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Silva v. Napier

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

September 6, 2017



          Doss Law Firm, by: D. Westbrook Doss, Jr., for Appellants.

          Erwin L. Davis, for Appellee.

          N. MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge

         This appeal arises from a money-making scam perpetrated by eighteen-year-old Daniel Davis that eventually resulted in his conviction and imprisonment. Appellee Gay Lynn Napier is Davis's grandmother. Appellant Mark Silva is an older friend of Davis's. Both Napier and Silva claim to be victims of Davis's scam, and each alleges that the other was a co-conspirator with Davis. Once Davis's scam was exposed, Napier filed suit against Davis and Silva seeking, among other claims, to set aside a deed conveying her house to Silva.[1]Silva now appeals an order of the Washington County Circuit Court setting aside the Cite as 2017 Ark.App. 422 warranty deed. We affirm.

         Napier testified that Davis had tricked her into believing that he had joined the United States Army, specifically the "special forces, " and that she could not tell anyone. Davis put on a charade for Napier by coming home in the middle of the night and retrieving his "service pistol" from the gun case, ordering Napier to other rooms of the house when people visited, and ordering her not to look out the window to see what transportation he was using because she had not signed confidentiality papers. Davis used his lies to get money from Napier by convincing her that she had to pay for his training, that he needed a series of new army-approved vehicles, and that he needed $174, 000 for ankle surgery to stay in the army. When Napier questioned why she had to pay for training, Davis produced an official-looking letter assuring her she would be repaid by the army. Napier testified that when she did not believe things Davis told her, he would get rough with her and then talk to his "commanding officer" on the phone and return with answers that made sense. Napier testified that he would get in her face, grab her shoulders, shove her, slap her, call her names, and give her a cold stare. Napier drained her savings and borrowed large sums of money from family and friends while Davis convinced her that the army would repay her.

         Davis, who was serving a ten-year prison sentence in the Arkansas Department of Correction at the time of the trial, admitted that he used physical abuse and intimidation to enforce his lies and manipulate his grandmother. He said that eventually he could make her do what he wanted just by looking at her. Davis testified that he knew his family wanted him in the military because of his temper, and he used that against them, although he claimed that Silva came up with the lie about the army.

         Over the course of a few months, Napier purchased four new vehicles on credit for Davis that Davis in turn sold to Silva: a GMC truck, a Dodge truck, a Corvette, and a Chevrolet truck. Napier said that Davis told her he needed a vehicle that met certain criteria for the army and that the army would pay for it when he went to college. Davis claimed that the army was not happy with the vehicles they bought in order to get Napier to buy the next one. Napier testified that Davis told her that the army had altered her credit score to allow her to buy the vehicles. Napier said that Davis made phone calls to his "commanding officer, " Mark, when they were car shopping, but he would not let her hear the conversations. Napier said that she did not make the connection between "Mark" the "commanding officer" and Mark Silva.

         According to Davis, Silva became involved with the vehicles when he asked about buying the GMC truck, which Davis had wrecked. Davis testified that Silva told him there was a way that Silva could get the vehicles, Napier would not have to worry about paying them off, and Davis would not get in trouble. Davis claimed that prior to the purchase of the Dodge, the Corvette, and the Chevrolet truck, there was a deal in place with Silva to buy the vehicles on Napier's credit and sell them to Silva. Davis said that he knew he was selling Silva cars without titles, but he just wanted the money. Phone records showed fourteen text messages and/or phone calls between Davis and Silva on February 11, 2014, the day both the Corvette and the Chevrolet truck were purchased. Davis said that they were communicating about which cars to buy.

         Davis and Napier both testified that Napier was not involved in the sale of the vehicles to Silva aside from overhearing the men talking about selling the Corvette. Napier testified that when she heard Davis offer to sell the Corvette for $25, 000, she "hit the ceiling" over the offer to sell a $90, 000 car for $25, 000 and forbade it. The men completed the sale while Napier was in another room. Davis told Napier that the price was none of her business and that the army would take care of it. Napier testified that the cars were titled in her name and that she did not authorize any sale to Silva, but Davis told her that the army was paying off the vehicles and could sell them without her signature.

         According to Davis, the deed at the heart of this appeal came into being because Silva said he needed collateral before purchasing the last two vehicles, and Davis suggested using the house. Napier testified that Silva came to her house one day with a paper for her to sign and told her it was so he could get the titles to the vehicles. She said that Silva put the paper on the counter top and stood beside her where she could not move. She said that Silva and Davis both ordered her to "just sign it" and would not let her turn the light on. Napier claimed that it was dark, but she could see that there was no writing on the paper, just a line. She said that Davis gave her a "dark look, " and she knew she would have to deal with his temper if she did not do as he said. Napier said that when Silva was leaving he said that the paper was a quitclaim deed but he was not going to file it. She asked Davis if she was going to lose her house and he told her no. At this point, Napier thought the army was still taking care of everything.

         Davis said that Silva said the paper was some kind of deed to the house. Davis said that he turned the lights off when they went into the kitchen and that he and Silva trapped Napier and did not allow her to turn the lights on or get her glasses. Davis testified that there were lines at the bottom and something at the top, but most of the paper looked blank. He said that both he and Silva ordered Napier to sign the paper.

         Davis later confessed his lies to Napier and threatened to shoot himself. He was hospitalized for two days, and when he was released Napier took him to the police. Two letters that Davis wrote while in the county jail were introduced as evidence. In the first, Davis apologized to Napier, Silva, and others. In the second, Davis wrote that he had told Napier he was selling the trucks for surgery money and had asked her to use the house deed for collateral. He wrote that Napier was not forced to sign the deed and that Silva was not involved in his lies. Davis testified that he sent this letter to Silva to show that they were on the same side and to get Silva to bond him out of jail. Davis said that he had been willing to say anything to avoid going to prison and that Silva told him he would help. A recorded jail phone conversation between Davis and his aunt was played at trial in which Davis stated that they did not force Napier to sign the deed, but Silva had lied to her and she did not know what she was signing.

         Jania Davis, Napier's daughter and Davis's mother, testified that she believed her son's lies about being in the military. She said that she told Silva the vehicles were being paid off because that is what Davis instructed her to do. Jania said that Napier told her that Silva may bring over papers to sign as collateral until she was able to get the car titles from the military. Jania said that she did not know it was a deed at that time, but she told Napier not to sign anything without having it checked out. When she talked to Napier afterward, Napier was very upset and said it was dark and that she did not know what she had signed, ...

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