Threatening to reveal the online gay persona of a man to his fiancee has nearly cost Melbourne blackmailer Timothy Ruge a stint in jail.
The 35-year-old was on Friday ordered to serve 220 hours of unpaid community work and placed on a 24-month community corrections order by Victorian County Court judge Lisa Hannan.
Ruge pleaded guilty to blackmail for forcing his victim to handover $200 in exchange for his silence.
Ruge threatened to send screen shots of their chat history on gay networking app, Grindr, to the man's bride to be.
The victim was using Grindr on March 2 last year when he selected Ruge's profile.
But Ruge responded with an image of the victim's fiancee with the words "she's pretty you cheating bastard" before he demanded money.
The pair then arranged to meet at Southern Cross Station, with the victim handing Ruge $200, before the messages were deleted, but more cash was later demanded.
The victim went to police after Ruge texted him again and threatened to "make your girl mine".
While the victim was at the police station, Ruge left several voicemail messages for the man.
"You are properly described as at times exhibiting aggressive, at times threatening, and at other times taunting behaviour, " Judge Hannan said.
She said Ruge had a "perceived moral high ground", engaged in victim blaming and lacked remorse when he was interviewed by police, who used CCTV footage from the train station to find him.
Ruge was homeless and using ice at the time of the crime.
"In my view it's clear that your motivation was money and you saw a soft target, that is, a man who wished to keep his sexual preferences and activities confidential," the judge said.
In sparing Ruge jail, Judge Hannan acknowledged prison could place him at risk given his depression and likelihood of being targeted in custody.
But the judge said she would lock Ruge up if he misbehaves again.
"You were very close to finding yourself in jail today," she said.
"You breach this order and it's like holding your hand up and saying 'send me to jail'."
Australian Associated Press