Extortion and Nude Photos Send Ex-Husband to Jail for Twelve Years

How would you like to marry a billionaire’s daughter? James Casbolt from Cornwall, England made an internet connection in 2009 with Haley Meijer, daughter of American billionaire, Hank Meijer, owner and CEO of a retail conglomerate with his brother, Doug, consisting of 213 grocery and pharmacy stores, 177 gas stations, and other related businesses, located in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Wisconsin.

Their attraction was immediate and mutual.

They moved in together in Cornwall and later moved to the state of Michigan, marrying in 2011. Mr. Casbolt enlisted in the US Army and was posted to Texas whereupon he persuaded Haley to send him sexually explicit photos of herself to fend off his loneliness. She in turn made him promise he would never show them to anyone else.

They later had a child together but domestic violence led to their separation and divorce. James Casbolt was bitter and angry with the demise of his marriage and began a campaign of threats and abuse, writing

“If you are living with another guy, you just gave him a death sentence”.

He also threatened to send suicide bombers to her parents’ home and demanded a large sum of money saying “If my terms are not met, I can tickle the public interest for years, until the Meijers are so infamous in the world they will not be able to walk down the streets safely.”

But he had already released some photos on Facebook, many of them photo-shopped to look seedier than they were.

Casbolt, now living in the UK, also told his ex-wife that he would dedicate the rest of his life to destroying her, that his efforts would be inexhaustible, and he would continue for years. He sent her photos with images of him wielding a sword and a gun. He threatened: “Your dad could be lynched in the street” and sent an email that read:“[£]2M. Put in my bank account. I will then stop talking about the Meijer family.”

In a trial this week in England James Casbolt was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

“You systematically set out to destroy her reputation. Thousands of people with gullible minds saw the photos and doubtless believed the horrible lies you wrote.”

First Cyberstalking, Then Murder, in Family Law Tragedy

DSC00507 (2)In a divorce tragedy akin to Shakespeare’s “MacBeth”, Delaware mother Christine Belford, age 39, was murdered by her father-in-law in February 2013 after years of litigation involving child abduction, allegations of mental illness, non-payment of child support, and the eventual termination of a parental relationship.

Earlier chapters of the divorce of Ms. Belford and her optometrist husband David Matusiewicz were distinguished by animosity and hatred engendered by a dispute over their children.

In 2006 a psychologist examined the parties and found each parent capable and fit. The Court acted on that information and granted joint custody to the parties with Mr. Matusiewicz to have primary residence and Ms. Belford to see the children every weekend and mid-week.

But that order did not suit the children’s father who believed his wife was a an unfit, neglectful mother.

Selling his practice, Mr. Matusiewicz abducted their three children in 2006, spiriting them off to Central America in a Winnebago, with the assistance of his mother, Lenore Matusiewicz. Eighteen months later the children were found in Nicaragua and both David and his mother were sentenced to prison, three years and eighteen months respectively.

Now that the children resided with their mother, the Matusiewciz family made Ms. Belmont’s life a living hell for seven years, with repeated calls to child protection services, abusive allegations, multiple trips to court, and the ever present overtures to psychologists willing to advocate for them.

Their email and internet campaign saw David Matusiewicz, his parents and his sister spy, torment, and stalk his ex-wife, and repeatedly and falsely accuse Ms. Belford in emails, letters, phone calls and Internet postings of sexually abusing and neglecting the couple’s daughters.

By June 2012 Christine Belford wrote a letter to her ex-husband and his family barring all further contact with the children. She wrote:

“Your past behaviors have scarred the children enough,” she wrote. “There is no need to inflict additional harm.”

She also communicated her fear to her lawyer, Timothy Hitchings, writing:

“[David Matusiewicz] may allow me to survive to suffer, I may survive long enough to watch the girls be harmed. I may even go missing. All of this could be possibilities.”

Further emails between this frightened mother and her lawyer indicated she had taken out life insurance on two of her daughters, wrote a will, and was saving money to purchase a gun.

During her last days, she prepared for another child support hearing, arriving at the courthouse with her friend, Laura Mulford, when suddenly her 68-year old father-in-law, a Navy veteran and former police officer, drew his gun and shot Christine Belford and her friend Laura. In a hail of bullets he exchanged gunfire with the police before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide. He had earlier told friends that he had a brain tumour and didn’t care whether he lived or died, although medical reports indicated the tumour was benign.

But if Thomas Matusiewicz thought his death by suicide would spare his co- conspirators he was dead wrong. In the first case in the United States, David Matusiewicz, his mother, Lenore Matusiewicz, and his sister, Amy Gonzales were charged and convicted by a jury of cyberstalking leading to death, with a possible sentence of life in prison.

While the Matusiewicz defendants denied knowledge of their father’s plans to kill Ms. Belford, the Prosecutors successfully argued that the defendants did not have to know that Tom Matusiewicz planned to kill her in order to be found guilty, but only that her death was “reasonably foreseeable” or a “natural consequence” of their actions.

They remain in custody and will be sentenced in October 2015. It is expected they will appeal their convictions.

The saddest part of this tragedy is that three lovely children no longer have a mother, a father, or paternal relatives to help them along in life, all because of hatred and misplaced obsession.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judges’ Orders Place Limitations on Defendants’ Sex Lives

DSC00447_2 (1)Another American judge has made an order regulating a litigant’s sex life. In the most recent case a court in Kansas sentenced a career criminal to a lengthy prison term for being a felon in possession of a weapon and also imposed a probation order to follow the jail sentence.

In an unusual move, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs inserted a probation condition that Christopher Harris be barred from having unprotected sex while on probation, for the very simple reason that Mr. Harris had sired ten children with seven different women. He made the order over the protestations of Harris’ lawyer saying that Harris’ behaviour was creating severe social problems.

A week later Judge Sachs amended his order to read:

“The defendant shall use contraceptives before engaging in sexual activity that may otherwise cause pregnancy unless such use would violate his religious scruples or is expressly rejected by his sexual partner.”

However, unlike a similar order made in Wisconsin, the US Court of Appeals struck down the Sachs’ order saying the condition imposed was not related to the nature and circumstances of the offence, and did nothing to protect the public from future crimes.

In Wisconsin, Corey Curtis was sentenced to three years probation for falling behind in his child support payments. Mr. Curtis had nine children with six mothers. During the sentencing Judge Tim Boyle mused about whether he had the authority to order the sterilization of Mr. Curtis.

The alert prosecutor then advised the Judge there was precedent in Wisconsin to control Mr. Curtis’ sex life, referring to a 2001 case where a payor father was ordered not to father any further children until he had paid the arrears of child support he already owed.

This precedent setting case, State v. Oakley, was upheld by Wisconsin’s highest court and later appealed to the United States Supreme Court, who declined to hear the case, thus explicitly recognizing the legitimacy of the trial court order.

The Justices of the Wisconsin Court held that the “no-procreation” condition of probation was not unconstitutional. It was also preferable to the eight-year prison sentence that otherwise would have been ordered.

Different states, different judges, different results. That’s what makes the law so challenging.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Country Superstars Blake and Miranda to Divorce

GAL & PAL #2jpgIsn’t it funny that we can feel a profound sadness when people we don’t know announce they’re divorcing? In our world of 24/7 multi-media we get to know the celebrities we admire, the ones we pay big dollars to see their concerts and buy their records.

I became a fan of Blake Shelton when he was a judge on “The Voice”. His weekly banter with hunk Adam Levine and their tender teasing of each other, showed us Blake’s personality and his sense of humour. He made me want to know more about him, I became interested in his life in the southern United States with his wife Miranda Lambert.

Just like every celebrity “It” couple, the tabloids waxed and waned about every aspect of their lives. Was Miranda too fat? Did she resent Blake’s career success? Who made more money? Was Blake drinking too much and was he imbibing right on the show?

Just when trash journalism overloaded the public with Miranda’s weight issue, she became skinny! Entertainment Tonight said she lost 20 lbs. while competitor Hollywood Life declared it was 45 lbs. And following on the heels of the weight loss debate came the incessant speculation that Blake was cheating or was it Miranda? Depended upon what day it was and what whether it was People magazine or TMZ.

But where there is smoke there’s fire and today their press agents released the news that they filed for divorce two weeks ago and the divorce order has already come through.

While they met in 2005, two years after Miranda came in third place on reality singing show Nashville Star, they tied the knot in 2011 before 550 friends and relatives; the elite of Nashville, including my fave, Reba McIntyre, Kelly Clarkson, Trace Adkins and the rest of country music’s who’s who.

Blake later admitted that he fell in love with Miranda when he performed with her, even though he was married at the time. He and his first wife, Kaynette Gern, divorced in 2006.

Shelton and Lambert have more than a fistful of nominations and wins in all the major awards show including the Grammy’s, and Blake Shelton has coached more winners on The Voice than any of his co-stars.

For all their success, they failed at their most important roles: husband and wife.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Sleepy Judges: Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod

DSC01152_2 (2)_2Every trial lawyer has their own story of a judge falling asleep on the job. Before I was called to the bar I was a law clerk for an elderly judge and would accompany him to court to take notes.

On more than one occasion I observed him nodding off during counsel’s tedious argument. During “tea” breaks in his chambers he would also rest his head on his chest for more than just a few minutes He retired at the mandatory age of 75 and went on to hold several high-profile government positions until he retired for the last time at the age of 85.

I’ve also heard stories of lawyers dropping large books on their podiums or the floor to awaken the sleeping judge who will decide their client’s fate.

Of course, the precursor to sleep is yawning and closing one’s eyes. That is fairly routine in long cases where a lawyer consistently meanders away from relevant evidence, or has the habit of repetition, a trait I abhor.

The “precursor” is only welcomed when it is opposing counsel who is causing the judicial condition.

Judge Ian Dodd, age 56, of the New South Wales District Court, endured a media frenzy when his judicial sleepiness was thrust into the spotlight in 2005. The allegations included incidents in 2002 when Judge Dodd fell asleep during a corporate fraud trial and a criminal matter involving weapons offences. In 2003 it was reported that Judge Dodd was sleeping and snoring during the evidence of a rape victim.

In 2004 Judge Dodd, now nicknamed Judge Nodd, fell asleep numerous times during a seven month drug smuggling trial. Defence counsel took to passing notes to the court clerk to gain her assistance to wake up the judge. This was a jury trial and several jurors admitted they were taken aback by the judge’s behavior. Judge Dodd sentenced the convicted offenders to 24 years in jail.

On appeal the accused argued that Judge Dodd’s demeanor was prejudicial to them as it signalled the Court’s disinterest in their evidence and their case.

The Court of Appeal agreed, but refused a new trial and merely reduced their sentences.

Later in 2004 Judge Dodd initiated a medical examination for himself that revealed he had sleep apnea and he began treatment that reportedly cured his condition.

But the media attention did not subside and eventually the State Judicial Commission launched an investigation.

As a result of now seven separate complaints a public hearing was scheduled and Judge Dodd also lost his driver’s license. The hearing was averted when Judge Dodd opted to resign, thus terminating the investigation.

Major changes were made to the legislation governing judges in New South Wales including granting power to the State Judicial Commission to compel a judge to undergo a physical or mental examination, even where there has been no complaint.

The story of Judge Dodd eventually faded from view with a last headline “Sweet Dreams as Judge Retires”. After eight years on the bench, Judge Dodd left with a $152,000 annual pension.

He’s probably out surfing on the Gold Coast!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bill Cosby’s Friends Jump the Sinking Ship

_DSC4179 - Version 2Hollywood’s silence over the Bill Cosby rape allegations is hypocrisy at its finest. The celebrity personalities who are usually the first to voice their condemnation, whether asked or not, are either eerily quiet or entirely dismissive of the charges of over thirty mature women. It is scandalous to hear Hollywood feminists like Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad suggest that Cosby’s victims are conspiring to destroy his legacy. It is classic victim-blaming. But worst of all, where is Oprah Winfrey, the queen of scandal?

But the tide is slowly turning against Bill Cosby as his supporters and defenders, silent and otherwise, are jumping ship, including Whoopi Goldberg who just this week resiled from her audacious support of Cosby, under pressure from her employer, the ABC Television network.

John and Jane Doe Public are also taking steps to take Cosby down a notch or two from the revered position he has held for decades.

The non-profit organization “Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment”, a support group for sexual assault victims, has launched a campaign to revoke Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, with an online petition on the White House’s “We the People” page. If they obtain 100,000 signatures by August 7, 2015 the White House is obliged to review and respond to the petition.

Central State University, a black college in Wilberforce, Ohio have covered up Cosby’s name on the university building named for him and his wife Camille, the Camille O. and William H. Cosby Mass Communications Centre. College officials have said they will decide whether to rename the building in the next few months.

In Orlando, Florida Walt Disney World has removed a statue of Bill Cosby that was erected at Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza.

In Cosby’s hometown of Philadelphia a public mural, painted in 2008 celebrating Father’s Day, with Bill Cosby between South African leader Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is now scheduled for removal.

Back in Hollywood, black civil rights leaders have asked the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove Cosby’s star from their Walk of Fame, while industry insiders recognized his tarnished reputation months ago and cancelled a proposed new sitcom on NBC. Network TV Land removed their reruns of the 1980s-era “The Cosby Show” and Netflix cancelled a scheduled comedy special. Several other smaller networks, with an African-American focus, have also jumped ship.

Perhaps the biggest blow to Bill Cosby’s deny-deny strategy was the release this week of a videotape from a court proceeding in 2005 where Cosby drugged and allegedly sexually assaulted a female victim who sued him in civil court. In the video Cosby admits, under oath, that he plied his victim with quaaludes hoping for a sexual encounter.

Mr. Cosby settled the 2005 case for an unknown sum of money, which is the only way he can be punished for his criminal behaviour, since the United States has archaic limitation laws which provide that after a certain period of time an offender cannot be charged with a criminal offence. Canada does not have those restrictive laws.

For example, in Nevada, the locale of several of the current assault allegations, unless a victim files a written report within four years no criminal charges can be brought.

While reformers have lobbied for years to change the limitation laws, California celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred says that legislatures are very reluctant to do so and face powerful interest groups that lobby against it, including shockingly, Catholic clergy organizations.

While civil lawsuits can also face problems related to delay, my wish is that Bill Cosby face the music in civil court as soon as possible so that his victims can be compensated and exonerated where they have been called liars.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Part 2: Alienated Kids Released From Jail

BarristerIn yesterday’s post I described the court hearing in Michigan that led Judge Gorcyca to send three children, ages 15, 10 and 9 to Mandy’s Place, a juvenile detention centre for children under 18.

Many people expressed outrage at her decision. Comments from American lawyers writing in the American Bar Association Journal ran at about 99% against. A few examples:

“Really. Sending kids to jail. This judge has no judgment. She should be removed from office. Clearly she is power mad.”

“If we saw this case on some TV lawyer show, no one would believe it. Yet here it is, in all it’s pathetic grandeur.”

“In loco parentis, with the emphasis on “loco.”

“It is painfully clear these children have already been destroyed. I am often skeptical about parental alienation syndrome even being a thing (and I do
matrimonial law) but this transcript proved it to me. A kid says they would prefer to go to juvie than to eat lunch in the courthouse cafeteria with his father? That is just appalling. And bespeaks some nasty business by mom-who also apparently went off on the judge personally in the past. This is not the insanity it reads like, I’m afraid. There is a back story and it’s ugly.”

The Michigan media later reported that the children spent two weeks at Mandy’s Place, a facility they had been ordered by Judge Gorcyca to tour earlier in March of 2015, an indication that she had the juvie hall in mind months before she made the order. The facility later reported that the children had settled in and were making friends, although they had been kept apart from one another, until their unexpected release earlier this month.

The children’s father and the court appointed guardian ad litem jointly applied for an order that the children be released from Mandy’s Place and be sent to a Jewish summer camp with the costs to be divided equally between the parents.

Judge Gorcyca, previously a prosecutor, granted the order saying:

“While this court’s remedy in this particular situation may seem drastic and offensive, so too, is the notion … that the only way to maintain a stable and loving connection with the mother is to vilify and reject the father.”

While Judge Gorcyca’s initial order may have been draconian, my twenty-seven years of experience provides me with a perspective that is less critical and more understanding of the judge’s dilemma.

Mrs. Tsimhoni knew that in the absence of a genuine attempt at reunification between the children and their father, their removal from her custody was inevitable. She and the children toured the Children’s Village three months earlier.

However, it would have been difficult, nearly impossible, to
order a change in custody in the circumstances presented. Mr. Tsimhoni had returned to live in Israel with his new wife and child. The prospect of allowing the children’s mother to continue to “brainwash” them was intolerable. I have no doubt that Judge Gorcyca had considered many other options before choosing the Children’s Village.

The mother had so empowered her children that even she could not obtain their cooperation to speak to or have lunch with their father. In my view, because of her self-centered need to obtain revenge against her ex-husband she turned three innocent young children into victims, and she alone is to blame for their predicament.

Typically in these cases, the children are ordered to live with their grandparents or other relatives who will adhere to a court order that the mother not be permitted any contact with the children. In the Tsimhoni case, the immediate family lived in Israel, including both sets of grandparents.

I recall a case of mine many years ago where two young boys were taken by their mother to Germany on the pretence of a holiday. They didn’t return, leaving a devastated father in Vancouver. His court applications in Germany were of no assistance in recovering his children.

Over the years the eldest boy begged his mother to allow him to visit his father, but she refused. Finally, when he turned twelve-years old she consented and he flew on his own to visit his father for two weeks.

At the conclusion of the holiday, I received a phone call from the father. His son was refusing to fly back to Germany. I told him that he had no choice but to take his son to the airport and see that he got on the plane.

Father and son arrived at the British Airways counter and the check-in process began, but suddenly the young boy started emptying his suitcases, throwing the clothes on the floor, and yelling that he would not board the plane.

His actions so distressed the clerks at the counter they called the captain of the 747 to come and speak to the boy. The pilot’s overture was of no use, as the boy still would not budge. With that, the captain advised my client that he would not allow his son to board the aeroplane for safety reasons. The boy remained with his father and a custody order was obtained in British Columbia.

But that was not the end. Two summers later I received a phone call from my client who advised his younger son, now approaching twelve-years old, had surreptitiously left Germany and showed up on his doorstep in Vancouver. His mother in Germany was frantic, as he left under cover of night and she had no idea where he was. He too escaped the clutches of the mother who had abducted him years before, and remained in Vancouver.

A dynamic in my client’s case and in the Tsimhoni case is that the younger child or children will often follow the older sibling, which is exactly what occurred in Judge Gorcyca’s courtroom.

So what is a judge to do? In certain jurisdictions reunification programs have been established for children who have, for no legitimate reason, refused to see a parent. In British Columbia, parental alienation expert, Dr. Katherine Reay runs “Family Reflections”, a residential program where children receive intensive therapy over a prolonged period of time. She reports a significant success rate.

As for those who still insist that parental alienation is a pseudo-syndrome that doesn’t really exist, I have seen it with my own eyes for many decades, as have hundreds of other lawyers and psychologists across North America. It is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse, rivalling the inexplicable tactic of falsely alleging a parent has sexually abused his or her children.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang