Wife's lawyer: McGreevey didn't cash in on fame

May 19, 2008 7:25:47 PM PDT
The nation's first openly gay governor could have become a political talk show host, pursued a movie deal or otherwise cashed in on his notoriety after a gay sex scandal forced him from the New Jersey chief executive's office four years ago, a lawyer for his estranged wife tried to show Monday. John Post, who represents Dina Matos McGreevey, spent much of the day trying to convince a judge that former Gov. James McGreevey had ample opportunity to cash in on his fame. McGreevey, 50, has testified that he does not want to pursue high-profile jobs. He said he wants to get on with his life - quietly.

Lawyers for the warring McGreeveys clashed repeatedly over money matters as the judge overseeing their messy divorce tries to untangle the couple's assets and debts.

Post is trying to show that McGreevey is underestimating his earning potential and worth to avoid paying alimony to his soon-to-be ex-wife. McGreevey lawyer Stephen Haller wants to show that McGreevey, an Episcopal seminary student, is leading a different life now and is too poor to pay.

The McGreeveys split in 2004, months after he announced his resignation on national television in a speech in which he declared himself "a gay American" and said he had an affair with a male staffer. The staffer, Golan Cipel, denies the affair and says he was sexually harassed by the governor.

Though the couple has lived separately for nearly as long as their four-year marriage, their case came to trial just this month after they could not reach a divorce settlement. The McGreeveys agreed on custody of their only child, a 6-year-old girl, but are far apart on whether, and how much, money she should get.

The salary the ex-governor can expect to earn, whether he's employable after the sex scandal and whether Matos McGreevey was deprived of perks of the governor's office have dominated the second phase of the trial. The third phase, should it get that far, will determine whether she should get damages based on fraud. Matos McGreevey claims she was duped into marrying a gay man who sought a wife for cover to advance his political career.

Matos McGreevey, 41, claims she should be compensated for 13 months she would have lived in the governor's mansion had McGreevey not resigned in disgrace. The worth of the so-called gubernatorial lifestyle - including state police security, a personal chef, a household staff, and use of two beach houses - and whether Matos McGreevey is entitled to be compensated for it was the subject of much of Monday's testimony.

An accountant hired by McGreevey said it would cost $15,000 a month for the governor and his estranged wife to live like they did at the governor's mansion; an expert hired by Dina Matos McGreevey said it would cost $51,000 a month.

The two sides also clashed over the cachet of the McGreevey name.

His expert, Sharyn Maggio, testified that neither McGreevey or his wife could expect to enhance their earnings based on the fame they achieved from his resignation or their Court TV-televised divorce.

"Charles Manson was famous," Maggio testified. "That doesn't equate to celebrity in the financial sense."

An employment expert testified last week that McGreevey's political fall rendered him "radioactive" in the professional world.

However, his wife's expert says McGreevey could earn $1.4 million in his lifetime because of the celebrity status attached to his name, a legal concept known as "celebrity goodwill."

Post tried to poke holes in Maggio's testimony during an afternoon of cross-examination by showing that her earnings and lifestyle estimates were based on information provided only by McGreevey.

The McGreeveys maintained separate finances, Post argued, so basing calculations only on the governor's checking and tax information rendered Maggio's conclusions inaccurate. Matos McGreevey used the bulk of her salary as a hospital executive to buy clothes and food for herself and daughter, Post said.

Maggio will be back on the witness stand next week.

McGreevey will take the stand when the trial resumes Wednesday.