US rapper ordered to pay reward after offering $1m for return of stolen laptop... then refusing to pay


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The Independent US

A US rapper has been forced to deliver on his promise of a $1m reward for the return of his stolen laptop - after the man who found it took him to court.

Today American jurors ordered Ryan Leslie 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 insisted in an interview with the New York Post that Mr Leslie was “personally very friendly” on the two occasions that the pair met. But he said he was “disappointed” with his failure to pay.

Mr Leslie initially offered $20,000 (£12,480) for the return of the computer and an external hard-drive, which stored “in-development” songs on them, but later increased the reward.

Mr Augstein found the equipment while walking his dog.

But Mr Leslie argued that the cash was contingent on his being able to retrieve the songs and, 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 instructed jurors that, because Mr Leslie returned the hard-drive to the manufacturer when it came back into his possession, 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. “Mr. Augstein doesn’t just deserve a thank-you; he deserves an apology,” his lawyer Michael Fischman said. The jury’s decision in Mr Augstein’s favour was unanimous.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Leslie said he was considering an appeal.