Posts tagged with "lack of evidence"

Arson Convict Loses His Appeal: Evidence Pointed to Intent to Destroy Building in Suicide Attempt

In a criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut declined to reverse a defendant’s arson convictions, finding sufficient evidence to establish the essential elements of the crime.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on October 13, 2006. Police responded to the multi-resident apartment building where the defendant lived, following a report that the defendant was threatening to commit suicide. After they arrived, another resident was seen leaving the building because she was “nervous” about the defendant’s conduct. Officers were unsuccessful in communicating with the defendant, who refused to speak with them.

Smoke soon appeared in the building, and though the defendant climbed onto the fire escape, he reentered the building when officers asked him to come down. The fire intensified but responders could not enter the building because they feared for their safety in light of the defendant’s behavior. The defendant fell from a third-story window and was apprehended with effort, and firefighters promptly attempted to suppress the fire.

However, a portion of the roof collapsed and they had to exit the building. The fire was eventually put out but nonetheless caused severe structural damage. The fire marshal did not find an accidental cause for the fire and placed its origin in the defendant’s apartment, but was not definitive on the cause.

Intent Inferred

The defendant was charged with and convicted of two counts of arson in the first degree (under different subsections to address risk of injury to other occupants and the firefighters) and interfering with an officer. On appeal, the defendant argued that the State provided insufficient evidence that he “intentionally started the fire,… specifically intended to destroy or damage the building and… had reason to believe that the building was or may have been occupied or inhabited at the time the fire started.”

Intent is often inferred from circumstantial evidence where direct evidence is lacking. In arson cases, it is permissible to use the lack of evidence that the fire was caused accidentally, in light of other evidence bearing on intent, to infer that the fire was instead intentionally started.

In this case, the Appellate Court cited numerous pieces of circumstantial evidence supporting the jury’s findings: the origin of the fire, the fire marshal’s conclusions, the defendant’s destructive emotional instability, and the fact that no one else left the building after the fire began other than the defendant. Therefore, a jury could reasonably infer that the defendant intended to start the fire.

Court Rejects Defendant’s Claims

The defendant next argued that his conduct “indicated recklessness or indifference to the damage [the fire] would cause, not specific intent to damage or destroy the building.” However, the Appellate Court was not persuaded, arguing that even if suicide was the primary goal, the jury could reasonably infer that “he intended to damage the building as a means to that goal.” Therefore, as with the previous argument posed by the defendant, this one equally failed.

Finally, the defendant claimed he had no reason to believe anyone else was in the building at the time he started the fire. However, the evidence worked against him: another resident left the building shortly before it was started. At trial, this individual testified that she typically stays home during the daytime. In addition, another resident’s vehicle was located on the scene. Therefore, a jury could reasonably have inferred that “the defendant had reason to believe that one or more tenants may have been in the building during the incident.” Therefore, the Appellate Court affirmed the judgment.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of arson, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at

Court Invalidates Non-Compete agreements to Prevent Employment with Company’s Clients

Innovative Financial Services, LLC v. Urban, 2005 Conn. Super. LEXIS 775 marks a milestone in the law of non-compete agreements. Ms. Shelley Anne Urban worked as a full-time employee at Innovative Financial Services, LLC (IFS) from March 24, 2003, to January 17, 2004.  The company provided outsourced bookkeeping, accounting, and administrative services to approximately forty local businesses.

Case Details

The parties executed a six-page Employment Agreement that stipulated she could not accept employment from a client of the company without the company’s prior written consent.  Ms. Urban had previously signed a “Confidentiality and Non-Competition Agreement” with IFS when she was only a part-time employee.  This prior agreement stated that she was prohibited from providing services to IFS’s past, current, or prospective clients in Hartford County (Connecticut) and Middlesex County (Massachusetts) for a period of one year after termination.  Both of the agreements stated that IFS would be “entitled to injunctive relief in the event of a breach”.

Ms. Urban began to work for the Law Office of William A. Snider two days after her voluntary termination from IFS where she proceeded to perform accounting and bookkeeping services for the business.  The law firm was a prior IFS client and Ms. Urban worked on the firm’s account as an IFS employee in the later part of 2003.  IFS sued Ms. Urban and requested that the Connecticut state court enforce the non-compete agreements and enjoin her from further employment at the Law Office of William A. Snider.  The court denied the company’s request and refused to enforce the agreements between IFS and Ms. Urban.

The Court’s Decision

The court acquiesced that the provisions contained in the agreements were reasonable in scope and did not blatantly favor one party over the other.  The court did not deny the injunction based on unreasonable provisions, but on the basis that Ms. Urban’s actions did not constitute a breach that would disadvantage or harm IFS.  The court stated that injunctive relief is more appropriately applied to prevent a former employee from working for a competing company rather than a former client.

Ms. O’Neil, the owner and president of IFS, did not indicate that Ms. Urban’s actions caused irreparable harm to her company and even testified that she interpreted the non-compete agreements to prevent former employees from “starting up a business to compete against me”.  The court had no choice but to deny the request for injunctive relief in the absence of evidence demonstrating that Ms. Urban’s past or future actions would harm IFS’s business interests.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at