Charlotte Divorce Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “Can I get the judge to order my spouse to pay my attorney’s fees in a property division case?”
A Texas man who accused a judge of conspiring with the Baylor University medical system and the doctor who testified in his divorce and child custody case is claiming his free-speech rights protect statements he made online and in telephone calls to the judge.
Last summer, the man—Michael G. Peters—was ordered by 418th state District Court Judge Tracy Gilbert to sell his property and split the proceeds of the sale with his wife. Gilbert also awarded custody of the couple’s son to Peters’ wife.
That outraged Peters, who posted a video on YouTube on which he aired his grievances against the judge and others. That video drew the attention of law-enforcement authorities, who began monitoring Peters’ online activity.
After posting the video, Peters posted a comment on a Yahoo news story praising the ambush-killing of two Las Vegas, Nevada police officers. Prosecutors allege that Peters said he wished he could have seen the officers’ blood running from “their stinking bodies.”
On June 14—four days after the orders were entered in Peters’ divorce and custody cases—Peters called Gilbert’s home at 6:53 a.m. After Gilbert’s wife told Peters the judge was not at home, Peters asked Gilbert’s wife why the judge cut a deal with those conspiring against Peters.
Prosecutors allege that Peters called the judge’s home again about a month later. Judge Gilbert answered and told Peters not to call again, but Peters phoned twice more that day, leaving messages warning that he was “Out of sight but not out of mind. Remember that, (expletive). See you soon.”
Prosecutors charged Peters with third-degree retaliation for allegedly harming or threatening to harm Judge Gilbert. Texas law makes it illegal for a person to intentionally or knowingly harm or threaten harm to another by an unlawful act in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of another as a public servant, witness, prospective witness, or informant.
If convicted, Peters faces from two to ten years in prison.
Peters’ attorney, Tony Duckworth, acknowledged that some of Peters’ language was harsh, but that Peters’ criticism focused on what he perceived as a corrupt judicial system in Montgomery County. “That’s not a threat against Judge Gilbert,” Duckworth said. “That’s being a good citizen and expressing the free speech right to bring it to the attention of other citizens.”
Duckworth said Peters had a duty to expose corruption. He said Peters never threatened Judge Gilbert with any physical harm, but instead wanted to file a lawsuit.
If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter, it is best to consult with an experienced family-law attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina who can help guide you through the often confusing process of divorce. Please contact the experienced family-law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.
About the Author
Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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