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Our Results - 2017

Dec. 2017

Max Stern, Michael DiStefano secure acquittal in arson trial

Max D. Stern and Michael R. DiStefano persuaded a Norfolk County Superior Court jury to acquit a man charged with arson related to the 2013 burning of a condemned house in Brookline, Mass.

Following the three-week trial, the jury rendered its verdict in less than four hours.

The prosecution's case rested largely on the testimony of a man who, as part of a plea agreement to testify against the firm's client, had pleaded guilty to starting the 2013 fire.

Mr. Stern repeatedly attacked the witness's credibility during three days of cross examination.

"I have never had a case like this where somebody was proven to [have said], and admitted to, so many lies," Mr. Stern told the Boston Globe. "It was totally amazing what he admitted to."

The witness, for example, said in a recorded telephone conversation while in jail that the firm's client was innocent of arson and that it would be wrong to testify against him.  Mr. Stern also presented evidence that the witness had exaggerated his military service.

The firm's client was accused of paying the prosecution's star witness to set fire to the home in order to collect on an $800,000 insurance policy.  The home, owned by the firm's client, had been condemned for zoning violations following years of litigation with neighbors over the client's plans to redevelop and sell it.

Mr. Stern, a partner at the firm, has more than 40 years of experience of litigating groundbreaking criminal matters and complex civil cases.  Mr. DiStefano, a former prosecutor, concentrates his practice on government investigations and criminal defense.

Mr. Stern and Mr. DiStefano are members of the firm's Government Investigations/Criminal Defense Practice Group, which has wide experience in representing professionals and business persons in high stakes investigations and trials, including effectively cross-examining government cooperating witnesses and obtaining favorable courtroom results.