Madison County jurors have been picked to settle a dispute involving membership in the Collinsville Recreation Club stemming from a heated argument more than three years ago.
A panel of 12 will have to decide whether to believe Robert Dorman -- who claims he lost membership after being wrongfully accused of threatening to kill David Tarrant in reaction to hearing he had pulled the hair of his toddler son - or Tarrant, who claims the majority of the club’s membership voted to oust Dorman for the October 2010 incident.
Dorman is suing over his lost ownership interest in the 125-member men’s club. Dorman claims that his 125th interest in the equity of the corporation’s assets was valued at more than $50,000.
The trial is under way in Circuit Judge William Mudge's court.
In opening statements, Dorman’s attorney William Berry told jurors that his client lost not only the benefits of membership - a club that offers family and sportsman activities - but more importantly a real asset.
By advocating for Dorman’s ouster in the club, Tarrant “interfered with right to membership to retain an ownership of this asset,” Berry said.
Berry described the confrontation between the men that first led to Dorman’s suspension and then his ultimate removal as one in which “two men who were old enough to know better got angry.”
He said that Dorman was being protective of his wife and son when he got into the argument that happened after his wife told him that Tarrant had pulled the hair of his 2-year-old (almost 3) son who was allegedly patting Tarrant’s belly. Dorman was outside the clubhouse when the underlying encounter between Tarrant and the boy took place, Berry said.
“No doubt there were angry words,” Berry said. “Everyone agrees that tempers flared.”
But, Berry said his client did not threaten to harm Tarrant’s children or grandchildren or Tarrant himself.
“He denies that he said ‘I’ll kill you if you touch my kid’,” Berry said.
Dorman’s wife admitted that her husband told Tarrant he would “wipe him out,” but she said she did not know what that meant.
She also testified under direct examination that the reason her husband mentioned Tarrant’s children and grandchildren during their exchange was in the context of "If you have your own children and grandchildren you should know better,” she said. “That’s all I remember. It was not threatening.”
Tarrant’s attorney John Cunningham told jurors during opening statements that his client did not pull the child’s hair and video surveillance viewed by two witnesses confirms that. He said that the child was moving toward Tarrant and as a natural reaction he put his hand up to prevent the child from running into his groin.
“The next thing that happened was truly remarkable,” Cunningham said.
“Dave gets a beer and he is about to go outside. On his way he is confronted by Mr. Dorman who is screaming, ‘I will kill you if you ever touch my kid.’ He says it six to eight times."
Cunningham said that Dorman denies saying "I will kill you."
"He says he said, ‘I will wipe you out,’” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said another club member witnessed both the encounter between Tarrant and the boy and the argument between Dorman and Tarrant.
“He heard this threat,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said Dorman’s wife also “yelled at my client,” saying, “I hope you die. I hate you. You’re so fat.” He said the screaming lasted two to three minutes.
He also said that Dorman was the one who initially brought the matter to the board.
Cunningham said that Dorman didn’t like the outcome of his April 2011 ouster from the club, in which 70 percent of members voted against him, “so they decide to sue my client.”