Defense attorney John Cunningham apologized to Madison County jurors Tuesday afternoon for having to sit through “a case like this.”
“In my 27 years this has got to be the most ridiculous one I have ever been involved in,” he said during closing arguments. “I don’t want you to think this is the type of frivolous case that goes on here.”
In a two-day trial in Circuit Judge William Mudge’s court, Cunningham defended David Tarrant in a suit filed by Robert Dorman.
Dorman claims he lost his stake in the 125-member Collinsville Recreation Club because Tarrant advocated for his ouster after the two engaged in a heated argument at the club in October 2010.
Dorman was suspended by the club’s board in November 2010 and was terminated from membership by a majority vote of members present at an April 2011 annual meeting.
He claims his ouster was based on false accusations that he threatened to kill Tarrant, as well as to do harm to Tarrant’s children and grandchildren, in reaction to hearing from his wife that Tarrant had pulled the hair of his toddler son.
Dorman claims he lost 125th interest in the equity of the corporation’s assets valued at more than $50,000.
His attorney William Berry of Collinsville said Dorman lost both a tangible asset and the intangible enjoyment of membership in the club.
Berry told jurors that there was no question that tempers flared when the Oct. 11, 2010 incident occurred.
He said his client was being protective of his wife and son when angry words were spoken. Berry said his client denies saying to Tarrant, “I will kill you if you ever touch my kid.”
But, Berry said his client admits saying, “I will wipe you out.”
Dorman’s wife acknowledged that she said to Tarrant, “I hate you,” “I hope you die,” and “You are so fat,” after the encounter.
Berry questioned the credibility of defense witness testimony during his closing.
On re-direct he told jurors there is “nothing frivolous” about empanelling jurors to decide disputes.
He said that a recording of Tarrant at a board meeting saying that “We have to do something,” and “We have to stop this” is evidence of his interference with Dorman’s right to membership.
Cunningham said that Dorman “had his chance,” and that he was the one who brought the matter to the attention of the board, not Tarrant.
“He asked for this to be brought up to the board,” Cunningham said.
He said that a board member named “Turner” made a motion to suspend Dorman. Another board member Tim Herberts seconded the motion and the measure passed the board unanimously.
“Mr. Tarrant did not campaign against Mr. Dorman,” Cunningham said.
He said his client didn’t do anything wrong.
“But you don’t have to do something wrong to be sued,” Cunningham said. “All you have to do to sue is file paperwork and pay a filing fee.”
“You would think that the Dormans would be so embarrassed they would not want anyone to hear” about what happened, Cunningham said.
He presented two witnesses who viewed video surveillance of the area where Tarrant and the 2 year old (nearly 3) boy encountered one and both stated that Tarrant did not pull the child’s hair. Tarrant testified the child was moving toward him and that as a natural reaction he put his hand up to prevent the child from running into his groin.
Cunningham said Tarrant was walking across the lot when he was confronted after the encounter by Dorman who was screaming at him, “I’m going to kill you.”
“Can you believe the audacity and the nerve after verbally attacking (Tarrant),” Cunningham said of Dorman's lawsuit.
Jurors began deliberations after 3 p.m.
“I don’t think deliberations should take very long,” Cunningham said.