United States v. Truman, No. 11-784 (2d Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
In 2005 Truman and partners purchased a vacant commercial building for $175,000, insured for $4,250,000 in fire-related losses. The property, without the building, was worth more than with the building. After a minor accidental fire, Truman told an employee that if it ever caught fire again, just get out. Considering leasing, Truman stated that it would make more money if it burnt. By late 2006, Truman had less than $5,000 in personal bank accounts. Premiums were paid through November 17. The building burned down November 12. Truman, Jr. confessed that he had burned the building at his father’s direction. State charges were dismissed because of inability to corroborate junior’s testimony, as required under New York law. Truman was charged with aiding and abetting arson, 18 U.S.C. 844(i); mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341; use of fire in commission of a felony, 18 U.S.C. 844(h); and loan fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341. Following a guilty verdict the district court granted acquittal and conditionally granted a new trial. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded for sentencing. Junior’s refusal to answer certain questions did not render his testimony incredible as a matter of law, and his prior state testimony was nonhearsay. Truman was not prejudiced by improper cross-examination or summation argument references to the cooperation agreement.