Defense keeps it simple in auto theft trial
September 22, 2007
ASPEN ” Robert Zimny has a simple defense against charges he stole a car from a woman after tricking her into trusting him:
Zimny alleges that the victim, Susan Peetz, is “a sad but vindictive woman … a woman who is very angry, and she wants to get Bobby,” in the words of Zimny’s defense attorney.
The case before Judge James Boyd in Pitkin County District Court has already hit a stumbling block: It took Thursday and half of Friday to seat a jury because of pretrial publicity. The presentation of evidence began Friday afternoon and is to continue Sept. 26.
Zimny, 46, met Peetz last fall at a Basalt bar, and the pair ultimately struck up a friendship that lead to Zimny moving into her home after he told her he had no place to live, according to Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols.
In her opening statement, Nichols had painted a picture of a divorced woman, depressed and on medication, beset by anxiety, unemployed and low on cash, and who drank excessively and needed some help.
What actually happened, public defender Garth McCarty said, is that Peetz asked Zimny to live with her without any prompting.
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“She wanted to pursue a relationship with Bobby,” McCarty told the jury Friday in his opening statement.
While living at Peetz’s home, Zimny would cook for her and often ran errands in the 2006 Ford Fusion that Peetz owned but could not drive because she lost her license over a drunken driving charge. He was a caterer and a professional golf caddy, McCarty told the jurors, and the rhythms of his life were to work at golf courses in the summer and cater in the winter; when he met Peetz in the fall he was basically between seasons and was able to provide some caretaking.
“Bobby was doing exactly the kind of things she needed in her life,” McCarty said.
“She liked Bobby,” is how Nichols characterized the relationship. “She trusted Bobby; he was nice to her.”
On Oct. 19, according to both attorneys, Zimny left with Peetz’s car on a trip to Park City, Utah, and never came back. Peetz reported the theft to the Basalt police, and Zimny ultimately was picked up in Park City.
In the meantime, police had learned that he had a record of using aliases around the U.S., and of obtaining driver’s licenses under different names. He also has a record of two felony convictions, on for the theft of jewelry from a woman in Denver he met in Crested Butte, and another for theft and illegal use of credit cards in Florida.
McCarty, in his opening statement, maintained that Zimny believed he had Peetz’s permission to use the car, and that Peetz was angry with Zimny because he had left her to fend for herself.
McCarty also called the state’s case against Zimny “a matter of wishful thinking” because the object of the proceedings, the car that allegedly was stolen, cannot be produced. It was turned over to Peetz’s insurance company and sold to recoup some of the insurance settlement to Peetz, and Zimny’s belongings inside the car were destroyed, thereby negating any evidentiary value.