Jury Returns Verdict in “50 Shades of Grey” Case

CC image Wikipedia.orgA federal jury has ruled in favor of an ex-husband who was accused of forcing his wife into a sadomasochistic relationship in which he allegedly sexually abused her.

In a story we documented earlier this month, a jury of four men and four women ruled that Kimberly O’Brien, 52, should not receive any monetary damages from the suit that claimed she was abused by her then-husband throughout their marriage.

After listening to testimony from both sides over a nine-day trial, the jury deliberated for four and a half hours before returning their verdict. The ruling closes the book on a lawsuit that has been pending for seven years.

“Here it would seem like the jury believed the husband’s claims that O’Brien was a willing participant in the activities and her suit against him was simply about the money,” said Family Law Attorney Sean Sullivan.

Looking Back at the Case

In her suit, O’Brien alleged that her then-husband Kenneth Anderson tied her up and sexually abused her while the pair was on their honeymoon. The claim also stated that Anderson forced her to walk around the home naked, sleep on the floor next to the bed, and address him as “master”.

Anderson said the sexually submissive relationship was O’Brien’s idea. He also stated that the couple had a safe word in case things went too far, but O’Brien never used the word.

Anderson also testified that O’Brien went behind his back and had an abortion. He said she later told him she’d lost the baby in a miscarriage, but O’Brien told the court Anderson forced her to have an abortion.

The case took seven years to reach a conclusion because Anderson was a successful business owner that had millions of dollars in assets. Sullivan said the case could have been settled much quicker if the couple had opted to draft a prenuptial agreement.

“This case would have been simplified if the parties had decided to create a thorough pre-martial agreement before they wed,” said Sullivan. “The case would not have been litigated for seven years, and the parties could have avoided wasting time and money on a drawn out legal process.”

Sides Differ on Ruling

Ultimately the case came down to a “he said, she-said” type of argument. Perhaps the most damaging evidence against O’Brien’s version of events were photographs of her on the honeymoon. She was seen smiling in the pictures, and there was little evidence of being forcibly constrained earlier on the trip. Dean Dickie, who represented O’Brien at trial, said they were disheartened with the ruling.

“We’re disappointed with the verdict,” said Dickie. “This has been a very difficult ordeal for her.”

Anderson’s attorney Charles Cole said he was confident the jury was able to accurately separate fact from fiction.

“This is not a vulnerable woman under anyone’s control, locked up in some dungeon,” said Cole. “This story just doesn’t hold water.”

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Man Indicted on Charges of Throwing Ex-Wife Overboard While on Cruise

CC image Wikipedia.orgA grand jury in California has indicted a Florida man on charges of murder for financial gain in the death his ex-wife, who died in Italian waters.

If you need to grab a map to understand all that, you’re not alone. Here’s a deeper explanation of the lawsuit.

The Lawsuit

Lonnie Kocontes, 55, used to live in California with his then-wife Micki Kanesaki. The couple filed for divorce in 2001, but the pair continued to live together in an on-again, off-again relationship for some time. The pair decided to share a cabin during a Mediterranean cruise in May of 2006. While on the cruise, Kanesaki went overboard and her body later washed up on an Italian shore.

Italian investigators interrogated Kocontes, but they did not find enough evidence to charge him with a crime. It’s uncertain if the case was deemed an accident or simply went cold, but authorities began another investigation in 2008 after they became aware that Kocontes had began transferring more than $1 million from his ex-wife’s bank account to joint accounts he shared with his new wife.

Kocontes, who at the time was living in Florida, was arrested in February and indicted on charges of murder for financial gain. The indictment claims he strangled his ex-wife, and then tossed her body overboard. He pleaded not guilty to the charge last month, and will attempt to have the case dismissed at a hearing on June 26. Kocontes alleges that the local authorities lack the jurisdiction to bring him to trial.

The charge of murder for financial gain carries some serious consequences. If found guilty, Kocontes could face the death penalty or a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. We’ll keep an eye on Kocontes’ scheduled court appearance on the 26th.

Attorney Sean Sullivan comments

As a defense attorney, I have strong objections to this on jurisdictional and evidentiary grounds.

In this case, the crime was committed in Italy, or more precisely Italian waters. I am not sure the prosecutors in Orange County will be able to sustain their case based on lack of jurisdiction, due to the fact that the crime did not occur in California. It sounds as if the prosecutors are very short on evidence and long on motive.

While killing someone for financial gain is just about the oldest reason there is for killing someone, it does not sound as if prosecutors in this case have proof Kocontes actually killed his ex-wife. Any proof the crime did occur is likely to be found on the cruise ship or in Italy. Simply put, it is unlawful to try this case here in the United States.

Related source:  Huffington Post

Lengthy Legal Battle Ahead for “Fifty Shades of Grey” Divorce Case

CC image Wikipedia.orgA marriage that began in 2005 has ended with a lawsuit alleging sexual assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the federal case that was heard this week.

Kimberley O’Brien took the stand Tuesday to testify against her husband Kevin Anderson, from whom she filed for divorce from in 2006.  Astonishingly, the federal civil case had been litigated for seven years before O’Brien had the ability to take the stand in her defense.

In her suit, O’Brien claims that she and Anderson lived a luxurious lifestyle that included trips to Switzerland and Italy, but their marriage took a turn shortly after they exchanged vows.

According to O’Brien, she was sexually assaulted on her honeymoon in California.  O’Brien claims Anderson struck her in the back of the head, tied her up and sexually violated her.  She also states that Anderson left her bound overnight.

“You will never tell anyone about this and if you are a good slave this will never happen again,” Anderson allegedly told O’Brien the next morning.

O’Brien also claims that Anderson made her walk around their house naked and told her to refer to him as “master”.

“It was the biggest mistake of my life ever being with this man,” O’Brien said in court.

Husband Claims Mutual Relationship

Anderson said the relationship was nothing more than two consenting adults living out their fantasies. According to him, it was O’Brien who brought the sadomasochist fantasies into the bedroom, and she wanted to be tied up on their honeymoon.

She said, “This is our last night here – let’s go big,” according to Anderson’s attorney Chris Cole.  Anderson’s attorney also states that the couple decided on a safe word, but O’Brien never used it during their sexual romp.

Millions of Dollars at Stake

The case has received national attention because of the amount of money at stake.  O’Brien is seeking $10 million in damages for her pain and suffering.  Anderson’s camp believes O’Brien is simply trying to seek a quick payday.

“This is a case largely driven by revenge and greed,” said Cole.

One of the biggest reasons this case has taken so long is because the couple seemed more interested in a “master-slave” contract than a prenuptial agreement.  Family Law Attorney Sean Sullivan said finances and property holdings should always be examined before a couple gets married, especially when a vast amount is involved.

What strikes me most is that this case has been litigated for 7 years.  The main reason for this is because there is a marital estate that reaches into the millions. With an estate that large, both sides would have been better served entering into a pre-marital agreement. They could have avoided such prolonged litigation and saved thousands in legal fees by agreeing before this marriage even occurred that there would be an equitable division of the marital estate in the event the marriage broke down.

If two parties are contemplating marriage and the marital estate in question has significant financial resources, then the parties are much better off entering into a pre-marital agreement. Some people feel these are not romantic and it means the marriage is doomed from the start. I look at them in much more of a practical light. I hope the parties live happily ever after and any pre-marital agreement drafted never has to be enacted. But if things do not work out, then a carefully drafted pre-marital agreement can save both parties time and money lost arguing in court.

This will no doubt be a difficult case for jurors to decide on. They are tasked with deciding if these acts that occurred were the result of abuse and coercion or choices made by consenting adults. What is interesting is that this case was brought as a civil case and not a criminal case. If these acts were forced on her as the wife claims, then the husband’s conduct amounts to criminal action. However, if this was indeed shared sexual interests and the parties entered into the acts voluntarily, then the root of this case is decidedly something else entirely.  

Related source:  Chicago Tribune

Chicago Bears Fullback Cited for DUI

Chicago Bears fullback Evan Rodriguez was cited for driving under the influence, speeding and an improper lane change in connection with a traffic stop at 3:30 a.m. last Friday morning.

CC image Wikipedia.org

Rodriguez apologized for his actions, saying that he made “a very poor decision”, but he might have a tough time keeping his roster spot after his latest incident.  The second-year pro was arrested in March on charges of resisting an officer and disorderly intoxication. The previous charges were eventually dropped, but the incident wasn’t treated lightly by the team.

“I am deeply sorry for the incident that occurred the other night.  I want to apologize to the entire Bears organization, my teammates, coaches and Bears fans everywhere,” Rodriguez said in a statement.  “I realize I made a very poor decision.  I know more is expected of me, and I let a lot of people down that are counting on me.  I will make positive changes in my life so that this doesn’t happen again.”

Rodriguez was pulled over in the wee hours of the morning on Friday after authorities saw him committing multiple traffic violations.  The latest arrest could make it very difficult for the young player to keep a spot on the 53-man roster, especially when you consider he is coming off a less than spectacular season where he totaled four catches for 21 yards in 12 games.

The Bears released a statement following his arrest.

“We are aware of the reports regarding Evan Rodriguez,” the team said in a statement. “We are currently gathering information to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the situation.”

Criminal Defense Attorney Brett Appelman comments

It is disturbing that so many of our “heroes”, such as professional athletes, rock stars, and actors continually get into trouble with the law.  It may be attributed to their higher profile; that the police are always looking to arrest a big name.  It might be the fact that many of these stars have been coddled their entire lives, were always told they were special, and never really had to face any consequences for their bad actions in the past.  They might have grown up feeling entitled; that the rules don’t apply to them.

The actress Reese Witherspoon was arrested recently and while being handcuffed she threatened the cop saying, “Do you know my name sir?” When the police officer responded that he did not know her name she then stated “‘You don’t NEED to know my name? You’re about to find out who I am.” This entitled attitude only made her situation worse, and she eventually pled guilty to Disorderly Conduct.

Evan Rodriguez is a professional athlete who has now been arrested twice in only a few months, both times on alcohol related charges.  While neither case has had serious legal ramifications for him, he is clearly showing a pattern of alcohol abuse and disregard for the law.  The Bears need to discuss his problems with him and get him alcohol treatment immediately.  A second DUI or something worse will have long lasting effects on his ability to play football.

Related source:  ESPN