Gloria Allred, the outspoken feminist attorney known for trying cases in both the courtroom and the media, is feeling the sting of such tactics in a long-simmering divorce dispute that has wended its way to U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Her adversary is her former husband, William C. Allred, a onetime aerospace entrepreneur who used to be portrayed as a docile spouse overshadowed by his famous wife. He later achieved notoriety as the "estranged husband" convicted of defrauding the U.S. government.
Appealing a divorce judgment that left him owing more than $4 million to his former wife, Bill Allred, 61, has shed his docile image to issue press releases and give interviews that essentially portray his ex-wife as the villain in the country-Western song who has taken the gold mine and left him with the shaft.
Bill and Gloria Allred, married for 19 years before their divorce in late 1987, exchanged little more than glances Tuesday at a bankruptcy hearing in Los Angeles that resolved only the most arcane of issues. Both came with their lawyers, and Bill brought along his wife of three years, Judith.
"It's the height of hypocrisy for her to do this," Bill Allred said in an interview. "I put her through law school, and now she's going to take everything I ever earned. . . . I don't think feminists would approve of that. Feminists believe in equal rights for men and women."
Gloria Allred, 50, says she is only seeking what a Superior Court judge already has ruled to be a fair financial resolution.
"How is a person a gold digger for trying to collect their share of community property?" she said in an interview. "I'm entitled to collect my fair share of community property without being called names."
The courtroom reunion reflected the tense relations that have existed at least since Bill Allred's October, 1987, conviction on charges of conspiring to defraud the government by selling counterfeit aircraft parts through his company, Donallco. He still contends he was innocent of criminal wrongdoing.
Their divorce was made final a short time later.
Bill Allred says he is airing his side of the messy divorce drama now only because he was unable to attend community property proceedings in 1990. During those hearings, Allred was incarcerated at a minimum-security prison in Texas. He said he is convinced that the judgment--which exceeds $4 million with interest--would have been far more favorable if he could have been present.
"She asked for everything and basically she got everything," he said. "I can't believe a higher court will allow it. . . . But people might say, he's a convicted felon. He might deserve it."
Even if he liquidated his assets he would not be able to pay the entire judgment, he said. That is why he filed for protection under the bankruptcy code, he said.
When Bill and Gloria Allred met in the early 1960s, he already was operating Donallco, a company he founded in 1953, and she was a high school teacher in South-Central Los Angeles. Both had been married once before and both had children from their previous marriages. Bill said he not only paid Gloria's way through Loyola Law School, but also put her daughter--whom he adopted--through Yale Law School.
Much of the trouble in their marriage started, Bill Allred said, when authorities launched their investigation of Donallco contract irregularities in 1985. Gloria Allred was so fearful of adverse publicity, he said, that he agreed to a "sham separation" in early 1986 to protect her public image.
They continued to live as man and wife, he says, and he was stunned when she informed him on the day of his conviction that she wanted an immediate divorce.
He says he also agreed to his wife's request to face trial in Texas, instead of California, to further minimize adverse publicity. Gloria Allred's firm, which coordinated his legal defense, was paid more than $200,000 in fees, he said.
Bill Allred contends that the court failed to consider that the couple already had divided their real estate holdings to protect their personal wealth against the criminal investigation. Gloria Allred took title to their 4,000-square-foot Pacific Palisades condominium and two commercial properties, while Bill Allred took title to a warehouse in North Hollywood.
He also contends that the court overvalued his stake in Donallco because, in rendering its judgment, it estimated the company's worth at the time of their "sham separation." Donallco was worth far less after his indictment and conviction, he said.
None of Bill Allred's contentions are new, his ex-wife said.
"For the most part, Mr. Allred's allegations were already extensively litigated in the divorce case and are a rehash of what his attorneys argued for him during that trial," she said in a prepared statement.
Gloria Allred declined to address specific claims that she had manipulated him to gain control of their assets during their marriage and separation. She said the court's judgment is fair and disputed her former husband's charges that she had reneged on a proposed settlement.