First trial for new judge Barberis begins in Madison County

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Feb 10, 2015

Opening statements began Monday in Circuit Judge John Barberis Jr.’s first jury trial as circuit judge in Madison County.

The case, filed on Dec. 14, 2011, by plaintiff David Armstead, names Floyd Klaus and George Ford as defendants.

Armstead claims his valuables were stolen from a storage unit at Country View Storage in Staunton and that he was fraudulently led to believe the units were protected by security cameras.

Attorney David Duree of David M. Duree & Associates in O’Fallon, attorney for Armstead, began opening statements before the six person jury. He explained that Armstead served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, accumulating personal property from his military career. When he retired, all of his personal property was transferred to Scott Air Force Base, where he was required to make arrangements for storage. As a result, he settled on utilizing the Country View Storage facility in January 2011.

Armstead rented two adjoining storage units with doors on each side of the building to store all of his property, including “priceless memorabilia he collected from 20 years of traveling the world,” Duree said.

Duree described the storage facility as having three long storage buildings with units on each side. The buildings also included several “dummy” cameras, which are fake cameras intended to deter potential criminals away.

However, Duree told the jurors Armstead was unaware that the cameras were fake. Furthermore, a sign is posted on the property that reads, “This property is protected by security cameras.”

Armstead filed a claim against Klaus for misrepresenting the security when it wasn’t secure. Duree argues that had Armstead known the cameras were fake, he never would have rented the storage unit nor signed the contract in the first place.

John P. Cunningham of Brown & James, attorney for Klaus, argued during his opening statements that Armstead’s decision to rent a storage unit with Country View Storage had nothing to do with security cameras. He explained that Armstead saw an online ad for Country View Storage on the Yellow Pages website, which did not mention the cameras, meaning the plaintiff chose to use the storage units on other factors.

Furthermore, Cunningham claimed security cameras are not required by law and, regardless, Armstead was told of the dummy security cameras.

Both parties claim another tenant noticed that the lock on her unit had been replaced.

When she was able to get in to her unit, she claimed several items were missing. According to testimony, Stacey Starkey, an employee at Country View Storage, noticed that four or five additional units also had new locks, and Armstead’s unit was one of them.

However, Cunningham said it was not in Starkey’s job duties to call the remaining tenants, but she took it upon herself to notify Armstead when she didn’t have an obligation to do so.

Duree said Armstead was able to get into his storage unit because only one of the two locks were replaced, and he noticed that all of his valuable items were taken.

In Armstead’s complaint, he claims he discovered the missing items in June 2011 and notified the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Department.

By July 2011, Armstead claims the police found keys in Ford’s possession that matched the locks from the storage facility. He was arrested for burglary but has not been charged, the complaint states.

During opening statements, Duree alluded to the suggestion that police found keys in Ford’s possession that matched the new locks placed on the storage units when Christopher Threlkeld objected, which Barberis sustained on the grounds that evidence supporting the allegation was not provided on the record. Threlkeld, an attorney with Lucco Brown Threlkeld & Dawson, represents Ford.

Instead, during Threlkeld’s brief opening statements, he told the jury no one has been charged with the crime, and more specifically, Ford has not been charged.

Duree requested the jury award the plaintiff a verdict amounting to $21,364 against the defendants, which he alleges is the value of the stolen belongings.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 11-MR-303

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