Lo­cal re­al­tor charges ac­cuser of mal­ice and defama­tion

At­tor­ney says it’s a case of prin­ci­ple, chance for vin­di­ca­tion

Rappahannock News - - NEWS • COURTHOUSE ROW - By Patty Hardee Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

Heidi Lesin­ski, a lo­cal real es­tate agent and wife of Hamp­ton dis­trict su­per­vi­sor John Lesin­ski, filed a com­plaint with the Rap­pa­han­nock County Cir­cuit Court on Oc­to­ber 2 ac­cus­ing her neigh­bor Ed­mund Ka­vanagh of ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion and defama­tion.

The suit comes some seven months after Ka­vanagh, 84, filed a crim­i­nal com­plaint with the Rap­pa­han­nock County Sher­iff’s Of­fice ac­cus­ing Lesin­ski of punch­ing him “on or about Feb. 20” while at her res­i­dence. He then asked that a notres­pass or­der be served on Lesin­ski.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing a close friend and neigh­bor, Lesin­ski had been han­dling Ka­vanagh’s per­sonal fi­nan­cial af­fairs.

After a two-and-a-half hour bench trial in Rap­pa­han­nock County Dis­trict Court in May, Judge J. Gre­gory Ash­well ruled that in­con­sis­ten­cies in wit­ness tes­ti­mony cre­ated enough rea­son­able doubt as to the ac­tual cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the charge. He found Lesin­ski not guilty.

Count I of Lesin­ski’s com­plaint charges that “her pros­e­cu­tion be­came the sub­ject of wide­spread gossip and spec­u­la­tion” and that “Ka­vanagh in­sti­tuted the … pro­ceed­ings ma­li­ciously and with­out prob­a­ble cause.”

Count II charges that Ka­vanagh made “Defam­a­tory State­ments [that] were com­pletely and to­tally false” and that he made them “know­ing that the state­ments were false, or made the Defam­a­tory State­ments so reck­lessly as to amount to a will­ful dis­re­gard for the truth.”

As a re­sult, Lesin­ski “suf­fered dam­age to her per­sonal and pro­fes­sional rep­u­ta­tion and stand­ing in the com­mu­nity, and en­dured shame, hu­mil­i­a­tion, and men­tal an­guish.”

For each of the two counts, the com­plaint asks the court to en­ter judge­ment against Ka­vanagh for $50,000 and award an­other $50,000 in puni­tive dam­ages.

Be­fore the Fe­bru­ary in­ci­dent, Lesin­ski and her hus­band had been good friends with Ka­vanagh. At the May trial, Ka­vanagh, a re­tired jew­elry de­signer, tes­ti­fied that he had known the Lesin­skis for many years and that they had had a good re­la­tion­ship. The cou­ple had even taken him on va­ca­tion with them to Maine on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and to spend a week with Heidi Lesin­ski’s mother in South Dakota.

While his wife was ill be­fore her death, Ka­vanagh said, Lesin­ski “pro­posed tak­ing over han­dling my ex­penses and other mat­ters to give me a break. I thought it was won­der­ful.”

Even­tu­ally, “she had con­trol of ev­ery­thing,” he said, in­clud­ing his will, bank ac­counts, and med­i­cal di­rec­tive, and she had power of at­tor­ney to con­duct his af­fairs. They would meet pe­ri­od­i­cally to go over his ac­counts and pay his bills.

But in Fe­bru­ary, while going over his bills, they had a fall­ing out over Ka­vanagh’s send­ing money to his in­car­cer­ated son through the son’s girl­friend. In her tes­ti­mony, Lesin­ski de­scribed be­ing upset with the ar­range­ment be­cause “I was afraid for Ed­mund’s prop­erty and my own.” The son had once bro­ken into his father’s house and stolen jew­elry worth thou­sands of dol­lars and was now in jail for al­leged kid­nap­ping.

Lesin­ski tes­ti­fied that she re­peat­edly asked Ka­vanagh to leave her house and that she told him she was sev­er­ing the re­la­tion­ship. She de­nied as­sault­ing him.

In an email Oct. 7, Lesin­ski wrote, “I re­spect­fully de­cline to com­ment at this time.”

Reached by phone on Tues­day, Ka­vanagh de­scribed the May trial as “a waste of time. I never had a chance to speak. All the con­ver­sa­tion was be­tween [Lesin­ski] and the judge.” He de­clined to name a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing him in the cur­rent ac­tion.

Chris Whe­lan, the War­ren­ton at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Lesin­ski, said in a call Wednesday, “From my client’s stand­point this is a prin­ci­ple law­suit.”

He also de­scribed some­thing that was not in Lesin­ski’s com­plaint, but that Whe­lan de­scribed as “dis­turb­ing.

“Within three days after Mr. Ka­vanagh filed the protective or­der,” said Whe­lan, “elected of­fi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers, [and oth­ers] re­ceived anony­mous let­ters con­tain­ing copies of Mr. Ka­vanagh’s crim­i­nal com­plaint. I find [those mail­ings] dis­turb­ing.”

“Within three days after Mr. Ka­vanagh filed the protective or­der,” said Whe­lan, “elected of­fi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers, [and oth­ers] re­ceived anony­mous let­ters con­tain­ing copies of Mr. Ka­vanagh’s crim­i­nal com­plaint. I find [those mail­ings] dis­turb­ing.”

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