Local realtor charges accuser of malice and defamation

Attorney says it’s a case of principle, chance for vindication

Heidi Lesinski, a local real estate agent and wife of Hampton district supervisor John Lesinski, filed a complaint with the Rappahannock County Circuit Court on October 2 accusing her neighbor Edmund Kavanagh of malicious prosecution and defamation.

The suit comes some seven months after Kavanagh, 84, filed a criminal complaint with the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office accusing Lesinski of punching him “on or about Feb. 20” while at her residence. He then asked that a no-trespass order be served on Lesinski.

In addition to being a close friend and neighbor, Lesinski had been handling Kavanagh’s personal financial affairs.

After a two-and-a-half hour bench trial in Rappahannock County District Court in May, Judge J. Gregory Ashwell ruled that inconsistencies in witness testimony created enough reasonable doubt as to the actual circumstances surrounding the charge. He found Lesinski not guilty.

Count I of Lesinski’s complaint charges that “her prosecution became the subject of widespread gossip and speculation” and that “Kavanagh instituted the … proceedings maliciously and without probable cause.”

Count II charges that Kavanagh made “Defamatory Statements [that] were completely and totally false” and that he made them “knowing that the statements were false, or made the Defamatory Statements so recklessly as to amount to a willful disregard for the truth.”

As a result, Lesinski “suffered damage to her personal and professional reputation and standing in the community, and endured shame, humiliation, and mental anguish.”

For each of the two counts, the complaint asks the court to enter judgement against Kavanagh for $50,000 and award another $50,000 in punitive damages.

Before the February incident, Lesinski and her husband had been good friends with Kavanagh. At the May trial, Kavanagh, a retired jewelry designer, testified that he had known the Lesinskis for many years and that they had had a good relationship. The couple had even taken him on vacation with them to Maine on several occasions and to spend a week with Heidi Lesinski’s mother in South Dakota.

While his wife was ill before her death, Kavanagh said, Lesinski “proposed taking over handling my expenses and other matters to give me a break. I thought it was wonderful.”

Eventually, “she had control of everything,” he said, including his will, bank accounts, and medical directive, and she had power of attorney to conduct his affairs. They would meet periodically to go over his accounts and pay his bills.

But in February, while going over his bills, they had a falling out over Kavanagh’s sending money to his incarcerated son through the son’s girlfriend. In her testimony, Lesinski described being upset with the arrangement because “I was afraid for Edmund’s property and my own.” The son had once broken into his father’s house and stolen jewelry worth thousands of dollars and was now in jail for alleged kidnapping.

Lesinski testified that she repeatedly asked Kavanagh to leave her house and that she told him she was severing the relationship. She denied assaulting him.

In an email October 7, Lesinski wrote, “I respectfully decline to comment at this time.”

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Kavanagh described the May trial as “a waste of time. I never had a chance to speak. All the conversation was between [Lesinski] and the judge.” He declined to name a lawyer representing him in the current action.

Chris Whelan, the Warrenton attorney representing Lesinski, said in a call Wednesday, “From my client’s standpoint this is a principle lawsuit.”

He also described something that was not in Lesinski’s complaint, but that Whelan described as “disturbing.

“Within three days after Mr. Kavanagh filed the protective order,” said Whelan, “elected officials, business leaders, [and others] received anonymous letters containing copies of Mr. Kavanagh’s criminal complaint. I find [those mailings] disturbing.”

About Patty Hardee 277 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.