McDonald’s worker who wanted to extort must remain seated

Henry

A former employee who wanted to blackmail the fast food restaurant McDonald’s with a video of himself spitting in an ice cream drink, has failed in his appeal.

In 2017, Clement Othusitse Seothaeng threatened to spread the video of himself on social media if McDonald’s did not pay him R100 000. He was caught in the act after a trap was set for the “blackmailer”. He was working at the Zambezi branch of McDonald’s in Montana at the time of the incident.

On June 8, 2021, Seothaeng pleaded guilty to a charge of extortion and another charge of intentional damage to property.

At the time, he told the court his anger at the company drove him to make the video. In the video, a person in a McDonald’s uniform could be seen preparing an ice cream drink (McFlurry). The person then spits into the drink and puts the lid on.

He was sentenced on 26 January 2022 in the Pretoria Regional Court to effectively 15 years of direct imprisonment; 10 years for extortion and five years for willful damage to property. The court then also ordered that his sentence not be served concurrently.

It was precisely because of this that Seothaeng appealed against his sentence. In his appeal application, he also asked for a lighter sentence “because the regional court overemphasized the serious nature of the charges”.

Seothaeng’s appeal was only partially successful.

The High Court in Pretoria found on 13 May that two years of his five-year sentence (on the charge of intentional damage to property) must be served concurrently with his 10-year sentence. This means Seothaeng was effectively sentenced to 13 years of direct imprisonment.

The High Court found in its judgment that Seothaeng’s actions could potentially cause millions of rand in damage to McDonald’s brand.

“It is important to take into account, as the respondent (the National Prosecuting Authority) argued, that the applicant (Seothaeng) had a relationship of trust with McDonald’s as an employee. By blackmailing his employer for R100 000, that relationship was irreparably damaged,” the court found.

The court also found that interfering with a regional court’s sentence would send the wrong message and nullify the serious nature of the charges.