• Solomon Goldstein – Part Two

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    SUMMARY OF PART ONE

     

    Jacob Anderson, a new attorney, and his wife had moved to Rock Springs, Wyoming.  After unsuccessfully trying to start a law practice he began advertising himself as the tough Jewish Attorney, Solomon Goldstein.  The first ads had just come out.

     

    PART TWO

     

    All Hell Broke Loose! 

     

    There were a group of citizens that called for Solomon’s head on a pole – ready to march at a moment’s notice with pitchforks and torches.  Another mob who thought it was the craziest thing they had ever seen, sure that he had escaped from a mental institution, and a third group so drunk they thought he was a Jewish representative of the New Jersey mafia.  It was “even money” as to whether or not he would be disbarred.

     

    Jacob’s first call was from the Wyoming State Bar who informed him he was way outside the guidelines for advertising – threatening a cease-and-detest order and a censure.  Several attorneys in town complained to Jacob that he wasn’t really Solomon Goldstein (but in fact he was, and had filed a DBA (Doing Business As – Solomon Goldstein).  Jefferson Goodnight, the Senior Partner of the largest firm in Rock Springs told Jacob he was a disgrace to the profession, dumb as a bail of barbed wire, and that he was personally going to run Jacob out of town; then spat at his feet.

     

    The Rotary Club came with one vote of booting him to the street, and the Chamber of Commerce told him they had fourteen complaints as of the second day.  Jacob let Norene handle all of the complaints; he heard her tell one attorney that if he filed a grievance with the Bar she would personally rip out his plumbing.  There was one serious problem however, a much-hated Federal Judge (His Honor, Jackdale Borman) in Casper had issued an arrest warrant – based on the theory that Jacob was committing fraud.  Everyone knew the charge wouldn’t stick, but the seventy-five year-old, appointed-for-life judge was intent in having Jacob taken into custody to teach him a lesso

    imagesThen a strange event happened before the U.S. Marshals could serve the arrest warrant.  The judge’s classic Packard was stolen from behind the courthouse while court was in session.  The next day it was found just off highway 26, halfway to Powder River.  The thieves, by some means, had poured concrete into the entire car, blowing all the tires; the vehicle eventually resting on its running boards, cement dripping down the doors.  The judge had to be hospitalized with heart palpitations but the warrant was dropped, by the only other Wyoming federal judge down in Cheyenne – who had a 58 Buick convertible that he decided to park in his locked garage from then on.  Word went around that the cement dump could have only been improved had the judge had been sitting in the car.

     

     

     

    Of course Jacob’s family members found out about his name change; hence the irate call from his father, who would not be mollified.  He told Jacob he never wanted to see him again, informing him that his mother had collapsed and was under the care of a psychiatrist.  His brother and sister said they thought becoming Solomon was hilarious and assured him that his parents would calm down.  (They wanted to know where the nearest Jewish Temple was located, and was he planning to attend.)

     

    For a while it looked as if the Solomon Goldstein name might develop into a fiasco, but Jacob and Noreen assured everyone that the advertising campaign was just for one month. Once all the complainers understood it was for a short time, most backed off. Generally the residents of the state of Wyoming didn’t much care for governmental intervention unless it prevented a citizen from physical harm.

     

    On the other side of the coin the office was getting ten plus phone calls a day. Norene would screen the calls to make sure the potential client had money for a retainer and then decide if the case was worth taking. They took the easy ones first, even though they were less money. Within two months they were breaking even – enough cases in the pipeline to last until the end of the year.  Brigham quickly found that he did not want cases where the clients were obviously guilty, lying, irritating or downright evil.   The situations that he really liked were criminal, where he could put his own devious mind and forensic education to work.  

     

    They did have a number of goofballs who had seen the ads.  One man wanted to sue Chevron.  He was an eco-nut and had been attempting to blow up an oil field pump.  Got under the pump jack and got whacked on the head, resulting in a serious concussion. Somehow he was convinced that the oil company was at fault.  Another idiot had overdosed on Heroin and gone comatose.  Luckily the paramedics got there in time to inject Narcon, a opioid receptor antagonist which binds itself to the heroin molecules and stops the effects immediately.  The numb skull was raging mad that the paramedics had brought him back from the best high of his life and he wanted to sue to get the $56 he had paid for the stash, and a million in damages from the city and the paramedic team.  Norene escorted him to the front door and was none too gentle when she used her foot to help him down the cement stairs.

     

    Then came a murder that no law firm in town wanted to touch.  The victim was Fred Buell, the son-in-law of a prominent rancher.  He ran the family’s 5,600-acre spread where they raised cattle and horses, and hay to feed them – the cattle moved to higher ground in the summer.  But the real money supposedly came from large deposits of natural gas and oil on the property.  Mr. and Mrs. Buell were very well thought of. They had glamour magazine looks, and two beautiful children, and were prominent in charities, civic functions and church – leading citizens of the town.  Picture perfect nuclear family.  Then it all blew up.

     

    Most of the facts became clear during the first two weeks after the murder.  On the evening he was killed, Fred had just told his wife Lorie that he was leaving the family for another woman – Leann Sumsion, who handled the family’s legal affairs.  She was a partner in Jefferson Goodnight’s firm in town.  Unfortunately that same afternoon, when Fred came to see her, Leann told him he was about to become a father for the third time.  She was pregnant.

     

    Fred immediately burst out, “How do you know its mine.”  That is when the screaming, throwing and crashing began, including chairs and computers.  After an incredible burst of profanity, the staff in the office saw Fred rush out, get in his white GMC and drive away.  Fifteen minutes later Leann left and headed the same direction, into a nasty blizzard.

     

    At the bequest of her father, Lorie reported Fred missing the next day.  The blizzard had been non-stop – pretty much a whiteout.  Fred’s truck was found by a helicopter two days later in the old ghost town of Winton – eleven miles north east of Rock Springs – his white 4X4 almost hidden by a rusty tin roof overhang.

      

    He was frozen solid sitting in the front seat of his truck.  Almost two feet of snow had fallen – covering any tire tracks. He’d been shot multiple times. Nothing in evidence was left behind and nothing was missing from his truck – it wasn’t a robbery. The sheriff was sure they could find the murder’s tracks under the new snow. But whomever had killed him, had dragged sagebrush behind their vehicle and erased any tracks in the snow before the final storm covered everything.  There was one imprint down by the Winton turnoff to highway 18 – it was a Firestone All Weather, a common tire in the area.

     

    The first suspect was Leann, who had motive, opportunity, and means.  Her whereabouts from the time she left the office until she returned to her home that night was unclear.  She said she had just been driving around to cool off, but no one could verify that, other than seeing her leave town in her truck, with the blizzard howling full force.  Leann came in voluntarily, but her senior law partner Goodnight came with her and instructed her not to answer any questions.  Later, under his guidance she agreed to a search of her office and home without a warrant.  She did admit that there had been a violent argument between she and Fred about her pregnancy.  She fiercely declared that she knew nothing about his death.

     

    When Fred’s autopsy was finished, there were three bullets, all 38’s.  Looked as if they had been fired into his chest from the driver’s side window. There was one strange situation that didn’t fit – he was sitting with his hands folded across his chest.  Since Lorie was the next best candidate for wanting Fred killed, the sheriff obtained a search warrant and voila, there was a 38 in the family’s gun case that matched a bullet recovered from Fred’s body, and she had no excuse for where she had been that afternoon and evening.  Lorie was arrested but everyone expected her to be out on bail immediately. 

     

    That was when the second shoe dropped.  The ranch was completely underwater financially – with the principals owing the Farm Home Loan bank $1,400,000 more than the property was worth. The lien covered all of the livestock, equipment and personal property, down to the last calf.  All the cars were leased and the Rock Spring Old National Bank had extended a line of credit for $525,000, which was fully drawn.  The family had no cash whatsoever and Lorie’s bail was set at $300,000.  She sat in jail, none of her so-called friends were willing to put up the bail bondsman’s requirement of $30,000.  The community did not know what to think.  “Could Lorie have done this?”  Her only representation was a public defender, who told her at this point to say nothing and plead not guilty.  Jacob and Norene hoped somehow she would be able to get the best attorney in Wyoming.

     

    Then everything changed.  Someone unknown put up the money for the bondsman.  Solomon was contacted to see if he would be able to undergo her defense, but the contact came over the phone anonymously.  The person said he knew Lorie was innocent, and were willing to put up $75,000 as a retainer, in cash, as a friend of Lorie.  Jacob was unsure whether to even consider it, but both Jeanie and Norene encouraged him.  After an intensive interview with Lorie he decided to go ahead.  He was sure she was innocent.

     

    Lorie told him that she was aware that Fred was meeting Leann out in Winton for some time.  As she became more and more enraged about his desire to end the marriage and desert the family, she decided to go out to the lover’s rendezvous, where she was sure the he was meeting Leann.  At 8:00 PM she drove through the storm in her SUV towards the Winton turnoff. The two sets of tracks were faint in front of her as the snow filled them in.  She traced tire marks to the overhang where Fred was found.  As she approached his truck, he seemed to be leaning back against the seat.  At this point Jacob stopped her and said,  “Reflect on what you are about to say to me, it could make a big difference at trial.”  She told him that she did have a 38 in her hand to scare Fred.  When she first saw him sitting there she fired a shot, aiming over his truck.  Fred didn’t jerk, didn’t move or cry out.  As she looked through the window she could see that he was already dead.  Frightened, she got some sagebrush to drag behind her on the way back to the turnoff.  After wiping off the gun she put it away in the gun case. 

     

    Jacob wondered whether he was over his head in trying to defend this woman.  What if he failed? There would be a long prison term even if he could get the charge reduced to manslaughter or attempted homicide.  First he decided to look at the evidence.  He hired his own ballistics expert who found that there was one bullet from Lorie’s gun and two others from another 38, which jibbed with Lorie’s story.  Her bullet’s rifling marks were not the same as the other two.  He arranged a conference with the District Attorney and explained what had happened, and offered to have Lorie plead to a misdemeanor – defacing a body. Thirty days in jail.  The prosecutor just laughed and said, that as far as he was concerned Lorie had fired all the shots and that she was murderess – maybe she had used two different thirty-eight’s.  They had no other “persons of interest” even though Solomon pressed him about Leann.  The DA pointed out that there were no tire tracks other than the Firestone All Weather’s, whose treads matched Lorie’s SUV.

     

    Not all Jacob’s time was taken up with the Buell preparation.  Norene interviewed a girl who she believed had been falsely accused of transportation and possession of crystal meth.  The twin brother and sister had been traveling from San Francisco to Colorado and had been pulled over for a defective tail light by the Highway Patrol.  They said they were headed for a Bible Conference in Colorado Springs.  The officer asked if he could search their rental car and they said yes.  He did a thorough search, and found what he thought was marijuana ash, but no leaves or rolled smokes.  Then decided to put his mirror under the car; he thought he could see a small black leather pouch concealed atop the frame.  Finally jacked up the car, put down a tarp, took off his trooper’s hat and crawled underneath.  One point seven pounds of Crystal Meth.

     

     

     

     

    The patrolman arrested them and they were tossed in jail.  The district attorney had told both that he intended to make an example of them.  Both expressed outrage.   Why would they have voluntarily  let the officer search the car if they knew there were hard drugs aboard.  They admitted that they had friends in San Francisco, and the rental car had not been in their possession at all times.  Some of their companions in the Bay Area knew where they had parked the car before they left.  The two had clean records, and passed the blood tests with no problem – not even any marijuana.  Both were blue-eyed blond-haired Californians, clean cut as they come.  Jacob tried to get it pleaded down to a misdemeanor but the prosecutor was adamant that they were guilty of possession and transportation.  Somehow the two came up with a $10,000 retainer, and $5000 for bail – wired into his trust account.  The case was slated for what looked like a one day trial.  Six man jury.  Norene told Jacob that the two just seemed too squeaky clean.

     

    Because they had freely let the officer search the car, passed the blood tests, had no finger prints on the drug pouches or its leather bindings, and only partial possession of the car, Solomon argued successfully to have the county vacate the charges if the brother and sister would plead guilty to transportation of contraband, a misdemeanor, fine of $500, no jail.  They both left with big grins and gave Jacob and Norene generous hugs, expressing renewed confidence in the justice system.  The Assistant DA came up after and said, “Sol, those two were as guilty as sin, I can feel it in my bones, but I didn’t think a jury would convict.”  Jacob just shrugged.  It was with a great deal of disappointment that a week later he received a personal package at the office.  When he opened the parcel there were two glassine bags of fine white powder and a note that said, “Thanks, hope you and Norene enjoy this.”  No signature.  Norene rolled up a $20 bill and laid out a small line, which she snorted. “It’s the Real McCoy – high grade cocaine,” she said.  They had been lied to, and swallowed the lie hook, line and sinker.  Jacob vowed to be more vigilant in the future.  Norene said she would dispose of the coke.  Jacob though for a minute then decided not to ask how the disposal was to take place.

     

     

    During the fourth week of the Buell proceedings Jeanie seemed distracted, not her usual outgoing self.  When Jacob asked, she said it was just the load and extra hours at the hospital.  Dufus that he was, he just nodded like most men and thought no more about it.  But a week later, he found her crying when he came into the bedroom.  “What is wrong?” he said.  At first she said nothing, it was her problem and she was completely capable of handling it herself.  But Jacob wouldn’t let it go this time and demanded to know what was had happened.

     

    Between sobs and gulps, she told him.  Her immediate supervisor, Dr. Brent Jensen, had been making passes at her and work was becoming more and more uncomfortable.  He had insisted she go to lunch with him, had rubbed up against her when they were alone, and continually asked if she was happy in her marriage.  She was coming up for a review and he had let her know that he expected her to be a lot more friendly – this with a wink and a nod.  Since the hospital administrator also seemed intimidated, there was no use in going to him with a complaint.  “Maybe I should just start looking for another job,” Jeanie said.

     

    Jacob was enraged and it was all that Jeanie could do to stop him from heading to Dr. Jensen’s house to tattoo the man’s face with his fists.  Jeanie pleaded with him to stop and let her have a few days to figure out what to do.  He wasn’t happy but decided he would listen to his wife at that point.  The next morning he was still fuming and Norene could tell something was wrong, so she came right out and asked.

     

    At first he didn’t want to say anything, but then said, “Do you know Dr. Brent Jensen?”  “Yes I do,” Norene answered.  “He was a bully in high school, and hasn’t changed much from what I hear.”  “He’s a man of big appetites and little grace.  Been through two wives already.  What’s the problem?”

     

     Jacob then related what was going on with Jeanie and asked if she had any suggestions.” Norene thought for a moment and then explained the real problem was that Jensen’s brother is the sheriff and he has two relatives on the hospital board.  “I had heard rumors of something like this before, but going through legal channels will be a waste of time.  Give me a few days to see what I can do.” She said. 

     

    Two days later Jeanie said that Dr. Jensen had been injured in an accident, and didn’t have a firm date to return.  Her spirits improved dramatically.  When he did return nine days later he avoided Jeanie whenever possible but her review turned out sterling.  She did say that his first look at her was one of intense hatred.

     

    “Okay, Norene, do you know what happened? No one is talking,” said Jacob.  “Well from what I understand, Dr. Jensen was shoveling snow off his driveway just before dark; he slipped and caught the snow shovel between his legs and fell hard on the ice.  That is the story everyone has been told.  He was injured quite severely in his crotch and ended up with a concussion.  The other version is that someone came up from behind, pulled a hood over his head and tuned him up with a pickaxe handle. Word is that he won’t ever have to worry about a vasectomy.”

     

    “Did you do this Norene?”  “Of course not, I’m an executive with Solomon Goldstein.  I would never engage in such violence.”  Jacob thought, “Another self promotion, I wonder when she will be a full partner?” 

     

    Then she spoke in Slovakian and translated for him. “Vasa druzina je moja druzina – Your family is my family.”

     

    The Buell trial was slated to start in two more weeks.  Jacob had been unable to persuade the DA to drop the charges or to even consider the lesser plea of the abuse or mutilation of a corpse.  He even had the body exhumed to prove that his client’s bullet did not penetrate as far as the others due to the body being partially frozen.  The results were inconclusive.  His expert witness said yes, maybe. The DA’s witness said absolutely not.

     

    Jacob’s defense relied on the additional bullets from a second weapon and the assumption that the real killer was there before Lorie, intimating that the murderer was Leann.  He explained that Lorie just wanted to scare Fred and thought she fired over the truck, just to frighten him.  But the DA attacked Lorie’s testimony. She believed that Fred was alive when she fired, and that shooting through the side window was a long way from shooting over the truck. Even if he was already dead, it was still attempted murder, but that wasn’t the case, and he believed that Fred was alive when she fired.  The state pointed to the weapon they said killed Buell, her own story of shooting at him and the forensic evidence of her shots, the one of which had penetrated his heart. He would have bled to death from the other wounds inflicted by her second thirty-eight.

     

    Jacob knew he was out of his reach as he fumbled with voir dire, the picking of twelve jury members, and cross examinations of experts and law enforcement officials.  Why had he been picked for this trial with the very large retainer?  It bothered him a lot.  His reputation was almost non- existent and he was still a laughing matter as Sol Goldstein.  He quit thinking about it and just continued to do his very best.  He did find a 1977 case – People vs Dlugash – which concluded that a person can only die once and that further attempts were only a misdemeanor.  However Wyoming law said that the effort to kill, even if the person were unknowingly dead, was attempted murder.  As a witness, the other suspect, Leann, had stood up very well under investigation and Jacob’s cross examination.   She was very believable, and even though she admitted to being angry with Fred, she testified she would never stoop to violence.

     

    In his summation, Jacob stressed that there were two bullets in the body that he believed he believed belonged the real killer, that Lorie had no record of violence, and that there was certainly reasonable doubt about her being the killer.  Why would she keep one weapon and not the other if she had murdered her husband?  He stood beside her with his hand on her shoulder, “Take a look at this woman, she has nothing, the ranch and any other possessions are gone, she has no income and no prospects.  You’ll go home tonight to your warm beds and go on with your lives.  But the decision you make with regard to Lorie and her family has life long consequenses.  Take a close look at Lorie, look into your hearts, think about all you have seen and heard,  Remember there only has to be reasonable doubt in your mind.  Is there reasonable doubt?  Absolutely. Is she guilty? No!  Bring in a verdict of Not Guilty.”  To himself he was afraid he had fallen short.

     

    The prosecution asked the jury to just look at the facts.  She admitted shooting at  him, had the murder weapon and certainly had motive.  She had erased her SUV tracks by dragging the sagebrush to the turnoff.  “She is guilty, there is no other explanation.”

     

    The jury deliberated for two days. When they returned, the judge asked, “Have you reached a verdict?”  The Foreman said, ” No, your honor, they were hung at this point.”  Judge Roberts told them to go back and reconsider, see if they could come up with a unanimous conclusion.  Jacob saw this as good news.  A day and a half went by, the jury again returned and did not see any way to reach a verdict by putting in more time. Courthouse gossip said it was eight to four for conviction.

     

    They were dismissed and the judge told the District Attorney to decide if he wanted to try Lorie again, but he released her bail.  The DA met with Jacob – he offered second degree manslaughter, sentence of three years.  Jacob’s counter offer was a complete dismissal.  He advised Lorie to not take the plea even though she would be out in a year and a half, early release.  Six weeks went by and the prosecutor finally came to Jacob and told him they would accept mutilation of a body – second degree – no jail time, just a year’s probation.  Done deal.  The DA told Jacob that he still believed that Lorie was guilty, but didn’t want to spend any more of the taxpayers money, and frankly the man needed killing.  “There are some other unsavory things that you don’t know about Mr. Buell.”

     

    Lorie was relieved but sad, she was going to move the family to Fort Collins, Colorado where she had extended family.  She admitted to folding Fred’s arms, as a final gesture, he had been a good husband some of the time.  Jacob gave her five thousand dollars even though he had burned through all of the funds put up by her anonymous friend.  The whole situation still made no sense to him.  Who was it that had put up the money?  He, Norene and Jeanie discussed it several times, but they had no idea.

     

    Then one afternoon Norene was delivering some documents to Jefferson Goodnight’s law firm.  As usual she walked right by the receptionist. Outside the door of Goodnight’s office she could hear raised voices.  “All we were doing was protecting Leann.”  “But It cost the firm $105,000.”  “How was I to know?  We hired the dumbest, most inept lawyer in the state, and everyone was sure he’d lose the case.  Lorie Buell would be safely locked away and Leann would be safe. I still think it was a good bet, and I’m glad we did it, now put it to rest and quit shouting.”  At that point Norene threw open the door, gave the two partners a look that would melt rock and ice and said, “So that is what you S.O.B.’s tried?  You thought we would screw the defense up and easily lose – Leann would be out of danger forever as a suspect.  Well now we know.  I’ll let you wonder when we will spring the truth on the judge.  And I wouldn’t go out late at night – you never know when someone might try to remove your ear wax with a gun barrel.” Then she threw the papers, slammed the door and left.

     

    She told Jacob and Jeanie right away.  Jacob wanted to retaliate immediately, but both Norene and Jeanie said to just bide his time, that is what a very smart lawyer would do.  Jacob was irate, knowing that his fellow lawyers would believe him so dumb that they were convinced he would lose Lorie’s murder trial.  He did meet the senior partner one evening at a men’s smoker who came up to him immediately and ask if he could have a word in the hall.  “Just remember, Solomon Goldstein, it’s the word of two senior law partners against that hooker you hired.”  Jacob said nothing, just stepped on the Goodnight’s right foot and then brought his own knee up sharply.  The man deflated his lungs and bend over until his head banged the floor.  Then Jacob leaned down and said, “You’d better just hope I don’t repeat what you said about Norene.  She may take your comments unkindly and – then he stepped on the that same ear and ground his heel in.”

     

    As he walked outside on the high prairie, he looked up at all brilliant stars, smelled the odor of coal, and thought how grateful he was.  Five years ago, he was a wanderer, no particular direction, not much ambition, and as his dad would say, a confirmed wastrel.  Now he had a fantastic wife, an assistant that was somewhat lawful; and he was starting to understand the law, and how to benefit others.  He saw himself as the defender of the righteous, protector of the innocent, and persecutor of evil – a man of substance. He really had become Sol Goldstein, Attorney at Law.

     

    Stay tuned down the road for Solomon and Norene as they tackle The Case of the Vanishing Corpse.

    Joseph Ollivier February 2016

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