CHICAGO – A community activist was found guilty Monday of trying to extort $20,000 from a gospel singer and her husband, baseball player Gary Sheffield, by threatening to publicize an embarrassing sex video.

A federal jury took about three hours to convict Derrick Mosley, rejecting his claim that he had not demanded money for the tape last November but asked only to serve as a moral counselor to singer DeLeon Richards-Sheffield.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Clarence Butler Jr. said undercover FBI recordings made clear that Mosley wanted money in exchange for destroying two videotapes that Mosley claimed showed the gospel singer having sex with R&B artist R. Kelly.

In his closing argument Monday, Butler said Mosley’s conversations with the couple’s business manager revealed him to be a “two-bit hustler.”

“How many times did you hear him say (the word) “ramifications’ and talk about what would happen if that tape went public?” Butler said. “This didn’t have a damn thing to do with counseling. . . He wanted to hijack their fame so he could get some money.”

U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan set Mosley’s sentencing for Jan. 18. He faces up to 44 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Mosley showed no emotion while the verdict was read. “He’s obviously disappointed, but he’s a strong guy,” his attorney, Michael Petro, said afterward.

In his closing arguments, Petro told jurors that Mosley never threatened to release the tape if he wasn’t paid. At various times, Mosley said he didn’t intend to release it, Petro argued.

He blamed business manager Rufus Williams for asking what the deal would “cost.”

“That’s the bait,” Petro said. “That’s the hook. He throws it out there.”

Petro produced a defense recording of a conversation between Mosley and Williams that he said showed Mosley calling off the deal.

“I’m basically going to move on,” Mosley said on the tape, which was undated. “You don’t owe me anything.”

Butler disagreed with Petro’s interpretation of the tapes at every turn throughout the one-week trial.

Butler said Mosley had money in mind all along. He argued that even Mosley’s disgruntled statements about forsaking the deal and “moving on” were veiled threats to Williams that he was preparing to release the tape.

“Derrick Mosley was convicted by his own words,” Butler said afterward.

Mosley e-mailed Richards-Sheffield on Nov. 2, 2004, to try to contact her, and then called the New York Yankees the next day to try to talk to Sheffield, prosecutors said.

Mosley told a Yankees media official about the tape and wanted to know “how much is it worth to them,” Butler said.

The team steered him to Williams, who is based in Chicago, and Williams contacted the FBI. Two weeks of conversations culminated in Mosley asking for $20,000, prosecutors said.

Petro argued that in a true extortion plot, Mosley would not have used his real name and real address and wouldn’t have driven his own car to meet Williams.

“Derrick comes to the table with an empty head and a pure heart,” Petro said.

FBI agents searched Mosley’s residence Nov. 15 and found a videotape with a recording that included a woman who “appeared to resemble” Richards-Sheffield, Butler said. The tape was from years before the couple’s marriage, authorities said.

(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-11-14-05 2236EST

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