Crime

Lawsuit describes feud that led to Los Osos man’s alleged murder-for-hire plot

Anthony Gene Stevens, 52, following his arrest on suspicion of solicitation of murder in February.
Anthony Gene Stevens, 52, following his arrest on suspicion of solicitation of murder in February. Courtesy of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office

A Los Osos business owner upset at his former employee for starting his own company, posted false ads for a “Butt-Scratcher” on Craigslist under the employee’s name and then tried to hire a hit man to kill the employee, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

Anthony Gene Stevens was arrested in February in a multi-agency sting operation after handing over photographs, addresses and other information about his former employee, Aaron Stireman, to an undercover police officer in an Arroyo Grande parking lot.

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office previously said Stevens tried to first hire another individual, whose identity has not been released.

Stevens, 52, remains in custody in San Luis Obispo County Jail, where he has been since his arrest on suspicion of solicitation of murder. He has pleaded not guilty and will be back in court Thursday for a pretrial conference in his criminal case.

In the lawsuit filed April 22 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, Stireman, 30, of San Luis Obispo, accused Stevens of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unlawful business practices, unauthorized use of copyrighted material and other complaints.

All of this seemed bizarre enough already, but it took a serious turn when it was reported that (Stevens) had been arrested for attempting to hire a hit man to kill Mr. Stireman.

Lawsuit filed Friday by Aaron Stireman

A civil lawsuit is only one side of the story, and Stevens has not yet filed a response.

According to Stireman’s lawsuit, the following happened:

Stireman began working for Stevens’ moving business, listed online as T. Stevens Moving Services, in 2013 after working for other moving companies in the area. In 2014, he began doing jobs under his own name.

“This did not sit well with (Stevens),” the lawsuit reads.

In response, Stevens began harassing Stireman online, using photographs Stireman had given him for record-keeping purposes in ads for Stevens’ business. Things escalated when Stevens filed a request for a restraining order against Stireman in September 2015, claiming Stireman was flagging his company ads for removal on Craigslist, hurting his business and “disturbing (his) peace,” according to court records.

In a filed response, Stireman claimed it was Stevens who was flagging his Craigslist ads and bad-mouthing him to customers and competitors. Stireman wrote that Stevens became “absolutely obsessed” with him and their bad blood.

Stevens later withdrew his request for the restraining order.

Stireman’s lawsuit reads that in late 2015, Stevens’ attorneys sent him cease-and-desist letters demanding he remove allegedly infringed images from his ads.

In December 2015, Stireman claimed, Stevens posted a false ad on Craigslist featuring Stireman’s face and seeking a “Butt-Scratcher” who “will scratch any animal butt,” according to the lawsuit.

“The description in the ad suggests Mr. Stireman will perform sexual acts on an animal and sophomorically implies Mr. Stireman is gay,” the complaint reads. “All of this seemed bizarre enough already, but it took a serious turn when it was reported that (Stevens) had been arrested for attempting to hire a hit man to kill Mr. Stireman.”

The lawsuit claims Stireman has suffered from “anguish, fright, nervousness, anxiety, worry and insomnia.” It reads that the “Butt-Scratcher” post hurt Stireman’s reputation and caused him “to feel shame, mortification and hurt feelings.”

Stireman is seeking unspecified monetary damages, punitive damages and the cost of attorneys’ fees.

A case management conference is set for Aug. 15 in Superior Court.

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