Shacknai’s attorney will appeal ‘outrageous verdict’ in Rebecca Zahau wrongful death case

SAN DIEGO – The attorney for Adam Shacknai who San Diego jurors found liable for the death of Rebecca Zahau at the Spreckles mansion in Coronado announced Thursday plans to appeal the case.

Dan Webb released a statement and referred to Wednesday's verdict as outrageous.

"We were absolutely astonished by the jury's outrageous verdict in this case, and plan to appeal. This lawsuit was frivolous and reckless from the very beginning, and never should have been allowed to proceed to trial," Webb stated. "In my entire 40-year legal career, I have never seen such a catastrophic manipulation and failure of our court system."

"When this comes to an end, the one person I know who will be on top is going to be Adam Shacknai," Webb said.

Zahau, 32, was found dead two days after her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai's 6-year-old son, Max, fell from a second-story landing at the Spreckels mansion. The boy died five days later.

San Diego County Sheriff's Department ruled Zahau's death a suicide.

Zahau's mother, Pari Zahau, and older sister, Mary Zahau-Loehner, rejected the suicide finding and filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2013 against Shacknai's brother, Adam, claiming the defendant confronted and battered Zahau the day after his nephew fell.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Keith Greer, alleged that Adam Shacknai delivered four blows to Zahau's head, rendering her partially or fully unconscious. Greer also claimed the defendant sexually assaulted Zahau, tied her hands and feet, put a noose around her neck and threw her body off a second-story balcony.

Greer said a phrase scrawled on a bedroom door with black paint that read "She saved him, can he save her," was written by Adam Shacknai.

The defendant testified that he had nothing to do with Zahau's death. He said he was staying in the guest house at his brother's mansion the night of July 12, 2011, after traveling to San Diego from his home in Memphis to be with his brother after Max's accident.

Adam Shacknai said he emerged from his room early the next morning and saw Zahau's nude body hanging from the balcony. He said he called 911, cut Zahau down and tried to give her CPR, then called his brother to tell him his girlfriend was dead.

Jonah Shacknai -- a pharmaceuticals tycoon from Arizona -- testified during the six-week trial that it was "inconceivable" that his younger brother had anything to do with Zahau's death.

After less than a day of deliberations, jurors found that the 54-year-old defendant touched and battered Zahau before her death with the intent of harming her.

Jurors awarded Pari Zahau more than $5 million for loss of comfort and companionship and loss of money that the victim would have given to support her mother.

"It's not about money," Greer said. "It's never been about the money."

The Zahau family's attorney described the civil case proceedings as a way to get the truth in front of the public.

"Obviously, the $5 million verdict is a very large amount. Adam is a working man and has a salary," Webb said in regards to his client's ability to pay the $5 million.

Adam Shacknai spoke during a news conference Thursday and was asked how his brother reacted to the verdict.

"[My brother]'s been supportive and will continue to be supportive. He's a 1000 percent behind me. The same way he's always been," Adam Shacknai said. "A lot of worse things have happened to better people this means nothing to me. I'm disappointed, but I have plenty of fight and health. Any family who is worried about me, this ain't nothing."

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore told FOX 5 Thursday morning that he's always been open to reviewing new evidence and talking to the Zahau family.