California Court Ponders Cop's Claim He Didn't Know Destroying $705,000 Home Was Illegal
San Diego cop claimed he violated California criminal law because it was too confusing to obey
A San Diego police officer and his wife--who wrecked their $705,000 Riverside County home during foreclosure as revenge against the lending bank in 2010 and won criminal convictions for the damage--have lost their attempt to overturn the case at the California Court of Appeal in Orange County.
In a ruling this week, a three-justice panel rejected the appeal by Robert Conrad Acosta and Monique Evette Acosta, who claimed they didn't know it was against the law to intentionally depreciate a lender's property by removing or damaging fixtures.
The couple left San Diego Metropolitan Credit Union with more than $166,000 in costs to restore the once "exceptional," upgrade-loaded home after they cut down a backyard tree and threw it into the pool, yanked out plants, spray painted fixtures inside the home, wrecked a toilet with black dye, used a sledgehammer to mutilate a staircase and a Whirlpool hot tub in the backyard, cracked pipes, ruined the pool, smashed electrical outlets, cut wires, shattered tiles, pummeled walls, destroyed a fireplace and, using a semi-truck, hauled away light fixtures, countertops, kitchen cabinet doors, appliances, a bar, wood ceiling beams, window shutters, carpets, three chandeliers, two air conditioning units, 12 interior doors, cypress trees and the garage door.
A witness who saw the damage called it "total destruction," and the bank ended up selling the property for just $178,500.
According to court records, the sabotage occurred after the brilliant female part of this classy duo memorialized the plot in a pre-eviction email to a bank representative and declared the home would be left in good condition only if they paid her $10,000 for the keys to the French Valley residence.
The male portion of the duo, the aforementioned police officer, initially respond to law enforcement investigators by trying to act surprised by the wreckage and missing items, but that didn't work because officers learned he'd offered the items for sale in a Craigslist ad.
Then, Acosta claimed he'd been "under the impression" he could legally remove house fixtures, but that didn't work either because as the appellate justices noted: there's a 91-year-old California law prohibiting such acts.
Then, he argued that the related law had been too confusing for him to understand.
Santa Ana-based justices Raymond J. Ikola, Kathleen E. O'Leary and Richard D. Fybel were not impressed.
"We reject defendants' contention," they wrote in a 21-page, May 12 ruling. "A person of common intelligence can understand [the law] forbids a borrower from intentionally harming a lender by removing or disposing of items attached or affixed as improvements to the encumbered property."
Upshot: A jury's verdicts of guilt as well as a judge's punishment of 270 days each in jail plus probation for five years remain valid.
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