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Singer forced to pay promised $1M reward for found laptop

Singer Ryan Leslie makes a YouTube video offering $1 million for the safe return of his stolen laptop and an external hard drive. A German man finds them. Leslie refuses to pay. A court decides he has to.

For richer, for poorer. RyanLeslieTV/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszcyk/CNET

In the throes of anguish, we make promises that if only the anguish can be removed we will be eternally grateful.

Now a court has decided that such promises are legally enforceable.

For here is the tale of Ryan Leslie, a Harvard-educated singer, songwriter, and producer (Booba and Cory Gunz are two acts whom he has graced), who had his laptop and an external hard drive stolen in 2010 from a black Mercedes in Cologne, Germany.

Leslie was in pain. He took to YouTube, where he offered $1 million for the safe return of the gadgets.

How bursting with joy Leslie must have been when Armin Augstein, who owns an auto-repair shop, found them in a park as he was walking his dog.

Somehow, though, Leslie may have decided that his initial offer of $1 million might have been hasty. What seems clear is that he refused to pay. Which led to Augstein taking him to court.

And winning.

As the New York Post reports, a court in Manhattan decided that Leslie should, indeed, keep his promise.

Leslie reportedly implied that Augstein might have had something to do with the initial theft. A difficult aspect of this accusation was that there didn't seem to be any evidence for it.

In court, Leslie also offered that the reward depended on his being able to retrieve several unreleased songs from the hard drive -- which he said he wasn't able to do after it was returned to him. But the judge, says the Hollywood Reporter, ruled that Leslie and his team handled the drive in a negligent fashion when it was returned and that the jury should assume the data was there when Augstein turned over the drive.

The jury -- which was at first uncomfortable with the large amount involved -- found for Augstein.

You will be delighted that Leslie seems to have taken it in relatively good spirit. Or not.

I have embedded footage from a concert the day after the verdict. Leslie explains that his original promise was a reward of $20,000. It was only when the gadgets weren't initially returned that he offered, well, $980,000 more.

He still insisted that he couldn't access the hard drive when it was returned. He explained the deep suffering he is experiencing because everyone now believes he is a cheapskate.

He wants you to know he is not a rat, nor a weasel. He also wants you to know that after his music was gone, he committed himself and all his resources into making "the most incredible artistic offering I possibly could."

He added: "And despite what the jury said, that $1 million reward is still out there for anyone who can return my compositions to me."

There's nothing like doubling down.

In the meantime, if your laptop is lost or stolen, please be careful how much of a reward you offer. A jury of your peers may hold you to it.

Which might leave you homeless and alone, with only Ryan Leslie's latest album to listen to.

It's called "Les Is More."