Fourth District Court of Appeal Judge Cory Ciklin didn’t want to be unamenable, but he couldn’t overlook the characterization of a relationship between an extortionist and her victim as “love.”
Ciklin was on the appellate panel with Judges Robert Gross and Mark Klingensmith, adjudicating an appeal by Debbie O’Flaherty-Lewis, a former Broward Sheriff’s Office employee convicted of extorting people she met on AshleyMadison.com, a dating website for people looking for anonymous sexual encounters to cheat on their spouses.
“This is the story of a man who looked for love in the wrong place and ended up as the victim of an extortion plot,” Gross wrote in the opening line of the unanimous ruling that rejected O’Flaherty-Lewis’ attempt to bar evidence in the case against her.
Ciklin fully agreed with the majority’s conclusion, but he couldn’t abide its use of the word “love” to characterize the extramarital affair.
“While it is not my intent to be obstreperous, I must take exception with the suggestion that either this victim was seeking, or this extortionist was offering, ‘love,’” he wrote in the special concurrence issued Wednesday. “Call it ardor, lechery or lust, but love, I dare speculate, was not on anyone’s mind.”
O’Flaherty-Lewis was a supervisor in the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s Child Protective Investigations Section. O’Flaherty-Lewis’ law enforcement colleagues arrested her after a doctor reported an extortion plot that sought to force him to pay her $7,000 credit card bill.
The pair met on Ashley Madison, exchanged sexually explicit messages and had a hotel-room romp before O’Flaherty-Lewis contacted the doctor for a second meeting, according to court documents. But the doctor seemed to have lost interest, expressing “guilt about his infidelity.”
Court records claim the doctor’s rebuff angered O’Flaherty-Lewis, who then revealed that she knew not only his identity but his wife’s, his home address and his children’s names and birth dates.
“You’re gonna pay one way or the other,” O’Flaherty-Lewis told the doctor, according to court documents.
But the doctor contacted his attorney, who called the sheriff, which arranged a sting. The investigation uncovered a second victim on the hook for $15,000.
Palm Beach Assistant Public Defender Alan T. Lipson represented O’Flaherty-Lewis. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Assistant Attorney General Rachael Kaiman prosecuted.