Ezekiel Gilbert contracted for services with Lenora Ivie Frago, an escort he found on Craigslist. At the end of their Christmas Eve engagement, he paid her her $150 fee, and she walked out — which angered him, because he’d assumed that sex was included as part of the package. Gilbert shot Frago in the neck, paralyzing her; she died of her injuries seven months later.
His defense before the courts? That his actions were justifiable because, as he’d assumed sex was part of the deal, Frago was stealing that $150 from him by taking the money and not providing the service — and Texas law allows him to “use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft.” (Frago, of course, wasn’t available to provide her side of the story.) The jury agreed, and Gilbert was acquitted of murder.
Another argument, of course, could be that Gilbert engaged Frago’s services with the intent of committing a crime (solicitation) and that when she became aware of this and refused to participate, he shot her, and she died (manslaughter). But because he killed her in pursuit of his $150, it was A-OK by Texas law, and so Gilbert walked.
It’s a great precedent to set all around. It means that:
a) if a sex worker does contract for sexual services and then walks out with the money, it’s a killing offense (as long as it’s at night);
b) Frago’s life was ultimately worth $150;
c) “but I thought she was going to have sex with me” is now, in some cases, a viable defense for manslaughter; and
d) if a guy takes you out to dinner and expects sex afterwards, you’d better hope he’s not about to accuse you of stealing that steak.
Remind me to avoid Texas.
Update: RH Reality Check provides details that weren’t available (that I could find, anyway) at the time of this posting: A major influence on Gilbert’s acquittal was that, rather than using (for instance) a handgun to target Frago, he instead sprayed her retreating car with AK-47 fire, and she was struck by a bullet fragment. Because the prosecution could not establish intent (Gilbert says he was trying to kill the tires, not the occupants of the car), the jury couldn’t find him guilty of murder; the judge failed to instruct them that they could convicted him of manslaughter as a “lesser included offense” without the requirement of intent. So: Under those circumstances, Gilbert likely would have been acquitted with or without the law; if the judge had done her job, Gilbert may have gone to prison for Frago’s death, but that didn’t happen; that Texas law is still seriously messed up; and law or no law, Gilbert shot up a car with an AK-47 because the woman inside it wouldn’t have sex with him, and he won’t be punished for it.