Love Is No Contract
Lance Stelzer is, by his own account, a "single, honest, 'nice Jewish boy' lawyer." He likes sports, religion, and rare orchids — his flowers have won prizes. But his life hasn't all been a pleasant romp through the greenhouse: The 58-year-old Pinecrest resident is a twice-divorced dad who's raising a six-year-old son solo. And a year ago, he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder and underwent treatment that left him temporarily unable to walk.
Then his girlfriend dumped him. While he was sick. For another man. That's how he tells it, anyway; he's written extensively about the experience on his blog, where he refers to his ex as "'Orieyenta' ... my Oriental (Chinese) pseudo-Jewish, I promise I will always be there for you girlfriend/best friend of 2.5 years, who walked out and deserted me as I lay partially paralyzed and half dead...."
But Stelzer is a fighter — so he did what any sensible lawyer would. He sued her.
This past March 27, Stelzer accused Orieyenta (whom New Times is not naming) of fraud and breach of contract, among other things, claiming her professions of love — that "she would care for Plaintiff, his child, and his belongings" — were lies.
Not exactly the stuff of romance novels. But his demands for discovery were a little hotter. Among them:
• "Each and every page of your 'journal' which mentions, references, or contains name Lance R. Stelzer."
• "Copies of all photographs ... which portray you dressed (fully or partially) in red negligee."
• "The full name and current address of your mother, sister, and new boyfriend's mother."
He also requested erotic e-mails and photographs, all to be included in public court records. Then there were the interrogatory questions:
• "In your opinion, is it ever really right to abandon your best friend when he or she is undergoing horrible cancer treatment and is suffering major complications from the treatment?"
• "Did you, in 2004, provide pornographic pictures of yourself and pornographic 'scenarios' ... to Lance Stelzer? If so, please state why you did this."
• "What was the last date upon which you loved Lance Stelzer? (Note: If you cannot give an exact date, please state your best approximation.)"
Orieyenta's lawyer, David Freedman, last month filed an emergency motion asking that the file be closed to the public. "It is apparent," he wrote, "that [Stelzer] intends to utilize the procedures of this Court as some sort of adult bookstore."
Stelzer declined to comment about the case. Freedman also declined, citing his motion and adding only that "This poor woman is terrified."
The now-toxic relationship between Stelzer and Orieyenta began when they met in 2004, according to court documents. He was a 54-year-old single dad and a prosecutor turned private attorney. She was a 36-year-old single mom who did actuarial work. Both had been married twice before they met; both had recently divorced.
Orieyenta's split had been clean and simple: She received custody of their six-year-old daughter, and the father was granted visitation. For the most part, they left the marriage with whatever they brought in.
Stelzer's divorce, though, was messy. In November 2002, he and his wife of eight years began proceedings in family court for divorce. A few months later, though, Stelzer sued her in civil court, asking for damages in excess of $15,000. The charge: fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Stelzer, it seems, doesn't like getting dumped.
Also familiar were the many explicit sexual references in court papers. Stelzer alleged his former partner had "bragged to her friends that she had 'fucked [a married construction manager] in a very uncomfortable chair.'" And he claimed his wife had "engaged in adulterous relationships with at least four additional men," in one case bragging to friends "about the details of the adulterous affair, including the man's penis size, and even allowed the friends to witness certain of her sexual activity with this man."
In that case, Stelzer issued more than 25 subpoenas to bookstores, hotels, phone companies, and even eBay, demanding records of phone calls, financial transactions, etc. Owners of one of those companies, JPI Apartments and Management, took offense: They demanded that Stelzer sit for deposition. He dropped the suit shortly thereafter. The divorce was final in 2003.
Stelzer met Orieyenta the following year. According to his complaint, he had covered his bases early. "At the outset," Stelzer wrote, he had "made it clear that if [she] engaged in any acts of abandonment, lying, cheating, or stealing, such acts would cause extreme emotional distress."
For about the next two years, everything seemed to go well. But sometime last year, Stelzer was apparently diagnosed with a rare blood disorder for which he required extensive medical treatment at a hospital in Arkansas. He stayed for three months. During that time, the trouble began. He bought Orieyenta Hanukkah presents totaling $650, he wrote several times in court documents, but she gave him "no Hanukkah gift whatsoever." He bought her two tickets to the musical Wicked, but she attended without him.
The end came in January 2007. "Defendant advised Plaintiff, who was gravely ill, that she was having sexual relations with [the man] and that her relationship with Plaintiff was 'over,'" he wrote in his complaint.
But that wasn't the worst of it. Before leaving him forever, Orieyenta, Stelzer claimed, stole his prized mezuzah — a tiny prayer scroll that some Jews hang outside their doors. She took it from his home while he lay far away, unable to stop her. In a blog entry titled "The Mystery of the Missing Mezuzah," he offered readers a $500 reward for information leading to the recovery of the precious object.
But the mezuzah has not turned up — except in court documents, where it appears over and over again.
So is Stelzer likely to prevail in his quest for legal vindication? Probably not.
"The courts today, when they get these types of cases, generally they dismiss them out of hand," says Zanita Fenton, a professor who teaches family law at the University of Miami. Love, she points out, is not a contract. "Love is irrelevant to the kind of contract we're talking about."
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