Posted Apr 01, 2009 10:50 pm CDT
The 4-year-old daughter of William Lewton loved the stuffed toy bear—actually a bear’s head with a blanket attached—he gave her and brought it along whenever she stayed with her divorced dad.
Lewton’s ex-wife, Dianna Divingnzzo, seeking full custody of the girl, might have wondered at some point, “What if that bear could talk?” With the help of her father, Lewton alleges, she concocted a scheme to make that bear sing.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in January, Lewton—36, of Omaha, Neb.—claims that Divingnzzo or her father placed a recording device inside the child’s beloved bear, purportedly to gather evidence of inappropriate speech or conduct.
Lewton’s attorney—John Kinney of Omaha—says that the undercover ursine is thought to have been recording conversations from late 2007 through May 2008, and that Lewton’s ex had no reason to eavesdrop.
“Her motivation is the subject of many theories and conjecture,” Kinney says. “There is nothing Mr. Lewton has to hide, no evidence of physical or psychological abuse.”
He adds that the couple’s divorce was “very acrimonious.”
Lewton, along with six other plaintiffs whose conversations were also recorded, is suing Divingnzzo, her father and her two former attorneys—as well as their law firm—for violations of state and federal wiretapping laws, and invasion of privacy. The attorneys deny any involvement with the placement of the recording device.
The plaintiffs are seeking $40,000 apiece from each of the five defendants for the multiple claims.
Divingnzzo could not be reached for comment.
Kinney says that even though electronic eavesdropping is on the rise in divorce cases, “there’s sort of a wall that you can’t go beyond. I’m hoping this case will have a dampening effect on some of the behavior that occurs when people let their emotions carry the day.”