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Developer Destroyed Potential Evidence Ahead Of Suit Over Failed Boston Condo Tower, Judge Rules

A rendering of the 27-story condo tower that was planned on Boylston Street before the deal fell apart in 2019.

The judge overseeing a three-year legal battle between the former partners on a failed $800M condo project in Boston has sanctioned the defendant for destroying potential evidence.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth W. Salinger ruled Monday that developer Stephen Weiner and his son deleted emails and text messages that they should have known might be relevant in possible litigation over the project at 1000 Boylston St., the Boston Globe reported

The judge found that the defendants "spoliated evidence" between the period when the deal was terminated on Aug. 16, 2019, and when their former partner in the project, Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish, sued the Weiners on Oct. 23 of that year.

Weiner's firm, Weiner Ventures, has a large portfolio of hotel and retail properties in the Boston area. It developed the Mandarin Oriental hotel, partnered on the development of the Verb Hotel and invested in the Boston Park Plaza. 

Weiner and Fish had been pursuing the Boylston Street project since 2008, when they bid on the state-owned air-rights site above the Massachusetts Turnpike, according to the Globe. Fish, who runs Suffolk Construction, was investing in the project personally while his construction company was set to be the contractor. 

The team was awarded the project by the state in 2013, and in 2018 it received Boston Planning & Development Agency approval for their plans, which called for a 27-story condo tower with 108 units and 45K SF of retail. 

The dispute between the partners centered around Weiner's reluctance to personally back $400M in financing for the project, according to Fish's lawsuit. While the partners were still negotiating with lenders, Weiner released a statement in August 2019 saying the project would not proceed. Fish wasn't notified of the statement before its release, according to the suit, which called Weiner's move an "astonishing betrayal of trust."

Weiner attempted in 2020 to claim that Fish made false promises about the approvals for the projects, but Salinger in March 2021 dismissed the fraud claims

In September, Fish's attorneys asked the judge to sanction the Weiners in a motion that said they "systematically deleted" all project-related emails and text messages.  

Salinger, after an appeal, has now ruled in Fish's favor in this motion, but the larger case is still ongoing. Fish is scheduled to be deposed on Thursday and Friday, while Stephen Weiner's deposition has yet to be scheduled, according to the Globe.