The extortion attempt began with my opening a monthly statement from the attorney who represented me in my divorce from the pot-smoking skier. My two little girls had been kidnapped twice by him and it was imperative that I secure the expertise of an attorney so that I could protect my daughters and retain permanent custody. I didn’t have time to do the proper due diligence in selecting legal representation so, based upon the recommendation of a friend, I hired Ed.
Papers were filed, I hid the girls on a remote ranch in Roseville, CA for a few days and I tried to concentrate on work. Finally, after months of worry, the depletion of all of my savings, a move from a middle-class San Leandro neighborhood into a violent Hayward ghetto with my little girls, ages 2 & 4, the divorce was final and my now ex-husband had been sufficiently threatened by the State of California, that I no longer feared that he would kidnap them again. One less worry, finally.
Ed, as my legal counsel, knew of my desperate financial situation, my income, the lack of child support and my general financial vulnerability. He agreed to accept $50 per month in payment for the legal services he rendered until I could pay him in full. So, it was with consternation that I noticed on that monthly statement – 5 months into making payments – that he had increased the balance to the original amount. In making the phone call to his billing office, I was connected to him immediately and he said that he had decided that he couldn’t carry the balance without charging (previously undisclosed) interest, which raised the amount currently owed to the original amount incurred.
I stopped paying the bill. He obtained a judgment against me and called to tell me that he could access my bank account, garnish my wages, and take my car. But, being the good guy that he was, would rather just meet with me so that we could work something out. I was to meet him at his office. It occurred to me that I should take a small tape recorder in my purse, to document our conversation, just in case he decided to change the deal again. And, I had some idea of what the deal might include.
He was dwarfed by his enormous walnut desk, and leaning forward with sweat glistening his balding head and his sausage-like fingers clasped and resting on the desk, he presented his plan for my repayment for his legal services. I was to accompany him to Mexico for a 3-day trip. However, before he spent good money on a plane ticket for me, I was to meet with him at his home on Thursday while “the wife” was away and the kids were in school. He would determine at that “meeting” if I was worth the cost of the plane ticket and expenses for 3 days in Mexico. And he would deduct $100 from my legal fees after the “trial run”.
Feigning the resignation that comes to one with no options, I asked him to detail with clarity how the bookkeeper would record my weekly “payments”, to insure that I could eliminate the perpetual balance owed. And with clarity and detail, Ed explained how it had worked in the past – there are some perks in working divorce cases for young divorcee’s – and then gave me directions to his home, where we were to meet on Thursday.
Ed mis-read the apparent flush in my cheeks as excitement and desire. Indeed I was filled with desire – desire that all that he had said was recorded on the tape recording in my purse – and the desire to leave the now-profusely sweating Ed. With great restraint, I walked to my car, slowly backed from the parking spot and drove a few blocks from Ed’s office building. And then I listened to every single damning word that Ed had said.
The next challenge was to find an attorney who would represent me in sueing Ed for his extortion attempt and after numerous phone calls, I found a young attorney who was hungry and had not yet been corrupted by the legal system. I was Richard Kalish’s first client. He gladly represented me so as to “weed out the scum” in his profession and refused payment.
On Wednesday night – the night before the anticipated “meeting” at Ed’s house – Richard called Ed to let him know that he was filing suit on my behalf at the Contra Costa County court house at 9 a.m. the following day and that we expected KGO-TV to be there for a brief news conference wherein we would outline the “extortion for sexual favors” case against Ed and would invite other victims to come forward.
Ed’s response was typical: First, Denial – until proof is presented, which in this instance was Richard reading from the transcript of the tape recording, Ed’s giving me directions to his personal residence; Next, Fury – and in this case, a threat to kill me and my children; And finally, FEAR & Remorse for having been caught – and a threat to kill himself.
Richard had already put together a deal that included a sizable lump sum in punitive damages, the dropping of all claims for remuneration and the satisfaction of the judgement against me, and an annoying and significfant monthly sum to be paid to me for 5 years as a reminder to Ed of his corruption and foolishness. In return, we would not file the suit, nor hold the news conference and we would provide Ed with a copy of the written transcript of his meeting with me in his office. We may or may not seek other victims, depending on his timely monthly payments, and whether I felt threatened by him in any way.
Ed’s life changed. Ed had to sell his office building in Walnut Creek. Ed had to sell his Tahoe Cabin. Ed tried to hang on to his Walnut Creek home, but eventually had to “down size.” Ed’s wife was so disappointed in the apparent financial reversals that she left Ed, taking their two sons with her. Ed probably didn’t tell her the cause of the financial reversal. Ed paid and paid and paid for 5 years.
My life changed. I immediately moved from the ghetto with my two little girls. I bought a new car and paid cash. I started a printing and advertising company which supported us very well for many years and I stopped being scared. I took up scuba diving and continued traveling to my favorite destinations, carrying my newly purchased Hartman Luggage. Yep, life was good – made better for having been destitute, frightened and alone.
So I’m left with satisfaction yet again in the telling of the story of Ed and his demise. This sense of satisfaction – sweet revenge – doesn’t jive with my professed Christian beliefs and I’m wondering if I am to root out of my soul, my gladness that I punished Ed.
I am weighing the topics of revenge, justice and forgiveness and how one applies these concepts in real life situations. I have had many opportunities to sort out where these fit in my life, and this is just Part 1. Part 2 may have something to do with the grounding of the Oakland PD helicoptor cops . . . .
So how do you apply forgiveness in your life? Is there ever justification for revenge? Where does justice fit? Is it easier to forgive if justice has been served (especially if one has meeted the justice/revenge on one’s own behalf)?
I welcome your advice . . .