Detectives investigating the shooting death of Jeffrey Tidus, a prominent L.A. lawyer, are examining a 2005 case in which the attorney obtained a restraining order against a litigant who allegedly had threatened him, according to sheriff’s deputies.
The case is one of several being looked at as detectives pore over Tidus’ files seeking clues, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Dolson said.
He stressed that the investigation is in its early stages and there is no evidence that Tidus’ work was tied to his slaying.
Tidus was killed Monday night outside his home in Rolling Hills Estates.
Dolson said colleagues at Tidus’ law firm had alerted investigators to the 2005 case this week. In that case, Tidus’ client, Jon M. Gunderson, sued a Los Angeles tax attorney, Christopher Gruys.
The suit claimed that Gruys had mishandled a tax transaction, costing Gunderson millions of dollars. Tidus eventually won an $11.2-million judgment.
During a pretrial deposition in the case on June 7, 2005, Gruys pulled out a camera and took a photograph of Tidus, then made what the attorney interpreted as a threat, according to sworn declarations that Tidus and a court reporter made in support of Tidus’ request for a restraining order against Gruys.
According to the declarations, Gruys told Tidus he hoped he would enjoy his upcoming Caribbean vacation with his family and that he “had some friends who would be coming to see Mr. Tidus thereafter.”
“Mr. Gruys made these last two statements in a threatening and intimidating fashion,” the court reporter said in her declaration.
Tidus took the same view in his declaration: “The obvious threat was that his ‘friends’ were going to take my picture to identify me, and were going to do physical harm to me upon my return from vacation.”
Tidus called the Los Angeles Police Department after the deposition to inform them of the alleged threat. According to Tidus’ declaration, he later talked to Gruys’ attorney, who insisted that the “my friends” comment was a reference to customs agents in Miami.
Tidus requested a restraining order requiring that “Gruys keep away from me, my family and the members of the law firm.” On June 10, 2005, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Paul Gutman issued the restraining order and required Gruys to either destroy the photo he had taken or give it to Tidus. He also ordered that the next deposition in the case occur in the courthouse.
In an brief interview with The Times, Gruys said he was unaware of Tidus’ death and that law enforcement officials had not contacted him.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said.
Gruys referred The Times to his attorney, who on Friday declined to comment further.
Tidus won the judgment against Gruys in 2007.
That same year, Gruys pleaded guilty in San Diego County to grand theft by false pretenses and filing a false claim for taxes, according to court records. In July 2007, he resigned his license to practice law in California, according to the State Bar of California website. Gruys had previously been placed on interim suspension in April 2007 after he was “convicted of possession of an assault weapon,” according to the state bar website.
Tidus, 53, represented many high-profile corporate clients, including New Century Financial, a subprime lender that saw three former officers charged this week with securities fraud. Tidus and his wife are also listed as the owners of several toy stores.
Neighbors said Tidus’ wife told them that he had gone outside to get a laptop computer from his car about 8:30 p.m. Monday and then did not return. They said they later saw the laptop on the lawn, with blood visible on the driveway.
Tidus died at a nearby hospital Tuesday. Sheriff’s officials said Thursday that they were treating the case as a homicide.