Monday, March 22, 2010

Lawyers Convicted of Theft by Deception in Dramatic Sex Scandal

Many times while reading appellate case law, I find myself searching for that legal wrinkle that makes the case worth reading (or blawging about).  Sometimes, the significance of the appellate decision is more obvious.  Other times (like today), I read a case, the facts of which are just so darn compelling, I don't even pay attention to the legal arguments.  Here's a good one for you:

Wife finds out that husband is cheating on her and that he has been perusing an adult internet site.  Eager to "catch him in the act" she signs up for an online profile and describes herself as a sex-starved housewife, looking for the kind of pleasure that only a strong man can provide.  He never takes the bait, but several other gentlemen (all very prominent, well-to-do, gentlemen) cash-in on her offer (all on separate occasions and without knowledge of the others).  Husband gets wind of her indiscretions and confronts her at an Austin hotel on the very eve of one such encounter.  Rather than fight, or pursue a divorce, they hatch a plan.  (It's somewhat possible that this plan was hatched before she met the 4 gentlemen, but it isn't clear from the record).

Husband, a Texas lawyer, drafts Rule 202 petitions under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure seeking testimony and evidence relevant to potential claims (bogus claims) against the 4 gentlemen and his wife.  Wife, also an attorney (not sure if she is licensed in TX), helps him by editing his drafts.  She then contacts each of the men, tells them that her husband found out about the affair and would like to speak with them.  Each ultimately agrees to meet with the husband and at the meeting he serves the Rule 202 petitions, along with a not-so-subtle letter "suggesting" that they pay him a large sum of money (checks payable to him or a sham charity).  Husband collects a total of $115,000 from the 4 gentlemen in exchange for letters of non-disclosure.  Husband and Wife magically reconcile their rocky relationship and use the money as a down-payment on a new $625,000 home.

It isn't clear how this ordeal was ultimately discovered, but Husband and Wife are eventually charged with Theft by Deception for the shakedowns.  Not sure of the final outcome of Husband's trial (please fill me in if you know), but Wife is convicted of 5 counts and awarded ten years' confinement for each count, to run concurrently (suspended and placed on 10 years community supervision).

Wow!  That is the stuff of soap operas!  If you want to find out more about this story and see if you know the attorneys involved (forgot to mention, one of the gentlemen callers was also a Texas attorney), see the opinion of the 4th District Court of Appeals (San Antonio) in Roberts v. State, 17 March 2010, HERE.