A "vengeful" woman who was found by an Ontario divorce court to have falsely accused her ex-husband of hiding assets, homosexual adultery and other marital misconduct has been ordered to pay him $200,000 in legal costs.
Superior Court Justice Peter Hambly ruled the actions of Louise Hockey-Sweeney of Milton, Ont. -- in forcing Lawrence Sweeney of Toronto to endure an arduous, unnecessary divorce trial and run up more than $500,000 in legal costs -- were "so outrageous that an order of costs against her is required."
The judge found the 47-year-old mother of three "used the trial proceedings not for the purpose of resolving honest differences on the facts and the law, but for the purpose of wreaking revenge on her husband for her perception that he destroyed her relationship" with a younger gay man for whom she harboured an unrequited passion.
Family law lawyers said the mid-August decision, which is under appeal, is a warning to warring spouses of the financial peril they face if they opt to engage in mudslinging and unnecessary litigation.
"It is a cautionary tale for lawyers and clients to not advance positions that impute dishonesty without appropriate evidence," said Toronto family law specialist Philip Epstein.
In his judgment, reported this week in The Lawyers Weekly, Judge Hambly emphasized Ms. Hockey-Sweeney could not be permitted "to make a fool of the court."
"Any litigant who attempts to use the court for a purpose other than the resolution of honest differences between the parties on the facts or the law or both must suffer the consequences in costs," he wrote. "The court cannot permit itself to be used by a litigant for that litigant's own agenda."
Since suing Mr. Sweeney for divorce in 1999, alleging cruelty and adultery, Ms. Hockey-Sweeney's objective was "to embarrass her husband and to cause him to incur substantial legal fees," the judge found.
"She made allegations of assault, intentional infliction of mental suffering and a homosexual adulterous relationship against Lawrence. She alleged that he was hiding assets and income. She had no credible evidence to support any of these allegations."
Despite these attacks, Judge Hambly said the affluent businessman displayed "infinite patience" toward Ms. Hockey-Sweeney, whom the judge described as "emotionally unstable."
The husband, whom the judge found assumed custody of the children after their mother indicated she no longer wished to care for them, had offered before the trial to pay his wife $5,000 a month in spousal support. He also offered to forego his half-share of the value of an expensive boat and their large home on 22 hectares near Milton.
Mr. Sweeney also assumed full financial responsibility for the children and offered to pay his own legal tab, which by then had run into a few hundred thousand dollars.
Ms. Hockey-Sweeney's decision to proceed to a trial with the "complete fabrication" that her husband had an extramarital sexual liaison with the gay man about whom she obsessed, and other spurious allegations the judge found she knew to be untrue, had disastrous financial consequences for her.
In addition to being ordered to pay $200,000 for her husband's legal costs -- the maximum the judge concluded she could pay -- Judge Hambly also ordered her to pay her ex-husband $553,390 for his half of the matrimonial assets.
The judge also cut her monthly spousal support to $3,500, noting the final outcome was "greatly inferior" to her husband's very generous offers. Ms. Hockey-Sweeney went through eight lawyers before representing herself at the five-week trial.
The judge found Ms. Hockey-Sweeney was "obsessed with anger" because she believed her husband destroyed her relationship with the gay man, who obtained a one-year peace bond against her in 2000. She sent the man a letter earlier this year suggesting they might get engaged after her divorce, noting she had seen him in a dream where "your eyes were all gouged out and filled with gray yucky stuff and blood."
One of Mr. Sweeney's lawyers, Deborah Zemans of Toronto, said her client remains concerned about his ex-wife, but was "very pleased" the judge saw through her false allegations.
Ken Newell's ex-wife thought she was very crafty and triumphant when she asked the D.A. last month to dismiss the frivolous charges she had brought against Newell.
She waited until the afternoon before the trial was to start in Brockton District Court. She knew that Newell would have to arrive early on Wednesday morning with his lawyers and witnesses all prepared for a trial.
"We never expected her to show for the trial," said Newell. "She never does, because she knows she will lose. But what can we do except be there?"
But Catherine Newell is in for a surprise.
Atty. Chester Darling says that justice will triumph in the end when she is sued for malicious abuse of process, along with the police in Holbrook and Brockton.
Meanwhile, it's true that Catherine Newell has a great deal to be happy about because she did get much of what she wanted.
This was the 27th time she had filed false charges against the man. Most observers are unable to understand what is wrong with the courts that they allow this woman, who they diagnosed with mental problems, to continue to torment this man and the two children in this manner.
"Nobody would allow this type of thing to go on anywhere except in our courts," muses Newell. "It just doesn't make sense."
Over the last three years, using similar tactics, she has succeeded in bankrupting him and separating him from his children with spurious charges of violence and stalking, although there has never been any evidence of any wrongdoing by Newell.
Because of gender politics, the police and courts continue to oblige the ex-wife whenever she picks up a phone and wants him arrested, despite a court psychiatric report, which details her problems.
In this latest episode of the Newell saga, he was to go on trial for giving his ex-wife a "penetrating, mean stare" at a visitation center last October. He was thrown in jail for three days based solely on her false accusation.
Because of his ex-wife's latest false report to police:
Newell was arrested by the Holbrook and Brockton police and had to spend three days in a jail that was blood-and urine-soaked.
He has not been allowed to see his children since October, even on Christmas and on his daughter's birthday in early February. His daughter, Heather, is 14 years old and his son, Christopher, is 10.
He had to hire lawyers to prepare for an expensive trial.
He had to sit on pins and needles for months considering the possibility of going to prison for 2 1/2 years.
Attorney Chester Darling tells Massachusetts News he is going to file suit against the ex-wife and the police for deprivation of Ken Newell's liberty under color of law, because she filed the frivolous complaint and they failed to investigate it before arresting him.
In this latest case, as in the past, the ex-wife set Newell up to be arrested. On that October day, he arrived at the Brockton visitation center parking lot at the appointed time to pick up his kids for a visit. As he walked toward the fathers-only entrance, the ex-wife deliberately drove into an adjacent parking lot where she was not allowed to be. It was behind a chain-link fence on an adjoining property, right next to the fathers' parking lot. She sat in the car with the children long enough for him to glance at the car, then she backed away and drove out again.
One can only imagine how embarrassed and stressed the children were as a result.
Later that day, Newell was arrested for violating a restraining order, even though he parked where he was supposed to be parked and the ex-wife drove into the wrong parking lot. The woman knew from previous visits she was supposed to park in the mothers' lot on another side of the building from the fathers' lot.
The Restraining Order specifically allowed Newell to go to the visitation center even though he and his wife would be close to each other. Newell had not violated the order; he was only going to see his children. Also, the visitation center employees had told police that the ex-wife was parked in the wrong place.
Newell, with the help of Atty. Darling, was prepared to go before a jury at Brockton District Court that morning to prove that his ex-wife is playing vicious games with him and his children. If Newell had lost the case, he would face two-and-a-half years in jail, but he was ready to risk it in order to end this sordid, sick game of his ex-wife.
It was expensive. He paid to subpoena 12 witnesses and paid for their mileage He also had two attorneys present in court, and he took time off from work to prepare for it.
On the morning of the trial, Asst. D.A. Julia Lavin told Judge James Dinneen that the ex-wife signed an affidavit the afternoon before, dismissing the charges. None of Newell's entourage had been notified that day. They only found out when they appeared in court the following morning.
Many observers say this is an example of the breakdown of professionalism in the courts. It was only a matter of common courtesy for one lawyer to place a call to another lawyer and tell him the case had been pulled. But Asst. Dist. Atty. Lavin does not know the meaning of the word.
Attorney Darling argued futilely with the judge to put on some sort of presentation or else to dismiss the case with prejudice. This would prevent the D.A. from resurrecting the charges against Newell later on. The D.A. refused and the judge also refused. The judge did agree, however, to note Darling's objection to dismissing the case.
Ken Newell told Massachusetts News, "I am only guilty of wanting to see my children and to be a father. Someday judges and prosecutors will open their eyes to cases like mine, and put a stop to the frivolous abuse of the courts. Presently, the system works for the guilty and hurts the innocent. What is right is wrong, and what is wrong is right."
He says that the only thing that keeps him going is his deep Christian faith.