Ninety Year Old California Man Sued By An Addict Who Shot Him In His Home

There is a truly bizarre case out of California this week in which A 90-year-old California man Jay Leone was shot during an alleged burglary by a methamphetamine addict. The addict, Samuel Cutrufelli, 31, has now sued Leone for negligence. It is the type of case often referenced by legislators in support of Castle Doctrine or Make My Day laws — laws that I have long opposed. Indeed, this case is an example of why such laws are not needed. The case appears meritless and will likely face dismissal by the court.

Cutrufelli entered Leone’s home and put a gun to his head. He then tied up Leone with a belt and began to ransack the home. Leone wiggled free his hands and then convinced Cutrufelli to let him use the bathroom. He promptly grabbed one of five handguns in the house and confronted Cutrufelli in his closet. Cutrufelli then shot Leone in the jaw. Leone fired his gun and hit Cutrufelli but Cutrufelli was able to wrestle it away. He then put the gun to Leone’s head and allegedly pulled the trigger. However, the gun was now empty.

Cutrufelli, who is the father of two and charged with two counts of attempted murder, claims Leone caused him “great bodily injury, and other financial damage, including loss of Mr. Cutrufelli’s home, and also the dissolution of Mr. Cutrufelli’s marriage” from the negligence of his conduct. The lawsuit was filed on his behalf by his father and his criminal defense attorney

Cutrufelli’s lawyer, Sanford Troy, said Cutrufelli is a methamphetamine user and that the incident was part of a drug deal gone sideways. He says that Leone shot his client in the back when he was trying to flee. What is curious is that the defense has not linked Leone to the alleged drug deal and it is assumed (though not clear) that the allegation is directed at tenants living in the house. If true, that would be a rather attenuated claim.

Cutrufelli previously lost a motion to dismiss the charges due to the fact that the insurance company hired a “residential disaster reconstruction” team to clean up the blood-spattered house as well as claims of the interference with counsel in the hospital. Cutrufelli has a criminal record involving a prior conviction for attacking a pedestrian who complained about being nearly hit in a crosswalk. Cutrufelli responded by breaking a bottle over the 22-year-old victim’s head and using a folding knife to stab him four times.

We recently discussed the Castle Doctrine laws in a disturbing case out of Montana. There are likely to be many who will cite this case as a further justification of such laws. The Castle Doctrine is a generally a reference to the modern trend of legislatively empowering homeowners to use lethal force solely on the basis of a home invasion.

Under the common law, there was not “fear of prosecution or civil action for acting in defense of themselves and others” so long as you acted in reasonable self-defense or even “reasonable mistaken self-defense.” In the case of Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113 (1896), a man chased a group out of his home only to fire when a man approached him outside his home from the stone-throwing mob. It turned out to be a deputy sheriff but the court found that Courvoisier could rely on reasonable mistaken self-defense.

The common law has long offered ample protections even for reasonable mistakes. These laws are based on an urban legend that people are routinely prosecuted for defending their homes from intruders. The laws have produced perverse results as in the infamous case of Tom Horn in Texas. Yet, the popularity of these laws have spawned “Make My Day Better” laws that extend the privilege of lethal force to businesses and cars. Montana’s law had been invoked in workplace shootings.

This case does not show that such laws are needed. To the contrary, anyone can file a negligence lawsuit, but the chances of success of such an action is exceptionally remote. Even if this man went to the home on a drug deal with third parties, Leone was acting under the privilege of self-defense.

Source: Marin

25 thoughts on “Ninety Year Old California Man Sued By An Addict Who Shot Him In His Home”

  1. Frankly said:

    “Passing laws like voter ID that solve non-existent issues.”

    What value is it to this society, to allow even the possibility of voter fraud, on any level at all?

    In my view, the logic of prudent voter ID can be accurately seen through the lens of this article’s subject matter: exactly how wise is it to leave your front door unlocked at night – considering neither you – nor any of your neighbors – have yet had a problem?

    When one considers the enormous volume of challenges this nation faces – to a large extent because our leadership invests precious little time examining unintended consequences, my take is this:

    You want to have a say in the way this country is run? Fine. Prove you have the right to.

    I simply believe this nation would be far better off if “voting” were not a right at all, but a privilege. Like driving a car. You qualify by basic testing, and you get your photo ID.

    To my mind, choosing leadership is at least as important as navigating a car down the street.

  2. Bruce said:

    “If every homeowner was armed home invasion robberies would be nonexistant.”

    Nice thought, but sadly, only partially true.

    In the areas where I work, at last 30% of the victims of home invasions did indeed have a firearm – somewhere. It didn’t matter.

    The reality often is, that this argument is only marginally valid, and only appears to work in the instances, where the would-be robbers fear the resident more than the possibility of a weapon. Or, as they say in southern Indiana – few people are nutty enough to invade a house with a tractor in the yard.

    The typical victim in a typical southern California neighborhood – caught by surprise and likely in a civil frame of mind – is generally no threat to a hooligan with a nasty disposition, and reckless enough to risk getting shot in the first place.

  3. If I were the defendant in this lawsuit I wouldn’t want it dismissed as frivolous unless (a) I didn’t think I would live long enough to see it to fruition and/or (b) I was more delighted with the idea of a Rule 11 against plaintiff’s attorney than the idea of kicking his a55. WHY?

    A big juicy counterclaim and a JURY! YEAH, that’s the ticket. YEAH…..

  4. I am a supporter of the castle doctrine, but some common sense needs to be applied in every case. A commodity that seems to be in short supply around some courthouses. In New Hampshire, a man named Ward saw a woman drive up on his property, apparently “casing” the place. He stepped out of his house carrying a shotgun, but did not point it at the woman or make any threatening moves, other than to have the shotgun cradled in his arm. The woman turned out to be a real estate speculator. She pressed charges against Ward and he ended up in prison doing hard time.

    The judge did not have discretion regarding sentence and made no bones about not being happy with that, saying, “As a jury has found you guilty, I’ve no option under the law but to sentence you to a 3 year determinate sentence in State Prison.”

    The NH legislature reacted by passing one of the most liberal castle doctrine laws in the country.

    Mr. Ward’s life and assets were still ruined by the histrionics of a real estate speculator and overzealous prosecutor.

  5. The story is laid out in a confusing manner.
    I believe in the castle doctrine and in the stand your ground doctrines. Florida needs another doctrine: Shoot Methheads On Sight Doctrine.

  6. If Leone shot Curtifelli in the when he broke in, he wouldn’t have got shot and robbed, there wouldn’t be a law suit and the world would be rid of one more a$$hole. Thats what the castle law is all about. If every homeowner was armed home invasion robberies would be nonexistant. In Florida you can have a gun in your car, hence no more car jackings.

  7. Definition of Chutzpah: A son murders his two parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan. This lawsuit also meets that definition.

  8. I’ve long thought all drugs but the very worse should be legalized so there can be some focus on the truly horrible ones. Crystal meth is #1 on that list.

  9. I will have to, respectfully, partially disagree with our professor on this one. I do agree there can be common law protections to those such as the homeowner in this topic but I disagree that there is no need for a statutory protection of the homeowner.

    Precedents in common law can change over time, often times in a reversal. If a law / statute is enacted that clearly defines civil immunity on behalf of the homeowner it also makes it more likely, at least in my lay view, a summary judgement can be afforded the homeowner quickly as opposed to progressing further into the judicial process where there might be arguments over interpretation over the common law. Moreover, the legislative branch of the the gov’t can provide the protection to the homeowner to address a possible reversal of that defense by the courts.

    Plus, if the legislature can define Self Defense and make it an affirmative defense against a criminal prosecution, I don’t see how it should not be able to afford one to a citizen in a civil case.

  10. The mistake in this case was by Leone; he was too compassionate and chose to put the gun to Cutrufelli’s head (thereby making it easy for the invader to wrestle it away from him) instead of coming out of the bathroom shooting. A poor choice of tactics hardly seems like adequate grounds to once again empower predators.

  11. “There oughta be a law,” used to be a sarcastic comment we’d make whenever someone’s behavior was uncivil. Now we don’t have that opportunity, because usually it turns out, there already IS a law. When is enough enough?

  12. @Frankly Ok read the link, now maybe you can tell me what is “ill-informed” about my alleged “rant “.

  13. @Frankly Read this whole thing, but didn’t hit the link….is there more to the story that wasn’t covered in this story?

  14. “Urban legend seems to me a major driving force in much of the current legislative process.”

    Astute observation and a reflection of the staggering level of civic ignorance and general ignorance that pervades our society. Myth and legend have no place in proper governance and legitimate legal systems. Both must be firmly rooted in the real to work in the real world.

  15. “These laws are based on an urban legend”

    Urban legend seems to me a major driving force in much of the current legislative process. Passing laws like voter ID that solve non-existent issues. Threatening that, if the other side is elected they will pass laws that can’t garner support anywhere but the fringe.

  16. John, did you read the rest of the details of the encounter or just enough to go off on an ill-informed rant ab?ut your favorite cause?

  17. It turned out to be a deputy sheriff but the court found that Courvoisier could rely on reasonable mistaken self-defense.

    This seems to work in the cops favor ALL THE TIME! But it should never be applied to ‘ordinary citizens’?

    This story seems to think a VICTIM spending thousands of dollars to defend themselves from a baseless lawsuit is better than being able to defend yourself in your own home. On the basis that a ‘innocent’ person could end up a victim in a rare occasion…but as I pointed out, it already happens in law enforcement.
    And getting rid of ‘no knock’ warrants would probably save lives too, but I don’t see them rushing to fix that problem either.

    I see the problem as “I would know when to shoot a trespasser, but not everyone would” mentality. I would hope the courts could handle the rare occasion of that, instead of lawsuits like this.

  18. Excellent follow up to the other Castle Doctrine story and a perfect illustration that not all law is good law.

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