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Grand Theft Charge Fort Pierce Not Guilty


Kirschner gets yet another “two-word” verdict-Client facing 15 years walks away from Court a free woman.

Lawyers call them “two-word” verdicts. The most coveted two words for any citizen wrongfully accused, facing the full unfeeling wrath of the criminal justice system. The words are “Not Guilty”.

Despite what many lawyers will tell you, most cases do not actually go to trial. Approximately 95-96% of all criminal cases are ‘disposed’ of through other means-through dismissals, through pleas to “lesser included offenses”, and the like. Many “great results”, some of which are described in some detail in other portions of this website, are obtained by NOT going to trial.

In order to obtain those kinds of results however, one must demonstrate, repetitively, convincingly, and over time, that the criminal defense lawyers maintains the kinds of skills necessary to win a jury trial. Because a jury trial is a war. The government, charged with “seeking justice”, sometimes fails to do so. The Defense attorney is trained to win at all means within her or his disposal, within the ethical and professional limits of the legal profession. But make no mistake about it, the case that goes to trial in reality is a battle to the death. The citizen wrongfully accused, if she loses her case, can face ruination of her life and reputation, incarceration for extended periods of time, even decades, and sometimes even the ultimate punishment.

And so it is that in order to obtain great results in the 96% of cases that don’t go to trial, the criminal trial lawyer must demonstrate the skills, expertise, talent and creativity that time and time again results in “two-word” verdicts.

In State of Florida vs. T.D., St. Lucie County Case No.: 56-2008-CF-3481-A, the young woman contractor was charged with Grand Theft of the Second Degree; meaning that she was accused of stealing $80,000.00 from the two alleged “victims”, A.L. and P.L.

A.L. and P.L. contracted with T.D. to build a house in one of the more elegant gated communities in St. Lucie County. During the course of preparing the house for permitting, A.L. and P.L. suddenly reversed course, and told T.D. that they did not want to proceed with construction of the house, despite the fact that T.D. had put hundreds of hours into the designing, bidding, and permitting of the luxury homesite. The home was enviable. It was planned to have a six (6) car garage, an elevator, a music studio, a “hurricane room”, travertine marble and granite throughout, and a sweeping staircase to the second floor, where the master bedroom suite was situated.

In the construction contract, there was a “liquidated damages” provision, which simply stated, means that when the buyers “breached” or defaulted on the contract, then the contractor would retain any monies deposited up until that point. (In this case, some $80,000.00). Despite the fact that T.D. had no obligation to return even a penny of the deposit- she did not “feel” that was fair to the buyers, and she offered to return nearly sixty percent (60%) of the money. A.L and P.L. laughed at her, saying “No, we want it all.

A.L. and P.L then sued T.D, and civil litigation continued for approximately a year and a half. After that time, someone suggested that A.L. and P.L., rather than continuing to pay their civil lawyers, try to file a criminal complaint with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, in order to see if the State of Florida would continue representing them in a criminal case against T.D., so they could “get it all”.

Unfortunately, this is where the criminal justice system, as oftentimes it does, ‘broke down’. The Detective assigned the case conducted a cursory and superficial investigation, and summarily, after barely three (3) weeks, sought an arrest warrant.

T.D., who had relocated to Texas, and knew nothing of the so-called “investigation”, heard a knock at her door. When she opened the door to her home, she was arrested, held without bond, and then transported in a “prisoner transport” van, forced to stand in a 4′ X 4′ space for 4 days, under deplorable and inhumane conditions, to Florida for prosecution.

The Detective’s shoddy investigation then was compounded by the Office of the State Attorney, which stubbornly insisted upon filing “formal” charges. T.D. now faced fifteen (15) years in jail.

Her family then hired Jonathan Jay Kirschner, Esq., & Associates, LLC to secure her release pending trial, and to represent her throughout the proceedings. The “pre-trial” phase of the criminal litigation took some twenty-six (26) months. Kirschner, understanding the importance of a “team approach” to complex litigation, retained Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer Michael McCluskey, a construction litigation specialist, to testify to the jury at trial about the meaning of “liquidated damage” provisions, and the fact that they are commonplace in construction contracts, and a fair and equitable way of limiting damage claims in construction disputes.

Additionally, Kirschner associated with Peter Gianino, Esq., of the prestigious Grazi and Gianino Law Firm in Stuart, Florida, to act as ‘second chair’ a the trial. (ALL trials, when the client can afford it, should utilize at least two (2) lawyers in a jury trial, as this benefits the client in a number of ways; First, it divides the workload. Second, it allows for “brainstorming” different approaches to trying the case. Third, it “frees up” one of the trial counsel to concentrate on documenting and preserving issues for possible Appellate Review, while remaining counsel can focus solely on communicating with and persuading the jury to reach a just verdict).

The case proceeded to trial on January 3, 2011. It was indeed a complex trial, lasting a full week, and Kirschner introduced hundreds of documents to show the jury that T.D., far from being a criminal, was in fact a victim—-of greedy homebuyers anxious to get ‘something for nothing.’

The jury was out a mere 3 ½ hours-the longest 3 ½ hours of T.D.’s life, before returning the two-word “NOT GUILTY” verdict.

Instead of going to prison for 15 years, and/or paying $80,000.00 she did not owe, T.D. walked from inside the courtroom, outside to the clean air and cobalt blue skies of a perfect Treasure Coast winter afternoon.

The right criminal defense attorney does make a difference.

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