Shelton put his 1988 Pontiac Fiero Enterra up for sale on e-bay. Apparently only 28 of this Canadian special edition were ever made. A Canadian Fiero collector named Max Santos spotted the ebay ad and tried to place a bid. It was restricted to US citizens only. On November 18, 2007, Mr. Santos called the phone number in the ad...the time he called is in dispute. The phone records show him calling an hour after the bidding ended. He strongly maintains the bidding was still going on when he first called. While unimportant to the theft charge it goes to memory two years after the fact. Mr.Santos talked to Jason Shelton and offered him $12,300, which was $2,001 above the closing bid. He also stated he felt more confident in Mr. Shelton's honesty in selling exclusively to US citizens because such sales can be sued in US court if someone welshes on the deal as opposed to problems in foreign courts if sales were to foreign buyers.
Mr. Shelton accepted the offer and supplied his bank account number, where Max Santos used his business account (he owns a high rise exterior renovation business in Canada) to wire the money from his business account into Shelton's account. The next day(Nov. 19), Shelton confirmed receipt of the money and Mr Santos indicated he would be using a transporter service to pick up the car. The last phone call that day was made by Mr. Shelton to Mr. Santos. Mr. Santos called back three times during a three minute period FIVE DAYS later (Nov. 24) for durations of 24 seconds, 92 seconds and 92 seconds respectively. Mr. Santos acknowledges Mr. Shelton did not answer and that he left messages on Shelton's phone. Shelton says he never got these messages.
That is it. According to the states subpoena records, no further calls were ever made by Mr. Santos. But unfortunately no further calls were made by Mr. Shelton, or maybe this could have been avoided. So the first major question is how incumbent is it on the person who hands over $12,300 to someone is it to try calling to inquire about their new car? And how incumbent is it upon the seller to call back? At what point does it constitute abandonment of claim? At what point does it constitute theft?
Shelton handled himself very well representing himself. And the Judge (Judge Emmet Ronan) allowed him great leeway since he did not know the procedures. Shelton was very careful along the way to object and insist something be noted -- for appeal -- throughout, and the Judge accommodated with patience. The prosecutor, Ms. Amanda Lauer, was emotional at times but not incompetent.
The case against Shelton was not very good as described above. But Shelton added his own take and personal spin. A one day trial dragged to three while he made some poor old cop wait outside in the hallway for three days, and pushed his luck with the judge. Even though Shelton did a great job and I thought him not guilty at the beginning when I realized the "victim" had only called over a five day period and then dead silence for 2 1/2 months until he called Scottsdale police. I mean come on you have to try and make some effort to get your property before calling the police. I was stunned and delighted he was found "not guilty." Only 3% of charges ever end in a "not guilty" verdict. And that is usually with a lawyer representing you. Perhaps Shelton will sit in on the jury interviews and tell us what persuaded them the most.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009 Trial Day 1
Problems besides not calling. A claim by Mr. Santos that he had exchanged and sent numerous emails and Blackberry voice mails. Yet he said he could not produce them because his hard drive crashed. Yet a single email that hurt Shelton's case was taken from and available from the same computer was produced by the prosecutor.
Santos' explanation for why he didn't call for 2 1/2 months was the email address for Mr. Shelton seemed to indicate a rank of Lance Corporal Somebodyelse, so he thought maybe Shelton was deployed to Iraq. But the email address was not Shelton's name, yet Shelton told him who he was for the wire transfer.
The prosecutor made a big deal out of Shelton's account the money was transferred to had a deficit of over $1,000 for the preceding month. Motive to rip off Mr. Santos. Well yes, but equally a motive to need to sell the car.
Mr. Santos turns out to be a Fiero car collector. In addition to Shelton's car he purchased at that time a Fiero in California, one in Missouri and one in Florida. He was trying to arrange it so his transporter would drive from California to Florida to pick all four up and ship them by rail to Canada. He told Shelton he would arrange to have the car picked up within two weeks. Shelton essentially explained the 2 1/2 month gap as Mr. Santos frantically calling to get a hold of Shelton on the 24th to arrange for the timely transport by his agent, so he could save some money. And when he didn't get a hold of Shelton, he simply gave up for whatever reason. Later on he intimated in closing perhaps he was so wealthy he didn't care at the time [because he had other toys to play with?].
Shelton started the theme that Mr. Santos had every opportunity to pick up the car and did not. Mr. Santos admitted he did not supply Shelton's phone number to have his transport agent contact him saying that is not how things work. Really? If I was picking something up, I would want a contact number. Shelton claims Mr. Santos had Shelton's address where the Fiero was parked (under covered parking). Mr. Santos says Shelton refused to disclose that to him. I would have been highly suspicious on the 19th if this were true, as soon as Shelton confirmed receiving the money. I would have called the police on the 20th if he still refused to divulge where I could pick up the vehicle.
The wire transfer paperwork showing Shelton's account had a PO Box listed for Shelton's address. Santos admits he never sent any letters certified or otherwise to either Mr. Shelton's physical address which he says he does not know, nor this PO Box that he did.
Lastly he confirmed he never contacted the Canadian police, but called the Scottsdale PD directly.
Shelton confirmed there was no sale through ebay, and this was handled through a private transaction between the two of them.
He then asked about his initial complaint to the Scottsdale Police. He spoke to a Officer Smith, who says you sent between six to seven emails and ten phone calls with no response from Shelton. And the last message you left was "contact me or I will call the police."
He could not explain why the records showed ten calls but seven were for the first 48 hours when it was agreed everything was cordial. And the last three were bunched together five days later.
According to Scottsdale Police you told Officer Smith you bought the car on ebay. Response: miscommunication.
You stated to him you called me before the ebay ad closed, but the phone record shows you called one hour after it closed. Response: no explanation.
On the 19th Shelton is the last to call and leave a message. Santos claims he called Shelton several more times but this is not supported by the State's subpoenaed records of Shelton's phone.
He then asks him about his business. He owns a company that renovates the exterior of high rise buildings. In his business does he ever have someone who doesn't pay him for a job? Sure. What does he do? Does he immediately all the police? Does he call them? Does he send letters? Mr. Santos says, "You were 4,000 miles away otherwise I would be knocking on your door." "I thought you didn't have my address."
Detective Anderson (Scottsdale PD) -- case agent Wednesday Trial Day 2
Prosecutor questioning: Shelton is not the registered owner. Registered owner is in California.
There is an "odometer" statement from California introduced that indicates Jason Shelton is the buyer of the car.
[This is going to be a problem for Mr. Santos in getting his car back. Because Arizona does not recognise Shelton as the registered owner, but both the jury and California do. The registered owner in California might be able to claim it.]
On Jan. 29, 2008, Mr. Santos makes his complaint to the police. On Feb 28th, 2008 acting on information on Shelton's apartment address Det. Anderson spots a Black Pontiac Fiero matching the description in the ebay ad parked under covered parking. He determines the VIN number is the same as provided in the ebay ad. He determines Shelton is associated with the apartment the parking spot is associated with.
Checked vehicle again on August 28 parked in same spot but this time it was yellow.
He had no contact with Mr. Shelton regarding this investigation.
Detective Anderson prepared charging paper to present to the grand jury. But he had a Det. Nagey testify before the grand jury on Anderson's behalf despite having no personal knowledge of the case.
Claim was Shelton posed as a false seller of property. Yet he indeed possessed the property.
Santos (nine calls of less than 1 minute duration apiece)
Shelton - 23"
Santos - 30"
Santos - 10 1/2 min. (646")
Shelton [left msg.]
-5 days pass-
Nov. 24: Last call
Santos - 23"
Santos - 92"
Santos - 92" [all three within three - four minute period]
No further contact initiated.
Det. Anderson confirmed the car was in plain view both times, same place. No car cover.
On August 28, 2008 Det. Anderson had the vehicle impounded.
On September 18 Shelton was arrested.
Confirmed Shelton had no control over the vehicle since August 28th,2008.
Based upon the information now known on the charging document is their sufficient information to seek an indictment? Det. Anderson says "No."
Why did you take so long to seize the car (6 months)? Had other cases.
Testimony continues Thursday, Day 3:
Detective Anderson confirmed he had no emails or phone messages claimed by Mr. Santos and listed in the charging document. He confirmed that while he subpoenaed Shelton's phone records and talked to Yahoo.com (Shelton's email server) to obtain account owner information but he neither subpoened Shelton's email server, nor Santos' for the alleged emails. And that he took Mr. Santos word that Blackberry purges phone messages from their server rather than contacting Blackberry and finding out for himself.
Shelton wondered if there was due diligence on Det. Anderson's part in trying to find exculpatory information that would exonerate him?
Shelton switches gear. At the beginning of the trial during Shelton's opening statement he indicated in a single short sentence that evidence would prove that the Scottsdale Police conspired to create this charge to silence him. It was a rather forgettable comment tossed out.
The prosecutor when she first conducted the examination of Det. Anderson asked him a lot of questions about whether he knew of any conspiracy to get Shelton? Had ever talked to anyone about Shelton? Was he behind a conspiracy to get Shelton? Did he have anything against photoradar protestors? I knew she was trying to head Shelton off from his cross examination, but in effect she was planting the seed in the jury's mind that perhaps there was something here.
And indeed there was. Shelton was arrested by the Scottsdale Police on August 28, 2008 while filming two guys holding a protest sign in front of a photoradar van. He was arrested for failing to provide ID -- which is not a crime in Arizona. Neither is filming a protest on a public sidewalk. But Shelton's crime was heinous. He refused the demands of the police. He has four additional charges heaped onto his initial charge by the City Attorney, including one pushed by Det. Anderson. And he ended up being acquited of all five charges without presenting a defense. Marc Victor was his attorney. Det. Anderson was in court galley with the arresting officer. But a few hours before he seized the Fiero, he had Shelton locked up on this ID charge at the city jail. Coincidence? Shelton thinks not. While in the jail Shelton was physically assaulted resulting in a broken toe and the cop responsible turned himself into Internal Affairs the next day.
Yet though he had Shelton in jail, he doesn't keep him there on the theft charge. Instead Shelton is released and free for another three weeks.
Det. Anderson admits he had no warrant for the seizure of the car.
The State rested its case. Shelton examined two witnesses: Officer Smith who took the initial call (report) from Mr. Santos that Det. Anderson mischaracterized to get an indictment, and Tom Westbrook who testified as to the car being available at the apartment complex. I am going to leave these accounts out because they added very little to the trial.
Shelton and the prosecutor, finally agreed upon something. They both wanted the jury instructions read before the closing arguments.
She outlines the case presented. Reminds them that the car was black on Feb of 2008 and yellow on Aug. And closes with the comment "inaction speaks louder than words" I thought yes it does. Was she talking about Shelton or Santos?
Shelton had his finest moment in closing. He apologizes to the jury for boring them throughout the trial, but tells them this trial is very important to him because it could cost him his freedom. Then he goes over all the problems with the case. The missing evidence. The lack of effort on Mr. Santos' part. He lists point by point on a poster what the jury must find (as laid out in their instructions) him guilty of in each part to find him guilty. And then he proceeds to tell them why no point is relevant to his situation.
The jury is to report back Friday at 1PM. At 4:30 they return a verdict of not guilty.