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

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

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

Children 15, 10, and 9 Sent to Juvie for Contempt of Court in Access Case

_DSC4851It’s been a long time coming, but finally some family court judges are starting to understand the insidious nature of mothers and fathers who brainwash their children in an effort to prevent a normal parent/child relationship with their estranged spouse.

It is a twisted, selfish parent who would warp a child’s mind only because of their hatred of their former spouse or partner, and it happens much more often that most people realize.

A stark example of the extreme edge of parental alienation was on display in a courtroom in Michigan last month. Judge Lisa Gorcyca of Oakland County, Michigan, presided over yet another hearing in the five-year high conflict custody/access case involving the children of Maya and Omer Tsimhoni, named Roee, Liam, and Natalie, ages 9, 10, and 15.

The Tsimhon’s marriage broke down in 2008 when Mr. Tsimhoni accepted a transfer from his employer, General Motors, to work in Israel where the parties were born and raised, and where both their extended families resided. Mrs. Tsimhoni did not wish to accompany her husband and remained with the children in the United States, filing for divorce and preventing her husband from communicating with the children.

Several months later she changed her mind and the family was reunited making their new home in Israel, that is, until Mrs. Tsimhonages suddenly left Israel, taking the children back to Michigan.

Mr. Tsimhonages returned to Michigan as well, in order to maintain his relationship with his children. But the children’s mother had long been poisoning the children against their father, behaviour that led to June’s court hearing, where Judge Gorcyca held all three children in contempt of court and ordered they be sent to Mandy’s Place at Children’s Village, a youth facility for children under 18 who have been removed from their homes by the court due to neglect, abuse and status offenses.

Children assigned to Mandy’s Place stay there until the Court returns them to their family or foster care, or until they are are placed in a separate live-in program at Children’s Village.

You might be thinking by now: if the children’s mother has alienated them from their father, why punish the children? Shouldn’t it be the alienating parent that is rebuked? Yes, normally that occurs, but a bizarre dialogue took place between each child and Judge Gorcyca. The Court transcript tells the story.

The Court initially ordered Mrs. Tsimhoni to tell her children they must speak to their father and go for lunch with him in the Courthouse cafeteria. Their mother passionately implored them to do so, with no results. Then the Judge spoke directly to each child and their state-appointed lawyer informing each child that they would obey her order or be sent to Children’s Village.

The 15-year old son, on advice from his lawyer, apologized to the Court for defying the order but maintained his refusal saying:

“He’s violent and he—I saw him hit my mom and I’m not going to talk to him.”

Judge Gorcyca responded to the teenager:

“I ordered you to have a healthy relationship with your father, I witnessed your mother at 11:30 tell you very impassionedly that she wants you to talk to your dad, to talk to your dad, that he loves you, that he’s not gonna hurt you, that he’s not gonna hurt her. You are a defiant, contemptuous young man and I’m ordering you to spend the rest of the summer–and we’ll review it when school starts, and you may be going to school there.”

But the boy wasn’t done yet and challenged the Judge by asking wasn’t hitting somebody against the law?

Judge Gorcyca replied:

“I ordered you, I will say this again, and apparently you’re—you’re supposed to have a high IQ, which I’m doubting right now because of the way you act. You’re very defiant, you have no manners. … There is no reason why you do not have a relationship with your father. Your father has never been charged with anything. Your father’s never been convicted of anything. Your father doesn’t have a personal protection order against him. Your father is well-liked and loved by the community, his co-workers, his family [and] his colleagues. You, young man, have got it wrong. I think your father is a great man who has gone through hoops for you to have a relationship with you.”

A less confrontational dialogue unfolded between the Judge and the two younger children who also refused to have any contact with their father. Judge Gorcyca confirmed her order and added additional terms including a no contact or visitation order between mother and children and stipulated that when the children agree to see their father she would review their case.

Mrs. Tsimhoni immediately commenced a media campaign protesting the Judge’s order, an order made over the objections of the children’s father. The media, not surprisingly, excoriated the Judge, alleging a severe character flaw and general incompetence in her job. They weren’t the only ones, as scores of lawyers weighed in on the decision, most of them urging her removal from the bench.

Of course, if the children had been witnesses to spousal violence their refusal could be explained, however, when asked why the children accused him of physically abusing their mother, Mr. Tsimhoni said:

“The one incident that happened was five years ago I had a five-hour unsupervised visit. We were in a park and Maya was circling around the park the whole time, trying to sabotage the visit. Two hours into the visit, the children ended up in her car and she was trying to leave. I tried to prevent her from leaving because it was my time with the children. I was very careful not to do anything but she claimed that I pushed her. She screamed at the children, ‘Call 911! Call 911!’ The police showed up and Maya was screaming and the police confirmed that nothing happened. But in the children’s mind, that’s what happened.”

This story will continue in tomorrow’s edition of Lawdiva.

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

Will Your Marriage Survive? Predictors of Divorce

DSC01152_2 (2)_2Social scientists in the United States say that how a couple deals with conflict in their relationship is a good predictor of whether the couple’s marriage will survive.

Dr. John Gottman from the University of Washington and Dr. Robert Levenson from the University of California were able to predict divorce with 93 per cent accuracy in their 14-year study involving 79 couples.

Couples who acted defensively or stonewalled their partner during arguments, or were contemptuous or critical were most likely to see their marriages come to an end. The researchers found that the most dangerous sign of marriage demise was contempt, calling it the “kiss of death” in relationships.

Contempt, according to Professor Gottman indicates a superiority complex. If someone feels smarter, or generally better, than their partner, they are less likely to value their opinions. This makes arguments worse and reconciliation difficult.

However, even relationships characterized by contempt can be salvaged. The key to overcoming relationship pitfalls is that when one partner is upset, the other listens.

The second component of “fair” fights is to be “gentle” when conflict arises. People in successful relationships “don’t bare their fangs and leap in there; they’re very considered”. They develop “repairing skills” so they can deal with issues as they come before moving on.

Professor Gottman has studied relationships for over 40 years. He and his wife founded the Gottman Institute, a relationship therapist training centre, and head a non-profit research organisation called the Relationship Research Institute.

He was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the past quarter-century by the Psychotherapy Networker. He is the author of 190 published academic articles and author or co-author of 40 books, including the bestselling The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work; What Makes Love Last; The Relationship Cure; Why Marriages Succeed or Fail; and Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child, among many others.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang