Richmond County has 2 recent high-profile sealed divorce cases

Sunday, April 1, 2012 3:18 PM
Last updated Monday, April 2, 2012 12:53 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts

Divorce cases sealed from the public eye are rare in Georgia, but there are two recent high-profile examples in Richmond County.



U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver has filed for divorce from his wife, Beverly Tarver, but the financial information disclosed in the proceedings was closed to the public by Superior Court Judge Wade Padgett. His attorney, Shawn Hammond, wouldn’t speak to the specifics of the case, but said he’s been counsel on more than 2,500 divorces and this is his first to be sealed.

“It’s really uncommon,” Hammond said.

The other case is that of Joe Neal Jr. and his ex-wife, Carolyn, who filed two divorce cases in Richmond County. Neal is a prominent attorney and one-time candidate for general solicitor, who followed his father into practicing law. Both he and his wife are charged with rape and providing alcohol to someone under the age of 21. At their recent bond hearing, a prosecutor said the couple plied a teenage girl with marijuana and alcohol Dec. 16 and attempted to have sex with her.

The couple – at 43, Neal is 20 years her senior – married May 28, but were living apart by September, according to court records. Joe Neal filed for divorce Oct. 4, saying the marriage was “irretrievably broken” and her lawyer filed an answer and counterclaim Oct. 12. But exactly what was said in the Oct. 12 answer and his amended complaint Oct. 13 remain under wraps because they were sealed five days later for 99 years by Superior Court Judge Daniel Craig.

Craig’s order says they are stricken from the record as “scandalous, impertinent and inappropriate pleadings.”

The only way to have that seal lifted is through a court order. Whether the “scandalous” details are germane to criminal allegations of an attempted threesome with an intoxicated teenager remains unclear. District Attorney Ashley Wright said information in civil cases is sometimes used for prosecution, such as custody cases with the Department of Family and Children’s Services. She wouldn’t comment on her office’s intentions in a pending case.

The Tarver and Neal cases represent two explanations of sealed divorce cases.

Attorney Andrew Tisdale represented Carolyn Neal in her second divorce case with Joe Neal. In some cases lawyers add sordid details and names in complaints instead of simply outlining allegations of adultery, Tisdale said.

“Complaints and answers should not read like a cheap dimestore novel,” he said.

Some allegations later prove untrue, but the harm is already done. Tisdale gives the example of a recent client whose security clearance was placed in jeopardy by false claims that he suffered a mental illness. The other risk is that a child grows up and reads the dirty details of his parents’ divorce at the courthouse. Tisdale estimated that only held true for about 1 percent of his divorce cases.

The latest case law grants judges “extremely broad discretion” in determining what type of privacy concerns outweigh public information.

Chief Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet was the first to receive the Tarver divorce case in February. He sealed the case for 30 years, which he later said was a clerical error. Padgett was assigned the case by Overstreet and ordered the financial information and addresses sealed at least until the case is finalized.

In the order to seal records, Tarver is identified as an “acknowledged public figure” who will be required to list in detail “all of their personal and family’s financial information to include home addresses and bank accounts.”

Tarver elaborates in an affidavit that his authority as a public servant could be “compromised by virtue of having a contested divorce played out in the public arena.”

“Private and embarassing facts will likely be disclosed which have no legitimate public interest or benefit,” Tarver continues.

Tisdale said even in cases of ordinary citizens some documents are being left out of the public record with the judge’s consent. These include settlement agreements containing bank account numbers and social security numbers today’s identity thieves could use for malicious purposes.

“There’s a balancing test to determine what harm could come to the parties,” Tisdale said.

Comments (36) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/01/12 - 03:43 pm
4
0
Why would private citizen,

Why would private citizen, Joe Neal Jr., be allowed to have his divorce proceedings sealed? Sure there is scandalous information. We know that already.

TrulyWorried
15386
Points
TrulyWorried 04/01/12 - 05:33 pm
1
2
Who would be interested in

Who would be interested in all the sordid details and procedures? Unless I want to use their case for my benefit - (I am in the process of wanting to obtain a divorce) - this is an example only!!! Never in a million years would I think of divorce - people are so quick to marry, divorce - marry someone else - the kids end up being "yours, mine and ours" and don't know where they belong - the world is going to a certain place in a handbasket. And those poor kids end up repeating the mistakes that were made - simply by having lived them in their youth. Tragic!!!

raul
5323
Points
raul 04/01/12 - 06:14 pm
0
1
Why is this news? Because

Why is this news? Because some people love gossip.

a different drum
26
Points
a different drum 04/01/12 - 07:13 pm
4
0
Raul -- It is news because

Raul -- It is news because these 2 people are getting special treatment.

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/01/12 - 07:16 pm
2
0
Should we say ALL divorce

Should we say ALL divorce proceedings are NOT public knowledge? Now keeping it secret only applies to a handful of well connected people it appears.

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/01/12 - 07:53 pm
2
0
Danny Craig is full of it

Danny Craig is full of it about THIS case.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 04/01/12 - 07:58 pm
5
0
Usual lawyer double

Usual lawyer double standards. Judges are beneath their august black robes nothing but sleazey shysters covering for their fellows. No one seemed concerned my private information from divorce might be gleaned by some malefactor.

raul
5323
Points
raul 04/01/12 - 09:06 pm
2
1
IMHO, sealed records of

IMHO, sealed records of divorces should be the rule and not the exception. Whose business is it to know of the details of others divorces? If there is a public 'need to know" then the judge can make that determination on the individual case.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 04/02/12 - 02:12 am
2
0
Wonder if Joe Neal, Jr.

Wonder if Joe Neal, Jr. thinks that "idollartry," hedonism and an self-perception of being above the law make for another disastrous threesome?

Let's see how "Justice-Augusta style" plays out in his case.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 04/02/12 - 02:14 am
0
0
OOPS: line 1- replace "an"

OOPS: line 1- replace "an" with "a."

Just My Opinion
5866
Points
Just My Opinion 04/02/12 - 04:45 am
0
0
Craig...I don't get it.

Craig...I don't get it. Can't you edit your post without having to make another post? Sorry to get off the topic, but I just see people making a second post to correct their original ones and I remembered the available edit button. Okay...just wondering. Again...sorry, y'all can go on to the original topic.

seenitB4
90795
Points
seenitB4 04/02/12 - 07:33 am
0
0
Some sealed can be

Some sealed can be reversed...

July 23, 2008

Judge Unseals Richardson Divorce Papers

The Fulton County Daily Report has today reported that a judge has unsealed most of the files in the divorce case of House Speaker Glenn Richardson and his ex-wife, Susan.

The day the divorce case was filed in February, Paulding Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge James R. Osborne, who once practiced law with Glenn Richardson, sealed the file. Osborne wrote in his sealing order that "the harm otherwise resulting to the interest of the parties and their children "outweighs any public interest" in seeing the records.

However, it appears that the documents that have been unsealed reveal few details about the Richardsons' personal finances and offer no details about the factors that led to the divorce.

Judge Osborne recused from efforts to unseal the case, and Rome Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Walter J. Matthews was assigned to handle the matter.

Judge Matthews on July 16 issued an order to unseal the complaint, final judgment and decree and amended judgment and decree in Richardson's divorce case, writing that after reviewing the relevant case law, "it is obvious to the Court that certain portions of this file must be open and available to the public."

"Public confidence in any Court's proper application of statutory Child Support guidelines to all parties [sic] income would necessitate public access to such basic data in virtually any case," Matthews added.

"Because of his desire to protect his children, the speaker has not and will not comment on matters involving his personal life,” said Clelia Davis, a spokeswoman for Richardson. “He has put this difficult chapter of life behind him and remains focused on protecting our Republican majority so we can continue the progress we have made while working to ensure John McCain is our nation's next president."

Atlanta family law attorney John C. Mayoue of Warner, Mayoue, Bates & Nolen said Osborne's mistake was sealing the entire Richardson divorce case and that it is extraordinarily unusual that a divorce file in its entirely would be sealed.

Why do some want to know the dirty details??

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 04/02/12 - 07:59 am
3
0
Typical: Chief Superior Court

Typical:

Chief Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet was the first to receive the Tarver divorce case in February. He sealed the case for 30 years, which he later said was a clerical error.

“It was a mistake” should be his middle name.

Austin Rhodes
2907
Points
Austin Rhodes 04/02/12 - 08:02 am
0
0
For such salacious details to

For such salacious details to make it into a "final" divorce document the acrimony and anger (from at least one of the concerned parties) must be THICK. Keep in mind, allegations can be made in a document like this with virtually no fear of legal reprisal, and as such, can serve as a gigantic smear campaign for one or both participants.

Only where there is a genuine thirst for destruction is such garbage included in the paperwork...and it is usually put there in an effort to curry favor in either a financial or child custody settlement.

Funny thing is...usually (unless there is serious CRIMINAL behavior involved) in the State of Georgia, such allegations may affect alimony...but never mutually acquired property division (which is supposed to be 50/50), or, child custody.

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/02/12 - 08:10 am
1
0
There could be a real debate

There could be a real debate as to whether all divorce records should be sealed, but until that happens, it's not fair to only spare the well connected. That's the simple bottom line.

With Neal, it's even more pertinent because he and his wife were involved in a sordid matter according to charges filed. He's a public figure although not an elected one. It's completely unreasonable to seal his divorce records while leaving the records of the general public with often less repugnant divorces open for all. Danny Craig knows better than that.

seenitB4
90795
Points
seenitB4 04/02/12 - 08:11 am
0
1
Public figures are the ones

Public figures are the ones who are hurt the most...or their kids are I should say....Joe Blow won't get the tv news/paper news 24/7.....I can see reasons why some should be sealed..jmo

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/02/12 - 08:12 am
1
0
Remember the Columbia County

Remember the Columbia County State Senator who was named in a divorce as one of five by the husband? Heh, heh, heh.

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/02/12 - 08:16 am
1
0
SeenIt, how would you decide

SeenIt, how would you decide who is a public figure? What other legal proceedings would you exempt them from? And what's this about the kids? Every child of divorced parents can find the divorce records of his parents and read what's said. How does it hurt the kids of public figures anymore? Should we deny these kids the same opportunity as others?

seenitB4
90795
Points
seenitB4 04/02/12 - 08:18 am
0
0
A better question would

A better question would be...Why do we need to know the details of anothers divorce??
That is a very painful time for the man-woman & family....hurts that last a lifetime....cruel actions that destroy the respect that kids have for the parents.....why do we need to know??

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 04/02/12 - 08:23 am
0
0
If you start sealing records

If you start sealing records in one type of lawsuit, then you go down the slippery slope to sealing records in other types of lawsuits. Next comes sealing records in criminal trials. Finally we end up like Russia or Saudi Arabia.

Secret trials are a bad thing for society.

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/02/12 - 08:31 am
1
0
Neal and his wife didn't have

Neal and his wife didn't have kids together. But really, where do you stop and who do you grant the privilege to? From what's written in the article I can get the divorce records of most anyone, but a select few that judges choose to exempt. In both of these cases, they are lawyers. It stinks.

In Neal's case, it's not concern of what his children may read, but what his parents may read. He needs to shun the Samurai Warrior suit and grow up....after his jail time.

seenitB4
90795
Points
seenitB4 04/02/12 - 08:30 am
0
0
LL...I do understand

LL...I do understand that....I'm speaking from a personal side or point of view....I know 1st hand the hurt the kids suffer from a divorce.....if I could go back & change some of the bitterness & hurt I caused ....I would.....I'm very glad mine didn't play out on the news.....sometimes it pays NOT to be THAT important....
seeya later...

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 04/02/12 - 08:36 am
0
0
It's a little bit off the

It's a little bit off the subject, but since Joe Neal, Jr. is in the story — won't it be kind of tough for the babysitter to prove that she was plied with marijuana?

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/02/12 - 08:52 am
0
0
LL, it could depend on what

LL, it could depend on what the exwife told the police previously. That also leads back to sealing these divorce records. I hope the DA moves to see what's there before Neal's trial.

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/02/12 - 08:55 am
0
0
Of course Ashley Wright going

Of course Ashley Wright going against her mentor, Danny Craig, is about as likely as the National opening the gates to all to let people in to make it look like there's a big crowd.

JRC2024
9290
Points
JRC2024 04/02/12 - 09:05 am
0
1
"Complaints and answers

"Complaints and answers should not read like a cheap dimestore novel,” he said. (Andrew Tisdale)

Then do not put them in there.

And I would like to know why people think Mr. Neal is a prominent lawyer. Is it because he advertises and uses the slogen "A warrior for justice"?

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 04/02/12 - 09:11 am
0
0
:-) . . . . . That's a good

:-) . . . . . That's a good one, JRC. If he were not prominent before the babysitter threesome, he's prominent now just because of that. Remember, "prominent" lawyer does not mean "good."

proud2bamerican
441
Points
proud2bamerican 04/02/12 - 09:46 am
1
1
If we were truly "about our

If we were truly "about our own business" we wouldn't even have this discussion! Focus on what you can do to improve yourself and your community and quit spending valuable time discussing everyone's business but your own!

Riverman1
86916
Points
Riverman1 04/02/12 - 10:18 am
0
0
It's those nasty people, who

It's those nasty people, who read books and newspapers, commenting to others about judicial and political matters making all the trouble. The Knownothings are far superior as they mow the lawn.

kiwiinamerica
950
Points
kiwiinamerica 04/02/12 - 10:50 am
0
0
The old Don Henley song
Unpublished

The old Don Henley song springs to mind;

I make my living off the Evening News,
Just give me something-something I can use
People love it when you lose
they love dirty laundry.............

Back to Top

Top headlines

Democrats target turnout for Sunday voting

Registered voters in Augusta-Richmond County can cast ballots in the Nov. 4 election from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in the Advance Voting Center at Augusta Municipal Building, 530 Greene St.
Search Augusta jobs