Shonda Rhimes is currently developing a Netflix series on the “Soho Grifter” Anna Delvey (née Sorokin), who rose to infamy by posing as a German heiress and conning fancy hotels, businesses, and wealthy people out of several hundred thousand dollars. Unfortunately, Delvey might not get to reap the benefits of having her life story turned into entertainment, thanks to a New York law preventing people from profiting off of their crime stories.
According to The New York Post, Netflix offered Delvey (who is currently serving a four to 12 year prison sentence) $100,000 to adapt her story, plus a $7,500 royalty and $15,000-per-episode as a consulting fee. Delvey got $30,000 when she signed the deal—which was immediately used to pay her lawyer’s fees—but didn’t get the remaining $70,000 when she was due it in June, and has yet to see the royalty or consulting fees.
The New York state Attorney General’s Office is reportedly trying to keep the cash for her, invoking the “Son of Sam Law” prohibiting people convicted of crimes from exploiting those crimes commercially. The law was enacted in 1977 to keep serial killer David Berkowitz from selling his story to a writer or filmmaker, and has been invoked a number of times, including in the case of John Lennon killer Mark David Chapman. And though it doesn’t outright prohibit those convicted of crimes from earning profits off their stories, it does mean the New York State Crime Victims Board holds those profits in escrow before determining whether or not that money should go to the victims instead.
It seems that’s what the AG’s office wants here, and Delvey does owe a lot of people a lot of money. Per The New York Post:
After Sorokin’s conviction, Justice Diane Kiesel signed a restitution order totaling $198,956.19. She owes City National Bank, which she duped into a loan by faking bank statements, $100,000, which she got while trying to negotiate a $22 million loan to launch a private art club in Manhattan.
“As a representative of the crime victim, I have a valid claim against, and intend to sue immediately … this convicted person for damages caused by such crimes,” wrote bank lawyer Peter Hebert in an affidavit for the suit.
One cannot imagine this will go over well with Delvey, who needs Netflix’s money to fund her fresh prison looks. It generally seems unfair to prohibit anyone, convicted of a crime or not, from being properly compensated for a network’s right to profit off their life story, though I guess it’s a good way to stop people from getting out of debt by going on a murder spree and selling the exclusive to HBO, not that I’ve considered it or anything.