By Joe Beck -- email@example.com
The bitterness that characterized the legal battles between Tareq Salahi, his former wife, Michaele, the rock band Journey, lead guitarist Neal Schon and Nomata, Inc. continued to the official ending Monday in Warren County Circuit Court.
A settlement to end the disputes nearly collapsed amid clashes over wording and procedural issues. After more than an hour of quarreling between attorneys from all sides, Judge Dennis L. Hupp granted a final divorce decree to Tareq and Michaele Salahi and entered a dismissal order for the $50 million personal injury lawsuit that Tareq Salahi had filed against Journey, Schon and Nomata, an entertainment company.
A dismissal order covering the lone remaining defendant in the personal injury lawsuit, DD Entertainment LLC, was also entered. But Hupp gave Tareq Salahi's attorney, Charles B. Roberts of Occoquan, 14 days to file written arguments explaining why an earlier decision by the judge that effectively threw out the lawsuit should be reconsidered. Salahi is seeking to try the case against DD Entertainment before a jury in Warren County.
The opposing attorneys appeared frustrated and exasperated with each other during the hearing. Roberts and Bruce Blanchard of Fairfax, who represented Journey and Schon, said afterward they entered the courtroom expecting the hearing to be short and routine.
Instead, differences quickly emerged over the wording of the dismissal order that the attorneys proposed for Hupp's final approval.
Blanchard accused Roberts of proposing wording that did not accurately reflect the terms of the settlement. The settlement, including the divorce decree, was placed under seal, thus preventing anyone but the attorneys, their clients and Hupp from seeing the details.
At one point, Roberts accused Blanchard of beginning to disclose the settlement terms in the courtroom. Blanchard said he didn't trust Roberts' motives in proposing wording different from his. He accused Roberts of trying to use the settlement for "publicity purposes."
"His briefs are all over the Internet. His pleadings are all over the Internet," Roberts told Hupp. "We just want this case over and done with."
The opposing sides reached an agreement over the wording of the dismissal order after Hupp called a recess to study the terms of the settlement. Both attorneys professed relief after the hearing that months of courtroom drama had ended.
"After the case was dismissed twice and thrown out twice by the court, we're pleased with the resolution," Blanchard said.
Tareq Salahi said the elimination of most of the defendants from the personal injury lawsuit will allow him to concentrate on his plans to campaign for the Republican nomination for governor in 2013.
"I feel good it's behind me," he said. "I'm only looking forward to the future. I'm going to focus on the campaign for governor."
The settlement included the dropping of an $850,000 counter lawsuit that Michaele Salahi filed against her former husband. She accused him of calling her "a groupie slut" during a TV interview in September.
Michaele Salahi was also initially included as a defendant in the personal injury lawsuit, but her name was omitted from the list of defendants in an amended version of the suit filed in April.
Tareq Salahi's personal injury suit contended that Michaele Salahi's decision to leave him in September and join Schon and Journey on a concert tour cost him business opportunities along with his marriage.
The Salahis have appeared in several TV reality shows since they first captured national headlines by crashing a White House state dinner in 2009. Tareq Salahi insisted that the demise of his marriage also thwarted plans for several other TV projects in which they were expected to appear together.
Tareq Salahi said he was exchanging text messages with his wife during Monday's hearing and is communicating regularly with her. He said she was traveling with Journey on the band's latest concert tour Monday.
"We're friends," he said of former wife. "We had 11 good years together."