Woman must pay for ‘de­spi­ca­ble’ sab­o­tage

Im­per­son­ated clar­inetist boyfriend on­line to stop him from leav­ing Mon­treal

National Post (Latest Edition) - - NEWS - Joseph Brean

A McGill Uni­ver­sity mu­sic stu­dent who im­per­son­ated her clar­inetist boyfriend on the in­ter­net to sab­o­tage his ca­reer and pre­vent him from mov­ing away from her apart­ment in Mon­treal has been or­dered to pay him $375,000 in com­pen­sa­tion.

A judge has found this “de­spi­ca­ble in­ter­fer­ence” in the boyfriend’s mu­si­cal ca­reer was a deep be­trayal that robbed him of “a unique and pres­ti­gious ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity, one that would have ad­vanced his ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional clar­inetist.”

Jen­nifer Jooyeon Lee and Eric Abramovitz met at McGill’s Schulich School of Mu­sic in Septem­ber 2013 and started a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship al­most right away. By Oc­to­ber, he lived in her apart­ment, and trusted her so much that he let her use his lap­top, and gave her his pass­words.

Both were ac­com­plished mu­si­cians, she in flute, he in clar­inet, for which he had won sev­eral com­pe­ti­tions and been fea­tured on CBC Ra­dio 2.

That win­ter, Abramovitz ap­plied to fin­ish his de­gree un­der Ye­huda Gi­lad, a top pro­fes­sor of clar­inet at Col­burn School in Los An­ge­les, part of the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. This was a ca­reer goal for Abramovitz, to learn from the best, and af­ter fly­ing with his par­ents to L.A. to au­di­tion for one of just two spots, he was told to ex­pect an an­swer by April 1, 2014.

As it turned out, Abramovitz won the spot, and a full schol­ar­ship to study with Gi­lad. School of­fi­cials emailed him to say so, but Lee in­ter­cepted the email.

Pos­ing as Abramovitz, she wrote back to decline the of­fer, say­ing he would be “else­where.” Then she deleted the of­fer email.

Abramovitz would likely have even­tu­ally fol­lowed up with the school, not hav­ing heard any­thing him­self. But there was an­other step in Lee’s de­cep­tion. She cre­ated a fake email ac­count in the name of the fa­mous clar­inet pro­fes­sor — gi­la­dye­huda09@gmail.com — to send a new fake of­fer email, pur­port­edly from the pro­fes­sor.

“In this fake email, Ms. Lee wrote that Mr. Abramovitz had not been ac­cepted at Col­burn,” the judge wrote in his de­ci­sion. In­stead, the email of­fered him a dif­fer­ent spot at USC un­der Gi­lad’s di­rec­tion, but with only a mod­est schol­ar­ship of $5,000. Abramovitz would still have to pay fees of about $46,000, plus liv­ing ex­penses, which Lee knew he could not af­ford.

“She ap­par­ently did these things so that Mr. Abramovitz would not leave Mon­treal, and in­stead would stay in Mon­treal and re­main in his re­la­tion­ship with her,” Judge David Cor­bett of On­tario Su­pe­rior Court ruled.

Abramovitz was “com­pletely taken in by this de­cep­tion,” the judge found. He ac­cepted the missed op­por­tu­nity, fin­ished his bach­e­lor’s de­gree at McGill, and even­tu­ally took a less pres­ti­gious grad­u­ate cer­tifi­cate at USC, in which he had some in­ter­ac­tion with Gi­lad, about an hour a week, but far less than he would have had un­der his orig­i­nal schol­ar­ship.

Gi­lad swore an af­fi­davit in sup­port of Abramovitz’s case, ex­plain­ing how Abramovitz’s ca­reer path was dis­rupted. Af­ter get­ting a po­si­tion in Nashville, Abramovitz has re­cently taken a po­si­tion with the Toronto Sym­phony Orches­tra.

“I am cer­tain that had Eric not been robbed of his op­por­tu­nity to study with me two years ear­lier, he could al­ready have won an au­di­tion and been com­mand­ing this re­spectable salary two years ear­lier,” Gi­lad said in an af­fi­davit.

“I am very frus­trated that a highly ta­lented mu­si­cian like Eric was the vic­tim of such an un­think­able, im­moral act that de­layed his progress and ad­vance­ment as an up-and-com­ing young mu­si­cian and de­layed his em­bark­ing on a most promis­ing ca­reer.”

In an in­ter­view, Abramovitz ex­plained how he dis­cov­ered the ruse months later, long af­ter his re­la­tion­ship with Lee ended in Septem­ber 2014 for un­re­lated rea­sons.

It was at his sec­ond au­di­tion be­fore Gi­lad, in which they had a brief and strange in­ter­ac­tion, when Gi­lad said, “Why did you re­ject me?”

It was a fair ques­tion. As Abramovitz put it, “You don’t re­ject him.” But hav­ing done noth­ing of the sort, Abramovitz asked in re­turn, “Why did you re­ject me?”

They could not sort it out then and there, but over time, the won­der lin­gered. An­other stu­dent of Gi­lad’s asked him about it. Even­tu­ally, Abramovitz for­warded the fake email to Gi­lad, who replied: “I’ve never seen that in my life.”

“That’s when I knew that some­thing underhanded was afoot,” Abramovitz said. One day in 2015, he and a friend set about try­ing to gain ac­cess to the fake email ac­count, and be­cause Abramovitz and Lee once shared a com­puter, he knew one of her pass­words, which he tried.

“Mirac­u­lously, it logged right in,” he said. Her email was listed as the re­cov­ery email, her phone was the re­cov­ery phone. “We felt like Sherlock Holmes.”

Abramovitz also said she did a sim­i­lar thing in­volv­ing fake emails with his suc­cess­ful ap­pli­ca­tion to the Juil­liard School in New York, caus­ing him to decline it.

He said he is not cer­tain he will be able to col­lect his dam­ages, as he does not know where she is and she has blocked him on so­cial me­dia.

Lee could not be reached. She did not ap­pear at the pro­ceed­ing that led to this de­fault judg­ment against her. Much of the rul­ing is taken up with the judge’s de­ci­sion on why the case was prop­erly heard in On­tario, Lee’s pri­mary res­i­dence, and not Que­bec.

The dam­ages she must pay him are for “loss of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity and loss of in­come caused by re­di­rect­ion of Mr. Abramovitz’s ca­reer re­sult­ing from Ms. Lee’s wrong­ful con­duct,” the judge wrote. Abramovitz also sued for loss of rep­u­ta­tion, and al­though the judge de­cided there was some, he de­cided his scathing rul­ing would more or less solve that prob­lem by point­ing out Abramovitz was found wor­thy of the op­por­tu­nity to study with Gi­lad, and it was en­tirely Lee’s fault that he did not.

“Imag­in­ing how his life would have been dif­fer­ent if he had stud­ied for two years un­der Mr. Gi­lad, and earned his teacher’s re­spect and sup­port, re­quires more spec­u­la­tion than the law per­mits. One hears, par­tic­u­larly in the arts, of the ‘big breaks’ that can launch a promis­ing artist to a strato­spheric ca­reer. I can­not spec­u­late as to how high and how quickly Mr. Abramovitz’s ca­reer might have soared, but for the in­ter­fer­ence by Ms. Lee. But the law does rec­og­nize that the loss of a chance is a very real and com­pens­able loss.”

THAT’S WHEN I KNEW THAT SOME­THING UNDERHANDED WAS AFOOT.

COUR­TESY ERIC ABRAMOVITZ

Eric Abramovitz lost a schol­ar­ship and the op­por­tu­nity to study un­der a noted mu­si­cian in Cal­i­for­nia.

Jen­nifer Lee

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