Curtis B. Klein, the Germantown man charged with vandalizing his own home in March, was seen around the time of the crime in the hardware store where a can of spray paint allegedly used in the crime was sold, a prosecution witness testified yesterday on the opening day of Klein's trial.
Jay S. Russell, a clerk at the Germantown Hardware Store, said he saw Klein in the store, but he could not recall the exact date or whether Klein purchased anything. The store's manager, Ronald Johnson, after examining a can of black spray paint presented by prosecutors, said the paint had been purchased at his store.
Klein, a 36-year-old hairdresser, was charged in July with destruction of property, filing a false police report and felony theft for allegedly defrauding his insurance company of $31,100. Klein and his wife, who are Jewish, told police on March 21 that their town house had been vandalized and defaced with antisemitic slogans.
Assistant State's Attorney Eric Johnson, however, said in his opening statement in Montgomery County Circuit Court yesterday that Klein had engaged in an "elaborate scheme to deceive the police, the insurance company and the public."
Johnson said Klein reported to police that items were stolen and then recanted that report. "There is no evidence that there were any break-ins or items stolen," Johnson added.
Klein's defense team, in its opening statement, said the state's case is based on circumstantial evidence.
Police initially labeled the incident a hate crime. It surprised residents throughout Montgomery County and drew about 250 people to a rally in support of the Kleins. Jewish activists and elected officials denounced it as one of the worst instances of hate violence in recent memory. The community raised nearly $3,000 to help the Klein family replace damaged items, including a bedroom suite for their son, whose bedroom mirror had been smeared with the epithet "Jew Boy."
But soon afterward, police turned their attention to Klein. In July, police charged him with committing the destruction himself and using it to cash in on a two-month-old renters' insurance policy. Court documents show that the Kleins were in debt at the time of the vandalism. They owed $5,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, had medical bills of about $1,000 and credit card bills that totaled $1,500 and were two months behind on two car payments.
Also testifying yesterday was police Officer Michael Bupp, the first officer on the scene. Bupp said he examined the front door, through which Klein said the culprits had entered, and said he did not believe two indentations on the door frame would have been sufficient to force open the lock.
Bupp said he saw a scene of destruction when he entered the Germantown town house: clothing strewn around, swastikas painted on the carpet and walls, bedding ripped apart with a sharp object, epithets painted on the walls and mirrors, dishes and other items smashed on the floor. The couple's dining room table, coffee table, washer, dryer and televisions were damaged.
Bupp said Klein reported several items missing, including silver, a 22-karat gold necklace and a $6,000 engagement ring.
An adjuster for the company that sold Klein his renters' insurance policy said yesterday that the Kleins did not file a claim for those items. Most of the $31,100 was paid for damage, said Frank Bell, a property specialist with USAA Insurance Co. of Reston.