The saga of sportscaster Seth Dunlap — the gay ex-radio host who maintains he did not send a homophobic tweet from his former radio station’s Twitter account — took a darker turn last week when a New Orleans police detective reportedly applied for a warrant to arrest Dunlap on the charge of extortion.
But as nola.com reports, Magistrate Commissioner Robert Blackburn rejected the warrant. Citing multiple sources within the New Orleans criminal justice system, the website reported Blackburn found the evidence insufficient to support the charge of extortion, which is defined as making threats to a person “with the intention (to) obtain anything of value.”
A police spokesperson told nola.com their investigation is “active and ongoing.”
There’s no word exactly what evidence the detective presented, according to one of the sources with knowledge of the application, but experts told nola.com the police could conceivably try again with more evidence, or seek an arrest warrant on other charges.
In Louisiana, extortion is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and typically involves a demand for payment to remain silent about compromising pictures or messages.
An alternate charge could be computer fraud, which is “the accessing of any computer, computer system, computer network, or any part thereof with the intent to… obtain money, property or services by means of false or fraudulent conduct, practices or representations.” Computer fraud is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Dunlap is accused by WWL and its parent company, Entercom, of tweeting an anti-gay insult at himself using his own cell phone and the radio station’s Twitter account, and then demanding $1.8 million to settle complaints about a hostile workplace.
On Sept. 10th, Dunlap tweeted his analysis of a win by the New Orleans Saints, using his own private Twitter account. Not long after, WWL Radio’s official Twitter account retweeted Dunlap and called him “a fag.”
WWL said it has surveillance video from that day, and claims Dunlap can be seen emerging from his office at WWL shortly after the offensive tweet went out, showing his phone to a co-worker, while appearing to talk about the tweet.
In September, Dunlap, 35, took a state certified lie detector test to buttress his claim he did not sent the offensive tweet, and then took a leave of absence as negotiations with the station broke down. WWL and Entercom accuse Dunlap of threatening to go “scorched earth” on the station if he did not receive millions of dollars in compensation for what his attorney described as a hostile work environment. The station claims Dunlap acted amid financial troubles.
WWL and Entercom say a private forensic expert hired to investigate Dunlap discovered the tweet came from an IP address — a unique number given to cell phones and other pieces of hardware — that is associated with Dunlap’s phone.
WWL fired Dunlap on Oct. 31st. Dunlap attorney Megan Kiefer told nola.com Dunlap’s dismissal compounded the damages he has already suffered. She claims WWL and Entercom only involved the police to retaliate against Dunlap for not letting them settle his workplace complaints cheaply.
“Mr. Dunlap has maintained from the beginning that he did not send the tweet, and he voluntarily took and passed a polygraph test, the results of which have been released to the public,” Kiefer previously told reporters.
Outsports reached out to Kiefer for further comment. We have not heard from her as of press time.