Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Clayton and Krystal: Lawyering up

 ***I am not a lawyer. I cannot give legal advice in Michigan or any other state. This is a work of fiction. If you find yourself getting sucked into a legal entanglement, find a good lawyer and pay what he-or-she asks.***

Clayton and Ed knocked off at 3:30 that afternoon. Clayton could have kept going but Ed was totally gassed and was getting sloppy. Getting slopping when cutting wood with chainsaws and working around heavy timber is not safe.

Krystal had called and told him that she would not be able to get out of work until at least 6:30.

Clayton was glad that Krystal had accepted Alice’s offer to watch Mattie. It saved at least a half-hour in terms of Krystal’s commute, which just about made the longer commute from Lolium Township a wash with her older commute in terms of time.

It also meant that Clayton was not torqued if Krystal had to work late. Alice had it covered.

Clayton was putting his chainsaw in its case when he got a call from Bob his former neighbor.

“Hey buddy, I thought I would let you know what was happening” Bob said.

“Yeah, so what is up” Clayton said.

“Well, the fire department finally showed up a little bit after lunch. They sprayed the hot-spots with water and then a couple of guys from the fire department started inspecting the foundation” Bob said.

“I got to talking with the older guy. He is retiring in a couple of weeks and he was letting the kid do most of the work. He said that it is a 100% lock that it was arson. He also said that you are the prime suspect” Bob said.

“WHAT?” Clayton said.

“Yep, you heard that right” Bob said. “They ran a ‘sniffer’ and found something they called accelerant. They also took pictures. Charles, the old guy, said that there was no refrigerator or washer or dryer in the ashes. He said that any time valuables are removed and there is accelerant, it is arson. Guaran-damn-teed.”

“He was kind of funny. He told me that if I ever wanted to torch my own house, to buy some silver tableware at an antiques shop with cash and lock the pooch in the house. I guess finding the family silverware and pet bones in the ashes is a get-out-of-jail card with fire inspectors.”

“You know that comment about dog bones is WAY out of line, right?” Clayton said.

“Yeah, sorry. I forgot about Bowser. My bad” Bob said. “Bowser was a great dog.”

“Whaddya gonna do?” Bob asked.

“I think I need a lawyer” Clayton said, turning the idea around in his head. He knew lawyers were not cheap.

After hanging up, Clayton remembered that he might have the business card of a lawyer in his wallet. Somebody had once told him that you never knew when you might need one and even a mediocre lawyer is way better than becoming a piñata in the legal system.

Clayton didn’t know how good this lawyer was. He had met him at a shooting match he had gone to with a friend. They had talked over burgers at the local restaurant after the match the the lawyer had given him a card.

Pulling out the card, he called Ken Aarons, PC. He got voice mail. Clayton left a short message. Ten minutes later he got a call.

“Hi Clayton, I am Ken. What can I do for you today?”

“I never needed to hire a lawyer before. How does that work?” Clayton asked.

“Well, usually I give a free consultation call to see if it is a problem I CAN help you with. I am not going to take your money if it is not a problem that needs a lawyer.”

“Then, to act as your legal representative I need a retainer and you sign a form authorizing me to act in that capacity.” Ken said.

“So, tell me about your problem” Ken said.

After hearing the short version of the story, Ken agreed that Clayton needed his services. He also informed Clayton that arson was a serious felony and he needed a $10k retainer to provide him with representation.

“It is going to take a few days for me to raise that kind of money. What should I do in the meantime?” Clayton asked. The word FELONY shook him.

“Act like you are innocent” Ken said. “That means call your insurance company and tell them your house was damaged in a fire. Tell them which fire department responded. Also tell them you believe a third-party set your house on fire.”

Clayton was relieved. “So you are willing to represent me if I can find the $10k?”

“Well, we will certainly give it our best shot” Ken said. "And that means getting out in front of it and making sure it never goes to trial. Once in a court, it becomes a crap-shoot, even with the best attorney."

“Also, delay any statement you make to the police. Giving them a little more time will help them see the holes in the case against you and maybe they won’t try to ram it through. There are a lot of moving parts and a few more days will give everybody a chance to review all of the information and not go off half-cocked."

Don't talk to them without me. You wouldn't go into a cage-fight against a professional MMA fighter so don't talk to them alone...and remember there will be two of them against one of you.” Ken said. "If they want to talk to you, get their phone number and tell them you will get back to them. Then call me and give me their names, with spelling, and their number."

"A retainer is just that. If we crush this quickly then you get some or most of the retainer back. But if you try to handle this on your own and it doesn't go well...then it will probably be a lot more than $10k to dig you out of the hole." Ken said.

"So you are saying you can handle this for less than $10,000?" Clayton asked, pressing the issue.

Ken sighed. "I would be less than honest if I told you there were any guarantees. My best guess is that it will be less than $10k but law is not a precise science. Sometimes the best you are going to do is to fail with grace, which is not a bad option if the alternative is a 40 year sentence in a state penitentiary."

Next Installment


  1. An interesting turn of events.
    The prosecutor appears connected to the gang that attacked him.
    Most departments don't prosecute arsons unless bodies are involved - and recent research has shown arson science to be much less precise than previously thought.

  2. No. Arson gets prosecuted. Fires burn up not down leaving plenty of evidence. The turn of events is typical. Roger

  3. Not debating the fundamentals of the case but one thing I know from personal experience with the system is that their job is to incarcerate you and relieve you of as much money and property as they can regardless of the truth or the facts . If it is indeed as I say in a pre-shtf situation you can imagine the alternative after the poop flies . I have a personal lawyer retained as well as CCW insurance . I stop by my lawyers office with organic gifts from the homestead for he and his secretary regularly and it pays good dividends .

  4. Wow. Did not see this coming ERJ, but makes sense. A cause will always be sought and blame assigned.

    To Robert's point, having a personal lawyer on retainer is probably a necessity now (SIGH, as he goes back to his business card file...)

  5. Yep, exactly the right way to 'play' it... And $10K is cheep!!!

  6. I keep my lawyer's card in front of my drivers license so if I have to take my license out the card will be the first thing seen and not have to be mentioned. Just trying to be subtle don'tcha know. ---ken

  7. The real question may be whether Clayton notified his insurance company and mortgagor that they no longer occupied the house. People move out of houses all the time that they still own. Maybe they intend to fix it up some before putting it on the market. Your premium is higher if it is not your primary residence because empty homes are a greater risk.
    The typical goal of arson is insurance fraud. If that was not in play, then there was no motive for the owner to burn down their own house. Any passerby can torch an empty home. Based on the facts as presented, I can see there being an investigation, but don't see that any honest prosecutor would file charges against the homeowner without more. So far it is just a very weak piece of circumstantial evidence - they had moved out before the fire. So the question is the city attorney honest?

    1. As quickly as they ejected I doubt Clayton had the time to do that kind of administrivia so his base insurance may have been active.. If our Esteemed Author allows that as backstory I'm not sure if that would appear to cement the DA's case for deliberate arson or not... If they found the plywood on the *outside* of the doors that may help the DA look elsewhere.

  8. All three of mine are programmed into my phone, but with nothing to let anyone know what their profession is. It's a small town, but two of them don't live in it.