Federal Court Awards $750,000 in Damages Against Lori Handrahan for Conduct in Custody Case » SAVE: Stop Abusive and Violent Environments
Lori Handrahan, ex-wife of Igor Malenko, has been ordered by a federal court to pay her former husband $450,000 and her daughter $300,000. Federal District Judge George Z. Singal ordered the damages to be paid for Handrahan’s outrageous conduct throughout her custody battle over their daughter, Mila. Handrahan’s repeated false allegations against Malenko were so obviously at odds with the truth and her behavior so immune to judicial control that a Maine family judge eventually gave Malenko sole custody of his daughter. Handrahan’s visitation is conditioned on her seeking, receiving and benefiting from intensive psychotherapy. Since custody was transferred to Malenko in 2011, Handrahan has apparently neither seen nor spoken to her daughter, despite the fact that telephone contact is permitted her under the court’s order. Apparently, she’s paid no child support either, although that may be old news. The current state of her child support obligation, I haven’t been able to ascertain.
In keeping with her apparent desire to simply ignore everything having to do with her daughter and former husband, Handrahan refused to attend the trial in Judge Singal’s courtroom. Handrahan, it must be emphasized, is a highly educated, highly paid and highly functioning individual. She holds a Ph.D from the London School of Economics, speaks English, French and Russian and is employed as a lecturer at American University. Her articles appear regularly in various mainstream publications such as the Washington Times, the Huffington Post, and the like. Her last representation to a court indicated that she earns $105,000 per year.
So her refusal to appear in court and defend Malenko’s claims against her cannot be attributed to ignorance or lack of funds. If she had a defense to the charges, she could easily have made it, but she didn’t. That strongly suggests that she has none, and the findings of fact made by Judge Singal strongly indicate exactly that.
In his lawsuit, Igor Malenko sued his ex-wife for a variety of things including intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. He also sued on behalf of their daughter Mila for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court found that he had proven all those claims, although it declined to find sufficient proof of others. Damages were awarded in the amounts of $450,000 to Igor and $300,000 to Mila who is now six.
Judge George Singal Enters Damage Award Against Lori Handrahan
Here are Judge Singal’s Findings of Fact, in their entirety.
1. Plaintiff Igor Malenko (“Malenko”) is an individual who resides in the city of South Portland, County of Cumberland, State of Maine. Malenko is the father, and court determined custodial parent of one minor child (“M.M.”), whose date of birth is xx/yy/2006.
2. Defendant Lori Handrahan (“Handrahan”) is an individual who resides in Washington, D.C., County of Washington, District of Columbia.
3. Malenko and Handrahan were married on May 30, 2006 in Bar Harbor, Maine.
4. A child, M.M., was born to Malenko and Handrahan on xx/yy/2006.
5. On May 16, 2008, Malenko filed a Divorce Complaint against Handrahan.
6. On May 23, 2008, Malenko served the Divorce Complaint against Handrahan.
7. Immediately after being served with the Divorce Complaint, Handrahan filed a Protection from Abuse Complaint (“PFA”) against Malenko on May 23, 2008, making false claims that Malenko suffered from mental illness.
8. As a direct result of this retaliatory and false PFA Complaint, Malenko’s fundamental and constitutionally-protected interests in the nurture, upbringing, companionship, care, and custody of his child were substantially infringed upon.
9. After the guardian ad litem appointed by the Court and the Court-appointed doctorate level forensic psychologist indicated that they did not believe Malenko was suffering from mental illness or any other defect that would prohibit him from having unsupervised contact with his child, Handrahan then began making false claims that he was a homicidal abuser, as part of her effort to destroy the father/daughter bond.
10. The court hearing the divorce case ultimately rejected Handrahan’s claims of abuse and mental illness and granted Malenko significant rights of unsupervised visitation with his child.
11. Handrahan repeatedly violated provisions of the Divorce Judgment, made unilateral decisions regarding the child’s welfare, and continued to do everything in her power to damage or destroy the father/daughter bond.
12. Finally, Malenko filed several Motions to Modify, asking the Court to grant him custody of the child.
13. Days after the Court sent out Notices of Hearing on the several Motions to Modify, Defendant forced her child to repeat false statements about Malenko sexually abusing her.
14. Defendant even forced her two year old child to make these false, rehearsed statements while Defendant recorded them on a video recorder.
15. Defendant persuaded her friend and advocate to listen to the false, coached statements, and then to contact the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) and claim that the child had made a disclosure of sexual abuse.
16. Defendant also persuaded her friend and advocate to make completely unsubstantiated claims that Malenko had child pornography on his computers.
17. As a result of these claims, DHHS launched an investigation.
18. As a result of these claims, Malenko’s rights to as a parent of M.M. were substantially infringed upon.
19. Defendant continued to coach and force her then two year old child to make false statements to others including Spurwink Child Abuse Program (“Spurwink”) investigators regarding
20. As a result of similar false claims by Handrahan’s friend, and as a result of more false claims that Handrahan made to Spurwink, the minor child was subjected to an invasive medical exam by Spurwink’s medical team as it looked for evidence of sexual trauma,which Handrahan knew did not exist.
21. Thus, as a direct result of the claims caused to be made by Handrahan and with Handrahan’s consent, her two year old child was examined by various medical professionals.
22. As a direct result of the false claims by Handrahan and her friend and advocate, the two (2) year old child underwent at least 8 separate interviews regarding alleged sexual abuse by her father.
23. The examination of the child’s genitals and the numerous interviews regarding false allegations of sexual abuse caused direct harm to the child.
24. The Portland office of DHHS unsubstantiated the claims on August 20, 2009.
25. Handrahan immediately demanded that DHHS at the highest levels reconsider this determination of “unsubstantiation.”
26. Dan Despard, the Director, Division of Child Welfare, then conducted a de novo review of the file and affirmed the decision made regarding unsubstantiation, by letter dated August 25, 2009.
27. On or about August 14, 2009, understanding that her and her friend’s false claims were about to be discredited by DHHS, Handrahan unilaterally took the child four hours north of her home in South Portland, to her vacation home in Sorrento, Maine.
28. On August 14, 2009, Handrahan then filed yet another PFA, this time in Ellsworth District Court, making more false claims that Malenko had sexually abused their child, and also making false allegations that “he was discharged from the [Yugoslavian] Army for pointing a gun at an officer’s head.”
29. Handrahan filed this PFA in Ellsworth District Court specifically to avoid Judge Jeff Moskowitz, the Portland District Court Judge who had presided over the divorce trial.
30. Handrahan wrote an article, published on June 2, 2009 in the Bangor Daily News, entitled “American courts have never been kind to women, kids,” in which she was critical of Judge Moskowitz’s decisions in the divorce trial.
31. As a direct result of this false PFA in the Ellsworth District Court, Handrahan stripped Malenko of his parental rights and ability to see M.M. for a period of time.
32. The PFA case was transferred back to Portland District Court, where Handrahan was provided a full opportunity for a hearing before Judge Jeff Moskowitz, on October 26, 2009.
33. Handrahan decided not to appear at this final hearing on her PFA, because, as she later testified under oath, it was “inconvenient.”
34. On October 26, 2009, after a full hearing, Judge Moskowitz dismissed the PFA from the bench, finding that Handrahan had presented “extremely precarious evidence of an extremely serious charge.”
35. On November 2, 2009, the parties entered into a Stipulated Order giving Malenko unsupervised visits with his child every single weekend, from Thursday through Sunday one week and Friday through Sunday the next week.
36. Malenko enjoyed the 2009 Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend with his child for the first time in over a year.
37. Malenko and his attorney, Michael Waxman, became friends through this ordeal, and Waxman invited Malenko and his child to spend Thanksgiving with his children, his ex-wife (Carol Amoroso), her husband and friends, at Amoroso’s house.
38. Malenko and his child also spent the following weekend with Waxman and his children and his parents at the family’s vacation home in New Hampshire.
39. Upon hearing of the visits Malenko and his child enjoyed with Waxman, Handrahan filed a Protection from Harassment Complaint (“PFH”) against Waxman in Ellsworth District Court.
40. The PFH claimed that Waxman had harassed and threatened and harmed Malenko and Handrahan’s child.
41. Handrahan had no basis upon which to make these claims.
42. These were false claims made in an effort to prevent Waxman from continuing to represent Malenko.
43. Handrahan’s goal was to strip Malenko of legal representation so that he would have no way to defend himself in ongoing proceedings.
44. Handrahan knew that Waxman was not charging Malenko for his legal representation.
45. Handrahan filed this PFH in Ellsworth, once again, in order to avoid Portland judges, whom she believed had been conscripted by Waxman into a conspiracy to harm her and deny her justice.
46. On February 12, 2010, Waxman had a hearing on his Motion to Dismiss the temporary PFH before Portland District Court Judge, Honorable Roland Beaudoin, who dismissed the temporary order.
47. On March 4 and March 5, Portland District Court Judge, Honorable Jane Bradley, presided over Handrahan’s PFH Complaint against Waxman.
48. On April 7, 2010, Judge Bradley dismissed Handrahan’s PFH case against Waxman.
49. Handrahan also began filing numerous grievances against Waxman in the fall of 2009 and continuing into 2010. These grievances were part of Handrahan’s effort to prevent Waxman from continuing to represent Malenko
50. On December 2, 2010, Justice Alexander, of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, filed a 65 page decision exonerating Waxman of the 14 counts of unethical conduct alleged by Handrahan.
51. Handrahan also contacted DHHS Child Support Enforcement beginning in November 2009 and falsely claimed that Malenko owed in excess of $7,000 in child support.
52. These false claims caused DHHS to withhold Malenko’s tax return in 2010 for months, causing a tremendous financial hardship for Malenko.
53. DHHS finally discovered Handrahan’s representations were false and turned the tax return monies over to Malenko.
54. In January 2011, Malenko finally was granted a hearing on his multiple motions to modify before Portland District Court Judge Jeff Moskowitz.
55. Handrahan attended this hearing and was represented by counsel.
56. By Order dated February, 1, 2011, Judge Moskowitz stripped Handrahan of custody of the minor child and transferred custody to Malenko.
57. By that same order, Judge Moskowitz also allocated decision-making authority regarding the minor child’s welfare to Malenko, if the parties could not reach agreement.
58. Judge Moskowitz also stated as follows: “the Defendant [Handrahan] has simply resisted Plaintiff’s [Malenko’s] efforts to be [the minor child’s] father at nearly every turn.”
59. Before and after this Order, Handrahan made repeated false claims to DHHS and to medicalproviders that Malenko was poisoning the minor child with methamphetamines and sexuallyabusing his daughter.
60. Just after this Order entered, Handrahan contacted DHHS and made claims that Malenkohad hit the child in the head with a frying pan.
61. These claims were all false.
62. As a result of these false claims, the then four year old child had an invasive medical exam conducted at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital with Handrahan’s consent.
63. Also, Handrahan herself took urine and fecal samples from her child and presented them to medical providers to be tested for drugs.
64. Handrahan also froze several samples of her daughter’s urine for later testing.
65. Handrahan also forced her child to state into a recording device that Malenko had hit her in the head with a frying pan.
66. Handrahan presented this false, coached, audio tape to DHHS.
67. As a direct result, the Ellsworth office of DHHS launched another investigation into Malenko, and interviewed the child on at least two occasions regarding the frying pan.
68. The child clearly and forthrightly stated that her father never hit her in the head with a frying pan, and that she knew Handrahan was saying this happened, but it was not true.
69. DHHS issued another letter unsubstantiating these false allegations on April 29, 2011.
70. On or about the week of June 13, 2011, Handrahan made yet another false claim with DHHS, claiming that Malenko was poisoning the minor child with methamphetamines and that Malenko possessed child pornography on his computers.
71. DHHS opened a file in the Biddeford office because Handrahan claimed that Waxman had “connections” with the Portland and Ellsworth offices, each of which had unsubstantiated previous claims.
72. Mark Dalton, DHHS Regional Manager for York County, has stated that there is no evidence supporting these claims by Handrahan. In a letter dated June 27, 2011, DHHS again found the allegations of neglect and sexual abuse against Malenko to be unsubstantiated. See Pl. Ex. 8b
73. Handrahan has also reached out to the administration of Governor LePage in order to try and destroy Malenko’s fundamental rights as a parent. These communications included false statements about Malenko in order to persuade Governor LePage to act on her behalf.
74. As a result of Handrahan’s behavior, M.M. was required to stop attending a day care center where she had become attached to friends and caregivers. M.M. has experienced social isolation as a result of Handrahan’s actions and threats.
75. Even though she testified in January that she makes $105,000 per year and even though the February 1, 2011 Order obligates her to pay Malenko $368.80 per week, Handrahan has repeatedly withheld child support payments. See Pl. Ex. 26.
76. Handrahan has evaded service of process and refused to accept service of process in connection with this case and other related legal proceedings.
77. On June 21, 2011, Handrahan arrived at Malenko’s residence and pounded on his front door screaming “give me my child!!!” “where is my child?” “I am here to take my child!!” “Why are you hiding my child??”
78. Handrahan proceeded to run around the house, peering into windows and screaming.
79. The child was in Malenko’s arms and traumatized, not wanting to go to her mother.
80. Malenko called the police and they escorted her off Malenko’s property.
81. Malenko obtained a PFH on his own behalf and on behalf of his minor child the next day, June 22, 2011.
82. On June 23, 2011, Handrahan sent her private investigator, Stephen Pickering, a former Maine State Trooper, to the home of attorney Waxman’s children and his children’s mother, Carol Amoroso.
83. The private investigator, Stephen Pickering, banged on the front door, walked around the property, and called Ms. Amoroso on the phone, demanding to speak with her.
84. Ms. Amoroso declined to be interviewed and was very shaken up by this conduct. As a result, she contacted the Yarmouth Police about this incident.
85. None of Waxman’s four children were at Ms. Amoroso’s house when Mr. Pickering approached the premises.
86. Waxman’s four children have been warned that there is a private investigator hired by Handrahan, trying to intimidate Waxman’s loved ones, and that if he makes contact with them, they are to refuse to cooperate and that they should contact the police.
87. By sending her private investigator to the home of Malenko’s attorney’s children, Handrahan intended to intimidate attorney Waxman and to deprive Malenko of further legalservices.
88. Beginning in the Fall of 2011 and following Malenko’s filing of this action, Handrahan initiated broad dissemination of defamatory material regarding Malenko on the internet.
89. Handrahan launched a site called “Saving M.M.” on which she placed a great deal of material, including many claims that Malenko has abused his child, has raped his child, has poisoned her with methamphetamines, has sold her to obtain money for a green card, has “trafficked” her, has been visiting child pornography sites on the internet, has placed M.M. in a pedophile ring, has conspired with others including his attorney, judges, district attorneys, DHHS workers and others. See Pl. Exs. 10-19.
90. Handrahan has made significant efforts to ensure that the material on her “Saving M.M.” website is viewed by many others and disseminated worldwide. See, e.g., Pl. Ex. 16.
91. Handrahan has sent these same false claims to multiple people by email, including multiple government officials. See Pls. Exs. 1-5.
92. Handrahan has posted many audio tapes on various sites also, which contain similar false statements regarding Malenko.
93. Handrahan also posted a picture of M.M.’s genitals on her “Saving M.M.” website. See Pl. Ex. 6.
94. Handrahan has also posted personal information regarding Malenko and M.M., including their addresses, Malenko’s social security number and employment information.
95. Handrahan coached her child (at age 2 ½) to make false statements about Malenko sexually abusing her into a video camera and she has posted that video on the internet. See Pl. Ex.27.
96. As a direct result of Handrahan’s defamation, Malenko has received threats from followers of Handrahan. Malenko has also been warned by local police regarding threats against him that they considered serious.
97. As a direct result of Handrahan’s defamation, Malenko’s life has been significantly and negatively impacted in many ways.
98. Malenko, normally an outgoing, friendly person, now lives in many ways like a recluse, refusing to initiate new relationships and anxious about his present relationships because he is well aware that the staggering quantity and disgusting quality of the online defamation could convince others that he is some kind of monster.
99. Malenko carries with him at all times numerous court documents and decisions from DHHS, just in case Handrahan makes new, false claims against him.
100. Malenko testified that M.M. has been negatively impacted by the vast quantity and malicious quality of defamatory material in that Malenko has been very, very concerned about permitting other children into his home without the parents in attendance. He has been so shaken up by the heinous defamation published by Handrahan that he feels completely on the defensive at all times around all children.
101. Malenko testified that he has been trained in and received certifications as a swimming instructor, that he formerly derived income and a great deal of enjoyment from coaching and teaching children to swim. As a direct result of the defamation all over the internet, Malenko no longer teaches any children swimming skills other than his own, and is unlikely ever to do so again.
102. Malenko testified that the defamation has negatively impacted his performance at his job, prompting him to lose concentration and make mistakes he would not otherwise have made.
103. Malenko wishes to pursue a career as a pharmacist but is concerned that Handrahan’s repeated, false claims that he has poisoned M.M. with methamphetamines could negatively impact that goal of his as well.
104. Malenko testified that he is seriously considering changing his and M.M.’s last names in order to avoid the stigma now associated with those names as a result of Handrahan’s internet postings.
105. As a direct result of Handrahan’s false representations, Malenko has been deprived of the love and companionship of his child for long periods of time.
106. As a direct result of Handrahan’s false representations, M.M. has been deprived of the love and companionship of her father for long periods of time.
107. As a direct result of Handrahan’s actions and false representations, M.M. has suffered physical and emotional harm.
108. In March 2012, Maine DDHS concluded that Handrahan’s actions on January 27, 2012 inflicted “high severity emotional abuse” on M.M. See Pl. Exs. 8a & 18.
You’ll notice that Finding #93 states that Handrahan posted photographs of her five-year-old daughter’s genitals on her website. (She’s since taken them down.) You’ll also notice that Finding #70 states that she accused Malenko of possessing child pornography. A brief Google search of Handrahan’s published articles demonstrates a preoccupation with pornography, specifically child pornography. Amazingly, Handrahan seems to have no concept that she herself has posted images on the Internet of her own daughter that could easily be described as child pornography. Needless to say, neither she nor the publications for which she writes ever disclose the fact.
The Findings of Fact made by Judge Singal show the extent to which a mother can go to abuse not only a father, but a child, the judicial system and opposing counsel. Up until Judge Singal’s order, the only price Lori Handrahan has been made to pay for her many years of utterly outrageous, malicious behavior is losing custody of Mila. Had the family court acted as soon as it became obvious the type of litigant Handrahan was, much of this grief could have been avoided.
As I’ve said before, Michael Waxman is nothing if not a tenacious lawyer. This man has represented Igor Malenko virtually free of charge through every imaginable hardship imposed by Handrahan. He now comes armed with a judgment against her and my guess is that he’ll collect at least a large part of it. After all, Handrahan is not poor. His civil suit on behalf of Malenko and Mila should serve as a template for other fathers who suffer the slings and arrows of false claims leveled against them by mothers who think that family court is an open forum for slander, libel and defamation.