After weeks of testimony accusing him of negligence, the former finance manager for best-selling author Patricia Cornwell took to the witness stand in his own defense Monday, saying his actions were misread and that he was only doing his job for a demanding client.
Evan Snapper — a former principal at Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP — has been the target of criticism in Cornwell’s lawsuit against him and the company in federal court in Boston, with lawyers and witnesses accusing him of fudging financial records and making investment and real estate decisions with Cornwell’s money for his own benefit.
After enduring questions by Cornwell’s lawyer last week, Snapper sought to use the cross-examination by his lawyer to state his defense, saying he may have fudged financial records to circumvent general bookkeeping and tax practices, but that he never did it to benefit himself.
“I never should have done it — it looks silly — but it was never done to steal,” he said of one such accounting error. “I didn’t steal money.”
Cornwell, 56, the crime author widely known for her series of novels featuring the heroic medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, alleges in her lawsuit that a review of her finances showed that tens of millions of dollars have either been lost or were unaccounted for in the four years Snapper oversaw her finances, from 2005 to 2009.
Cornwell said she terminated her relationship with Snapper and Anchin after asking to see her finances in 2009 and learning that her assets were only a fraction of what she thought they would have been, after several consecutive years of multiple millions of dollars in earnings.
Lawyers for Snapper and Anchin have argued that no money was stolen and that it was all accounted for: They blamed any losses on a bad investment market at the time and attributed the loss of millions of dollars to Cornwell’s spending on what they called a lavish lifestyle.
The trial, entering its fifth week, has had all the courtroom drama that would befit one of Cornwell’s books. The author has sat in the front row of the courtroom during the trial and is expected to testify.
Snapper told jurors that Cornwell and her spouse, Staci Gruber, were demanding clients and racked up his firm’s billing hours, to the point they asked questions about receipts for things as mundane as a bread purchase.
He also described for jurors a complex structure within his law firm that ensured that all transactions related to Cornwell’s accounts were accounted for and reconciled with bank statements.
Snapper acknowledged he often fudged bank records, actions Cornwell has called suspicious, but said he did so to circumvent tax codes and accounting practices to benefit Cornwell or Gruber.
In one record, for instance, he listed Gruber as having a loan from Cornwell’s company, only so that he could offset money she could have lost out on because her marriage to Cornwell was not recognized by the federal government, and so she would not receive benefits.
And Snapper also said his firm could not be blamed for a downturn in the investment market at the time, saying he had always tried to balance Cornwell’s investments with her lifestyle and her goal to build a nest egg for her future.
“She really wanted me to do what I thought was best,l and that’s what I did,” he said.