Bill Cosby Plays the Race Card

BarristerLet me put my cards on the table. I never did like Bill Cosby, didn’t think he was funny, and wondered why everyone went ga-ga over him, especially Oprah.

However, I never dreamt in a million years that he was a long-term sex offender, and yes, I believe the accounts told by every victim that has come forward.

I was shocked when Janice Dickinson described what happened to her and will willing to suspend belief, based on her history of drug and alcohol abuse. But when I read 1970’s top black model, Beverly Johnson’s article in the December 2014 Vanity Fair this week, I was overcome with anger and sorrow that this man who was lauded and honoured was an unrepentant rapist.

I didn’t know that he had settled a civil sexual assault case several years ago and had not heard that multiple women had come forward to be witnesses in the civil trial. I sure do understand why he settled the case… a trial would have been pubic, as would the evidence of the parade of thirteen female victims who were prepared to testify that they too had been drugged and assaulted by him.

Cosby has refused to make a public statement until yesterday when he said:

“Let me say this. I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind”.

Yes, Cosby is suggesting that ‘whitey” won’t give him a fair shake…a ridiculous suggestion from a man who thrived in the institutions and bastions of white America, from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to Temple University, from the Playboy Mansion to overwhelmingly white Hollywood.

Journalists, of every race and colour, report the news. The news about Cosby is that as many as 37 women have come forward with allegations that all sound the same: Cosby drugged and assaulted them.

His wife of many decades, Camille Cosby, also spoke out yesterday saying that the man who has been described in the nation’s newspapers is not the man she knows. On that count I’d say she is correct.

Bill Cosby has managed to fool everyone!

Unlike Canada, where criminal charges can be filed in historical sexual abuse cases, America has a statute of limitations which means that after a certain date, no criminal charges can be filed against Cosby.

Here’s hoping that the civil lawsuit filed against Cosby this week will start a landslide of civil actions.

For all his fame and fortune, Cosby is by all accounts, an abusive, nasty man, the details of which will become clearer as the civil suits proceed. Of course, with the millions Cosby has it would not surprise me if he threw enough money at his “problem” to make it go away, like he did in 2006.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Attorney Uses Forged Power of Attorney to “Pull the Plug” on Her Wealthy Father

Elder abuse is a world-wide phenomenon that has only recently received the attention and research dollars that it deserves. For our senior citizens who are victims of caregivers or family members, the emotional and physical damage and financial exploitation is often hidden behind closed doors.

Such is the case in an elder abuse case in Missouri that has been exposed by authorities who have charged Kansas City lawyer, Susan (Liz) Elizabeth Van Note, age 44, with first degree murder and felony forgery.

Liz Van Note’s 67-year-old father and his long-time girlfriend, who he intended to marry, were attacked by an intruder in their Ozarks vacation home. Mr. Van Note’s girlfriend, Sharon Dickson, age 59, did not survive her gunshot wounds and died at the scene.

Mr. Van Note survived and was transported to hospital, but died four days later, after his only child, Liz, gave his medical team a durable power of health care attorney, that authorized her to determine whether or not to “pull the plug”. She decided that life support should be terminated. With the death of her father and his fiance, Liz Van Note became the beneficiary of his multi-million dollar estate.

Authorities later determined that the power of attorney was a forgery.

A September 2012 criminal indictment against Ms. Van Note says that she “knowingly caused the death of William Van Note by shooting him… either acting alone or by knowingly acting together with or aiding another or others” and used a forged power of attorney to deny him potentially life-saving treatment. No charges have yet been brought against her in respect of the death of Sharon Dickson.

Two high school friends of Ms. Van Note’s have also been charged with felony forgery and second degree murder. Desre and Stacy Dory also plead not guilty.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Van Note was removed as the executrix of her father’s estate and was ordered to relinquish control of the assets in her father’s estate. She did, however, manage to post cash bail of $1 million dollars after pleading not guilty, a situation that has caused concern because Ms. Van Note filed for bankruptcy the year before her father’s death, claiming assets of $250,000 against debts of $375,000.

The obvious inference is that Ms. Van Note has already helped herself to estate assets.

Ironically, Liz Van Note practices estate law touting her “compassionate representation of clients” and expertise in end-of-life issues.

UPDATE: Liz Van Note has now been charged with the murder of Sharon Dickson. She was also jailed for contempt of court when she failed to return monies she spent from her deceased father’s estate. Charges have been dropped against high school friends, Desre and Stacy Dory, who unwittingly witnessed the forged power of attorney.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Tragedy of Hot Cars and Kids

GEO CASUALRecently there has been a spate of tragic stories about young children inadvertently left in motor vehicles who have died because of the intense heat.

Residents of sun belt areas know all too well that children and pets cannot be left in cars when sunny days lead to warm weather, however, despite this we continue to hear such stories.

This summer Justin Ross Harris of Georgia was charged with malice murder, felony murder, and child cruelty when he left his 22-month-old son in his car while he went to his workplace, forgetting to drop him off at daycare.

Authorities in Georgia believe that Mr. Harris’ actions were intentional after finding searches on his home computer for “death in hot cars”. They also learned that Harris and his partner had purchased substantial life insurance on their son. Media outlets have reported that while his infant son was sweltering in extreme heat, Harris was sending sexually explicit photos to a variety of women.

The only good news Harris has received since his arrest is that the county prosecutor will not be seeking the death penalty. Harris remains in jail. His wife has not been charged.

Meanwhile in Scottsdale, Arizona, mother Shanesha Taylor, age 35, left her two children, ages two and six months, in her automobile while she attended a 45 minute job interview. She was a single mother who had been desperately looking for work. The children were rescued before the worst happened. Ms. Taylor told the police she was unemployed and homeless. Her story was met with public sympathy and compassion, so much so that she received over $100,000 in donations.

Further investigation revealed, however, that she had a part-time job and was not homeless, nonetheless, authorities agreed to a plea bargain where she would take parenting classes and deposit all donations into a trust account for her children’s education.

Her biggest challenge was obtaining the return of her two children who had been removed from her home after the incident. She eventually recovered custody of the kids.

Across the pond, British family law lawyer, Tim Haines, stopped at a pharmacy to pick up baby formula for his two-year-old daughter, leaving her in the car for no more than ten minutes. When he returned his daughter was happily standing in the front seat, but outside the car were two police officers waiting for him.

The officers chastised Mr. Haines, and refused to allow him to drive his car home because of “bald tires”. Mr. Haines walked the lengthy distance home carrying his daughter.

Two weeks later the police showed up at his doorstep and arrested him for child endangerment. His five children were placed on the Child Protection Registry and Mr. Haines and his wife spent a year in legal proceedings. He was convicted of the charge but on appeal the conviction was reversed. He eventually had his name cleared and his children’s names removed from the registry.

Website kidsandcars.org brings home the devastation of these deaths in its collection of photos of beautiful, innocent children who have tragically died in their parent’s cars.

Never take the chance with a child’s life….

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Why is No One Talking About Elder Abuse?

GEO Oct 26, 2010Did you know that in thirty-five years one in four Canadians will be over the age of 65? Today our senior population is well over 5 million and expected to reach 10 million by 2036.

We do know that as we age we become more vulnerable as our physical and mental health declines. You don’t have to be 65 or older to experience the signs and symptoms of fading youth and to realize that no magic elixirs exist despite the hype of the cosmetics and plastic surgery industries.

A recent news story about pop radio icon Casey Kasem reveals the insidious nature of elder abuse and the difficulty of preventing it or proving it. In Mr. Kasem’s last years he suffered from Parkinson’s disease which became increasingly more debilitating. His three children from his first marriage became concerned when Mr. Kasem’s wife, Jean, refused them access to their father for over three months. The children applied for conservatorship or committeeship, as it is called in Canada, but their application was refused as the Court found no evidence of elder abuse.

It is startling to hear that a California court did not understand that the very fact Mr. Kasem was kept isolated and away from his children and friends, was a sign of elder abuse. Unfortunately for Mr. Kasem his situation grew worse when his wife removed him from hospital in California, against his doctors’ orders, and moved him first to Las Vegas and then to her friend’s home in Seattle. The ambulance driver who transported Mr. Kasem to a private home, rather than a hospital, reported the incident to authorities.

On June 1, 2014 his eldest daughter was awarded conservatorship and she and her siblings were by his side when he died on June 15. Even after death, the abuse continued, as his wife ordered an autopsy and later sent his body to Norway for burial.

While Mr. Kasem’s case was extreme and public, many seniors suffer in silence as they are mistreated, over-medicated, ignored, deprived of food and water, physically, emotionally, and sexually abused or victims of fraud, theft or worse.

According to Canada’s Ministry of Justice website,www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/, while cases of assault, criminal negligence, and fraud have been levelled against perpetrators of elder abuse, the term “elder abuse” has not appeared in a court judgment and is not a term found in Canada’s Criminal Code.

Like child abuse and domestic violence, crimes that were hidden in the shadows for decades, it is time for all Canadians to address the shameful secrets of elder abuse and to be attentive to seniors around them who may be unable to help themselves. It is also time for the Criminal Code to include specific provisions with regards to elder abuse so that Canadians know that suffering seniors deserve respect and liberty to live out their golden years with their civil rights intact.

If you suspect elder abuse, please report it to social services.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ugly Divorce: Allegations of Pedophilia/Exhibitionism Haunt Actor Stephen Collins

DSC00280Stephen Collins is an accomplished actor who has performed on and off- Broadway, and in a variety of films and television productions over a lengthy Hollywood career. He is most famous for playing the father in the WB network’s “7th Heaven” for over 10 years.

After a first marriage lasting seven years, he married actress Faye Grant in 1985 and they have one child together. Ms. Grant has not seen the same career success as her husband.

Unfortunately, in 2012 their marriage broke down and Mr. Collins filed for divorce. According to Ms. Grant, about that same time they were in couples’ counselling and during a confidential counselling session Mr. Collins allegedly admitted he had sexually molested several young girls. A tape recording of this session was made by Ms. Grant without Mr. Collins knowledge and she saw to it that the tape was delivered to the police in New York.

After an apparent investigation no charges were filed agains Mr. Collins and that might have been the end of it, until gossip giant TMZ recently received a copy of the tape and released it on their website.

TMZ has stated that the tape came from Faye Grant although she has denied their claim. In the meantime, court documents filed by Ms. Grant have surfaced that are adding more fuel to the fire and Stephen Collins’ career resembles a funeral pyre, with the release of this startling information.

He was about to commence production on a movie but was immediately let go and has also resigned from the national board of the Screen Actors Guild.

The sad and sorry part is that the this tape and the accompanying allegations have nothing to do with the divorce that is before the court. Their child is an adult. The only issues are financial. Ms. Grant is seeking $13,000 a month in spousal support and division of their family community property, which reportedly amounts to $13 million.

Mr. Collins’ lawyer has said that Ms. Grant used the audiotape to extort additional monies from his client, beyond the amounts she would be entitled to by law. Of course, Grant’s attorney denies that, only allowing that she wanted him to provide a trust fund for their adult daughter and make a donation to a sexual abuse charity.

It can’t be a coincidence that the tape was released on the eve of their divorce trial this week, which has now been postponed because Faye Grant’s lawyer refuses to continue to act for her, citing a dispute regarding his legal fees and an “irremediable breakdown of the attorney-client relationship”.

If she is entitled to a substantial portion of their $13 million dollar
estate, her attorney’s excuse for dropping out of the case sounds suspicious. Could it be that her attorney realizes she has sabotaged her case by the release of the tape?

With no income coming to Mr. Collins, Ms. Grant must surely understand that any thoughts of significant spousal support are a pipe dream. And now she also has to respond to her husband’s lawsuit against her, where he is seeking $1 million dollars in damages for the harm she has caused to his career and his lost income.

At this stage, no alleged victims have surfaced and I suspect that is why the police investigation in 2012 came to a stand-still. Nonetheless, true or not, it will be a miracle if Stephen Collins can recover his reputation and professional status in Hollywood.

So ugly, and so unnecessary….Let the criminal justice system deal with this issue. It has no place in family court.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee lang

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Will Bankrupt Billionaire Escape His Spousal Support Obligations?

DSC00507 (2)American Samuel Wyly and his late brother Charles made their fortune as savvy entrepreneurs. They founded or grew a variety of successful businesses including arts and crafts stores Michael’s, University Computing Company, restaurant chain Bonanza Steakhouse, and Sterling Software. They also reputedly donated over $90 million dollars to charitable causes, including large donations to the Republican party.

Along the way some of their business activities attracted the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2006 they were under investigation for their alleged use of potentially illegal offshore tax shelters. Grand juries in New York and Texas were tasked with investigating whether the brothers had used funds in offshore trusts to purchase $30 million dollars of art, jewellery, furniture, and other personal items for themselves.

They denied any wrongdoing and advised investigators they would invoke the fifth amendment if they were subpoenaed to testify. They were never called, a bullet dodged.

However, an insider trading investigation in 2010 did not end as well. The allegations, later proved in court, were that Samuel Wyly used insider information to buy and sell securities for an undisclosed profit of $550 million. He apparently traded public stock in companies where he and his brother served as board members, through hidden entities in other jurisdictions.

A Manhattan federal jury in May 2014 found Mr. Wyly guilty and it is expected that Mr. Wyly will have to “disgorge” or pay back $300 million dollars. His assets were also frozen.

Last month Mr. Wyly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas, an event that caused consternation for his ex-wife Victoria Lee Wyly, now Torie Steele, who after their 1991 divorce negotiated support payments of $500,000 per year. In his bankruptcy filings Mr. Wyly recorded monthly spending of $1 million. That has also been curtailed by bankruptcy officers.

Spousal and child support payments are not cancelled by a bankruptcy, however, a paying party’s change in income will be grounds for a variation of support. According to Ms. Steele’s lawyer, Samuel Wyly has already missed a monthly payment of just over $40,000.

There is, however, a complicating factor in respect of Ms. Steele’s support payments. To avoid the “risk and cost” of a contested spousal support hearing the parties agreed in 1993 that Mr. Wyly would act as an investment advisor for Ms. Steele, manage $5 million dollars of her funds, and guarantee her returns of $500,000 per year for her lifetime.

In 2007 Mr. Wyly went to court seeking to be released from this obligation. A judge upheld the arrangement saying Wyly “was agreeable to taking his chance with his acumen as an investor as opposed to
risk incurring any further spousal support obligations.”

The question for the bankruptcy court is whether Ms. Steele’s investment income arrangement constitutes spousal support and if it does not, where does that leave her?

I’ll be watching this case closely and report the outcome in due course.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Divorce Spyware: I Spy With My Little Eye

DSC00275_1 In many family law cases suspicion and lack of trust permeates divorce proceedings. It has become routine to have new divorce clients ask about the legal rules regarding spyware, computer passwords, telephone taps, and other forms of clandestine information-gathering tools.

In the old days, divorcing parties hired private detectives to ferret out damaging information about their estranged spouses. When no-fault divorce was introduced in Canada, investigators found their work drying up as it didn’t matter whether a spouse had been unfaithful.

However, with advances in technology and the proliferation of “Spy” stores, anybody
can readily access hidden “nanny” cameras, telephone bugs and computer screeners, or privately install a GPS on an unwitting spouse’s vehicle.

Gone are the simpler days when a wife simply located her husband’s desk keys or office pass to make an after-hours entry in order to surreptitiously remove or photocopy important documents and generally snoop for information that might help her and hurt him.

Even without sophisticated spy tools it is not difficult to track a spouse’s activities by monitoring their emails, text messages, credit card purchases, bank transactions, Facebook page, etc. Most separated spouses do not immediately change their passwords and frequently spouses can access important information this way.

But is it legal? That’s where it gets dicey…If the family computer is shared by both husband and wife with a single password, it may be offensive to spy on one’s spouse, but probably not illegal.

But even without a computer password, illegal hacking is easier than you think with today’s sophisticated devices. You may recall that journalists for one of Britain’s leading newspapers were hacking phones and computers of celebrities, crime victims, and the royal family, a situation that resulted in the newspaper eventually folding amid embarrassment and scandal.

What about putting a tap on a spouse’s car phone? That’s a no-no. Canada’s privacy law provides that so long as one of the two parties being recorded consents there is no problem and of course, if you record your conversations with your spouse you have obviously consented. However, if you place a bug on your wife’s car telephone, you are recording her conversations with others, yes, maybe even her boyfriend, but those parties have not consented.

What about installing a hidden tracker on your spouse’s car? Again, if the car is in joint names, you can do as you like, but I would be cautious with a GPS on a vehicle that does not belong to you. Besides potential privacy violations, you may be faced with criminal charges such as stalking or harassment.

The question you must ask is whether the evidence you need to get is worth the risk of a privacy violation or worse? That’s a decision for you and your family lawyer to make.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang