Proving 1 Guy’s Innocent is a Compelling Story


Seventh in an occasional series about compelling stories and ideas worth telling.

Compelling stories have many qualities to them: They’re powerful, have an irresistible, sometimes emotional effect on the reader. They earn the person attention, either positive or negative. They’re unique, original, different. They relate to the reader, and they put the reader there.

A common type of compelling story is the one about the person wrongly accused/convicted of some action/crime, only to ultimately prevail and be proven innocent. The story can be fictional, such as Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which was made into a movie; or it could be non-fiction, such as The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, John Grisham’s book about Ronald Keith Williamson being wrongly imprisoned on death row for 11 years for rape and murder before DNA evidence exonerated him.

I’ve experienced this type of story: A former client married a psychopath who bilked investors out of $1.4 million and lived a double life. She found out, divorced him, and then the state came after her for the money he stole that she knew nothing about. Suffering from PTSD, she represented herself for years before finding an attorney who would work pro bono and got the judgment overturned. Then she went one step further and got the law changed so it could never happen again.

Now, I’ve got another client who stands wrongfully accused in civil court, and I’m helping him tell his story. (A note here: Because the case is ongoing, I have to keep out most names and details here.)

The man is wealthy, having been born poor but making his money in real estate. With the money came his ability to indulge in some of life’s finer things: great food and drink, luxury surfing and skiing trips, fancy cars.

It also allowed him to quench some of his more hedonistic thirsts: lots of famous friends, rich friends, girlfriends, lingerie parties, and sex with supermodels and other beautiful people.

I’ve heard stories from him and some of his friends about hanging out with former Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Playboy playmates, and models. I’ve been shown many of the opulent houses he has built (one of which was across the street from Michael Jackson’s family compound). I’ve seen pictures of him in a leopard print g-string and satin robe and countless women in underwear.

I’ve researched the now-defunct 30,000-square foot supper club he opened with one of the Studio 54 owners, and I interviewed people who were there who have told me about the bikini contests, the Jungle Room, and the VIP lounge.

He’s dropped more names of famous people than anyone I’ve ever met: rappers like Ludacris and Nelly, Justin Bieber, Baz Luhrmann, Jason Derulo, a sultan of Brunei, and the grandson of the Saudi king are a very small sample of people who stayed at or bought his houses. He talked about how rapper Eazy-E was interested in buying a house but died before it could happen.

Unfortunately, that lifestyle also put him in contact with some questionable people, both famous and not-so. He talked about how the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and FBI raided his houses and how he got swept up in a couple of billionaires’ personal beef, leading to wrongful accusations in civil court of sex trafficking. I even interviewed one woman whose ex-wife was a complainant, but the woman had proof my client was innocent.

This story has so many compelling elements: Depending on readers’ sensibilities, they will either be very entertained, envious, or disgusted at the parties and the attitudes of the attendees. But they will be put in the clubs, the contest stages, the swimming pools, and the fancy cars and hotels. They might not relate to the main character, but they cannot deny he’s fascinating. They might root for him or think his life is a train wreck, but they won’t be neutral.

I have been researching and interviewing for four months. I’m about to start the first draft. I can’t wait.

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