New Twist in Tangled Murder-for-Hire Story
HOUSTON (CN) - An attorney who was cleared of charges of plotting to have his wife killed sued his former mistress's defense attorneys, claiming they conspired to seek his conviction with an eye on selling movie rights to the case.
Jeff Stern sued husband-and-wife attorneys James Stafford and Deborah Keyser in Harris County Court.
Stafford and Keyser represented Stern's former mistress Michelle Cabrera Gaiser, who pleaded guilty to planning three failed attempts to kill Stern's wife, Yvonne.
In the third attempt, in May 2010, Yvonne Stern was shot in the stomach while sitting in her car, according to ABC News.
Prosecutors charged Jeff Stern with solicitation of capital murder, claiming he plotted with Gaiser to have his wife killed, but dismissed the case for insufficient evidence, ABC News reported.
Yvonne Stern reconciled with her husband after the shooting, and sued Gaiser for assault in March 2012.
Gaiser's attorneys called that lawsuit a "back door" way for Jeff Stern's lawyers to find out what she knew before his trial.
In the new lawsuit, Stern claims Stafford and Keyser exploited their friendship with Harris County prosecutor Carolyn Allen, to go after him.
Although Stern's lawsuit accuses Allen of improperly withholding evidence, she is not named as a defendant.
"Based on deposition testimony, defendants were friends with the assistant District Attorney from the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Ms. Carolyn Allen," Stern's complaint states. "Ms. Allen was in charge of prosecuting defendants' client, Michelle Gaiser as well as Jeffrey Stern."
Jeff Stern claims Stafford and Keyser "provided information to Ms. Allen in an attempt to further prosecute (him)."
He adds: "Even more disturbing, it was uncovered at Ms. Keyser's deposition, where she testified under oath, that her husband, James Stafford, had Michelle Gaiser sign over a document giving him literary (book and movie rights) to her case ...
"Further, the book/movie rights document was signed while Michelle Gaiser's case was still pending along with Jeffrey Stern's case ...
"This is a clear violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. It is clear when a defense lawyer obtains literary rights from a client while the cases are pending, it creates a conflict and the personal interest of the lawyer becomes a concern.
"As Mr. Stafford has a book/movie deal signed from his client, he and his wife begin to feed Ms. Allen false information to further prosecute Jeffrey Stern. If Jeffrey Stern is not prosecuted, there will be no book/movie deal, so Stafford and Keyser offer 'theories' and suggest ways of admitting evidence against Jeffrey Stern, truthful or not, regardless of whether it is based on facts or evidence."
Stern claims that prosecutor Allen helped Stafford and Keyser by withholding information that would destroy Gaiser's credibility from Sam R. Cammack III, the defense attorney for Damian Flores, Yvonne Stern's alleged shooter.
"According to Deborah Keyser's sworn testimony, Ms. Allen told her if the Damian Flores jury found Michelle Gaiser not to be credible, she would not proceed against Jeffrey Stern," Stern's complaint states.
Stern claims Allen hid information about Gaiser from Flores' defense team before his trial.
"In an interview with noted and reputable attorney Victor Blaine, he confirmed that he passed information along to Ms. Allen regarding Michelle Gaiser's participation in another murder for hire plot against a client of his," the complaint states. "Mr. Blaine provided this information to Ms. Allen's office in June of 2010, shortly after her arrest made the local news.
"The fact that Ms. Allen never shared this information with Mr. Cammack is a gross abuse of the prosecutorial process."
Jeff Stern claims that Allen also knew that Gaiser had tried to obtain a false identity before putting her on the stand in the Flores trial, but never told Cammack because she "wanted to make sure the 'truth' about Michelle Gaiser did not get out before the Jeff Stern case went to trial."
Stern's criminal case was set for trial after the Damian Flores case.
Stern claims that despite Allen's legal obligation to turn over evidence about Gaiser's credibility to his defense team, and a "Discovery Order signed by Judge Denise Bradley" mandating she hand over the evidence, Allen withheld it.
"All during this time, from Stern's arrest, until his case ultimately dismissed, Mr. Stafford and Ms. Keyser were providing false information to Ms. Allen to prosecute Jeff Stern," the complaint states. "Thinking about his movie/book deal once Jeff Stern is convicted, James Stafford sent an email to Ms. Allen dated March 28, 2012, telling her this case reminds him of the 'Hunger Games' but instead it is the 'Stern Games.'
"Despite being under a Court Order to produce all communications between Mr. Stafford/Ms. Keyser and Ms. Allen regarding the Stern/Gaiser cases, Mr. Stafford and Ms. Keyser continue to refuse to abide by the Court's Orders.
"Seven months after Ms. Allen was ordered to produce all communications between her and Stafford/Keyser she finally produces 27 pages of text messages. However, Mr. Stafford being under the same order, has not produced one text message.
"Ms. Allen testified at her deposition there are probably more text messages but she got a new phone, thus, she is unable to retrieve them. Thus, Mr. Stafford is continuing to hide evidence from plaintiff regarding his providing false information to prosecute Jeff Stern."
Stern seeks punitive damages for malicious prosecution.
He is represented by Dean Blumrosen, of Houston, who also represented Yvonne Stern in her lawsuit against Gaiser.