2015.82: More Gaslamp Legal Follies


Email to me from Gaslamp’s lawyer Tim Sutherland, subject “post comments”:

Mark,

I called your office to discuss the post on your website. If you would, please provide me with a time that you are free.

Thanks,

Tim

My response:

Sure, Tim. As soon as you release the full door video.

I have not yet received a response. I’m not holding my breath because my bet is, as I’ve said before, that the full door video will show that Sutherland and his client Gaslamp are lying about what happened on the night of September 11th, 2015.

Meanwhile, the Houston Press reports that Gaslamp owner Ayman Jarrah “wants out, says allegations of racism have ‘hurt me more than anybody else.’” ((Boo fucking hoo.))

In Sutherland’s original video he referred to extortion and criminal charges filed against a former employee. The Houston Press article elucidates:

Tim Sutherland…claims Matte “asked us for $10,000 in order to not go and speak with Brandon Ball and he would say whatever we wanted and put whatever we wanted in writing. We refused, and my understanding is that he’s gone out and is working with them or something like that.”

Sutherland says the club has filed an extortion complaint with the Houston Police Department against the former manager and turned over copies of the text messages to the authorities.

Here are more text messages, allegedly between Jarrah and Matte, which Jarrah provided to the Houston Press:

Houston Press / Ayman Jarrah
Houston Press / Ayman Jarrah

There may be more to this, but I don’t see enough here to prosecute either Matte or Jarrah. At the end Matte says, “You know none of that is legal,” which could mean that he’ s justifying his $10,000 price, or could mean that he was just kidding with Jarrah. The words following “I am” could be important in determining which is the case, as could the words before “tomorrow at noon.”

Did Jarrah provide more to Phaedra Cook, the author of the Houston Press article? If not, what is he hiding? I’m pretty sure the Harris County DA’s Office wouldn’t file charges against Matte without seeing the rest of the text messages. They might file felony charges against Jarrah, though, if this is all he gave them.

How is that? If either Jarrah or Matte is serious, these are clearly negotiations to tamper with a witness:

A person commits an offense if, with intent to influence the witness, he offers, confers, or agrees to confer any benefit on a witness or prospective witness in an official proceeding…to withhold any testimony, information, document, or thing.

Does Jarrah offer, confer, or agree to confer a benefit? I would say so. He’s offering to confer some indeterminate benefit, though the parties don’t seem to be able to agree on the amount. It looks as though Jarrah was perfectly willing to tamper with a witness at the right price, and only went to the police when he couldn’t negotiate a good enough deal.

If Matte solicited a benefit to withhold evidence, he also committed a couple of felonies. But without the context of the emails, it’s hard to tell.

It wouldn’t be a great case against either Matte or Jarrah — before filing charges for witness tampering, you want to know how the discussion started and how it ended — but judging from these messages it’s a better case against Jarrah. In Texas a person (e.g. Matte) can’t be convicted on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice (e.g. Jarrah). These text messages are likely not corroboration because only Jarrah (arguably an accomplice to Matte’s acts—he’s not saying “no”) can testify to who was asking for the $10,000.

The accomplice-witness rule doesn’t come into play if the State charges Jarrah with witness tampering because Jarrah has provided the State with his own incriminating words. The State needs Jarrah to prove the case against Matte, but doesn’t need Matte to prove the case against Jarrah.

I doubt that the State will charge anyone here, but putting your client in jeopardy is almost always worse than not putting your client in jeopardy. So today’s protip for aspiring cook / lawyers: there’s a difference between extortion and a conspiracy gone awry. If your client’s real complaint is that his coconspirator wanted too much money to commit the crime with him, he might be better off not getting the government involved.

 


3 responses to “2015.82: More Gaslamp Legal Follies”

  1. I haven’t noticed further follow-up, so apologies if you wrote one that I overlooked. But just in case you missed it, the DoJ popped ’em with a suit late last year that recently survived a motion to dismiss. They allege a pattern and practice of discrimination along with a couple acts.

    Also note that the club changed names some while back in a desperate bid to soften the publicity. I can only assume they chose “The 360 Midtown” because they were racist but have done a complete 360: Made people think they were turning but kept going in the same direction.

    As far as I can tell the private suit is still in progress but they dropped a claim for the DoJ to pursue.

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