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Court 'reluctantly' strikes six of seven guilty pleas in Eisemann case

Contractor Scott Eisemann failed to have plea removed regarding Hal Gaber, who paid $125,000 to have Oro-Medonte structure torn down
Scott Eisemann succeeded in getting six of his initial guilty pleas struck from the court record in an ongoing fraud case Monday morning. He is pictured here outside the Orillia courthouse following court proceedings earlier this month.

“We all walked away with losses. We’re not getting them back, but what we are getting is justification for us to say this guy is a criminal.”

That’s what Kim Burt, an alleged victim in the Scott Eisemann fraud case, had to say after Justice A.M. Nicholls “reluctantly” agreed to strike six of seven guilty pleas from the court’s record Monday morning, as the facts surrounding those charges have yet to be read into court.

Although Eisemann has gained the opportunity to defend those six charges once again, including Burt’s, he did not succeed in striking a plea regarding Hal Gaber, who had paid Eisemann $125,000 to tear down a structure and construct a new home on his Oro-Medonte property, but never began the work.

Nicholls’ recent decision in the drawn-out fraud case dates back to Jan. 11, when Eisemann initially pleaded guilty to the seven counts of fraud after allegedly collecting more than $300,000 in payments from clients in the Simcoe County and Muskoka area, before ultimately failing to deliver the promised work.

On Feb. 8, which was supposed to be Eisemann's sentencing date, he wanted to strike the guilty pleas from the court record, at which time his previous defence lawyer, Emily Dyer, dropped the case “due to a breakdown in the solicitor-client relationship.”

Eisemann formally applied to have his guilty pleas struck from the record on May 1, citing numerous issues he had with the facts surrounding the charges and the circumstances that he said precipitated his guilty plea.

He argued Dyer was coercive and aggressive, pressuring him to plead guilty and sign court paperwork, and he said she told him he had “no chance in hell of winning” in a conversation days before Jan. 11, court heard.

Eisemann said that he was experiencing significant depression, anxiety and lack of sleep around the time, and said that he did not fully understand the details of the facts presented to him as he had only “skimmed” the court documents ahead of his plea.

On Monday, Nicholls shot down Eisemann’s arguments that he did not understand the facts presented to him, noting he had “reached out to Ms. Dyer on Jan. 9 indicating he had gone over everything from front to back.”

She also highlighted how, during cross-examination on May 1, Eisemann said he found “15 things that were incorrect” in the court documents, despite claiming to have only “skimmed” the facts prior to his Jan. 11 hearing.

Regarding his mental state during court proceedings, “Dyer confirms his demeanour was consistent” with other interactions she had with Eisemann, Nicholls said, who added that the “mere presence of emotions does not render a plea involuntary.”

Nicholls said this “differed greatly from (Dyer’s) affidavit,” with Dyer stating she and her client “went over (the facts) in detail and made alterations,” leading Nicholls to state there is “no reason to question Ms. Dyer” and that she “completely rejects Ms. Dyer pressured him to plead guilty.”

On Jan. 11, the facts of the Gaber fraud charge were read into court, with the remaining six scheduled to be read into court on Feb. 8 – the scheduled date of his sentencing.

“Given the facts have not been read in … I reluctantly agree these should be struck,” Nicholls said.

The next steps for Eisemann’s case will be determined at his next court appearance on June 11.

Although his guilty plea for six charges was struck Monday morning, Eisemann’s alleged victims said they feel confident about their cases moving forward.

“I love the way Justice Nicholls dealt with it – she was very, very clear,” said Liz Saunders, one of Eisemann’s alleged victims. “All our stuff is still there – he’s still charged with the other stuff … he can still be tried on them, or he can plead guilty. It’s one of the two.”