Adultery conviction is affair to remember for divorce industry
By John F. Kelly, Washington Post, 12/7/2003
When John Raymond Bushey Jr. became the first person in as long as anyone can remember to have been convicted of adultery in Virginia, several things happened. He resigned his position as attorney for the Shenandoah Valley town of Luray, Va., a job he had for 32 years.
People who heard of his situation scratched their heads and said, “You mean, adultery is actually a crime?”
And those who wade into the messy aftermath of alleged infidelity, such as divorce lawyers and private investigators, started pondering the impact the ruling would have on their jobs.
As for the folks in Luray, they’re just curious what the snowy-haired Bushey — 65 years old, married for 18 years to the town clerk, and the very model of a courtly Southern lawyer — had been up to.
“You always hear gossip, but you never know what to put any credence to,” said a woman who works on Luray’s Main Street. Like virtually everyone else interviewed in the town of 4,500, she spoke on the condition that her name not be used when commenting on the Bushey case.
Because the charges were filed in Virginia’s lowest court, there are no records that say exactly what Bushey did, with whom he did it, or why prosecutors would pluck such a rarely used statute from Virginia’s criminal code and apply it to him.
Bushey has declined to discuss the case. And prosecutors have not given many details of Bushey’s guilty plea on Oct. 23, the result of an agreement.
“There’s nobody peeping in a window saying, Mr. Bushey did this,’ ” said an assistant district attorney, Glenn Williamson, when asked how authorities had found out about the indiscretion. The complainant, he said, was the woman involved with Bushey. She has not been charged. Although he pleaded guilty in District Court, Bushey is allowed to appeal to Circuit Court. On Oct. 31, that’s what he did.
More details might come out when the case goes before a judge on Jan. 27. Until then, Williamson is not discussing the case, beyond saying, “I think that the state has an interest in protecting the sanctity of marriage.”
Like other Class 4 misdemeanors in Virginia, adultery carries a maximum penalty of a $250 fine. Bushey paid half that, along with $36 in court costs.
Prosecutors in the Washington area could not recall the last time anyone around here was charged with adultery. Many laws seen as holdovers from an earlier morality have been repealed in periodic overhauls of state statutes. The US Supreme Court’s ruling in June that struck down Texas’s antisodomy statute has prompted many states, including Virginia, to scrutinize laws concerning private acts between consenting adults.
The Virginia State Crime Commission has spent the past three years studying the state’s criminal code and next month will recommend repealing its sodomy statute and the fornication statute, which prohibits sex between unmarried people.
Also recommended for repeal: “Conspiring to cause a spouse to commit adultery,” a leftover from the days of fault divorce, when a wife sometimes hired a woman to seduce her husband and also paid a camera-toting private investigator to kick down the door of their love nest.
But the adultery statue has held on, even though the commission staff said the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas could be interpreted to suggest that Virginia’s adultery statute is unconstitutional. “There’s still a public policy concern,” said Brian J. Moran, a Virginia General Assembly delegate who serves on the crime commission. “Adultery is wrong, and we were not going to eliminate a criminal action even though it has been infrequently prosecuted.”
There is another reason it is useful to keep on the books a law that is seldom prosecuted, experts said: It allows individuals in civil divorce cases to assert their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about extramarital exploits. If adultery were not a crime, spouses involved in divorces would have no legal protection when presented with such questions as, “What were your secretary’s pantyhose doing in your glove compartment?”
With adultery a crime that conceivably could be prosecuted, “a lot of this kind of dime-store novel testimony just doesn’t get presented,” said Joseph F. Murphy Jr., chief judge of Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals.
But some judges in civil cases do compel bickering spouses to testify, arguing that the crime of adultery is never prosecuted. The Bushey conviction has ensured that this is no longer the case.
“That’s going to have an impact on future cases because I think while in the past the argument was that nobody ever’s been convicted [of adultery] so it’s not really a risk, this is saying something differently,” said Carol Schrier-Polak, a family law lawyer with the Arlington firm Bean, Kinney & Korman.
Sanford K. Ain, a lawyer at Sherman, Meehan, Curtin & Ain agreed: “The decision may have some very significant consequences,” he said.
The divorce industry has changed over the years, as the role adultery plays in court cases has evolved. The rise of no-fault divorce meant that establishing adultery was no longer as important as it once was. But in Virginia it still is a factor when a judge divides assets, sets alimony, and makes custody decisions.
Private investigators in Virginia pore over court rulings such as Coe v. Coe and Watts v. Watts, cases that established what constitutes “clear and convincing” proof of adultery. Public displays of affection caught on videotape are a start, said Caren Chancey of Background Brokers in Bristow. Courts also look favorably on such evidence as a videotape of an adulterous couple entering a motel room in the middle of the day and spending at least two hours inside alone. If a private investigator can document the sex act — in a vehicle or through open vertical blinds — so much the better.
Chancey said most tapes are never shown to a judge. Their existence often is enough to force the cheating spouse to a settlement.
Deborah Aylward of A Woman-Owned Private Investigation Agency in Falls Church, Va., predicts that publicity surrounding the Bushey case will make the unfaithful toe the line — for a while.
“We’re going to see a dip in our sales as people are more cautious,” Aylward said. “Absolutely. People are going to be very, very good. But I’ve got to tell you, this industry is cyclical.”
And that means the Seventh Commandment will continue to be broken. Bushey declined comment. In a phone interview, his wife, Cindy Bushey, did not comment on her husband’s problems beyond saying, “We’re going to stay together.”
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
Relationship red flags
By Helena Oliviero, Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
Goldie Margolis, a 35-year-old executive at a Fortune 500 company, had suspicions about a man she was dating. But lonely and craving romance, she ignored flagrant relationship warning signs that should have told her she was on shaky ground.
He didn’t give her his home phone number. He never invited her to his place. They shared candlelight meals only on weeknights. Giddiness blinded Margolis. He sent her pages saying, “I am your biggest fan.” He would pull her close and say, “You are the ‘it’ girl.”
“You see what you want to see when emotions are involved,” said Margolis, who lives in Atlanta. But after a three-month courtship, she was “hit smack in the face” with what she sometimes feared: After someone called her home and hung up, she punched *69, returned the call and heard another woman’s voice on the answering machine — a voice that mentioned the name of her boyfriend.
“I ditched the rules and gave in,” Margolis said. “In fact, I fell in.”
It’s common for men and women desperate for romance to ignore relationship red flags, just as Margolis did. One of the more prominent examples occurred last week in Gwinnett County when Anthony Glenn Owens was arrested on bigamy charges. He’s suspected of marrying nine women, including one in Duluth. He duped some of them by posing as a minister.
One woman, 37-year-old Mattie Noland of Tuscaloosa, Ala., admitted it seemed odd that her husband would spend up to a week away from home, ostensibly producing a gospel album. Why doubt him, the Pizza Hut employee thought, since he was a preacher?
“I trusted him blindly,” Noland said in a telephone interview. “A lot of times, we don’t want to see it. We are blinded to the point of being in love.”
They started dating in October 1998 and got married in June 1999. They separated one year later, after Noland caught Owens going out with another woman. She said she would get a divorce but doesn’t have the money for one.
“I wish I could have seen it, but I didn’t see it until it was too late,” Noland said.
There are common red flags anyone in a committed relationship should take note. Among them:
The other person gets defensive when you ask for life details.
Finding slips of paper with unfamiliar names on them.
Getting phone hang-ups at home.
Above all, don’t rush things, relationship experts advise.
“Many women want to connect intimately in a relationship so much, they are more than willing to deny or overlook what their acute senses would normally pick up,” said Helene Brenner, a Maryland psychologist and author of the book “I Know I’m in There Somewhere: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner Voice and Living a Life of Authenticity.”
“Sad to say, I’ve seen this so many times,” Brenner said. “It is a tremendous vulnerability in a great many women.”
While men are just as susceptible to ignoring signs that a relationship is built on a series of lies, none contacted for this article consented to have their names used. One expert estimated women are three times more likely to be fooled by men who are in other relationships.
Private investigator Mark Allen stakes out hotels for clients who suspect adultery, and he says he often spots signs of an affair during the first phone conversation with the person who hires him.
“Hang-ups at home, new wardrobe, little slips of paper with names on them and lack of bedroom activity. Those are all red flags to me,” he said. “I hear those over and over.”
To someone outside looking in, the wrongdoing often appears obvious.
Two-timing seems apparent to listeners of the “Bert Show” on Q100 (WWWQ-FM) long before the boyfriend or spouse under suspicion becomes part of a skit known as “War of the Roses.” In the segment, a woman calls the radio station and talks about why she suspects her man is cheating, mentioning everything from long nights at the gym to lack of sex. The man, who is offered a dozen of red roses for free to give to anyone he chooses, almost always sends them to a mistress.
“The women know deep down that the guy is cheating,” said “Bert Show” producer Jeff Dauler. “And they need proof not so they can catch them as much as having proof for themselves to verify what they already know.”
Dr. D Charles Williams, a Dunwoody psychologist, said dishonesty is more acute today in dating, jobs and school. The news is filled with corporate fraud and other indiscretions: Dennis Kozlowski, the former chairman of Tyco International, is accused of looting his company and investors of $600 million; Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa is caught with cork in his bat; Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant admits to cheating on his wife.
Success and conquest, Williams says, are valued over honesty.
“In every area of our life, there is less integrity,” Williams said. “I have men come in here who have consistently cheated and then they say they have trust issues with the person they are with, and it’s like, you have consistently lied and you don’t trust her?”
However, Atlanta psychologist Robert Simmermon said stories about people with many lovers or con artists are nothing new.
“These go back to ancient Greece,” said Simmermon. “There [have] just been various ways they are carried out. . . . What does this tell us about ourselves? That we are human and we can’t transform our humanness.”
But Anita Connor of Atlanta, who is her late 30s, said she has learned to do her homework. Fifteen years ago she dated a man who she later learned was married.
“It’s always the schemers who hate it when you try to check up on them and they give you a guilt trip, saying, ‘Oh, don’t you trust me?’ A real man knows there’s nothing wrong with a woman being careful. You almost have to treat it like the person is an employee and you are the employer. You’ve got to do your investigative work.”
GETTING A CLUE
Here are some behaviors that may indicate your beloved is beguiling you:
- Evasiveness about job, family and background.
- Sudden schedule changes.
- Sudden appearance changes.
- Insistence on meeting at odd times.
- Often unreachable.
- Friends are luke warm about him/her.
— Source: Relationship experts
On-line surveillance among spouses on rise
Associated Press (UPDATED AT 9:20 AM EST Thursday, Jul. 31, 2003)
Suspicious husbands and wives who once might have hired a private eye to find out if their spouses were cheating are now using do-it-yourself technology to check on an increasingly popular hideaway for trysts – the Internet.
Divorce lawyers and marriage counselors say Internet-abetted infidelity, romance originating in chat rooms and fuelled by e-mails, is now one of the leading factors in marital breakdowns.
With the surge in cyberaffairs, a new market for electronic spying has developed. Web sites such as Chatcheaters.com and InfidelityCheck.org describe an array of surveillance products capable of tracking a cheating spouse’s e-mails and on-line chats, including some that can monitor each key stroke in real time.
“The traditional detective hired to chase information is being replaced by software that’s not terribly expensive but can give you 100 times the information,” said John Mayoue, a prominent divorce lawyer from Atlanta.
“It used to be that when you wanted to prove adultery, you would prove it circumstantially,” he said. “In the computer era, I can have something that is so graphic, so clear, there’s not a whole lot of room for argument.”
John LaSage, a Southern Californian, established the Chatcheaters Web site after his wife of 23 years left him and their two teenage daughters without forewarning in 1999 to join a New Zealand man she had met on-line.
Chatcheaters – which offers advice, surveillance equipment and first-person stories of betrayal – averages 400 visitors a day, mostly women, Mr. LaSage said. His wares include $450 (U.S.) vehicle trackers and $100 computer-spying programs.
Mr. LaSage said he was devastated to discover, after his wife had left, that she had engaged in erotic e-mail and chat room correspondence with several men.
“I tell people to be careful – you have to be prepared for what you’re going to see,” he said.
Sandra Morris, a San Diego attorney who is president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said the spread of Internet infidelity has raised some complicated issues about computer privacy.
“A spouse may have a misplaced sense of entitlement to spy,” she said. “There are prohibitions against electronic eavesdropping, though a lot of people feel that when someone’s cheating, all bets are off.”
Mr. Mayoue said federal statutes outlawing interception of electronic communications can apply within a marriage.
“A spouse does have a right to privacy even from his or her own spouse,” he said. “I’ve been on both sides of this – it’s the most compelling evidence you’ll have in a divorce case, but also the most fraught with potential liability.”
A suspicious husband or wife may have no legal grounds for breaking into codeword-protected areas of a spouse’s personal computer, but may be able to justify reading an e-mail that was easily retrieved on a shared family computer, Mr. Mayoue said.
David Greenfield, a West Hartford, Conn., psychologist and author of the book, Virtual Addiction, said many spouses who engage in cyberaffairs consider their on-line romances to be harmless.
“But the spouses of those who are cheating don’t see it that way,” Mr. Greenfield said. “It’s often done on the same computer they both use at home. It’s like having someone else in your own bedroom.”
He said the convenience and seeming anonymity of the Internet have attracted a new breed of adulterers, people who might have been too timid to make their first forays into infidelity face-to-face.
“Affairs have always existed,” Mr. Greenfield said. “But the fact that you can connect with people all over the world with relative ease and no cost lowers that threshold.”
A University of Florida researcher, Beatriz Mileham, studied Internet infidelity as part of her doctoral dissertation, interviewing 76 men and 10 women who used popular chat rooms called “Married and Flirting” and “Married But Flirting.”
Most of the participants insisted they loved their spouses but sought a romantic encounter on-line because of boredom or their partner’s disinterest in sex, Ms. Mileham found. She said 24 of the participants ended up having a real-life affair with at least one of the people they met on-line.
John LaSage demonstrates how to set a surveillance vehicle tracker underneath his truck’s bumper. Mr. LaSage, a Southern Californian, established the Chatcheaters Web site, offering advice, surveillance equipment and first-person stories of betrayal. The vehicle tracker keeps a computer-readable log with exact time and locations, with the help of a satellite GPS receiver.