Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dad convicted of attempted murder of ex-wife blocks access to life insurance, restitution (West Palm Beach, Florida)

Next time you hear some sob story about how domestic violence laws unfairly target men or criminals, remember this story. This will tell you all you need to know about how weak the law really is, and how very little is done to protect the interests or needs of victims.

This woman was shot by a hitman hired by her ex-husband RON SAMUELS in 1997. Miraculously, she survived, but as a paraplegic on life support. Good old Daddy had purchased a $1 million life insurance policy on her, which seems to be one of the motives for the hit. (That and that Daddy was and is a major abusive creep who didn't want to pay child support.)

Dad was convicted of the crime, but though this woman has extensive ongoing medical expenses, she can't get her millionaire ex to fork over one penny for her expenses or the expenses her parents have incurred in raising the couple's three children, though he was ordered by the courts to pay $354,000 in restitution. But Daddy (and his enabler buddies including a new wife) can apparently afford to rake up thousands in legal fees to keep her from getting access to the policies by tying up this matter up in court, just as he spent $665,00 to try to keep Mom from getting child support.

So basically if Mom were to die tomorrow, daddy's new wife and his best buddy would have access to all the life insurance money. Beyond sickening.

Paralyzed woman, ex-husband who orchestrated her shooting, square off in court over life insurance

By Susan Spencer-Wendel Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 6:58 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, 2010
Posted: 10:05 a.m. Friday, Jan. 8, 2010

WEST PALM BEACH — She testified Friday between hiccupped breaths of the ventilator that sustains her, in yet another round in her endless quest for justice.

Heather Grossman — a quadriplegic, lashed to a wheelchair since the 1997 shooting orchestrated by her ex-husband Ron Samuels — testified Friday via teleconference from Arizona where she now lives. Her nurse raised her right hand for her as she was sworn in.

Grossman appeared in the same courtroom where she sat in person three years ago watching Samuels tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison plus 120 years. The same courtroom where a judge later ordered Samuels — a former multimillionaire car dealer — to pay $354,000 in restitution, to help cover costs of her medical care.

And yet Samuels has not paid a dime of it.

Samuels, imprisoned in North Florida, still owns a $1 million life insurance policy on Grossman, an insurance company lawyer testified Friday.

The same policy that was in place when Grossman was shot at a Boca Raton stoplight — one of various motives Samuels had to have her killed.

"I think it's disgusting," Grossman told The Palm Beach Post. "He took out this policy so that he could shoot me and have a million dollars. It makes me not want to sleep as he could benefit from all that money if I were to die tomorrow."

For years now, Grossman and her parents who care for her have been trying to seize that policy as well as three others insuring the lives of the couple's three children. They hope to use their cash value to help pay for Grossman's round-the-clock medical care, which costs the family up to $150,000 out-of-pocket each year, she estimates.

And for years, the insurance company Lincoln Life, Samuels and Jack Serafin of Palm Bay, Samuel's friend and former high school roommate, have fought in civil court to keep ownership of the policy, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in fees for $400-plus-an-hour lawyers.

"It's unnconscionable that a quadriplegic victim on life support should be having this battle in civil court," Assistant State Al Johnson told Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown Friday. Johnson is taking the extraordinary step of asking Brown, a criminal court judge, to order the policies released.

"Mr. Samuels is trying to achieve what he could not do with a bullet," Johnson told Brown.

And so Grossman appeared to testify again about her injuries and reduced life span.

"Objection!" Samuels' attorney, Bennett Cohn, said to any question about the gravity of her injuries.

Cohn, a former judicial candidate, argued on behalf of the convicted would-be killer's contractual rights to the policies.

Present in court Friday were Serafin and Samuels's new wife, Elizabeth Pastrana Salazar. Samuels himself listened to the hearing via a telephone conference line from prison. At one point, he could be heard laughing.

Under Florida law, Samuels could not receive the $1 million if Grossman were to die as criminals cannot be enriched by their crimes.

But Serafin and Samuels' new wife could benefit greatly.

After his conviction, Samuels transferred the policy to a trust opened by Serafin in what the insurance company lawyer says was a fraudulent transaction. According to the trust agreement, when Grossman dies Serafin would receive reimbursement for his expenses — which he testified Friday are more than $200,000. After that, 25 percent of the remaining money would go to him and 75 percent would go to Samuels' new wife.

Samuels' friend and his new wife have opposed all attempts by Grossman to release the policy.

What does Serafin say when asked how he responds to people who find that morally repugnant?

"There's a real market for viaticals," Serafin said, referring to the practice of terminally ill people selling their life insurance policies for cash.

A stand that is unfathomable to attorneys representing Grossman and her father. Gary Kovacs of Proskauer Rose in Boca Raton represents Grossman and her father for free, moved by the "grave injustice" to Heather Grossman, he said. Grossman has also been represented at no charge by prominent attorney Scott Richardson, who, it was announced Friday, will become the new chief counsel at the State Attorney's Office.

Kovacs said he has trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that a convicted criminal can turn around and sue his victim.

Grossman herself feels victimized all over again.

"It has gone on so long. I just want it to be over and done with. So many years of torment and grief and hurt. And he's continuing to hurt me now."

Since her near-fatal injury, Grossman has gone on to become an advocate for the disabled and speaks on domestic violence. In her work, she met then-President George W. Bush and a host of other powerful people.

But that means very little in this situation.

"It doesn't matter who you know if Ron Samuels wants to keep appealing this and the court doesn't want to stand up to him. It is not fair. It is just not fair," she said.

After a day-long hearing Friday, Judge Brown scheduled testimony to resume Monday morning.
More waiting for likely no resolution.

An insurance company lawyer testified Friday that even if Brown orders the policies released, he feels compelled to ask the judge on the civil lawsuit to hear the matter.

And if Samuels' history is any indication — he once spent $665,000 on legal fees to fight having to pay child support to Grossman — an appeal will likely follow.

An endless quest for justice, indeed.