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Oprah's Extortion Charge Withers

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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DENIED Winfrey, Bonvillain (inset)

Keifer Bonvillain, the 36-year-old Georgia man who was nabbed by the FBI late last year for allegedly trying to extort Oprah Winfrey for $1.5 million, won't be facing charges after all. Last week, the U.S. attorney prosecuting the case agreed to dismiss the charge, and Bonvillain agreed to pay $3,000 restitution to the FBI, serve 50 hours of community service, and stay out of legal trouble for one year. He had faced up to two years in federal prison.

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On Sunday, Bonvillain told that he had been vindicated and that he intends to publish an "explosive" book about Winfrey based on information from illegally recorded telephone conversations he conducted with a former employee of Winfrey's production company, Harpo.

"Basically, it was as if the prosecution wanted out of this mess before it got crazy," Bonvillain said. "My plan right now is to release an e-book within the next week."

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It's unclear what will happen to the more than 15-hours' worth of taped phone calls that the FBI seized from Bonvillain when he was arrested, and later during a search of his home. But in the end it doesn't matter: Bonvillain says he has his own copies of the tapes that the FBI never found during its search. While the deal requires Bonvillain to return all of the discovery material that the U.S. attorney turned over to him, including audio and transcripts of the phone calls, it doesn't forbid him from publicizing his own copies of those calls.



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