By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
In March 1990, Feinberg filed a lawsuit against Sally and Stanley Levine, alleging they had violated their agreement to pay for Wendy's college education. By now she was submerged in her own legal actions. In addition to the lawsuit pending against Levine's parents, she earlier filed another, similar suit against Levine. She was appealing General Master Wilson's ruling to increase monthly child support. She was appealing the circuit judge's opinion that Levine was not obligated to pay Wendy's tuition. And she was defending herself against a pair of bar complaints.
She felt she had run out of options. "I couldn't stand it any more," Feinberg says now. "I couldn't stand my life any more. I couldn't think. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't live. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't work. It really took away my desire to practice law. I really have to say that I don't have that excitement in me, because I've seen what happens and how no one cared about Wendy. No judge said, `What about the child? Whose going to send her?'"
Even if she were to abandon her claims against Levine, there was no guarantee that he and Grossman would return the favor. Peter Ticktin, Feinberg's latest attorney, advised her not to capitulate to any of Levine's demands unless she could first get him to promise to see that the bar complaints against her were pursued no further. And Ticktin also instructed his client to record that promise on tape. That way she would be able to demonstrate that the complaints had been made in bad faith, and that they should be dismissed.
On May 10, 1990, Feinberg arrived early at the luxurious Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove, a favorite meeting place for Levine and Grossman, whose offices were next door on South Bayshore Drive. As she waited amid the brass and the ferns of the mezzanine lounge, Feinberg was scared to death that somehow Levine would sense that she had tucked a small cassette recorder into her purse and would be taping every word of their conversation.
When he arrived, Levine handed Feinberg a copy of a new agreement: He would pay Wendy's college tuition, plus room and board, but no other form of child support. Feinberg would drop her lawsuits against Levine and his parents and swear never to sue them again. Levine would promise never to sue Feinberg.
The tape recorder was running: "My only concern," Feinberg says, "is still the basis for what we're together for, which is really the bar complaint."
Don't worry, Levine assured his ex-wife. "I really don't think it will do any good for us to get into it in detail," he was recorded as saying, "but I'm led to believe that it will not be a problem." He had nothing in writing, he said, but added, "I tend to believe what I've been told, that I have a certain amount of control over it."
Feinberg asked what he meant by "control."
"I'm really not going to go into that, but I have it and Stuart has it," Levine answered cryptically. "It is not a problem." Then he mentioned David McGunegle, the Florida Bar's Orlando counsel who investigated the complaint he and Grossman had made. "McGunegle would do anything Stuart wants him to do," Levine said tersely. "That's the bottom line here. That's the bottom line."
Would Levine be willing to put it in writing, to sign a promise that he would have the complaint against her dismissed if she signed this agreement? "I don't think you can put anything in writing that even mentions about this thing," Levine replied. "I think it is so inappropriate to tie the two of them together."
But, Levine said, he would inform the Florida Bar that all of the issues he'd raised against Feinberg had been resolved and that action by the bar association was no longer required. He would tell them, he assured Feinberg, that it all had been merely a "misunderstanding."
The last voice heard on the tape belongs to Paul Levine. "I'm glad to get this over," he is heard saying. "This got way out of hand."
David McGunegle says when he saw a transcript of the tape, which Feinberg had played at a bar grievance-committee hearing several months after she made it, he was shocked. "To me, when I first read that, I was a little bit thunderstruck," he says. "It doesn't paint me in a very flattering light." To Levine's suggestion that Stuart Grossman had "control" over the bar's disciplinary process, McGunegle responds: "I was amazed the statement was made. It rattled me, because anyone who knows me knows it's ludicrous." No member of the bar's board of governors has ever told him what to do during a bar investigation, McGunegle says.
In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that Grossman - who did not know McGunegle before the bar complaint was initiated - had any contact with the Orlando counsel or in any way tried to exercise influence over the way McGunegle handled the case. McGunegle himself says he never spoke to Grossman about it.