Auction-House Owners Who Pled Guilty To Fraud Get Another Chance

A while back we told you how the oh-so-ritzy Hart Galleries auction house was going out of business.

Their website said that "with the deepest regret and sadness that we inform you of the filing for bankruptcy." KHOU's website noted the couple had been charged with defrauding their customers of millions of dollars. (Sounds like something you should have "the deepest regret and sadness for" instead of for filing bankruptcy.)

The Harts later pled guilty and were sentenced to 14 years in prison, despite a letter-writing campaign by both Houston's hoity and toity.

Today, the Chronicle reports, a judge ruled they should get a retrial. On a case where they had pled guilty and weren't trying to exclude any evidence as tainted, as far as we can tell.

How's that happen? Not many people are talking.

But the grand jury that indicted the Harts was later ruled to have been improperly empaneled in another case it heard. And the Harts' lawyers had claimed the judge who sentenced them had a conflict of interest.

Notes the Chron:

"The Harts just want their day in court," defense lawyer Robert Scardino said in court. "This was the perfect storm of things that went wrong from the start."

The prosecutors who negotiated the original plea agreement and will have to start over from the beginning seemed stunned by the decision.

"Given the evidence I heard, I'm very surprised by the decision," said prosecutor Markay Stroud. She declined to comment further, saying it now was a pending case. She had said the couple stole more than $4 million.

Yeah, we guess the prosecutors would be stunned.


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