A US rapper has been forced to pay the $1m (€1.23m) reward he offered for the return of his stolen laptop – after the man who found it took him to court.
Ryan Leslie, an R&B artist, made the offer on YouTube after the laptop was stolen outside a nightclub in Germany in October 2010, but he refused to pay up when it was handed in to police. Yesterday American jurors ordered him to hand the money to Armin Augstein, a 54-year-old garage owner from Pulheim in North Rhine-Westphalia.
“I’m very happy… that the American judicial system, which is so totally different from ours, functioned so well with a jury that are not professionals and are laymen,” said Mr Augstein. “No one forced him to make an offer of so much money for a finder’s fee."
The German, who found the laptop while walking his dog, said in an interview with the New York Post that Mr Leslie was “personally very friendly” on the two occasions the pair met. But he said he was “disappointed” with the rapper’s failure to pay. Mr Leslie initially offered $20,000 for the return of the laptop and an external hard drive holding songs he was working on; later he increased the reward.
Mr Leslie argued that the cash was contingent on his being able to retrieve the songs and that, when he was unable to do so, he tried to back out of the deal. The court’s decision to hold him to his promise ends a two-year legal battle. The judge told jurors that, because Mr Leslie had taken the hard-drive to the manufacturer when he got it back, it was likely that Mr Augstein had handed it over with the data intact.
Jurors felt that the $1m figure was too high and the two sides tried to reach a compromise. But lawyers for the German demanded the jury reach an all-or-nothing decision. Their decision was unanimous. “Mr Augstein doesn’t just deserve a thank you; he deserves an apology,” his lawyer said.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Leslie said he was considering an appeal.
The US singer initially offered $20,000 when his laptop and a hard drive were found by a man walking his dog
Ryan Leslie made his offer on YouTube after the theft in 2010.