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Rapper Offers $1M Reward for Laptop; Court Orders Him to Pay

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on November 29, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Rapper Ryan Leslie offered a $1 million reward when his laptop was stolen in Germany in 2010. But when it was returned, he tried to take back his promise.

Now, he's going to have to pay up, the New York Post reports.

Armin Augstein, a German car mechanic, found the laptop while walking his dog and gave it to German police, who returned it to Leslie in November 2010. It was the right thing to do, but Augstein was also excited about the reward Leslie had promised in a YouTube video asking for the laptop's return.

But it turns out Leslie was all talk. He accused Augstein of taking part in the laptop's theft since he "conveniently" found it. While this raises the question of whether Leslie ever planned to pay anyone for the laptop's return, a New York court has ruled that he no longer has a choice in the matter.

Augstein is German but he understood the American way, so he sued Leslie for the promised money. This year he caught a flight to New York so he could testify against the rapper.

Leslie testified at trial that the reward was contingent on being able to retrieve some unreleased tracks on the laptop's hard drive, reports the Post. He said he couldn't access them when the laptop was returned. But the judge dismissed that evidence and told the jury to do the same.

Judge Harold Baer Jr. said that since Leslie disposed of the laptop by returning it to the manufacturer, the jury could assume the allegedly missing data was still on it at the time.

Score one for Augstein.

Then during deliberations, jurors sent a note to the judge asking if they could lower the award for Augstein. At that point Leslie's attorneys tried to settle, but Augstein's team knew when to hold their cards. They refused, and sent the jury back to make their all-or-nothing decision.

Score two for Augstein.

The third and final point came when the jury returned with a ruling in his favor. After two years, he'll finally get his $1 million reward.

Leslie should have known it was coming based on the message he sent in his YouTube video. That kind of offer is called a unilateral contract. It's recognizable because it can only be accepted by acting on it. A real-world example of this: A "buy one, get one free" sale is a form of unilateral contract.

But in the shopping world, most of those deals come with a caveat like "participation may vary" or "while supplies last." If Leslie had wanted to place a condition on his reward, he should have mentioned the money would only be available if the files were found safe.

But since he didn't do that, the contract appears to be binding. And the jury agreed.

There is a chance that Leslie will appeal, but based on his tweets he seems to be accepting the jury's decision, according to MTV. He may be out the $1 million, but at least he learned a valuable lesson about contracts. We hope.

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