It All Seemed So Good: Toronto Neurosurgeon Arrested for Murder of Wife

GeorgiaLeeLang025Mohammed Shamji had it all:  a beautiful wife, who was herself a family doctor, three lovely children, and a PhD from Duke University in biomedical engineering, which paved the way for his reputation as a world-renowned neurosurgeon. But the family was hiding a secret…according to news reports, the Shamji’s had visits from the police more than once for allegations of domestic violence and neighbours reportedly heard them fighting.

Tragically the ultimate weapon for men that engage in family violence was unleashed when Dr. Sahmji, age 40, allegedly murdered his wife, Elana Fric-Shamji last week in their garage. He was arrested on Friday and is in police custody charged with first degree murder. The media reports that Dr. Shamji placed her body in a suitcase and dropped her  beside a river in suburban Toronto, where she was found the day before her husband was arrested.  The coroner determined she died from strangulation and blunt force trauma.

It is impossible to pigeon-hole Dr. Shamji as he does not fall within the typical profile of a husband (or wife) who murders their partner, which includes severe mental illness, previous felony convictions, lower intelligence, and more cognitive impairment than in other types of murders. However, eschewing political correctness,  it may well be that his cultural upbringing played a role.

The killing of a female intimate partner or spouse is referred to as “uxoricide”. Statistics reveal that of 2,340 partner murders in America in 2007, female victims made up 70%. In South-East Asia 55% of all murdered women died at the hands of their partner, in Africa it is 40%, and 38% in the Americas. It is reported that approximately 7 women are killed per month in England and Wales, 4 women per month in Australia, and in the United States it is 76 women per month.

Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji had recently filed for divorce and expressed relief that she was on her way to a new life. This stage of separation is the most dangerous time for women. Her last tweet on November 27, 2016 was lively and upbeat, displaying a photo of her and a fellow female physician. Her children have now been placed with their maternal grandparents. How very sad…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Court Orders Maintenance Enforcement Program to Pay Dad for Abusive Collection Efforts

GeorgiaLeeLang009Some of the worst complaints about the  British Columbia family law justice system arise from litigants dealing with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program  (“FMEP”), called the Family Responsibility Office in Ontario.

Support enforcement programs permit parents and spouses who have court orders or agreements providing for child or spousal support payments to register their orders or agreements with the enforcement program in their province, at no cost to the registrant.

The protocol is that once an agreement or order is registered, the payee parent or spouse must pay support to FMEP, no longer directly to the recipient. FMEP ensures that the recipient parent or spouse receives the payment monthly, and in cases where a payee fails to pay, they take steps to enforce the payment of the support.

Interestingly, a payee does not have to be in arrears of support to be monitored by FMEP.  I remember years ago when a client of mine agreed to pay support for his wife and children, an agreement that was incorporated into a court order. My client’s wife registered with the Program as she was entitled to, however, my client was most distressed when he received a letter from FMEP  addressed, “Dear Debtor”. My client made every payment every month on time and was insulted by the program’s cavalier use of the term “debtor”. He was certainly not a debtor, just a regular guy whose wife registered with the program.

Sometimes recipients enter the program out of spite for their former spouse, however, 99.9% of the cases involve payees who have fallen behind in their court ordered payments.

In a recent Ontario case, a typical scenario unfolded for Richard DeBiaso, who paid child support to his ex-wife for the support of the two children residing with her, with a set-off because he had one child living with him. It is not uncommon that as children mature they switch homes and move from mom’s house to dad’s house. That’s what occurred in the DeBiaso case where over time all the children resided with their father.

Mr. DeBiaso negotiated new terms for child support with his former wife, entered into a new agreement and made arrangements to appear in court to finalize their new arrangements. Unfortunately, Ms. DeBiaso had already registered with the Family Responsibility Office,  (“FRO”) who were unaware of the new support agreement that had yet to be confirmed by the court.

The first Mr. DeBiaso heard of any problems was when FRO sent a letter advising him that they were reporting him to the credit bureau. Shortly thereafter FRO issued a garnishing order to his employer which prompted his lawyer to send a letter to FRO advising of their mistake and the pending court order.  FRO was unmoved–they were enforcing the order they had received from Mr. DeBiaso’s wife and had now taken steps to have his driver’s  license suspended. Needless to say, FRO was not responsive to any communication and regularly ignored letters from his lawyer, also refusing to accept phone calls.

Mr. DeBiaso finally obtained a court order directing FRO to cease their collection efforts. He then asked the court to order FRO to reimburse him for his legal fees, an amount close to  $10,000. The court reviewed numerous other decisions ordering FRO to pay costs, noting that most of these cases involved “aggressive enforcement actions on the part of FRO”.

Justice Nelson awarded Mr. DeBiaso the sum of $7,500 saying:

“In this case it was made clear to the FRO caseworker that there was a dispute over the amount of arrears owing.  It was made abundantly clear that there had been a material change because of the move of the children.  While I understand that FRO has a mandate to enforce, it seems to me that insisting on enforcement by way of licence suspension, when it is likely that the matter will be before the court within a very short period of time, is an unreasonable exercise of the Director’s mandate to enforce.

…the caseworker was kept fully apprised of all relevant information about the motion to change.  The refraining motion was December 10, 2015; the motion to change was scheduled for December 30, 2015.  The insistence by the Director on proceeding with enforcement under such circumstances is not only costly to the individual involved but costly to the court in terms of time allotted to the case.”

It should be noted that FMEP’s and FRO’s inappropriate attitude while serving the public is not limited to payors who have arrears of support. It is also nigh impossible for recipients to be heard in a timely manner. The British Columbia program is contracted to a large American corporation that makes oodles of money, with little apparent concern for customer relations.

DeBiaso v. DeBiaso 2016 ONSC 2253

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Lawyer Falls for Nigerian Scam, Loses His Law License

GeorgiaLeeLang059Albert Einstein’s quotes are legion, but one of his most pithy is:

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

Along the same line, Judge Judy once remarked  that “Beauty fades, but dumb is forever”. 

Both quotes are apropos for a lawyer from Iowa who actually believed he could receive millions from a Nigerian Prince, and worse yet, dragged a client or five along for the ridiculous ride!

Lawyer Robert Allen Wright Jr. represented Floyd Lee Madison in a criminal matter in 2011. Mr. Madison presented lawyer Wright with documents which allegedly showed that Madison was entitled to a huge inheritance from his long-lost cousin in Nigeria. He asked Mr. Wright to help him get the funds transferred to him, a sum of over $18 million dollars, in exchange for 10% of the money. There was, however, one catch. To obtain the funds Madison needed to send the sum of $177,000 to Nigeria to cover the inheritance taxes.

At the same time, Mr. Wright was acting for Linda P. in a worker’s compensation suit. She received a payout of $25,000, whereupon Mr. Wright asked if she would loan $12,500 to Floyd Madison, as he needed the money to obtain an “anti-terrorism certificate” in order to complete the Nigerian transaction. She did more than that: she gave her entire WCB payout to Madison. He then enlisted several other clients to “loan” monies to Madison, in hopes of reaping great rewards from multi-millionaire to-be  Mr. Madison.

Meanwhile, lawyer Wright was busy dealing with representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the African Union, and even the President of Nigeria. As scams go this one was a good one. He spoke with the Nigerian lawyer who purportedly witnessed the will of Madison’s cousin, and had discussions with a lawyer in England, Jonathan Walker, who told Wright he had travelled to Nigeria and attested to the legitimacy of the inheritance.

You already know how this ends…no inheritance received, no legal fees paid, and no repayment of Mr. Wright’s clients. But it wasn’t over yet.

Wright was inundated with disciplinary charges from his discipline body for incompetence, failure to disclose or secure client consent to conflicts of interest, and assisting a client in dishonesty or fraud. (The latter charge was not made out, as Mr. Wright was not devious, just stupid!)

The Iowa Supreme Court Disciplinary Board found that Mr. Wright “honestly believes–and continues to believe that one day a trunk full of one hundred-dollar bills is going to appear upon his office doorstep.”

The Board described Mr. Wright’s conduct as “delusional” but not fraudulent, and he was suspended for a period of one year.

It may be hard to believe but according to Ultrascan Global Investigations who operate in 69 countries, the profits earned by Nigerian 419  scam artists amounted to over $12 billion dollars in 2013. They say there are more than 800,000 organized perpetrators globally and many of them are Nigerian. Section 419 is the  section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud.

Ultrascan also reports that in 2002 the United States government was given authority to open all letters mailed from Nigeria to the U.S.  Government authorities found that 70% of the letters were scams. Today, the Nigerians rely mainly on email to induce unsuspecting victims.

Bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Lighter Side of Divorce

GeorgiaLeeLang032We all need a few laughs once in while, so today’s post is intended to focus on the lighter side of divorce, which, believe me, does not exist when you are in the middle of it. It is always amusing to see what Hollywood has to say about the subject, given their residents are abundant among the divorce statistics.

For those who have survived divorce and those who watch from a distance (and are grateful for that), consider the following sound bites and barbs.

1. “Ah yes divorce, the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet.”
ROBIN WILLIAMS, divorced twice

2. “I’m an excellent housekeeper. Every time I divorce, I keep the house.”
ZSA ZSA GABOR, divorced seven times, one anulment

3. “The difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a legal separation gives the husband a chance to hide his money.” JOHNNY CARSON, divorced three times

4. “Today Pamela and Tommy Lee announced they are getting back together. You know what that means? There’s still hope for Ike and Tina Turner.”JAY LENO, married for 30 years

5. “I’ve given my memoirs more thought than my marriages. You can’t divorce a book.”
GLORIA SWANSON, divorced four times

6. “The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.”
HENNY YOUNGMAN, married for 60 years

The literary world also has something to say on the topic of divorce:

6. “A divorce is like an amputation, you survive it, but there’s less of you.”
MARGARET ATWOOD, divorced once

7. “The worst reconciliation is better than the best divorce.”
MIGUEL DE CERVANTES, married for 32 years

8. “When two people get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they “don’t understand” one another,
but a sign that they have at last, begun to.”
HELEN ROWLAND, marital status unknown

As Billy Joel once said “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang, happily married for 27 years!

Jared Fogle, Subway Spokesman, Had Secret Life as a Pedophile

10950859361151CDPJared Fogle was a clean-cut college kid from a good family in Indiana who weighed 425 pounds and decided he needed to lose some weight. He gave up his craving for fast food and began eating exclusively at Subway. Along the way he lost 235 pounds on what he called the “Subway diet”.Subway’s head office heard about Jared’s success and presto! he became the well-paid spokesperson for Subway Restaurants. By 2013 he had filmed over 300 commercials for Subway and travelled around the country touting the health benefits of Subway’s fare.

In 2001 Jared married his first wife, a union that ended in divorce in 2007. In 2010 he remarried and fathered two children. His life, it seemed, was charmed. He was famous, affluent, and had a loving family.

But all that changed when Jared Fogle’s home was raided by FBI and Indiana State Police last month, an investigation that followed the arrest of Fogle’s colleague, Russell Taylor, who was the director of the Jared Foundation, a non-profit that was geared to programs and education for obese children. Taylor was charged with child exploitation, possession of child pornography and voyeurism. He apparently shared videotaped kiddie porn with Jared, obtained through hidden cameras in his home.

After his arrest he attempted suicide in the Marion County Jail and was placed on life support for a time. He is now back in jail.

Subway immediately suspended its relationship with Jared and with the news this week that Jared will plead guilty to charges of possessing child pornography and traveling to pay for sex with minors, Subway has now terminated his contract.  It is reported the charges involve 14 minors, both male and female, and that as part of his plea bargain he will serve a minimum of five years in prison, although he could be sentenced to as long as 12 years. He has also agreed to compensate each of the 14 victims the sum of $100,000.

His parents, a doctor and a teacher, released the following statement today:

“Our family is shocked and profoundly disappointed in Jared’s abhorrent criminal behavior and we are very concerned for the well-being of those affected by his conduct. At the same time, we are gratified that Jared is accepting responsibility for what he has done by agreeing to plea guilty to the charges filed today and by volunteering to make restitution to the victims.

We are also gratified that he is seeking medical treatment. We hope that he will become healthy again and are confident that after he serves his sentence, he will continue to make amends. We look forward to the day that he rejoins our family and society.”

Jared’s wife also filed for divorce this week and will now raise two children under the age of five without their father. Further, as a registered sex offender, when Jared is released from prison he may not have any contact with his children.

The American Psychiatric Association characterizes pedophilia as a mental disorder, while other experts working with sex offenders say it is a sexual orientation and compare it to the once held view that homosexuality was a mental illness, a position that has now been abandoned.

Jared’s lawyer advised media outlets that Jared will avail himself of psychiatric treatment and has already begun therapy.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Happy 4th Anniversary Lawdiva!

_DSC4179 - Version 2Happy Anniversary to me…I mean to Lawdiva! On May 10, 2010 I started writing and just haven’t stopped. I’ve since learned that 70% of blogs die within several months of their commencement or just get so sick they fade away.

So, what has the last four years looked like?

1. Thanks to my earliest readers, in October 2010 I won Best Canadian Legal Blog. What a way to start!

2. By early 2011 my blog articles were published in The Huffington Post, Postmedia’s Canada.com, and many of Canada’s daily newspapers including the Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Windsor Star, and Regina Leader Post.

3. I have written 588 articles on 13 broad topics including my favourites: family law, criminal law, bad lawyers…and judges, celebrity divorce, pop culture..

4. My stats indicate I receive on average 40 comments from readers every month, and that many more comments are posted on Facebook and LinkedIn. Which articles got the most comments? “Notables Who Failed Their Bar Exam” and my “Disbarred Series”, followed closely by “The Scourge of Family Law: Child Sexual Abuse”.

5. The editors of Canada’s largest daily newspaper, the Toronto Star, liked my Lori Douglas bondage judge stories so much they hired me to write one for them.

6. Award winning US website “abovethelaw” didn’t like my opinions on Judge Lori Douglas and berated me in their commentary…I took their attention as a compliment!

7. My story on the Coachella Music Festival appeared in Palm Spring’s Desert Sun newspaper before it hit my blog… I got lots of hate mail for having the nerve to criticize Coachella, an economic necessity for the little town of Indio, California. You know, I still think Snoop Dog is a ghastly role model for the thousands of young teens who subjected themselves to his filth…

8. Most of my followers are Canadian or American, but I also get readers from many other countries including China, India, Australia, Malta (with a big shout-out to my Aunt Petra), Japan, Russia, Guyana, Singapore, Trinidad, Thailand, South America, and Europe.

9. For me, the best part of penning Lawdiva is hearing from you or not hearing from you, but knowing you’re lurking around…

Keep lurking and I’ll keep writing!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Newlywed Pushes Husband Off Cliff: Sentenced to 30 Years

DSC00447_2 (1)With some of the most spectacular viewpoints in the world, Glacier National Park in northern Montana, all one million acres, is one of nature’s paradises, abounding with hundreds of lakes, flora and fauna of all description, a place where grizzly bears, mountain goats, and a vast variety of bird species make their home.

However, this haven for hiking, fishing, and swimming, was the scene of a terrible accident last year, according to newlywed Jordan Linn Graham, age 22, from Kalispell, Montana.

On July 7, 2013 she and her husband of eight days, Cody Johnson, age 25, drove 25 miles from Kalispell to the park, a visit that ended with Cody’s body at the bottom of a high cliff. But Ms. Graham hid the truth, telling her friends and relatives that he had gone on a “joyride” with friends to Washington State.

That lie quickly unravelled when Cody’s broken body was found three days later, after a friend and co-worker reported him missing. Ms. Graham’s falsehoods finally caught up with her as authorities and friends questioned her ever-changing explanations.

Remarkably, while engaged in the charade that she didn’t know what happened to him, she advised police that she drove to the park and found his body, suggesting that the spot where she located him was a favorite of his. She apparently believed that her random discovery would be considered legitimate by the police. It was not.

She eventually told the police that she and Cody went to the park to talk about her second thoughts about their marriage, but only after the police showed her videotape of her and Cody at the park.

She then admitted their conversation escalated into a heated argument where she alleged that Cody grabbed her arm and in defending herself, she pushed him from behind where he tumbled off the edge of the cliff to the ravine below.

Last December her trial began with a not-guilty plea, however, just before closing arguments and jury deliberation she plead guilty to second degree murder. In exchange, prosecutors withdrew the first degree murder charge.

Her strategy was obvious, a guilty plea to second degree murder with an explanation that the homicide was accidental, would surely lead to a lenient sentence, perhaps as little as ten years, or so her lawyer thought.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way, as today Ms. Graham was sentenced to 30 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, with no possibility of parole.

Justice Molloy did not mince words saying “There is only one person in this room that knows what happened, and I don’t think she’s been entirely truthful about what happened.”

The judge also said that the court was still waiting to hear an apology from Ms. Graham, but all they heard was a tearful explanation that “It was a moment of complete shock and panic…I have no other explanation.”

Is Ms. Graham an evil person or has our culture made human life so disposable and our egos so predominant that a push over a cliff is akin to swatting a fly?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang