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A federal judge has refused to order a new trial against Kevin Costner over allegations the actor and his partner duped Stephen Baldwin and partner Spyridon Contogouris into selling shares of an oil cleanup company that made millions after the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.
In June, after a nine-day-long trial, the jury took a mere hour to deliver a verdict that exonerated Costner and his partners of fraud charges. Last week, the plaintiffs’ lawyers told the judge that the “shocking speed” of the verdict had to have even surprised the defendants.
Baldwin and Contogouris motioned for a new trial and offered as support all the evidence that the judge previously declined to allow the jury to hear. But on Thursday, the judge rejected the request.
According to papers asking for a new trial, Baldwin’s team was particularly upset about being denied a chance to present more evidence against Patrick Smith, formerly one of Costner’s close partners.
The plaintiffs had hoped to introduce some of Smith’s alleged “bad acts,” including a default on nearly $200 million in loans, misleading statements in opening a bank account that allegedly enabled Smith to purchase Baldwin out of his shares, “theft” of more than a million dollars, “misappropriations” of millions more from the company, “Smith’s admission of a false financial statement” to an investor, and more.
At the trial, Smith testified to his “transparent” business practices, prompting the judge to allow the plaintiffs to question him about theft of money, but the plaintiffs were denied renewed efforts at that point to present documentary evidence forbidden from being introduced.
The plaintiffs are unhappy about this.
Had they been able to present more evidence, the plaintiffs say that they would have shown the jury emails where Smith was accused of “lies, cheating and…stealing” as well as news that in January 2011, “Smith was forced out of the company by Costner and [partner], and that he resigned due to his misconduct and criminal acts.”
The plaintiffs’ arguments for a new trial haven’t persuaded U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman, who denies the request because the motion doesn’t present the need for an evidentiary hearing, raise an unsettled issue of law, address a change of existing law, offer up a constitutional issue, or demonstrate that the case is of widespread community interest.
The plaintiffs have failed to get a new trail, although an appeal over evidence exclusion appears to be a possibility.
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