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Monday, March 20, 2006

A gross miscalculation


Better play your hand right

From the Los Angeles Times


Civil Trial in Sex Assault Likely to Be Ugly
The suit over the O.C. attack targets the three guilty men, the father of one, two investigators and a lawyer who vows victim will 'rue the day.'
By Christopher Goffard
Times Staff Writer

March 20, 2006

Now that a judge has imposed a prison term on the attackers, the sordid, painful four-year-long case involving Gregory Haidl and two co-defendants — and the woman who says they destroyed her — shifts to the civil courtroom, which may prove the ugliest show yet.

The victim, now 20 and known publicly as Jane Doe, has sued the three young men convicted of sexually assaulting her while a video camera rolled and she lay unconscious on a pool table one July night in 2002. And she is suing Haidl's father, a rich former Orange County assistant sheriff, alleging that he should have known of the drug- and alcohol-fueled parties raging in his Corona del Mar home, where the attack occurred.

But, as part of her $26-million lawsuit, Jane Doe is also targeting others who, she says, subjected her to years of "harassment, intimidation and torture" after the attack itself.

In a rare legal move, her suit names Haidl defense attorney Joseph G. Cavallo and two defense investigators, John Warren and Shawn Smigel. She says the defense staked out her Rancho Cucamonga house, went through her trash, stalked her, improperly obtained her medical records, broadcast her identity and once cornered her in a parking lot while snapping pictures.

"We're taking these people to task about what they did," said Jane Doe's attorney, Sheldon Lodmer. "They crossed the line in terms of appropriate legal defense."

Cavallo said he did nothing improper in trying to defend a client who could have faced life in prison, and characterized the lawsuit as "revenge" for his zealous representation.

"If they think what I did in the criminal case was aggressive, they're attacking me personally now," Cavallo said. "By the time I get done with Jane Doe, the case won't be worth $10. I know more about Jane Doe than her lawyer and her family."

During the criminal trial, Cavallo and other defense attorneys cast her as a would-be porn star who merely faked unconsciousness on the tape, cross-examining her relentlessly and underscoring her earlier sexual behavior. Cavallo, planning to represent himself in the civil trial, said he would question her even more thoroughly, unencumbered by the rape shield law that limits inquiry into her past during a criminal trial.

"Only 10 to 20% of what we had on Jane Doe and her family came out during the criminal case," Cavallo said. "They're going to rue the day they brought me into this case."

Doe's attorney, Lodmer, said he anticipated that Cavallo would attack his client.

"I'm sure he will use this opportunity, and she's ready to stand up to it," Lodmer said. "He can try and do what he wants. He made life miserable for everyone else in this case."
...................................

The criminal convictions of Haidl, Nachreiner and Spann provide a built-in advantage for Jane Doe in the civil arena, at least in the case against them. In civil court, plaintiffs must prove their case by a "preponderance of the evidence," a much lighter burden than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard already met in the criminal case.

"The case against the three defendants who were convicted should not be too difficult," said Lodmer, adding that he expected depositions in the case to begin in the next two months. He acknowledged that the case against Cavallo involved far less trodden legal terrain.

"We're not suing [Cavallo] for anything he did or said inside that courtroom," Lodmer said. "We're suing him for what he authorized outside that courtroom."


Cavallo is still trying to intimidate Jane Doe.

If he were smart, he'd settle. And hire a lawyer.

Why?

Because by the time this gets to trial, Dateline and Court TV will be all over this, and they won't be on his side. She's going to get a LOT of political support and if he tries to trash her in court, it will blow up on him.

Dragging her sex life into open court may well expose the convicted men to further instrusion to their personal lives, as well as their families as well as him. Any predisposition towards sexist behavior or issues with women will be on the table.

She's got a sympathetic story. He's defending convicted rapists. Does he think by calling her a whore and saying the video tape doesn't matter that will work. Jurors may be reluctant to convict kids, but lawyers and money? Please. If her lawyers can make him look like a bully, he may escape due to the exemption, but everyone else will be sunk.

There are women, from Oprah on down, who would live to nail him and his clients for a ton of cash, and some humiliation. Her lawyers are going to go to the media and then we'll see who makes it ugly.

posted by Steve @ 4:24:00 PM

4:24:00 PM

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