Canadian lottery divorce case takes another twist

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The divorce case that pitted a $30-million lottery winner against his love-struck former exotic dancer ex-wife has taken another twist — and placed a London lawyer in a nearly impossible legal pickle.

When we last tuned into the saga of Raymond Sobeski and Nynna Ionson two years ago, the couple had settled their divorce and kept the terms secret. And there were rumours the star-crossed couple had been seen together since the settlement.

Sobeski, who lived near Princeton in Oxford County, was the winner of a $30-millon lottery that was, at the time in 2004, the biggest ever in the country. He had held onto the ticket and didn’t cash it until his divorce with Woodstock’s Ionson — a woman he never lived with — had been finalized.

It led to a protracted and seamy divorce proceeding with details that had more sex romps, break-ups and romance rekindling than a pulpy romance novel.

Since then, Ionson has launched a court action to assess her legal fees paid to London lawyer Alf Mamo, a widely respected lawyer known often praised for his expertise in family law.

And Sobeski has rekindled a $1.3-million defamation suit against Mamo for a comment he made to The Globe and Mail when the matrimonial case was hot and heavy in the news.

“There are two versions of what happened here,” Mamo told the newspaper in 2004. “By Wednesday, people will understand that Nynna’s is the accurate one. And they’ll see that his is a perjured account.”

In a recent court decision on a motion raised by Mamo in the defamation case, a Toronto judge commented that Sobeski “did not take to being called a perjurer lightly.”

The suit was filed against Mamo and the Globe in 2006.

Mamo said in his statement of defence filed at that time he had said the words and he could back them up. Two charts were included showing the alleged inconsistencies in Sobeski’s evidence.

As things go in long, sordid legal soap operas, the defamation suit took a back-burner and became dormant while the divorce proceedings were hammered out.

But once the smoke cleared, both Sobeski, with his defamation suit, and Ionson, with her questioning of her legal bill, had turned their sights on Mamo.

Mamo looked to the courts for help after Ionson refused to waive her solicitor-client privilege to the matrimonial materials he said were necessary to defend himself.

Last month, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell ruled against Mamo’s application to use documents and information he obtained when he was acting for Ionson.

Ionson had opposed the motion. “For whatever reason, Ms. Ionson does not wish to sacrifice her privacy to be loyal or courageous for her former lawyer,” Perell said.

Mamo went to court with a laundry list of materials he wanted that included the affidavit of divorce, 119 CDs of recorded conversations, transcripts and medical records.

Also in Perell’s decision is an excerpt of a letter from Mamo’s lawyer to Ionson’s lawyer outlining why Mamo was seeking the information. Mamo said he had made the comment to the media to bolster Ionson’s position that “she was in an ongoing and viable marital relationship” with Sobeski until he picked up the millions.

Sobeski had said in a sworn statement Ionson was “delusional.”

Mamo’s position is “he is being sued for telling the newspaper reporter the truth,” and needed the materials.

Pernell said Mamo “finds himself between a rock and a hard place” because of professional obligations and rules of civil procedure.

But, he said the rules are there to protect Ionson’s privacy interests. He noted she’s not part of Sobeski’s defamation suit.

Some of the requested documents are not covered by privilege and Mamo would be able to call Sobeski as a witness, he added.

The judge gave Mamo a suggestion on how he could “escape his dilemma” — he could return all the documents and property to Ionson, then subpoena them back.

He could also call Ionson as a witness.

There was one juicy tidbit in the decision. While recounting the dramatic background, Perell wrote that after the divorce settlement, “Mr. Sobeski and Ms. Ionson resumed their relationship.”

Not so, said Sobeski’s lawyer, Brian Shiller.

“That’s inaccurate,” he said Tuesday. “They are not together.”

Shiller said he’s not allowed to comment on where Sobeski is living.

Ionson’s lawyers’ offices were called but could not be contacted.

Mamo and his lawyers aren’t commenting on the case while it’s before the court.

There are other, more positive matters for the London lawyer to deal with.

Later this month, Mamo will be awarded the Law Society Medal by the Law Society of Upper Canada in recognition of his accomplishments over his years of practice.

And in particular for his contributions to family law reform in Ontario.

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This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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