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Opening Statement(s) in State V Motta

Stephen Wyse June 28, 2019

By the conclusion of voir dire (jury selection) and opening statement(s) studies have shown that two-thirds of jurors have decided their verdict. This reality makes having an effective opening statement essential in the search of justice.

Jury Verdict:

Not-Guilty of Assault 1st Degree; Not-Guilty of Armed Criminal Action; Not-Guilty of Assault 1st Degree; Guilty of Assault 4th Degree – sentenced to time served


Honorable Shane T. Alexander, Judge

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff, Case No. 17CY-CR00330-01 Division I


Transcript of Proceedings

On October 15 and 16, 2018, the above cause came on for hearing before the Honorable Shane T. Alexander, Judge of Division I of the Clay County Circuit Court at Liberty, Missouri.


The State of Missouri was represented by Zachary Thompson and Michelle Cocayne, both Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, Clay County Courthouse, 11 South Water Street, Liberty, Missouri, 64068.

The Defendant, Nicholas J. Motta, was present in person and represented by his attorney,

Stephen Wyse, Wyse Law Firm, P.C.,

609 East Broadway, Columbia, Missouri, 65201.

Opening Statement by State

  1. COCAYNE: On January 16th, 2017, Brianna Piaggio was in an argument with her boyfriend, the defendant Nicholas Motta. They were located at their house, 436 Spring Avenue here in Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, and on that day they were fighting about the defendant’s drug use.

The fight was getting out of control. The defendant was yelling, cussing, calling Brianna names. At some point he decided he’s going to move out. He’s packing up his stuff, he’s throwing things around. He grabs the keys out of Brianna’s hands, and he leaves, but he doesn’t stay away. He came back that day. The story doesn’t end there. When he got back tensions continued to rise. Eventually the defendant’s mother, Sheila, his mother showed up, and then Brianna’s mom, Kim, showed up. The fight went on. Sheila and her son were outside. Kim and Brianna went inside.

They locked all the doors but, still, they could hear the defendant banging on the doors and windows trying to get in, and then they heard the defendant’s mom yell something about a gun, and then they heard a gunshot. At that point Brianna’s dad also showed up, Gustavo. He came inside.So at that time Brianna, Kim and Gustavo all three the Piaggios are inside the home. All the doors are locked,but they forgot one thing, the garage. At the same time they all heard that metal against metal of the garage door opening, and they realized the defendant was inside the house. Scared, they all huddled in the kitchen waiting, and then they saw the defendant walk down the hallway with a knife in his hand saying, I’m going to kill that fucking bitch, I’m going to kill her. Well, Gustavo and Kim, they spring into action to save their daughter, and they begin to grapple with the defendant. At one point Gustavo falls backwards, and he sees the defendant looming over him with the knife raised. Kim grabs the defendant from behind. Gustavo gets up, and they’re eventually able to subdue the defendant. At some point Kim also sustains a wound on her hand from the scuffle. After that the police arrive. One of the officers that arrived first on the scene,

Officer Matt Elder, you’ll hear from today. He’ll be the first witness, and he’ll tell you about the chaotic scene that he rolled up on that day. He’ll also tell you that he recovered the gun and the knife in this case. You’ll also hear from all three victims, Kim, Brianna and Gustavo, and they will tell you about that terrifying event. After you hear all of this evidence and more, my co-counsel, Mr. Zach Thompson, will have the opportunity to stand before you again, and he will ask you, as I ask you now, to find the defendant, Nicholas Motta, guilty of two counts of Assault in the First Degree, one count of Armed Criminal Action, and one count of Assault in the Fourth Degree. Thank you.

THE COURT: Thank you, Ms. Cocayne.

Mr. Wyse, will there be opening by the defendant?

  1. WYSE: There will be, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Go ahead.

Opening Statement by Defendant

  1. WYSE: The evidence in this case is about the ending of a relationship, a relationship that in some degrees had been going on for years in that Mr. Motta was friends with Brianna’s mother, Kim Piaggio, for five years, and it was through his friendship and working with Kim that he eventually met Brianna.

You will hear that Nick was in the process of repairing his relationship with, his estranged relationship with his mother, and that Nick went on the morning of January 16th, 2017, down to strip club called Temptations to pick Brianna up from work. When he’s picking Brianna up, she comes out, one of the last girls to come out after they’ve cleared the parking lot and made sure that there’s no stalkers are there to harass any of the strippers, and she comes out and she’s intoxicated and stumbling and preparing to retch, and Nick helps her to the car, and Nick’s had enough. He’s had enough of the drama of the intoxication, of just the relationship because when he met her he thought she just worked at a regular bar, not a strip club. So he gets a trash bag from the back because this happens enough that he needs to have the trash bag, gets the trash bag, opens it up, hands it to her, drives her home. She goes to bed. Nick works on the computer for a while, realizes that he can’t live this way any more. He’s done. It’s time to move on. He can’t live with this drama. So he starts packing up his computer equipment. He packs up other items. He loads it up into the car that he and Brianna got together and drives to his aunts, and while he’s unloading stuff at his aunt’s, he gets a call from his mother who tells him that Brianna has called her and told her that he’s on drugs and that he’s intoxicated, that everything’s awful. Nick is, frankly, hasn’t been taking very good care of himself. He does have a problem with prescription drugs and abusing prescription drugs, and he hasn’t eaten very regularly because there’s not a lot of food in the house. He’s more interested in taking care of his cats his cat and her cat — than feeding himself. His mom shows up at his aunt’s, and Nick, in retaliation, calls up Brianna’s mom, Andrea Kim Piaggio, and tells her, you know what, this isn’t working any more and, by the way, your daughter’s a stripper and a drug addict, and I’m done. Now, the emotional drama, and then he hands the phone to his mother who talks to Kim for a while. They agree to go back and have the parents be there to supervise as he’s getting his stuff out of the place. So Sheila Motta, his mom, his sister Natalie, a teacher, get in the truck that belongs to Sheila, and Nick drives back over in the car that he and Brianna have. They’re at the house, getting in the house, getting his stuff. Brianna’s yelling at him, come at me, come at me, seeking to provoke some sort of confrontation. Nick’s getting his stuff. He’s getting annoyed, he’s getting frustrated. You know, he does throw some furniture out in the yard. He continues to move stuff out in the car. His sister is helping, his mom’s helping, and Brianna keeps yelling, come at me, come at me, and Nick is losing his patience. So he goes outside, and when he’s outside Brianna comes to the door and yells outside, you’re never going to see your cat again. At this point Nick’s frustrations boil over. He runs back to the house because he’s going to get his cat and he’s going to get his papers, and he’s going to get out of there.

As he gets to the door they shut the door and lock the door, and Nick is desperate to get his cat, to get his stuff and get out of there, and he’s got a locked door, and he loses it. He picks up a table leg and he starts pounding on the door, let me in, give me my cat, let me in. His mom comes over, calm down, calm down, we’ll figure this out.

The frustration continues. So Nick is like, I’m going to leave. I’m going to leave, I can’t stay here, I’ve got to leave. His mom says,no, you can’t leave, you’re messed up. You’re not steady, you don’t appear you’re safe to drive, you can’t leave. Now, she was with him before when he drove over to the house, but now she won’t let him leave. He’s very frustrated. He had been very close to Andrea Kim Piaggio.He regarded her as a close friend, and that’s when he was introduced to her daughter, and he started dating her, and so relationship breaking up, his recovering relationship with his mother is now endangered by allegations that he’s drugged out. He’s got the drama going on of this relationship shattering, and he can’t leave, and his frustration reaches a point too far for him, and he tries to do the unthinkable. He goes to the car where he has put a gun. He has taken two guns from the house the first time, a rifle and a pistol, a .22 pistol, and when he went to his aunt’s house the first time he put the rifle in the aunt’s house. He didn’t think about the pistol because it’s easily concealable, didn’t take up any space. But he’s had it. He’s like, I can’t continue like this, I want to be done, you know, everybody hates me, I can’t do this any more. So he gets the gun, he starts loading it. He declares his intent to commit suicide, and he goes in back. When he goes in back he sticks the gun in his mouth. Then he starts thinking about the neighbor kids who he plays with and he’s like, I can’t shoot, I can’t do this and not endanger somebody, how do I kill myself and not have the bullet go somewhere where it might hurt somebody else. So he says, maybe if I roll over on my stomach and shoot myself and as he’s trying to figure this out he puts the gun back in his mouth his mom comes up, grabs the gun, pulls it out of his mouth, and as she’s pulling it out of his mouth the gun discharges into the ground. He releases the gun, and she takes it. He is suicidal. He has attempted to kill himself. He wanted to kill himself. He wanted to be done. Lost his cat, lost his home, lost a relationship, his recovering relationship with his mother is damaged, maybe irretrievably. He wanted to be done.So his mom takes the gun and goes back up front, leaves Nick in the back yard. Nick’s trying to sort things out.

He hears the arrival of a vehicle, and he hears a voice belonging to Gustavo Piaggio, and he knows he doesn’t want to encounter Gustavo. He knows Gustavo’s reputation. He doesn’t want to play with him, so he hides. Gustavo comes around back looking, doesn’t find Nick, goes inside. After a bit Nick’s like, I’ve got to get my cat, I’ve got to get my stuff, I’ve got to get out of here. So he goes to his car, he grabs a K-bar knife. He goes to the garage, he uses the K-bar knife to shimmy the garage door and opens the garage door. He’s like I want my cat, I want to leave. The garage opens up into, there’s a door that leads to a laundry room and a bathroom and then the kitchen,and he is going towards that door when he sees Andrea Kim Piaggio. He’s like, I don’t want to be locked out again, so he tries to dart past her. As he tries to dart past her,she grabs him, and then she bear hugs him around. As she bear hugged him — now, Andrea is 240 pounds and Nick is 160. She bear hugged him, you know, around the arms just above the elbows. He’s still got the knife in his right hand, but he’s trying to get loose. The knife is a tool to him. It’s how he gained entry. He’s not wanting to hurt her. So he is trying to twist and get away from her,and then smash, smash, smash, blow upon blow until he is knocked loose of Andrea and into the refrigerator. Smash, smash, and as he’s pinned up against the refrigerator he arches his back because Gustavo has him by the shirt with one hand and smashing him with his fist with the other hand. So he arches his back against the refrigerator and causes Gustavo to lose his balance, and then they start this tango where they’re pushing and pulling each other around the kitchen and spinning and twisting and going backwards until Gustavo falls. Nick falls on top of him. Nick’s trying to get up, and Gustavo’s finally let go of him, and as he gets up he gets grabbed again, and he grabs Gustavo back, and he’s raising the knife up to his side, leave me alone, stop, and as he’s raising the knife up to his side he gets grabbed from the side again and body slammed back by Kim. He’s on the ground, and Gustavo’s on him again. Smash, smash, smash. Nick is bleeding. He’s emotionally devastated. He’s pinned on the ground with a knife underneath him. He tries to cut his wrist. He wants it over. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody. He wants it over. He doesn’t want to get smashed any more, he doesn’t want to be in this pain, but he doesn’t want to hurt anybody. Nick never tried to hurt Andrea Kim Piaggio. He never tried to hurt Gustavo Piaggio. He did when he was being grappled with again after being pummeled repeatedly, as blood was flowing from his nose, as his eyes were swelling shut. He did lift up the knife to his side and grab him and was trying to utter to him, stop, stop. But before anything could be said or done he is grabbed from behind and body slammed, and then Gustavo’s on him again, and Gustavo stays on him, and eventually the knife is wrestled away from him.

You’re going to hear different versions of the sequence of events in this kitchen from different Piaggios. They’re going to tell you different things, how things happened differently. Pay attention. Listen to how they describe things. Listen to the inconsistencies. Listen to who you believe. We ask that you return the only reasonable verdict of not guilty of the very serious crimes charged. Thank you.