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HARTFORD, Conn. � He is a multi-millionaire business tycoon worth about $50 million. She is a free-spending woman with substance abuse issues � the New York Post called her “Pill-Pop Ma” in a headline. The husband and wife have become such bitter enemies that a retired police officer had been hired to stay in their $5.7 million Westport home and make sure their four children didn’t get caught in the crossfire. In court and through their high-priced lawyers, they’ve done nothing too quell what likely has become the costliest divorce battle in state history. Their 82-day trial wrapped up last week with one of Peter Tauck’s lawyers calling Nancy “diabolical” and “sinister,” not to mention a liar and alcoholic. They accused her of planting 69 child pornography images on her estranged husband’s computer. Nancy Tauck’s legal team, led by Westport divorce lawyer Wayne Effron, struck back, denying the accusation and describing her as a “loving mother.” Effron expressed dismay that a court-appointed attorney for the children and a psychologist who testified could hold his client in such low regard. Effron could scarcely conceal his frustration with court rulings he thought favored Peter Tauck. “Everyone is siding with Goliath,” he lamented. In the end, about all anyone could agree upon was that the case probably set a Connecticut record for a divorce case by running up more than $11 million in legal fees. The cost was illustrated every day by the small battalion of lawyers that came to the Middletown Superior Court wheeling in reams of documents. So far, there’s been no resolution. Judge Holly Abery-Wetstone is weighing whether Linda Tauck should get tens of millions from her husband’s fortune, as she has requested, or a mere $30,000 a month. Then there’s the matter of custody. The judge has let stand, for now, the current set-up that allows the children to live in the house, with each parent staying with them a few days at a time and then moving out. To ensure the kids’ safety, there’s 24-hour camera surveillance and professional supervision. HARD DRIVES Peter Tauck owns 27 percent of world-renowned Tauck Inc., an upscale safari and exotic travel company founded by his grandfather in 1925. Nancy Tauck’s lawyer pegged his income at more than $7 million a year, although Peter Tauck no longer has a regular job with his company. Nancy Tauck’s lawyers freely acknowledge that the couple lived an expensive lifestyle during their marriage, and that she should be granted enough money to keep living it. The Taucks have a vacation home in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Nancy Tauck, for example, has been known to spend $6,000 to charter a jet to Myrtle Beach, S.C., according to her husband. But while money is at the heart of the dispute, a substantial amount of the trial focused on the 69 child porn images on Peter Tauck’s laptop and who had placed them there. At the Jan. 8 opening of the trial, attorney Effron suggested they belonged to Peter. “Hard drives don’t lie,” he said. But Peter Tauck’s six-lawyer defense team spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on computer work and hours of cross-examination trying to establish that the child porn images were loaded onto Tauck’s home laptop when he was away on a business trip to Tahiti in May 2005. Even though the browsing history was erased, the experts said that Peter Tauck had no remote access to the computer. They also testified that he had never even viewed the pornographic images, let alone downloaded them. Under cross-examination from attorney M. Hatcher “Reese” Norris, Nancy Tauck acknowledged that she had never given her husband’s computer password to anyone else. Under questioning from the court-appointed lawyer for the minor children, Gaetano Ferro, Nancy Tauck said she had no evidence of anyone else having access to her husband’s laptop, let alone motive to plant the porn images. Norris was assisted in the computer portion of the case by John Eckberg, of Schoonmaker, George & Colin in Greenwich. In his questioning of Nancy Tauck’s computer experts, Norris was able to have them disqualified as experts capable of identifying child pornography. “I felt like I was a federal prosecutor again,” said Norris. “This was like a criminal trial inside a divorce.” Sarah Oldham and Arnold Rutkin, of Westport’s Rutkin and Oldham, handled the psychological experts for Peter Tauck. ‘LACK OF CREDIBILITY’ In his summation, Peter Tauck’s Greenwich divorce lawyer, Thomas Colin, referred to the dispute about the computer images and asked: “Can everybody in this case be lying except for Nancy Tauck?” His answer was a giant “NO!” written on a courtroom easel. Colin called Nancy Tauck a “diabolical, manipulative, calculating, sinister alcoholic who sat just a few feet away from Your Honor and lied over and over again.” He said the judge “would be entitled to completely reject each and every thing that came out of her mouth based upon her lack of credibility.” Colin said Nancy Tauck “had the motive and the opportunity to plant child pornography on her husband’s computer and manufacture false sex abuse allegations [and] still has the motive today.” As for custody of the children, Colin cited the testimony of court-appointed West Hartford psychiatrist Kenneth Robson, who he quoted as saying: “These children will learn to lie if they are in her care, and they will learn that they can’t count on the words of a parent or an adult.” Colin urged the judge to limit Nancy Tauck to an hour at a time with her children, and said the visits should be supervised. Ferro, the attorney for the minor children, is a partner at New Canaan’s Marvin, Ferro & Barndollar, and previously represented the wife of former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. He painted Peter Tauck as good father who “kept the children the primary focus all the time. He let all the other stuff that he could not control roll off his back � .” In her portion of the closing, Cynthia George, Colin’s law partner at Greenwich’s Schoonmaker, George & Colin, suggested $30,000 a month for five years of alimony. She said Nancy Tauck should not get a hefty share of the $40 million that represents the amount Peter Tauck’s net worth increased during the marriage. George said that Nancy Tauck had not helped her husband build a new business and didn’t contribute any non-monetary services. George noted that Nancy Tauck had a master’s degree in social work. “It’s time to start doing that and rehabilitate herself,” George said. ‘CLOSE TO HER CHILDREN’ Effron, the attorney for Nancy Tauck, denied that his client planted the pornographic images. Instead, he said, Peter Tauck “is less than forthcoming about matters involving his computers.” In his closing argument memorandum, Effron hinted that one of Peter Tauck’s allies may have removed images from the hard drives. That allegation was an apparent reference to Greenwich criminal defense lawyer Phillip Russell, who for one year was part of Peter Tauck’s legal team. Russell was indicted last winter for allegedly destroying a church music director’s hard drive to eliminate images of child pornography. Nancy Tauck’s lawyers tried to introduce Russell’s indictment into evidence, but Judge Abery-Wetstone refused to admit it on grounds that an indictment is merely an allegation, not proof. As for Nancy Tauck’s character, Effron described her as “a devoted mother close to her children � there has been no evidence to the contrary.” Effron said Linda Tauck should get 55 percent of the $50 million he says Peter Tauck is worth. He said Peter Tauck could easily sell off his houses or part of his share in his company to pay the settlement. Effron noted that in three previous decisions, Abery-Whetstone has awarded the non-monied party � the wife in each case � more than 50 percent of the husband’s assets. The reason for asking for more than half, Effron said, is twofold. First, Peter Tauck “is earning enormous sums of money without having to lift a finger.”Secondly, Effron charged that Peter Tauck has violated a court-ordered freeze on spending by paying his attorneys more than $6.3 million in fees and costs, and paying $1 million toward a loan that wasn’t due. When viewed in percentage terms, the alimony that Peter Tauck is offering at $30,000 a month would only be 4 percent of his $7 million-plus in annual income. “In terms of assets,” Effron said, Peter Tauck “would have his wife receive $5 million and he retain $45 million. Apparently, Mr. Tauck has been emboldened to the point of ridiculousness by the fact that the rulings in the trial have gone his way.” Thomas B. Scheffey is a reporter with the Connecticut Law Tribune, a Recorder affiliate based in Hartford.

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