Rasheed Wallace guilty of legal foul, ex-wife says
Detroit — Former Detroit Piston Rasheed Wallace fouled his ex-wife by forcing her out of their mansion and leaving her penniless, threatened by the repo man and creditors during a bitter divorce that preserved his $80 million fortune, according to her lawyer.
The divorce fight reached the Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday, when ex-wife Fatima Sanders continued a nearly two-year quest for spousal support and a piece of the fortune — most of which was earned during their 16-year marriage.
The fight is illustrated in dozens of pages of legal filings that quote poets, cite novels, mock the 7-foot-tall Wallace’s history of committing technical fouls and featured Sanders’ lawyer calling an adversary’s legal tactics “balderdash, bumf and bushwah.”
The trade for Wallace midway through the 2003-04 season helped elevate the Pistons to a National Basketball Association championship contender. His scoring and tough interior defense with center Ben Wallace were considered some of the crucial ingredients in the Pistons’ 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals and helped make the team a perennial Eastern Conference leader.
“The mishandling of this divorce by the trial court is a travesty,” Fatima Sanders’ lawyer Henry Baskin wrote in a court filing.
Sanders, 45, is fighting to have her divorce complaint revived in Oakland County so she can pursue spousal support and attorney fees, and receive a share of the couple’s estate.
She wants the appeals court to send the case to an “impartial” judge who won’t let Wallace’s lawyer denigrate her as merely an “NBA wife,” according to court filings.
Wallace’s lawyers also want the divorce case revived in Oakland County so a judge can enforce a prenuptial agreement that would give Sanders an unspecified slice of her ex-husband’s assets.
“Rasheed wants to be done. He has a prenup and he doesn’t want to waste any more time and money,” Wallace’s lawyer Richard Victor told The News.
The prenuptial agreement would give Sanders a “nice, hefty settlement,” Victor said. If Sanders pursues spousal support beyond what’s outlined in the prenuptial agreement, Wallace’s lawyer said he would air allegations about an affair.
Under the prenuptial agreement, Sanders would get nothing if she had an affair, Victor said.
“They don’t want to litigate this,” he said.
Victor can’t prove an affair, Sanders’ lawyer said.
Besides, Wallace “has been having an affair for years,” Baskin said.
Not true, Victor said.
Neither Wallace nor Sanders were in court Tuesday for the appeal hearing. A three-judge panel heard oral argument but did not issue a ruling.
The state of the couple’s relationship is reflected in their 11,000-square-foot Rochester Hills stone mansion.
The three-story $1.7 million home appeared abandoned during a recent visit. An overturned trash can was spotted by the garage and the yard was overgrown.
In fact, Wallace, who was cited for marijuana possession during his NBA career, is on the weed list.
The city cited the home for weeds June 16 because the grass was longer than 18 inches, city records show. Then the city slapped Wallace, one of the most penalized players in NBA history, with a $146.16 fine.
The couple’s legal fight dates to 2013 when Wallace, 41, retired from the New York Knicks and left his wife. He moved to North Carolina, where he played collegiately at the University of North Carolina, while Sanders and the couple’s two children returned to the Rochester Hills home, where the family lived for more than a decade.
Wallace filed for divorce in North Carolina in early July 2014. Sanders filed her own divorce complaint three weeks later in Oakland County. She also tried to challenge the couple’s 1998 prenuptial agreement, which was signed on their wedding day, claiming it was “procured by fraud.”
Sanders fought the North Carolina divorce filing, arguing the court lacked jurisdiction and challenged whether Wallace truly was a North Carolina resident since he rented an apartment in Troy.
For six months after the rival divorce filings, Wallace paid nothing to his ex-wife, according to her lawyer.
By January 2015, Sanders was in financial trouble.
“(Sanders) was being dunned by creditors, her utilities were being cut off for non-payment, her credit cards had been canceled or maxed out, her car was about to be repossessed ...” Baskin wrote in a court filing.
Wallace had total control of the couple’s finances, her lawyer said. Without access to the cash, Sanders claimed she lost her car, home and credit cards, and was unable to pay creditors, according to a filing.
Sanders left the home voluntarily, Wallace’s lawyer said.
“Nobody forced her out of the house,” Victor said.
After Sanders’ lawyer requested interim spousal support in late January 2015, Wallace started cutting $10,000 checks every month, according to court records.
The money wasn’t enough, her lawyer claimed.
During one six-month stretch, expenses averaged $212,000 a month.
Woman without a country
With her finances in disarray, Sanders lost another legal battle.
The North Carolina court granted Wallace a divorce Jan. 12, 2015. The divorce judgment did not address spousal support or child support, or divide the couple’s assets.
Two months later, Oakland County Circuit Judge Lisa Langton dismissed Sanders’ divorce case. Langton dismissed the case without holding a hearing on the validity of the prenuptial agreement, according to Sanders’ lawyer.
The prenuptial agreement is not valid and was signed after the couple was married, Baskin said.
The judge left decisions about spousal support and assets to the North Carolina court, according to court records.
North Carolina lacks any jurisdiction over Sanders, her lawyer said.
“(Sanders) has been thrown out of Michigan’s one court of justice, and told to go to North Carolina (or to just ‘go away’),” Baskin wrote in a filing.
Sanders’ lawyer compared her to Philip Nolan, the fictional character from the 1863 short story “The Man Without a Country,” who was forced to wander the world in exile.
“(Sanders) is now a ‘woman without a country’... having no judicial forum in which to vindicate her rights to alimony, to an equitable share of the marital estate and to recover attorney fees so she can effectively protect her rights,” Baskin wrote.
Baskin wasn’t finished with the literary references.
Baskin quoted the poem “Lay of the Last Minstrel” by Walter Scott while urging the appeals court to reduce Langton’s ruling “to the vile dust from whence (it) sprung...”
On Tuesday, Baskin asked the appeals court to send the case to a lower court, but not to Langton or her Oakland County colleagues.
“I need a new judge so I can get fresh eyes on this case,” Baskin said.
Wallace’s lawyers want the case sent back to Langton in Oakland County so they can push to have the prenuptial agreement enforced by the judge, and so Wallace can move beyond the legal battle.
“I have dealt with some bad guys — really bad prima donnas but he is one of the most good-hearted, caring dads,” Victor said. “(The appeal) is just a waste of time and judicial resources.”