Lindy Lou Layman gained notoriety when she allegedly destroyed $300,000 worth of fine art at Houston plaintiffs lawyer Tony Buzbee’s house last month after a first date. But her criminal mischief charge comes with something else that’s equally attention grabbing: a possible life sentence in a Texas prison upon conviction.
Layman, a 29-year-old Dallas woman who lists her occupation as a “freelance court reporter” on her LinkedIn profile, was arrested and charged with criminal mischief for destroying three original paintings and two abstract sculptures at the wealthy attorney’s house.
According to the criminal mischief complaint filed against Layman on Dec. 23, Layman allegedly “tore paintings off the wall with her hands” — including two original Andy Warhol paintings — and threw the sculptures across the room. She also allegedly poured an unspecified liquid on top of the paintings.
In an interview with Texas Lawyer, Buzbee said Layman came to his home with others and he had not met her prior to that evening. He alleges she appeared too intoxicated and she was asked to leave. When she didn’t, he called police.
“I collect art. I don’t want it damaged,” Buzbee said. “She also pulled a Renoir and a Monet off the wall. Luckily those weren’t damaged.”
Layman made her first court appearance this week. Her lawyer, Justin Keiter, did not immediately return a call for comment. Keiter told The Houston Chronicle that his client disagrees with Buzbee’s version of the facts and that she has received considerable attention from the media. “She’s weathering the storm of the intense media scrutiny that she has endured,” Keiter said. “She’s a great person.”
According to the Texas Penal Code, punishment in criminal mischief cases are determined by how expensive the property a person destroys. For example, criminal mischief is punished by a Class C misdemeanor, which carries no jail time if the property is worth less than $100, on up to a first-degree felony, which carries a possible maximum life sentence if the property is worth more than $300,000.
“Basically it’s a rich people statute to make it worse if rich people get stolen from or if their property gets damaged,” said Chris Mulder, a veteran Dallas criminal defense attorney. “The worse the crime is the more criminal exposure. But it sometimes has a ridiculous result. I guess it discourages from stealing from the wealthy instead of stealing in general.’’
But it’s unlikely that Layman will receive a life sentence from a jury on a criminal mischief charge, even if prosecutors ask for it, Mulder said. In 1999, Mulder defended a burglar who was accused of stealing over $1 million in jewelry from the home of the late Harold Simmons, a Dallas billionaire. In that case, while the burglar was exposed to a life sentence, he eventually received 10 years of probation.
“I imagine this case will get resolved with probation,” Mulder said. “Jurors aren’t terribly sympathetic with people who have million-dollar art collections.’’