James P. Moriarty – TLC 97′ Grad, Rainbow Warrior. 

Hello.

Several people have asked for details on the acquittal I got on January 13 in Bremer County, IA

My client Mindy had bought a house that had been built on spec from a builder/contractor she had known for a long time, but unfortunately had no idea of his shoddy work history.  She had wanted a house with a floor plan that was more convenient for her daughter who had been seriously injured in a lawn mower accident some time back and was having a lot of trouble navigating the house they were in due to the stairs. Because they had a house, they weren’t able to get a standard mortgage, so they went for a real estate purchase contract, which would not, of Course, build equity or pass title.  The house had numerous serious defects which posed health hazards to the family, and the builder would not Repair them, and accordingly she had withheld and escrowed the monthly contract payments.   She had purchased the appliances on the house separately from the real estate contract.  After about a year of frustration and being given the run around from the builder, she gave up and let the house go, with about $50,000.00 into it (down payment and monthly payments), moving back to her prior house and taking the appliances with her. When it became apparent to the builder that he was going to be sued civilly for the defects and fraud in the house, he went to the prosecutor and said that she’s stolen the appliances.  My position was that this was completely false and he was only seeking to pre-empt Mindy from suing him civilly.

She was arrested, and she was on parole, but had really gotten her act together.  The stress of the situation was tearing her family apart, but fortunately that’s getting much better. 

I told the jury up front about her history, as it was going to come in under impeachment anyway.  I also set that this was a case of theft indeed, but it was not theft by Mindy, but from Mindy.  Pretty good panel, stressed importance of home ownership and community that it built.

The prosecutor tried to completely keep any information regarding why Mindy had done anything that she had done as irrelevant, objecting on that again and again and getting sustained, but I got to the point where he would ask a question, get a harmful answer, and on quick re-direct ask a specific question of why and he’d object, and after this kept happening again and again, the jury got to wondering what he was trying to hide, and why.

He’d offered to reduce the D Felony to an Aggravated Misdemeanor and agree to suspended sentence, but Mindy refused.  I told him months ago he should dismiss this bogus criminal charge and let a civil action sort it out.  I also told him that he did not want to try this case against me on these facts, and that the jury would not like the builder when I was through with him.

Crossing the builder was fun.  He tried to show himself as a great guy and community leader on direct, and I soft crossed him to show what a vulture he was.   The contracts were terrible, and I got the CIVIL instructions regarding basic contract interpretation rules – everyone remembers them, ambiguous contracts are construed against the drafter – and this really annoyed the prosecutor. 

They were out for two hours, came back NG.  When I turned and put my hand across the aisle, as I do with every verdict I’ve heard over the last thirty years, win or lose, there was no one standing there.  I turned to see his back going out the back door.

Anyway, now I have to move to have the appliances returned.  Wish me luck.  The good thoughts and support of all of you was everything to us.

Peace

James P. Moriarty. Proud Rainbow Warrior from the the Class of 1997.