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Lynnette Harris

Other 1991 Exonerations
In November 1989, a federal grand jury in Milwaukee, Wisconsin indicted 35-year-old twin sisters, Lynnette Harris and Leigh Ann Conley, on charges of evading taxes on more than $1 million in income from 1985 through 1987.

The sisters had gained notoriety in 1981 by posing nude together for Playboy Magazine. They were accused of failing to report money that they received from David Kritzik, a wealthy widower, who was partial to young women in general and to Harris and Conley in particular.

Federal prosecutors said they were among five women with whom Kritzik spent time over the years. Harris and her sister were accused of collecting more than $1 million from Kritzik in cash, real state, furs, cars, jewelry and other valuables. Kritzik, a resident of the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood, died in June 1989, two years after his relationship with the sisters ended.

The sisters were granted separate trials and Harris went on trial first, in May 1991 in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.

The prosecution presented Kritzik’s federal income tax returns showing that he directly or indirectly showered about $500,000 on Harris and the same amount on Conley from 1985 through 1987, while reporting less than $50,000 in gifts to them on his returns. The prosecution argued that because Kritzik reported far less as gifts, the balance should have been treated by the sisters as income.

Harris testified that Kritzik had promised to take care of her, told her that he loved her, and said that he enjoyed giving her gifts. She said she had sex with him as did her sister.

The defense sought to introduce letters written by Kritzik to show that Kritzik intended the money and other valuables to be gifts. Kritzik said in a letter written in 1981 that he loved and trusted Harris and that, “so far as the things I give you are concerned—let me say that I get as great if not even greater pleasure in giving than you get in receiving.”

The letter continued, “I love giving things to you and to see you happy and enjoying them.” In another letter, Kritzik wrote, “I ... love you very much and will do all that I can to make you happy,” and that he would arrange for Harris’s financial security.

In a third letter, dated May 28, 1987, Kritzik wrote to his insurance company regarding the value of certain jewelry that he had “given to…Harris as a gift.” The defense argued this letter demonstrated Kritzik’s state of mind—that valuables given to Harris were in fact gifts.

The trial judge refused to allow the letters in evidence on the ground that they were inadmissible hearsay.

On May 4, 1990, Harris was convicted of two counts of tax evasion and two counts of failing to file tax returns. She was sentenced to 10 months in jail and fined $12,500. In June 1990, Conley also was convicted based on similar evidence. She was sentenced to five months in jail and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Both were allowed to remain free on bond pending appeal.

In August 1991, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed both convictions and ordered the charges dismissed. The court held that in order to win convictions the prosecution had to prove that Kritzik intended to give the money and other valuables to the defendants as payment for services (including sex and companionship), and that it had failed in both cases to present sufficient evidence of that intent.

In reversing and dismissing Harris’s case, the court also held that the trial judge had erroneously barred the letters from Kritzik. “These letters were central to Harris’s defense that she believed in good faith that the money she received was a nontaxable gift, and they were not hearsay for this purpose,” the court ruled.

On October 10, 1991, the prosecution said it would not seek to appeal the decision. Three weeks later, Conley and Harris appeared on the Oprah Winfrey talk show and spoke of their love for Kritzik and his mutual feelings for them. Harris later sued to obtain a portion of Kritzik’s estate, but was unsuccessful.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/18/2014
Most Serious Crime:Tax Evasion/Fraud
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1987
Sentence:10 months
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No