Two sisters, both the daughters of a former divorce client of mine (Mr. Kenneth Bird) have used various websites to make vicious false claims after I refused to respond to their threats to "make it right." One of them, identifying herself only as a "d. king" or "L. King, " from Escondido, California, after telling me "TIME IS UP!, " posted on a website the false information that a "CROOKED DIVORCE LAWTER (sic) EMBEZZELS FROM STOCK ACCOUNT AND WORSE, " and threatening to put these lies on more free or inexpensive websites "indexed by 5 major search engines" unless I "contacted" her. Not inclined to dignify what I considered an extortion attempt, Ms. King, allegedly acting on behalf of her sister Mary Donahue, made good on her promise to try to "force" me to contact her to again "make it right" by posting false statements on a multitude of websites, stating "good luck getting any of these removed . . . you cannot effectively threaten the sites with your typical lawyer BS, " threatening that this was "just the beginning" and that "the real fun will begin . . . very soon." The truth is as follows:
First, a "D. King" never attended any court hearing in the case, nor did she assist her father in any way throughout the court proceedings to the best of my knowledge. Her name was never raised by her father during the course of any representation, except on one occasion (and that in unflattering passing reference).
Next, her sister Mary Donahue was the person to whom hundreds of thousands of dollars were transferred just before Mr. Bird's separation from his wife and who, according to Mr. Bird, refused to come back to court to explain this when their legitimacy was called into question by Mrs. Bird.
Contrary to Ms. King's "headline, " I have never "embezzled" a thing from anyone, as my clear record of any disciplinary action with the State Bar of California after approximately 30 years of law practice will verify.
I very reluctantly respond to the allegations with the truth of the matter as follows:
I had known and represented Kenneth Bird for four decades. After the death of his dear wife, Betty Bird, he went to an agency to acquire a young bride from Russia. He met, brought to the United States, and married Valentina, a woman approximately 20 years his junior who had a young daughter who was handicapped. He spent a significant amount of money bringing them to the United States.
When Mrs. Bird filed a Petition for Dissolution of the parties' marriage on October 31, 2006, Mr. Bird retained me to represent him in the case. Pursuant to our agreement, I charged and provided monthly itemized bills to Mr. Bird on an hourly basis at a reduced rate, and he always paid his bills as best he could without objection.
From the day that Mrs. Bird filed her Petition for divorce, she and Mr. Bird litigated their high conflict case, and the disputes continue to this day. They tried the case over multiple days from March 2006 through October 2007. The case was decided in June 2008 by the Honorable David Haet, Commissioner of the Superior Court. Because the debt they incurred during their marriage was so huge (hundreds of thousands of dollars) and their combined income so low, they found themselves arguing over who should pay the debt. Mrs. Bird filed bankruptcy during the course of the divorce case. Mr. Bird was left with a small house against which he owed approximately $300, 000 and tens of thousands owed in credit card debt. Mrs. Bird had saved from bankruptcy her retirement plans worth approximately $50, 000. Though the court was ordinarily obliged to divide them equally, in this situation where the parties were in the negative, the judge could make an unequal division of the retirement benefit to help Mr. Bird lower the debt against his house if the judge felt it was "just" and fair. This, plus spousal support, was what Mr. Bird wanted. Court records show what the court did, and why. The following statements are taken directly from documents admitted into evidence in Mr. Bird's dissolution action or the court file in Solano County Superior Court Case No. FFL093727:
In the court's decision, the Commissioner awarded Mr. Bird spousal support and one-half of his wife's retirement benefits, but no more. The Commissioner specifically answered "no" to the question of whether fairness ("equity") favored Mr. Bird. The court found that Mr. Bird ". . . was a poor manager of his finances and allowed installment debt to mushroom while making little to no income . . . He further gifted a separate residence to a daughter, Mary Donahue, with equity in the $200, 000 to $300, 000 range, if not higher, and deprived himself of the use of that separate property to provide for his support."
The court's decision was based upon the following evidence:
1. At or about the time the parties separated, Mr. Bird listed as his assets in a document in his own hand various bank accounts totaling over $300, 000. But the bank records showed that between August 2006 and October 2006 (the latter date when his wife left him), five of those bank accounts were closed totaling over $350, 000, and although the money was in the joint names of Kenneth Bird, his wife, and Mary Donahue, all of the money was taken by Ms. Donahue, most within days before the couple separated. Mr. Bird and Ms. Donahue testified that the money belonged to Mary Donahue, though Mr. Bird claimed all the interest from the accounts on his tax returns.
2. County records received by the court also showed that his substantial equity in a house on Sunhaven Circle was also conveyed to Ms. Donahue on May 23, 2006, approximately five months before Mr. Bird's wife left him.
3. Credit card applications admitted into evidence signed by Mr. Bird forging his wife's signature revealed that he applied for and was granted substantial credit under her name, falsely stating on two applications that his wife operated a business known as "Valentina Enterprises" with annual gross sales of $225, 000, and annual gross sales of $125, 000 on another application. Her income during that time was little or nothing, and at the time of trial her income was no more than $3, 000 per month. The court's decision expressly "consider(ed) (Mr. Bird's) fraudulent application for installment credit and use thereof."
Put quite simply, it appeared that the court did not feel that it was fair for Mrs. Bird to give any more than one-half of her retirement benefits to Mr. Bird when he finally admitted at trial that much of it had been incurred fraudulently without his wife's knowledge and consent.
Throughout the lengthy trial of this case, Mr. Bird was always appreciative of the work that I had done, and was complimentary and ingratiating. However, as he became increasingly sick due to alcohol related problems, he became increasingly difficult towards others. Finally, just before the Commissioner rendered his decision, Mr. Bird, then in debt with my office, called me to tell me that he was being investigated by law enforcement authorities for having allegedly sexually molested his wife's daughter. Because I no longer practice criminal law, I referred him to another attorney.
Donalee King and Mary Donahue have falsely accused me of taking money from Mr. Bird's trust account or from some sort of stock sale. The truth, borne out in court documents and bank records, is this: Mr. Bird was in need of funds to pay his substantial debt. He therefore cashed out certain investment accounts. Valentina Bird's name was on the accounts and her attorney refused to release the funds to Mr. Bird. In April 2007, both Mr. Bird and Valentina agreed in writing, and the Commissioner made an order, to deposit those funds in my trust account. After Valentina represented herself in pro per, I convinced Valentina that they indeed were Mr. Bird's separate property and, for that reason, in May of 2007 she stipulated for the release of the funds to Mr. Bird. All of those funds were released to Mr. Bird but for the agreed sum of $4, 396.52 which, with his consent, went to pay the outstanding balance on his bill with this office. Because Patricia Ritchie, our office manager, was absent (she was receiving chemotherapy treatment) at the time of the transfer, she did not pick it up. When the missed payment was credited to Mr. Bird's outstanding bill, he still owed over $3, 000 to this office. When he died, his bill was still past due and I forgave any balance due. His case was never completed because I was instructed in writing by Ms. King to do no further work on the case.
Please allow me to say that it is with great reluctance that I dignify the remarks of these two sisters with a response. I had no desire to expose the events of the case to public scrutiny, for the facts do no flattery to their father and their family. Only the harm that they sought to do me and those I love unless I "made it right" caused me to respond through this forum.