LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas - A building materials company and its owner have appealed a $12.6 million verdict against them, alleging that a juror posted messages on Twitter.com during the trial that show he's biased against them.
The motion seeking a new trial was filed Thursday on behalf of Russell Wright and his company, Stoam Holdings. It claims juror Johnathan Powell sent eight messages — or "tweets" — to the micro-blogging Web site via his cellular phone.
According to the motion, one posting listed the company's Web address and read in part: "oh and nobody buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they'll probably cease to Exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter."
Another described what "Juror Jonathan" did today: "I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else's money."
In his motion, filed in Washington County Circuit Court in Fayetteville, lawyer Drew Ledbetter wrote that the messages show Powell "was predisposed toward giving a verdict that would impress his audience."
Powell, of Fayetteville, said that Wright and his lawyers are "just grasping at straws at this point."
"I didn't really do anything wrong, so it's kind of crazy that they're trying to use this to get the case thrown out," Powell said. "I understand where they're coming from, they lost over $12 million."
The jury awarded the money Feb. 26 to Mark Deihl and William Nystrom, two northwest Arkansas men who invested in Wright's company. The company sold a building material called Stoam that it claims combines the insulation qualities of foam with the strength of steel.
Deihl's attorney, Greg Brown, called the venture "nothing more than a Ponzi (pyramid) scheme."
Brown said he doubts a new trial will be granted. He said Arkansas law requires defendants to prove that outside information entered the jury room and corrupted a verdict — not that information from the jury room made its way out.
Powell, a 29-year-old manager at a Wal-Mart photo lab, said he tried to talk to the judge Friday about what happened, but was turned away. He seemed a little shocked at what kind of power the 140-character messages on Twitter can carry.
"I'm kind of surprised so many people have contacted me," he said.