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

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

Update on Bomb Explosion in Family Lawyer’s Winnipeg Office

La Spiga 2011-03-22Further details have become available with respect to the explosive device mailed via Canada Post to the Winnipeg law office of Marie Mitousis, who suffered the loss of one of her hands and was rushed in critical condition to hospital last week.

Ms. Mitousis acted for Iris Amsel for ten years in a protracted, high conflict divorce proceeding, which began relatively amicably in 2004. The divorce file shows that Guido and Iris divided shares of a company that provided auto repair services. Guido was to pay $500.00 per month in child support for their son, who was nine-years old at the time the parties separated. Eventually, Mr. Amsel purchased Iris Amsel’s one-half interest in the business.

By 2010 the parties were feuding over Mr. Amsel’s allegations that his ex-wife had drained the business of $3 million dollars prior to finalizing their divorce.

In an affidavit sworn by Mr. Amsel in 2010 he said:

“It is my belief at the present time that during our cohabitation, the respondent secreted money to these accounts…
I am fearful that the respondent will transfer funds from these and any other accounts she may have to Germany and thereafter relocate there with the intention of keeping our son there as well.”

He also accused his ex-wife of disposing of his wedding ring in a toilet and trying to break up his second marriage by calling and pretending to be a boyfriend of his new wife, understandably a situation that could cause conflict in his latest marriage.

Guido was outraged by the perceived unfairness of the family justice system and lashed out, sending incendiary devices to an auto repair business with connections to his ex-wife, his lawyer, and the unfortunate Ms. Mitsouis, his ex-wife’s lawyer, who opened the letter.

Police were able to detonate the other explosive devices before anyone else was injured.

In 2010 Iris Amsel filed a lawsuit against her ex-husband in regards to the auto services business they co-owned, and later his wages were garnisheed. I’m guessing that Guido fell into arrears in his child support payments, a typical reaction by a payor parent in a nasty divorce.

Also common in high conflict divorce is the steady escalation of litigation, particularly when Kyle Amsel, the now adult son of the parties, wrote in a 2013 affidavit that his father’s allegations against his mother were not true and had led to the estrangement of father and son.

Later that year Mr. Amsel suggested that Kyle was not his son and demanded a paternity test. The court allowed the test on the basis that Mr. Amsel would pay for it. It is not clear whether the test actually took place or if it did, what the result was.

Guido Amsel remains in custody charged with attempted murder. His act of vengeance is both ruthlessly vile and cowardly.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Winnipeg Family Law Lawyer Critically Injured in Bomb Explosion

IMG_0311 - Version 2Earlier today a bomb exploded at Winnipeg family law firm, Petersen King. The National Post reports that lawyer Maria Mitousis, age 35, is the only victim and has lost a hand in the blast. Other sources suggest she may also lose her other hand. She was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

No other details are available, such as whether the bomb was mailed or couriered to the firm and police are on the scene.

The firm has had its share of misfortune over the past several years. The “King” of Petersen King is lawyer Jack King, the wife of Madam Justice Lori Douglas who became known as Canada’s bondage judge. You may recall it was Mr. King who introduced his wife to a client who complained he was sexually harassed by Justice Douglas and her husband.

A high-profile judicial inquiry of Lori Douglas’ behaviour finally ended with her resignation as a Superior Court judge, but not before the first panel of judges adjudicating Judge Douglas’ future resigned en masse, and inquiry counsel, George McIntosh, now Mr. Justice McIntosh of British Columbia’s Supreme Court, was criticized for his vigorous cross-examination of several witnesses.

Sadly, Mr. King recently died of cancer.

It is reported that victim Ms. Mitousis is in a common-law relationship with Barry Gorlick, a Winnipeg lawyer who was recently disbarred after he admitted to 15 counts of professional misconduct. Gorlick practices at another firm in Winnipeg.

During a discipline panel hearing last fall, he pleaded guilty to 15 counts of misconduct, including failure to serve a client, failure to conduct himself in a courteous manner, breach of duty to act with integrity, and misappropriating client funds.

The misappropriation included the deliberate creation of false documents, as well as misleading his staff and partners. A total of $59,129 of client trust money was diverted for his personal use.

A terrible tragedy that hopefully will result in the speedy arrest of the perpetrator.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Waiting for Canada’s New Euthanasia Law

GEO_edited-1A perfectly healthy 24-year old woman in Belgium will be killed by her doctors only because she has “suicidal thoughts”. She does not suffer from any terminal disease or physical illness.

While Nazi Germany pioneered legal euthanasia, Switzerland was an early adopter, followed by Columbia in 1997, Holland in 2002 and Belgium in 2003. Belgium’s original law applied only to adults, but in February 2015 they extended the law to include children.

The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail quotes the woman as saying:

‘Death feels to me not as a choice. If I had a choice, I would choose a bearable life, but I have done everything and that was unsuccessful. I played all my life with these thoughts of suicide, I have also done a few attempts. But then there is someone who needs me, and I don’t want to hurt anyone. That has always stopped me.

Canada, of course, is never far behind when it comes to controversial social justice issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, legalized prostitution, and most recently, euthanasia.

In a historic decision this year, (Carter v. Canada) the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that desperately suffering patients have a constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide, giving the government twelve months to draft legislation.

The criteria established by the Court is that the person must be a consenting adult under a physician’s care, who cannot tolerate the physical or psychological suffering brought on by a severe, incurable illness, disease or disability.

Only last week the government indicated that because of the coming election it will need more time to draft appropriate laws, a situation that will not likely induce sympathy from the high court.

But Belgium’s data on euthanasia will undoubtedly be studied by the government as they shape the new law. Interesting statistics include the following:

1. Euthanasia deaths are increasing year over year. In 2011 there were 1,133 and in 2012 1,432, an increase of 25%. In 2013 1,816 were euthanized, an increase of 27% over 2012.

2. Of the total cases in 2013 51.7% were men, while 48.3% were women.

3. Persons aged between 70 and 90 years accounted for 53.5%, those aged 60 to 70 represented 21% and those over 90, 7%. Persons under 60 made up 15% of the total cases.

Most of Belgium’s euthanasia deaths attract no attention, however, there have been several media-worthy deaths, including the assisted suicides of 45-year-old Belgian twins, Mark and Eddy Verbessem.

The twins were deaf and conversed in sign language and had been told to expect to lose their sight, but there was no indication their condition was “medically futile” or their mental suffering at the prospects of becoming blind, could not be alleviated with appropriate medical treatment. Also recent was the euthanization of a transgendered Belgium man who applied because he was horrified at the way he looked after hormone therapy and surgery.

Whoever forms the next government in Canada will be saddled with the responsibility of crafting a law that allows terminally ill patients to die with dignity, while still ensuring that vulnerable adults are protected, a goal that has apparently eluded the Belgians.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Children Rescued in Ontario Operation Northern Spotlight’s Fight Against Human Trafficking

GEO CASUALJoy Smith, Member of Parliament for Kildonan/St. Paul, Ontario tweeted the success of Operation Northern Spotlight. Below is the Toronto Police Department’s press release:

“On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, and Thursday, June 18, 2015, as part of Operation Northern Spotlight, members of the Toronto Police Service and 20 other police services pre-arranged to meet with people suspected of partaking in the sex trade, potentially against their will, at urban locations across Ontario.

During the coordinated investigations over the two-day period, police charged two people with 41 offences. Police were also able to ensure the safety of six females who had been working in the sex trade as a minor or against their will, including one 14-year-old, three 15-year-olds, a 16-year-old and a 19-year-old.

Ninety officers and support staff combined to interview 122 people, including 110 women and offered them information and contacts with community-based support agencies.

Charges have been laid by police following this third installment of a coordinated, provincial investigation to suppress human trafficking, they include:

1. Trafficking in Persons under 18 years
2. Trafficking in Persons
3. Financial / Material Benefit from Trafficking in Person Under 18 years
4. Material Benefit from Sexual Services provided by Person under 18 years
5. Procuring / Recruit Person under 18 to provide Sexual Services
6. Procuring / Person under 18 years
7. Advertising another person’s Sexual Services
8. Administer Noxious Substance
9. Sexual Assault
10. Sexual Interference with a Person under 16 years of age
11. Invitation to Sexual Touching under 16 years of age
12. Print / Publish / Possess to publish Child Pornography
13. Import / Sell / Distribute Child Pornography
14. Unlawfully Possess Child Pornography

During the initiative, Durham Regional Police Service conducted an intelligence probe with a 14-year-old girl in their jurisdiction for a possible intervention. Officers spoke with the girl, and she disclosed that she was allegedly being forced into the sex trade by a man.

Further investigation identified the man as Levi Alexander, 19, of Toronto. Alexander is currently wanted on a Canada Wide Warrant for Human Trafficking charges by the Toronto Police Service in relation to the last Human Trafficking investigation – Project Guardian, where he allegedly forced a 16-year-old girl into the sex trade. Police are concerned that this man will victimize young girls and are appealing to the public for their assistance in apprehending him.

The following police services participated in this phase of Operation Northern Spotlight:

• Barrie Police Service
• Brantford Police Service
• Durham Region Police Service
• Greater Sudbury Police Service
• Guelph Police Service
• Halton Regional Police Service
• Hamilton Police Service
• North Bay Police Service
• Ontario Provincial Police
• Ottawa Police Service
• Peel Regional Police
• Royal Canadian Mounted Police
• Sarnia Police Services
• Saugeen Shores Police Service
• Stratford Police Service
• Thunder Bay Police Service
• Toronto Police Service
• Treaty Three Police Service
• Waterloo Regional Police Service
• Windsor Police Service
• Woodstock Police Service

Human Trafficking is a local, provincial and national problem that affects the most vulnerable in society. Operation Northern Spotlight demonstrates the need to work together with other Police Services and community partners to effectively investigate these heinous crimes.

Police would like to encourage all affected individuals to come forward and report Human Trafficking occurrences to police. We want to make sure that everyone has access to support services and an exit strategy, regardless of their decision to proceed criminally.

Human Trafficking means every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation, for a sexual purpose or a forced labour purpose. Victims can be men, women or children; can be Canadian citizens; and can be moved across local, provincial or national borders. They can be coerced through violence or the threat of violence against family and friends. The Human Trafficking Enforcement Team of Sex Crimes is dedicated to investigating these crimes against vulnerable members of society. For more information, please visit the Sex Crimes website.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee