On the surface it seems like any other normal holiday business transaction. A Texas man finds an escort on Craigslist, and arranges to procure her services on Christmas Eve. She comes to his home, they reach a contractual agreement, and she accepts a $150 payment prior to services being rendered.

Now despite the Norman Rockwellish overtones, something apparently goes awry in this newly consummated agreement. It turns out the agreement is the only thing that actually gets consummated. The lady who accepted the money fails to deliver on her part of the bargain. Instead, after twenty minutes of “walking around his apartment”, she proceeded to exit without performing the required functions of her job.

So the man shoots her in the neck, paralyzing her. Clean up on aisle 5. Someone likely got a lump of coal in their stocking that year.

7 months later, the Craigslist escort dies from the gunshot wound, and the man finds himself on trial for murder.

I know what you're thinking. He overreacted. He didn't have to shoot her. He could have filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau – except that he really couldn't. He could have called the police to report the theft – except that he really couldn't.  He could have left a stinging review on Yelp, or slammed her on Angie's List – except that he really couldn't. The nature of the transaction was problematic for those avenues of redress.  As it turns out, he did get screwed, just not in the manner that he originally anticipated. He was clearly left with no alternative but to shoot her.

At least that is what his jury determined, when they acquitted him of all criminal charges in the case.

Ezekiel Gilbert claims he did not intend to kill Lenora Frago that Christmas Eve. His lawyers based their defense on a Texas law that allows people to use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft. They argued his actions were justified, because he was trying to retrieve stolen property. That property was, of course, the $150 he had paid Frago believing their agreement involved some element of sexual servicing. His defense team claimed, successfully I would say, that her actions became theft “when she refused to have sex with him or give the money back”.

To say I am stunned over the jury's verdict would be a slight understatement. I was not in the courtroom, and did not hear all the facts, but the facts that I have heard – ones that both sides agree on – leave me with a pretty obvious conclusion. She stole $150 in an illegal transaction that in itself could not be reported, and lost her life for the effort. As an added bonus, I suppose, she had seven months where she could ponder the errors of her ways.

Let us assume for a moment that the transaction in question was legal. What if she had agreed to sell a bicycle, but then failed to deliver, instead just taking the money. Our crime victim then would have ample recourse, including filing a criminal complaint with the local authorities. Would a jury, presented with other viable options to the theft resolution, still have acquitted him for shooting her? Did the fact that this was not a legal transaction, and therefore limited options to retrieve his stolen property, affect the outcome of the jury verdict?

We will likely never know. Either way, I suppose drug dealers in Texas will love this verdict. They may now kill people who fail to pay for their product with impunity, since they are only trying to defend their property. As for Texas prostitutes, they should be very careful when on the job. They will need to make sure they dot their “I's” and cross their “t's”, lest someone believe they have tried to steal something.

Stealing, after all, is a crime that must be punished.

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