Music Mogul Must pay $1 Million Reward for Lost Laptop

Posted December 3, 2012 in Jury Awards Litigation by

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For many of us, our whole life is on our laptop. And if it were lost, we would give anything to get it back.

That’s how music producer and singer-songwriter Ryan Leslie felt when lost a bag containing his MacBook, $10,000 in cash and his passport while he was on tour in Cologne, Germany two years ago.

The distraught Leslie, who has stored all the songs for a new album on his hard drive, initially offered a $20,000 reward to anyone who found it. He then upped the ante, increasing the reward to $1 million “in the interest of retrieving the invaluable intellectual property” on the laptop.

Leslie posted his offer on YouTube and announced it in public appearances, saying “I actually had my whole new album on there, which I had been working on in secret, and it got stolen. So right now, I got a million-dollar reward for anybody that can return my intellectual property to me.”

Lucky for auto shop owner Armin Augstein, who came upon the wayward laptop while walking his dog in Cologne.

Although he got his laptop back, Leslie refused to pay the German man his reward. Augstein sued the Grammy-nominated R&B singer in New York. Leslie’s attorney Bill DeStefano said Augstein’s story of finding the laptop was “fishy” because the park where he walked his dog is 15 miles from Cologne where laptop was stolen.

Testifying through an interpreter, Augstein denied he had anything to do with the disappearance of the laptop.

Michael S. Fischman

“It’s unfortunate that my client has to go to such lengths to recover the reward,” said Augstein’s attorney Michael S. Fischman of Phillips Nizer.

Leslie also got on the stand, arguing that he didn’t have to pay the reward because even though he got his laptop back, the songs on it were not accessible so the intellectual property he cared most about remained missing.

A jury disagreed, and ordered Leslie to fork over the money.

Leslie’s fans tweeted their support but some agreed with the jury, saying he should have paid the reward as soon as his MacBook was returned.

Augstein said he was “very happy” with the U.S. justice system but “disappointed” in Leslie.

“No one forced him to make an offer of so much money,” he said.

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