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When the film “Evita” came out in 1996, Juan and Evita Peron’s physician, Dr. Herbert Hofmann, sat in a New York movie theater and weighed in on its accuracy. “That’s true, that’s not true, that’s somewhat true,” he relayed to a friend throughout the film. Last week, Hofmann’s own drama played out in a Manhattan courtroom. A Supreme Court justice annulled his marriage to his on-again, off-again sweetheart, former model Genevieve Pignarre, ruling that Hofmann lacked sufficient mental capacity when he married Pignarre, at the age of 95, at City Hall in July 2003. “[A]lthough it is apparent that Dr. Hofmann was capable in July 2003 of answering simple, direct questions, the court is satisfied that Dr. Hofmann was incapable of understanding the nature, effect and consequences of getting married,” Acting Justice Laura E. Drager held in Powers v. Pignarre, 306873/04, an annulment action initiated by Hofmann’s guardian, Charyn Powers. Hofmann and Pignarre’s relationship began in 1970 when they met at a party in Manhattan. She was a 26-year-old model from France, he was a 63-year-old physician and banker from Argentina. Hofmann had already amassed much of his fortune, which has been estimated to now total $20 million to $300 million, most of which is held in trusts in Gibraltar. Even though he came to the party with a different date, Hofmann gave Pignarre his business card, according to the decision. A year later she called him, then met him in Geneva, where they began their romance. For most of the 1970′s they lived together in Paris and Geneva, Drager wrote. Wanting children, Pignarre left Dr. Hofmann in 1978 and had two children with another man, whom she never married, Drager wrote. The two ex-lovers remained close. Hofmann visited Pignarre in the hospital when her children were born, according to her attorney, Sandra Katz, of Kupferman & Kupferman. After Pignarre and her boyfriend separated in 1991, Hofmann paid all of her rent and expenses, according to the decision. In 1997, at the age of 90, Hofmann asked Pignarre to leave Paris and come to New York to take care of him. Pignarre agreed, moving into Hofmann’s Sutton Place South apartment, where the couple shared the master bedroom. The events that led to the present suit occurred shortly thereafter. Pignarre claims that Hofmann proposed to her repeatedly. He wanted to marry her so that he could be in peace, she testified. He was afraid that, if they did not marry, she would have too little money to live, she said. Towards the end of 2002 she accepted his proposal, she says. On July 8, 2003, Pignarre, Hofmann and his medical assistant Clemencia Pena called a car, put Hofmann’s wheelchair in the trunk and headed to City Hall for the wedding. Pignarre was 58; Dr. Hofmann, 95. GUARDIAN APPOINTED Around November 2003, Hofmann’s attorney, Arie David, called Pignarre in France, where she and Hofmann maintained a residence, and told her he intended to initiate legal proceedings against her. Shortly thereafter, a long-time friend of Hofmann’s initiated an Article 81 proceeding, with David’s support, resulting in the appointment of Charyn Powers as Hofmann’s guardian. Powers then initiated the action to annul the marriage. In the meantime, Pignarre returned to New York. She told Hofmann’s staff that she and Dr. Hofmann were leaving town for a few days. Instead, she took him to Paris, where they remain. At issue in Powers is whether Hofmann had the mental capacity to understand the consequences of marrying Pignarre when they went to City Hall in July 2003. Though the couple is in France, the answer could determine whether Pignarre could pursue an elective right to a portion of Hofmann’s multi-million dollar estate. Powers claimed that Hofmann suffered from progressive, incurable dementia; Pignarre contended that, notwithstanding his mental illness, on the date of the marriage Hofmann was in the midst of a “lucid interval.” “Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that on July 8, 2003, Dr. Hofmann was incapable of understanding the nature, effect and consequences of the marriage,” Drager wrote. “The burden is a heavy one.” The plaintiff satisfied that burden nonetheless. Lacking any psychological records from the time of the marriage, the plaintiffs attorney, Donald Frank of Blank Rome in New York, presented two expert witnesses who reviewed CT head scans from January 2002. The experts agreed that the scans evidenced that Hofmann’s dementia was the product of progressive deterioration of the brain over the course of several years. Such irreversible degeneration precluded any possible lucid intervals. The testimony of a number of other witnesses, including Hofmann’s personal physician, supported this finding. Pignarre presented a contrary expert witness, an expert in general psychology who had no training in CT scans. She also testified herself, but Drager discounted her testimony. “Her view of the condition is simply at odds with too many of the other witnesses, including those called by the defense,” Drager wrote. “At best, she wanted to believe that Dr. Hofmann remained as he had been in the past; at worst, her testimony was unworthy of belief.” The court held Hofmann lacked capacity and annulled the marriage. PROCEEDINGS CONTINUE The decision is the end of the marriage, but not the end of the legal proceedings, according to Pignarre’s attorney, Katz. “There can’t be an appeal because, as far as we know, Dr. Hoffman has between 20 and 300 million dollars in Gibraltar and my client doesn’t have a dime,” Katz said. “You have to pay for an appeal, correct?” Katz, however, does intend to pursue support and equitable distribution for her client for the time the couple was married. As Hofmann remains in the couple’s Paris apartment, the case presents a rare example of a couple living together after an annulment and as their attorneys battle over money. “It’s almost an anomaly in the law that you can seek maintenance and equitable distribution following a marriage that has been annulled and per force has never truly existed in the legal sense,” Frank added. He also stated that the final legal proceeding may be the one now under way in France. “There is also a guardianship proceeding in Paris,” he said. “Many people would be very happy to see him back in New York, back to his apartment.”

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