He wonders why, when the financial arrangement was clearly stipulated, so many of his project partners got upset after the fact — and why the DA's office went after him for disputes that had already been resolved in the civil courts. He asserts that the grand-jury hearings that secured the indictments against him were based on false testimony. "That's how I learned to do business," he explains. "You structure the subcontractors to maximize the price so you can make a profit, so you can make a living,"

But it was Osborn's high standard of living that may not add up. The fancy cars, the frequent dinners at Del Frisco's and Elway's, the huge houses — how could a couple who'd never gotten a large payout from a major project afford such luxuries? And if they could afford them once, how could Osborn have fallen so far that he can't pay for his own lawyer today?

The developer has two weeks to convince the court collections investigator that he qualifies under the public defender's definition of "indigent" before his next hearing, slated for April 2. Even though Angela has dropped the price of the Polo Club home from $7.5 million to $6.5 million, there haven't been any takers. Court records show that last spring, the Osborns liquidated 62,000 shares of stock in Triton and paid $30,000 from their joint checking account to satisfy a longstanding writ of garnishment imposed by a mortgage company.

With all of his projects stuck in legal limbo and the word "indicted" hanging over his name, Osborn says his options have just about run out. "I just might have to strap on a tool belt again," he says.

His father died recently after a long illness. "One of the last things he said to me was, 'Erik, I want you to clear our name,'" Osborn recalls. And so Osborn keeps building — his defense, if nothing else. Even with a court-appointed attorney, he is confident that a jury will see it the way he does.

It will have to be his biggest sale ever.

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