith McMahon—accepted bribes in exchange for preferential rulings.
In June, a judge revoked Luthmann's bail and ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after he allegedly wrote a threatening "Game of Thrones-inspired" letter to a witness, believed to have been his wife.
The month before, Luthmann's alleged co-conspirators pleaded guilty, and in January, the Advance reported that Luthmann's legal team was approaching a plea deal of their own. As part of Monday's guilty plea, Luthmann admitted to having penned the intimidating note, and could serve up to six-and-a-half years in prison for two counts of wire fraud and extortion conspiracy.
So what about that whole "trial by combat" thing? In August 2015, facing separate allegations that he'd helped a client commit fraudulent wire transfer, Luthmann attempted to get a civil complaint dismissed by invoking his 11th century rights. Describing the charges against him as absolutely unfounded, Luthmann told the Advance he was more than ready to out-absurd his legal opponents: "I'll give them back ridiculousness in kind," he said. "If these people want to insist on having it out, then we'll have it out."
And then Luthmann filed a 10-page brief with the New York Supreme Court arguing that, because England's common law—which included the right to trial by combat—was in effect upon New York's founding in 1776, and because neither New York law nor the U.S. Constitution ever bothered to disavow that point specifically, it's still a reasonable request to make of our legal system. And if the court would not let him settle his score with a fight to the death, or appoint a champion to do so in his place, then he wanted his case thrown out. A judge denied Luthmann's request, while acknowledging that trial by combat is, technically, a viable option. Just something to think about for your future legal disputes.