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

Former Prosecutor Disbarred Over Wrongful Conviction

GAL & PAL #2jpgIt was a warm August morning in Somerville, Texas when Texas’ elite investigative unit, the Texas Rangers, were alerted to a raging house fire. Once the fire was doused, the investigators entered the collapsed structure stepping over burning embers that sizzled in the hot sun.

What they saw shocked them to their core. Six burned bodies were located throughout the remaining charcoal shell. There were four children under eight-years old and two adults. Once victim had been shot, several were bludgeoned, and all suffered stab wounds, before the home was set ablaze.

At the funeral for the six victims, Robert Carter, the father of one of the deceased children, startled investigators who observed burns on his arms and face that were wrapped in swaths of cloth bandages. Immediately he became a key suspect and after he failed a polygraph test he admitted his involvement and implicated Anthony Graves and a man he knew only as “Red” The Rangers quickly ascertained that Red was actually his wife, Theresa, who also displayed burns that she dismissed as arising from a slip of her curling iron.

Carter was tried for the heinous crimes in 1994, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He now wanted to do a deal with the prosecutor to avoid the death sentence, in exchange for his testimony against Anthony Graves. He continued to insist that Red and Anthony Graves took part in the crimes, and maintained that his wife was not a participant.

As Anthony Graves’ trial approached, settlement discussions accelerated and Texas prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, who had secured Carter’s conviction, met with Mr. Carter and his lawyer the day before Mr. Carter was expected to testify.

During that conversation Carter blurted out that he alone was responsible for the events that resulted in six deaths. Prosecutor Sebesta didn’t believe him and told him to stop playing games. He told him that three weapons, a gun, a knife and a blunt object caused the deaths and that meant there were three assailants.

Carter then explained how the murders occurred, saying that he went to the Davies’ home to speak with Lisa Davies, the mother of his 4-year old son, Jason Davies, to dissuade her from pressing him for child support, and to advise her that despite her entreaties, he would not leave his wife Theresa to get back together with her.

When he arrived at the house Lisa was not there, but her mother, Bobbie Davies was. A heated discussion ensued and Carter left the home, angry and offended. He went back to his car where Red and Anthony Graves waited for him. He explained how he felt disrespected whereupon they said they would “take care of things”.

Although there was no evidence linking Anthony Graves to the crimes, except Carter’s testimony, and despite the alibi provided by Graves’ girlfriend and brother, he was convicted and sent to Death Row. He spent 18 years there, much of it in solitary confinement, and came very close to a lethal injection needle on two occasions. Robert Carter was executed in 2000.

Grave’s “angel” was the University of St. Thomas Project Innocent Network and journalist Nicole Casarez, who championed his wrongful conviction and reinstated her law license to join the legal team that obtained his exoneration.

But that’s not the end of the story. All eyes now focused on prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, when the question arose as to whether he informed the court or Anthony Graves’ lawyer of Carter recanting his allegation that Graves acted with him.

With the media heat on him, Sebesta took out newspaper ads describing Graves as “cold-blooded,” in response to media criticism, and he asked those wondering what occurred to look at the evidence, pointing out that Graves was initially convicted after a jury trial.

He also provides a long explanation of the circumstances of Grave’s wrongful conviction on his website, http://www.charlessebesta.net, insisting he did nothing wrong. However, not everyone sees it his way, and this week Mr. Sebesta was disbarred by a State Bar of Texas grievance committee panel who found that Sebesta failed to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense and presented false testimony to win the conviction of Anthony Graves.

After battling the state for compensation for his wrongful conviction, Anthony Graves received $1.4 million dollars. He splurged on a white BMW for himself and bought a house for his mother. However, the main beneficiaries of his largesse is the University of Texas Law School Foundation where he endowed a scholarship in journalist/lawyer Nicole Casarez’ name and funded a foundation that helps the children of wrongly convicted parents.

I doubt if Charles Sebesta will ever admit he stole 18 years of an innocent man’s life.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Update on Terrorist Lawyer

49afd8240a58bf0fb97d4a86105572c1In 2010 I wrote about American lawyer, Lynne Stewart, who collaborated with her client, blind cleric and terrorist Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, leading to her arrest and conviction for conspiracy and passing messages to the Sheikh’s followers. Originally ordered to serve 28 months in prison, her sentence was increased to ten years by the appeal court, who were unimpressed with her flippant arrogance after her original sentencing and identified her perjury at trial as a relevant factor in the increased sentence. She was then 70 years old.

Ms. Stewart was retained in the early 90’s to defend Shiekh Omar Abdul-Rahman, spiritual leader of the Egyptian organization The Islamic Group. The Shiekh, who master-minded the World Trade Centre explosions on 9/11 was charged with terrorist acts in relation to the WTC and attempts to blow-up the United Nations, an FBI building, and several tunnels and a bridge in New York City. He was convicted and given a life sentence plus 65 years. It was reported that Ms. Stewart openly wept at his sentencing.

Between 1997 and 2002, Stewart, her interpreter and her paralegal continued to see the Shiekh in prison and were accused of passing messages from the Shiekh to his radical followers, who under his leadership, continued to plot jihadist attacks around the world.

At the core of the government’s case against her were secret videotapes and telephone recordings of her meetings with her client. In one recording she and the Shiekh were laughing at their clever arrangement to continue the jihadist work even while he was in prison.

Additionally, in breach of her agreement with the authorities that only legal matters would be discussed with her client, she made a public announcement on the Shiekh’s behalf which signaled to his followers that they should ignore a cease-fire agreement.

As a hero of the left, prior to her incarceration she was in great demand as a speaker and garnered the support of numerous organizations including the communist Pravda and George Soros’ foundation. Osama bin Laden recorded a video tape wherein he praised Stewart’s actions.

Stewart summarized her political agenda:

“I don’t believe in anarchist violence but in directed violence.
That would be violence directed at the institutions which
perpetuate capitalism, racism, sexism and at the people who
are the appointed guardians of the institutions and
accompanied with popular support.”

After her arrest in 2002 she told the New York Times that the Pentagon would have been a better terrorist target than the World Trade Towers on 9/11 because people in the Towers “never knew what hit them”.

In December 2013 U.S. District Judge John Koeltl ordered the “compassionate” release of Ms. Stewart, on account of terminal breast cancer and medical opinions that she had at best 18 months to live.

While she was to live quietly in her last months, her disease suddenly improved to the point where she began openly proselytizing to a variety of left-wing organizations and her adoring followers.

Giving a recent speech to an antiwar coalition, Stewart acknowledged receiving a letter from convicted felon Mutulu Shakur, imprisoned for participating in a 1981 Brinks robbery that left three people dead. Stewart’s terms of release prevented her from associating with felons, so she quickly corrected herself, saying her husband had received the letter from Shakur, who was once involved with the Black Liberation Army. She apparently smirked as she said:

“I don’t communicate with political prisoners because that’s a part of my probation.”

What I don’t understand is why convicted terrorists are even eligible for compassionate release? Ms. Stewart’s release on medical grounds reminds me of Libyan Lockerbie terrorist Abdelbaset al-Megrahi who was released from a Scottish prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds, based on evidence he had only three months to live. He served a mere 8 1/2 years on a life sentence and became a national hero in Libya. He lived an additional three years in his family’s villa, lauded and honoured in his native country.

There certainly are cases where compassionate release is warranted, but in cases of terrorism, early release is a travesty that ought never to occur.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

5 Reasons to Fire Your Divorce Lawyer

10950859361151CDPWhy do clients of divorce lawyers change lawyers so frequently? It’s because they are caught in an emotional vortex, facing the unknown and dreading the journey. However, there are legitimate reasons to fire your divorce lawyer. Consider the following:

1. YOUR LAWYER PULLS A BAIT AND SWITCH

This occurs when you hire a lawyer with a big reputation and never see him or her after your first consultation. Many busy, successful lawyers work with junior lawyers and paralegals and this is beneficial for a client. The usual, mundane paper-pushing can easily be done by a junior and at a far cheaper rate than “big lawyer’s” rate.

However, if this is the way your lawyer works you need to know up front. I always tell my clients that what they need from me is strategy and courtroom presence. The rest can be done by others with my supervision. Far better to have basic family law forms filled out by a junior who bills $250.00 an hour than by “big lawyer’s” charge-out rates. If you can’t accept your lawyer’s work style, time to find a new lawyer.

2. AFTER MANY MONTHS YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOUR BEST AND WORST CASE SCENARIOS ARE

After a few months your lawyer should have received from you or your spouse’s lawyer certain financial documents and information and if you have children, details about your kids and the parenting arrangements during the marriage. You have every right to expect that once a clear picture of the family finances emerges and the roles of each spouse in the marriage is elucidated, your lawyer will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly.

I am often asked to provide a “second opinion” and am always surprised when the client cannot tell me what their lawyer’s plan is to resolve the case. If four months have passed and you have no idea of where you stand, it may be time to challenge your lawyer.

3. YOUR LAWYER HAS NEVER DONE A COSTS/BENEFIT ANALYSIS

Unless you are a multi-millionaire and money is not an issue, you will want your lawyer to consider the financial viability of unleashing the hounds of hell on your spouse. By now, everyone knows how expensive court is and not just court, but the cost of two business valuators, two property appraisers, two child development experts, two accountants and the list goes on and on.

If you are fighting over a sum of $100,000 but it will cost you $150,000 to litigate, you would be a fool to proceed to court. Ah, but what about custody of kids? You can’t put a price tag on that. Yes, you can and you should. The worst battles of all are over children and usually the outcome does not justify the “go to war” tactics and accompanying costs.

A good lawyer will do everything he or she can to find a way to compromise on children’s issues, short of court proceedings. If you have not had a realistic “money” talk with your lawyer, beware.

4. YOUR LAWYER PROMISES BIG, BUT DELIVERS SMALL

An experienced, competent lawyer should be able to give you the odds of success for any court application he or she brings on your behalf. Legal cases are decided on decisions made in earlier legal cases, called precedents, and your lawyer should be fully aware of how cases like yours have been decided.

While you cannot expect lawyers to guarantee a particular outcome, before you can make an informed decision as to whether to proceed to court you need some idea of the lawyer’s opinion of the likelihood of success. If your lawyer promises the sun, the moon and the stars, but delivers space junk you may want to think twice.

5. YOUR LAWYER NEVER SENDS YOU A BILL

While at first blush this may sound like the perfect lawyer, it is not. A lawyer who is unable to bill you is a lawyer that is likely highly disorganized, overworked, has taken on too many clients and is generally overwhelmed. No one likes surprises, and when you finally receive your bill, and you will, it will come as a big shock. Insist that your lawyer bill you monthly so you can see how much this is costing you. Usually lawyers who fall behind on their billing, also avoid conversations about cost and benefits obtained. Not a good combination.

A divorce lawyer’s day is never boring and yet most other lawyers agree that divorce lawyers do the hardest work of all, they work with clients who are emotionally devastated who may become financially spent in the process. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Disbarred and Disgraced Lawyer Strikes Again

GEO Oct 26, 2010Former lawyer Janice L. Jessup, who practiced on Long Island New York has a dreadful discipline history which led to her resignation and disbarment in 2010. Rather than slinking away into oblivion she is again in the news for stealing $1.2 million dollars from an elderly, mentally and physically challenged client.

In 2008 she faced 13 charges of professional misconduct involving making false statements of fact and law; engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; representing a client without adequate preparation; conduct adversely reflecting on her fitness as a lawyer; engaging in an impermissible conflict of interest; and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Unable to muster any kind of defence she opted to resign in 2010, an act that ensured she could not apply for reinstatement for at least seven years. Frankly, she got off lightly if her disbarment was the only punishment for her flagrant abuse of her clients’ trust. She apparently relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina and began using her husband’s surname, Jones.

It now appears the 2008 discipline charges were only the tip of the iceberg.

In 2007 she acted for Geraldine Savage, age 47, in respect of real estate inherited by Ms. Savage that was expropriated and used to build a community centre in Westbury. Lawyer Jessup convinced officials she had authorization to accept $1.2 million dollars in compensation on behalf of her client.

She craftily arranged for an imposter to pretend she was Geraldine Savage when government officials visited her home to confirm Ms. Jessup’s authority to act was legitimate and to investigate Savage’s health status. The real Geraldine Savage was resting comfortably in a residential facility, oblivious of the fraud being perpetrated.

In 2013 Ms. Savage’s relatives realized she had been duped by her lawyer. They later learned Ms. Jessup had spent all the money on herself, her family, and reimbursing other clients.

She was arrested in January 2015 for charges of first-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud and entered a “not guilty” plea last month. The offences carry a maximum prison sentence of eight to 25 years. Her bail was set at a bond of $150,000 or $100,000 cash.

Is it just me or does it seem that cases of corrupt lawyers seem to be on the increase or is it that with the web and other social media we now hear about them much more than before?

“There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.”
― Gautama Buddha

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ex-Lawyer on Trial for Throwing His 2nd Wife Off a Cruise Ship and Putting a Hit on Wife #3

GEO#1Lonnie Loren Kocontes, age 55, formerly a lawyer in California, and later in Florida, is approaching his day of reckoning for his unfathomable deviant behaviour. He lured his second ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, to join him on a Mediterranean cruise in 2006, where he strangled her and threw her body overboard. He reported her missing and then quickly hopped a flight back to California to reunite with his newest wife.

Ms. Kanesaki was a paralegal who had worked with Mr. Kocontes. They married in 1995 and divorced in 2001 but remained on good terms and continued living together on and off until the fateful cruise. Her body surfaced two days later, an event that likely shocked Mr. Kocontes, who undoubtedly thought he had devised a “perfect murder”.

Authorities in California did not pursue Mr. Kocontes until he was caught transferring $1 million dollars from his deceased wife’s accounts to his new wife. The money was eventually seized in civil forfeiture proceedings.

At a federal grand jury hearing in 2006 wife #3 testified on his behalf, but the FBI failed in their efforts to indict him and were later ordered by a judge to return to him $1 million dollars they had seized.

When it became apparent that neither the federal authorities nor the Italians would take jurisdiction, a California prosecutor convened a state grand jury in 2013, calling 14 witnesses including an Italian pathologist who opined that Ms. Kanesaki had been strangled and beaten prior to being tossed into the ocean. She also called Mr. Kocontes’ third wife who recanted her earlier federal grand jury testimony.

Kocontes was arrested in Florida in 2013 for “murder for financial gain” which constitutes “special circumstances” making a convicted offender eligible for the death penalty in California.

In procedural motions, Kocontes’ lawyers argued that only Italy had jurisdiction to prosecute, or alternatively, under admiralty law, the country under whose flag the cruise ship operated should take jurisdiction. The ship flew under a Bahamian flag.

Initially a California judge agreed that California had no jurisdiction to prosecute a homicide in waters off Italy, but fortunately for the victim’s family that order was reversed by an appellate court. Had the lower court decision prevailed, Mr. Kocontes would have escaped any consequences for his heinous act.

In jail awaiting trial Mr. Kocontes was not finished with his devious plans. Now aware his third wife had changed her testimony, he hired two inmates to force her to sign a letter reinstating her 2006 evidence. Once that was accomplished they were directed to kill her.

Instead, one of the hit men contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and this week Mr. Kocontes will appear in a California courtroom to face additional charges of solicitation to commit murder, and one count of solicitation to bribe a witness.

It is difficult to understand how Mr. Kocontes’ greed became his central motivating factor such that he would kill his ex-wife for her money. His decision to off his third wife was to save his own skin… a desperate, defeated man who deserves to be locked up for the rest of his life.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Looking for a Lawyer? Buyer Beware

_DSC4851The practice of law is both a profession and a business. Many lawyers rely on their winning track record and high ethics to gain a reputation that engenders word-of-mouth referrals.

Other attorneys buttress their status in the profession with advertising, but Yellow Page ads, popular for so many years, have gone the way of the dodo bird.

Today’s lawyers utilize television, radio, and the internet to entice potential clients. Many of these ads fall into the cruelly boring “conservative, balding, male lawyer standing in front of a bookcase” category. While others are innovative, even racy! Case in point:

An all-women law firm in Chicago created a billboard ad that read “Life’s Short. Get a Divorce.” The ad featured a photo of an attractive woman in her lingerie beside a handsome man with a tanned six-pack. The woman who posed for the ad looked like a model but she was the lead attorney at the law firm and the dude with her was her personal trainer.

She reported that the firm was inundated with phone calls. Of course, the billboard created quite a stir and consternation in the Chicago bar. It was removed seven days after it went up for an alleged by-law infringement.

In reaction to their increase in business, these lady lawyers started a website with the same name, where they sell T-shirts and mugs with the slogan emblazoned on their products. From all reports they’re selling like hotcakes!

Other forays into to the world of marketing are less provocative but no less effective. One family law firm, again an all-women firm, launched their print marketing with the headline “Ever Argue With A Woman?” I think they made their point very clear!

Of course, where television copies life, you have the billboard in New Mexico declaring “Better Call Saul”, the sleaze bag attorney from “Breaking Bad” who has been rewarded with his own spin-off show.

Other law firms have raised the hackles of their governing bodies with their ads.

In Nevada a lawyer bills himself as “The Heavy Hitter” in his rambunctious televisions spots and a Polish speaking lawyer ran an ad on a Polish-language radio station referring to himself as “The Lion of the Court”. The trouble was that he had never tried a case in court!

Looking for a lawyer? Buyer Beware!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang