2007-09-07 case review

From HypertWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search


It has now been about 6 months since the trial, and I've had some time to get a little emotional distance from the whole thing – not just the trial, but always having to be ready to drop everything and go into high gear to get ready, not to mention having to arrange things up here so I could be away from home for an uncertain number of days.

The verdict has not come in yet either, and I wanted to say a few things before that happened. If I wait until afterwards, then it will either sound like I'm complaining that it didn't go my way (if the verdict is more in favor of the Grievers), or else like I'm gloating, jumping on the bandwagon and ganging up on the Grievers because they are now easy prey (if the verdict is more in my favor).

I'll probably have something to say when the verdict does come in, but I did want to take the opportunity to clarify my position before I have to reconsider it in that light.

Let it also not be said that I am demonizing the Grievers, turning them into "the enemy" so I can be more clearly The Good Guy and/or The Victim. I made my mistakes, sure – but they behaved abominably, and I have not been able to think of any conceivable excuse for it.

And Now

First: I do not think I wronged the Grievers, and I am willing to answer anyone's explanation of why they think I did.

I certainly made my share of mistakes. I probably said things which I thought were true at the time but which turned out to be wrong – though I always tried to correct those mistakes. I never said "come on, trust me"; I always tried to make it crystal clear that anything I said verbally should be checked in writing if anyone wanted to base a commitment on it. I never liked the idea of doing business solely on verbal commitments or on the basis of trust due to friendship, and I said so the very first time Lynne proposed doing business together.[1]

This relates specifically to Jess's testimony in court, that I told Bubba I considered that the merchandise was his. I do remember the incident (vaguely). I don't remember the circumstances of that conversation, but I do remember that Bubba was constantly maneuvering me into situations where I felt I had to promise things... and then he would never follow up in writing, like "Nick, you said yesterday that you consider the merchandise to belong to us. I just wanted to get that in writing, so there's no confusion later on."

Had he done that, not only would I have been able to clarify what I meant (which probably would have been something like "Yes, as long as it's understood that you owe me $_ for it, plus $_ interest, and continue to acknowledge the debt of $_ that you are building up by using my bankcard for personal purchases"), but he also would have had in writing that I had promised it – instead of needing to depend on hearsay testimony from a relative.

I think it was pretty heavily implied during the trial that I repeatedly asked the Grievers to trust me. I never asked either of the Grievers to trust me; I repeatedly told them that they shouldn't depend on anything I said verbally, and I always said that we should repeat in writing anything we agreed on verbally. Lynne agreed, at the time, that this was a good idea.

But when it finally came down to the trial, apparently the only major hole they found in my arguments was this verbal statement that Bubba owned the merchandise. (I think they also found an email where I said something similar, but I don't have a transcript of the trial so I can't track it down. Does anyone know the date on that email? I could probably find it from that.) Why were they depending on that? What were they doing in exchange for owning merchandise they hadn't paid for? They never answered those points.

Second: I do think the Grievers did some considerable wrong to me. I'm not talking about trivia, here, like borrowing stuff and never returning it, or using up supplies and not replacing them (both of which I believe they brought up in court as examples of my complaints against them).

I'm talking about:

  • L&B borrowing thousands of dollars
    • ...which I couldn't really afford to lend them
    • ...often for "emergencies" which they claimed they would pay back right away
    • ...sometimes without permission, abusing the check-signing privileges I gave Lynne
    • ...usually without any previous warning, despite my request that they tell me before using the check card
    • ...often without any warning afterwards either; I would only find out when the charges appeared online, often accompanied by Not Sufficient Funds charges from SunTrust
  • L&B accepting my payment for storage of my personal property (on which they were making a profit), and then:
    • passively hindering my attempts to fetch it before it was hauled off (by not answering questions, confirming dates, etc.)
    • allowing it to be hauled off...
    • ...without clear warning...
    • ...and without even after-the-fact notification...
    • ...and without apology...
    • ...and without even the smallest amount of effort to help in the recovery, i.e. Lynne's refusal to even find the rental company's phone number.
    • (see The Great Trailer Fiasco for more about this)
  • Lynne borrowing my car, and:
    • never paying beyond the first two weeks of the rent she had agreed on
    • not returning it to me when it broke down
    • leaving it unused and unrepaired for over a year, to the point where it required $2000 of repairs just to make it run again
    • never actually saying that they wouldn't let me have it until I showed up to retrieve it and called the police
  • attempting to verbally smear me in front of Livia and Anna Nikola
  • probably succeeding in smearing me in the eyes of others, such as Juliet

Third: From other accounts I have heard – but never from the Grievers directly – they apparently believe that everything started to go wrong when I got in touch with Sandy.

This is true on one level. I had had misgivings about the Grievers' actions for years beforehand. I had discussed them at length with my friend Tigger, who agreed that they seemed iffy but didn't have sufficient time to really get involved in the details nor – and this is more to the point – to offer any substantial assistance.

Sandy offered me a haven. When I was repeatedly getting to the point where I couldn't afford to eat or put gas in my car[2] because of the Grievers' continuing borrowings – or when I couldn't concentrate on my work because of the Crisis du Jour at Griever HQ[3] – going somewhere else so I could get work done seemed like a no-brainer. You'd have thought L&B would have approved, since I was decreasing the load on their resources (power bill, water bill, driveway space, living space) as well. (Incidentally, I find it ironic that living in a small house with 3 very active and high-maintenance kids was less work-disruptive than living at the Grievers' house, which they apparently considered a suitable environment for operating vbz.net.)

So Sandy was, yes, the proximate cause of my moving out of Athens. (Apparently the Grievers didn't approve of this, though they never made this clearly known to me directly. Bubba would make sarcastic comments here and there, but I don't think he ever said anything direct.) In that sense the assertion is correct.

It is also correct if you take "everything" (as in "everything started to go wrong") to mean "Lynne's method of keeping people properly subjugated". Yes, everything started to go wrong with that when I no longer had to be there to be under the spell of Lynne's management-by-emergency and Lynne's idea of reality – when I finally had some quiet moments to think back on things and someone with whom to talk about it – when I could make observations of fact without immediately being manipulated back into Correct Thinking.

So yes, Lynne's plans for my ongoing subservience started to go quite wrong when I had someone else to discuss things with in depth, and pretty much fell apart when I moved out from under her thumb.

On every other level, however, this assertion (that Sandy somehow caused things to fall apart) is completely wrong. There were issues going back even before I went to Wisconsin for a year, but these issues were persistently brushed off by L&B. Being highly non-confrontational as I am (as even Lynne stated quite distinctly during the trial), I kept giving them the benefit of the doubt... even as that doubt grew and grew.

The only reason I moved into the Grievers' house rather than going directly to Durham (where I had family and support) was because I wanted very much to be in the same town with Anna. Tigger had been most emphatic that this was important, so I went against my better judgment in trying a last-ditch recourse for staying in town versus "getting the hell out of Dodge". Had Anna not been a factor, I might well have left earlier and ended up staying with relatives in Durham – and the Grievers wouldn't have Sandy to use as a scapegoat.

As far as my "betrayal" of them, by moving out:

  • I considered inviting L&B to come live up in Durham, which I felt to be a more hospitable environment in general. I knew that Lynne wouldn't want to leave her charity work in Athens, but I did at least bring up the idea. I invited Bubba to come up with me on at least one occasion, and I seem to recall that there were plans for him to do so which somehow fell through (on his side, not mine).
  • I considered completely turning over daily operation of the store to Bubba. It wasn't making me any noticeable money and certainly hadn't been worth the time invested in it, and if I thought that he could at least have managed it competently I probably would have done it. If he had even asked me to let him give it a try, I might have done it – or at least I would have given him my objections to the idea, which he might have been able to answer. Again, it might have happened – but their stance rapidly became belligerent when they realized I was no longer in their clutches. They assumed I was out to betray them, and very soon I was left with only all-or-nothing choices regarding their involvement. By trying to force the issue (Bubba's holding the image CDs hostage was the final straw), they forced my hand.

Fourth: Although it came up repeatedly during the trial that I hadn't paid them any of "their share of sales", I somehow neglected to mention in my testimony (and didn't think of it when typing up my thoughts immediately after the trial) that that share was, according to the best calculations I have been able to make, several thousand dollars negative – due to spending more on stock than we made on sales. (My calculations are here.) Rightly, they should have footed the bulk of that loss; had they done so, then the merchandise would have belonged to them.

Some trivia:

  • I lost my last (post-bankruptcy) credit card because of their borrowing and their continued use of a phone line still in my name
  • The last $3000 of the inheritance I got from my grandparents went largely towards Griever expenses
  • They missed the first criminal court date, but were not penalized in any way
  • They were quite late for the civil court date, but were not penalized in any way
  • Frank Jeffers warned me about L&B's behavior (especially Bubba's) in 2002, but I continued to work with them. (He was absolutely right.)
  • My family repeatedly warned me that L&B's behavior was unacceptable ("they're losers!"), but I continued to defend them; meanwhile, Bubba apparently had an unshakeable belief that I was misrepresenting the situation to make it look like I was the victim. I was the victim, as it turns out, but I wasn't trying to make it look that way. (Bubba, you do know the meaning of "to defend", yes?) I have shown everybody all the facts I could get my hands on, and everyone pretty much says I was way too nice to the Grievers for far too long.
  • When I was still living at their house, I came back one time to find the front door locked; I had no key, so had to find an open window. I asked them for a key, afterwards, to which they agreed – but they never gave me one. (These are people who were surprised that I moved out, remember.)
  • I've found a strikingly high correlation between (a) absurd things of which they accused me and (b) things they actually did.
  • I moved in with the Grievers against Sandy's firm advice. This is just one more example of my giving them extra chances they didn't deserve and hadn't earned, and of how my contact with Sandy was not what broke up the Beatles I mean what caused the rift between the Grievers and myself. The Grievers built that rift from the ground up, and they cannot legitimately blame anyone but themselves for what happened.


  1. I also never claimed to be "friends" with them, whatever they might have believed. There was potential for that, but friendship (like trust) has to be earned.
  2. ...much less pay the bills at Red House, which is why I ended up having to move in with the Grievers in the first place
  3. such as unexpectedly having to pay their cable bill when Lynne neglected to, so that my work wouldn't be abruptly terminated by lack of internet