October 29, 2016 • By Dennis Beaver
“I would like you and your wife to meet my girlfriend, ‘Donna,’ this Saturday, dinner, my treat, Italian,” said “Tom,” who practices law in Southern California and has been a great resource for this column. “She is just amazing! You’ll really like her.”
Six months earlier, they were introduced by a group of “matchmakers” from their church. Romance moving at a fast pace, Tom’s voice conveyed, “She could be the one.”
But this was more than just a social invitation. 62 years of age, twice divorced in marriages he knew should never have been, there was good reason to fear a third failure.
At this stage of life, any successful person has a great deal to lose, and Tom needed Donna grilled, in a friendly way. Who better than a trial lawyer columnist and his paralegal wife.
Grilling is our specialty, something like performing an autopsy on a person when they are still living, and giving him our opinion, as he doubted his own judgment about women, and when to walk away.
“When you are lonely and can’t say no, Sucker is tattooed on your forehead,” my wife told Tom, days after that dinner. “No matter how long you look at yourself in the mirror, you will never see it. But it flashes like an LED sign to someone looking for a good catch.”
As managing partner in one of California’s premier law firms, Tom would be a great catch.
“I cried every day — for 10 years — in my first marriage,” Donna stated, after discussing their three children. Why would you remain married and then have three kids if you were in tears every day? — Red flag #1 appeared.
Then, another comment, “All of my children are financially independent at the moment,” as if to communicate, “Oh, don’t worry, dear, I will never ask you to support my kids.”
My wife noticed that Donna kept squeezing Tom’s hand which was on the table, a sign of ownership; “He’s mine. Don’t interfere!” — Red Flag#2.
We did not have to. Her past did, discovered by a private investigator, after a stunning admission.
“I need to tell you something I am embarrassed about that happened long ago,” Donna volunteered to Tom, earlier. “I was working for adult services in a small Northern California county, helping to care for the elderly, bringing them food, visiting homes every day and just being a friend to these lonely people.
“Many of them asked me to run errands, help with their banking, and so on. I billed the county for my time doing these things, never thinking that it was beyond what I was hired for. They considered it theft, and I was charged with a felony. But I paid the county back, the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor, and I never went to jail.”
To Santa Maria private detective, Riley Parker, “This is the perfect example of ‘I’ve confessed, I admitted my mistake, it’s done and behind me. Now, he will not look any further.’
“But, remember,” cautions Parker, it was her version of the facts. There’s her version of the truth, and then there is the real truth.
“To protect yourself, regardless of your age or who you are dating, when someone gives you a clue into their prior bad behavior, always assume that the truth will be different. We call this the lie of omission — what was left out? And never rely on internet data sources to discover someone’s past, as many courts do not report to information data bases.
“Especially in smaller counties, you have to look, you’ve got to send someone to the courthouse and do research by hand,” he stressed.
After finding nothing in the exhaustive, professional data bases available to Parker, a visit the courthouse uncovered felony charges alleging grand theft and embezzlement — not from the county — but from the people she cared for. She was allowed to plead to the most innocuous charge in return for restitution.
Ask any divorce lawyer what not to do in the early stages of a potentially serious relationship, as Hanford divorce attorney Jeffrey Levinson will tell you, “Keep your hands to yourself. You want to become true friends, you want to like that person, you want to respect, and admire them. Becoming overly romantic too soon, you will not see the negative, and, believe me, it will surface later.”
He added, “And listen, pay attention to things which do not add up — connect the dots.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.