In a post-divorce family court hearing transcript obtained by Wonkette, we learn even more sordid details about South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford and his divorce from ex-wife Jenny, including:
- That Mark was a deadbeat dad who was found in contempt of court for his refusal to make his court-ordered child support payments;
- That the previously unexplained prohibition against Mark flying airplanes at children arose because “crazy cousin” John played “chicken” by flying an actual passenger airplane at the Sanford kids;
- That Mark and his ex-wife’s primary concern, following the deaths of TWO kids who drowned at Coosaw Plantation, the Sanford family farm, was not about making the farm safer, but rather, protecting their financial assets in case any more kids died there;
- Mark repeatedly offered to get back together with his ex, while he was still banging his Argentine lover.
- Mark’s needless lie about legal representation.
- The Next Chapter
According to the 79-page transcript (certain small portions of which are redacted) of a March 14, 2012, hearing in the Family Court of Charleston, South Carolina, the former S.C. governor and current congressman was found in contempt of court for violating the terms of the Final Order and Decree of Divorce of March 18, 2010, a court-approved agreement with his ex-wife.
Jenny filed this particular court action — one of several she filed and continues to file, including the most recent one requiring Mark to appear in court on Monday — because she believed Mark had violated several terms of their agreement: He had repeatedly failed to pay his child support; he had failed to obtain liability insurance for the Sanford family “farm,” the Coosaw Plantation, where there was a pattern of children drowning on the property, resulting in wrongful death suits against various members of the Sanford family; and he had failed to abide by certain restrictions on what the Sanford children were and were not allowed to do while in Mark’s care at the Coosaw Plantation.
Mark was a deadbeat dad.
The original divorce decree required, among other things, that Mark make regular payments of $5,000 for the cost of their son Marshall’s college tuition. But, despite the court order, Mark didn’t think that was fair. He’d already paid some money to Jenny, as well as “a variety of different expenses”; it really seemed unnecessary to him that he should have to pay everything he owed. As he told the court:
So anyway, long story short, we got into a tug of war, back and forth, on whether I owed or I didn’t owe. Long story short, she threatened several times to take me to court. And I don’t think that I owed her that 18 — or $15,000, whatever it was, for one second. But I, frankly, couldn’t take another public spectacle. I said, all right. Well, then I’ll pay it. I paid initially about $5,000, then she wanted more.
And what I’ll submit to you here is two things here in the month of October, one is my checking account, which was indeed pulled down to about $7,000, and I didn’t want to make a $5,000 payment at that time. Because I said, look, I can do one or the other, but I can’t do both.
Plus, he was cheap. Everyone knew that.
“I’m renowned for being cheap,” he told the court, as Jenny well knew. “I want you to keep in mind, again, how she knows I’m cheap. Anybody out there knows I’m cheap.”
And, as he told Jenny when she repeatedly asked him to pay up, he simply did not have the money.
“You know I’m really squeezed for cash,” he told her. He no longer had his cushy job as South Carolina’s governor, and had somehow failed to rake in the dough on the Conservative Talking Head Circuit, perhaps because no one was all that interested in anything the disgraced ex-governor had to say. Yet.
The voters of South Carolina’s 1st congressional district got over their disappointment quickly enough, though, in the 2013 special election, when Mark ran on a Tea Party-endorsed platform of being a “fiscal conservative,” a reputation he’d first earned when he started his political career in the House in 1994, ranked by the Cato Institute and other conservative groups as the House’s most fiscally conservative member. He’d also made a name for himself as a fierce critic of President Bill Clinton for his extramarital affair, which Sanford said at the time, in justifying his vote to impeach the president, was “reprehensible” and “very damaging stuff,” and called on Clinton to resign because “I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally.”
Irony is so ironic, isn’t it?
Despite being “squeezed” and “cheap,” once Jenny sought the court’s intervention to enforce the terms of their agreement, Mark somehow managed to find the money and paid up “almost immediately.” Imagine that.
The Honorable Jocelyn B. Cate determined, based on Mark’s failure to make all required payments:
The evidence does show that at the time when the payment was made — was due, you did have the funds to do that. So based upon that, I do find that you are in contempt of court because of the willfulness in regards to you choosing to pay one thing as opposed to another.
The judge continued:
So the fact that there is a single finding of contempt on that single issue is satisfaction enough for this court to impress upon Mr. Sanford the need to follow this agreement.
In other words, deadbeat Mark, you have to pay up. As the judge reminded him, a finding by the court that he had “willfully or intentionally violated a court order” could result in sanctions including “up to one year in jail, up to a $1,500 fine, up to 300 hours of community service or a combination of all three.”
The real tragedies at the Coosaw Plantation: the lack of liability insurance to pay for all those dead kids.
In 2011, a six-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool at Coosaw Plantation, the Sanford family farm, during a birthday party hosted by Mark’s brother, John. The boy’s family filed a wrongful death suit against several of the Sanfords, as well as the The Sanford Land Co. and the Sanford Family Partnership, which owned the property. According to the lawsuit, “children at the pool party were not properly supervised and the boy wasn’t given a lifejacket, although his parents had said he could not swim.”
This was the second time a child had drowned on the property; the first incident occurred in 2002, when an eight-year-old girl drowned in the Sanfords’ “retaining pond” — a water-filled hole in the ground that Mark had dug because, according to previously leaked documents, he enjoyed “digging holes on the property with his hydraulic excavator to ‘unwind.'” That death resulted in a settlement for which the Sanfords paid “around $300,000” to the girl’s family.
According to the testimony of both Mark and Jenny at the 2012 hearing, the real tragedy was that the family farm was not sufficiently (or, in fact, at all) insured for liability in case of tragic events, like the deaths of two children. This lack of insurance was the primary cause of concern for Jenny at the hearing because it put her in personal financial jeopardy if any more children were to die on the property. And, as Mark stated, the second child’s drowning at the family farm was “tragic in any number of ways, but among them financially.”
As Mark explained in great detail, the tragedy (aside from the dead kid) was that just a week before the six-year-old boy drowned in the pool at Coosaw Plantation, his brother Billy, the family-appointed “managing member,” had allowed the liability insurance on the property to lapse.
I had every expectation that we would have had liability insurance. It turns out the week — one week prior to this horrific and very sad incident at the farm, my brother let it lapse, unbeknownst to any of the other siblings.
It was Billy who was supposed to take care of such things. Such things meaning insurance paperwork, of course — not ensuring the safety of any visitors to the property or, after the first child drowned on the property, that all possible precautions would be taken to prevent any further fatalities.
Of course Mark and his siblings would have done whatever was necessary — not to prevent the deaths of children on their beloved family farm; it’s not as if anyone was concerned about safety because danger was part of the fun! — but to prevent the financial devastation resulting from such deaths. If only they’d known brother Billy wasn’t, in Mark’s words, as “careful in these things as he ought to be.” Careful about the paperwork, that is, not careful about ensuring that the property was not a death trap.
It was for this very reason that Jenny once again sought the court’s assistance to enforce that part of the Sanfords’ agreement that “the property will be insured at a reasonable level to satisfy liability claims.” Jenny had agreed to Mark’s proposal that in lieu of a full cash payment, as ordered by the court — since he was so “squeezed” at the time of their divorce — she would accept a stake in the family farm. But she had not anticipated what a financial risk that would be, even though both deaths had occurred prior to her acceptance of this arrangement.
For a number of reasons it is important to me that there be insurance there. I am now a single mother raising four children. And most of the financial burden is on — all of the financial burden of raising those children is on me.
And understanding as I do, sometimes liability issues, I — I — I want to make sure that if there is any liability that arises from activities there, that nothing can come back after me and the assets that I have for me and my children, or in any way harm my ability to raise those children sufficiently going forward.
In other words, the last problem she needed, now that she was a single mother, was potentially having to personally pay for any more wrongful deaths on the property of which she was now part owner. Not that Jenny wasn’t concerned about her own children — at least to the extent that she didn’t want to have to pay any medical bills with her own insurance, in case her kids or their friends were injured.
And so it is actually a very important provision for me — for reasons of financial and maternal security. Maternal security as well would be if — if there is an accident with my child, who is there on a four wheeler and a broken bone and a friend or whatever, presumably right now with the lack of insurance, it might have to come back under my insurance. And so I’m looking for just, maternal protection if you will.
As for taking all possible steps to ensure that there were no more fatalities? Well, that wasn’t exactly an urgent priority for anyone. Eight years after the drowning in Mark’s “digging hole,” he claimed he was still paying for “fixes” to the “pond,” which is why he couldn’t possibly afford to also make his child support payments. But as to the prevention of any further financial tragedies, that wasn’t Mark’s fault either.
So, indeed, the insurance had lapsed, but I had absolutely no knowledge of it whatsoever. It was the responsibility of the managing partner and I had presupposed, as did every other member of the — the — the family partnership, that he had taken care of this.
While the Sanfords were fighting about whose responsibility it was to obtain the proper, court-ordered liability insurance in the event of any more accidents or fatalities, neither of them seemed particularly concerned about whose responsibility it was to prevent any more children from dying.
The mysterious “airplanes flown at children” explained.
One of the most bizarre details of the Sanfords’ divorce settlement leaked in 2013 was that “the parties agree that … no airplanes will be flown at children.” What, everyone wondered, could that possibly mean? Was one of Mark’s hobbies, in addition to digging death-trap holes on the property, torturing his children with remote control airplanes? Was this such a serious problem that it required a court order to stop him from doing that?
Thanks to this hearing transcript, we now know what it means. And it’s far worse than anyone could have imagined.
During her testimony, Jenny’s attorney, Deena S. McRackan, introduced into evidence a photograph taken at the farm and asked Jenny to describe it.
This is a game of chicken on the Coosaw air strip. And it is Mark Sanford with a pack of children. And the plane is a Mooney. They fly 175 to 200 miles per hour and they fly straight at the children. And the game is to see who can stand up the longest.
It turns out, the plane flown at children was no toy plane. It was an actual plane, owned and operated by John, another member of the Sanford clan, whom Mark described as the “crazy cousin with an airplane.” But, Mark insisted, while Jenny might not have approved of this “game,” she’d spent decades at the farm and was well aware of what kind of reckless “fun” occurred there, so it was sort of unfair of her to object to it now.
Jenny has been around Coosaw for 20 years. She knows how it operates. She knows that I have got brothers and sisters who don’t behold to me in any form or fashion. Part of the tour of the place has been its relative freedom, and so that’s the good side.
He later emphasized again to the judge that Jenny knew full well that “the boys indeed go driving four wheelers and they shoot guns, and you’ve got a crazy cousin with an airplane.”
Still, Mark objected to the photograph:
[T]he reason that I objected to the picture that was shown, was the plane was going at the people. The plane was at the people — he was flying certainly low level, but he was flying in front of the dock and off, across the river and the boys loved it.
Jenny testified that she was indeed aware of all the reckless behavior at the farm — the reckless behavior over which Mark claimed to have no control because it’s not as if his family would ever answer to him, the hapless and helpless governor of South Carolina — and that the boys did have fun there. But that didn’t mean she ever approved of it.
[I]t is a place where the boys have great fun. Four years olds have guns. Children ride around in four wheelers with no helmets, and motorcycles. […]
And I could never do anything about it when married. It would make me cry and pray that my children would live. And when we got divorced, it was very important to me that I end that game going forward for all my children because I want my children to live.
Any decent mother would, of course, be concerned about the safety of her children. Barring that, however, she at least wanted the “maternal security” of knowing if they were injured, she wouldn’t have to personally foot the bill.
Mark’s awkward offer of reconciliation.
At the time of the 2012 hearing, the Sanfords were already divorced, thanks at least in some small part to Mark’s super-scandalous affair with Argentine journalist Maria Belén Chapur.
(There were, we later learned, other instances when the extremely religious and very pro-family Mark had “crossed the line” with some other women who were not his wife, so maybe the Argentine Affair was simply the last straw for Jenny.)
As if anyone needs reminding, the rest of us learned of Mark’s line-crossing in 2009, when he went AWOL from his post as then-governor of South Carolina for six days to, according to his spokesman and provider of history’s greatest euphemism for “banging some other lady,” hike the Appalachian Trail. Mark’s disappearance launched the great Where In The World Is Mark Sanford? search, and it was revealed shortly thereafter that Mark was in Argentina, in the arms of his “soul mate,” whom he’d jetted off to visit more than a dozen times — on the taxpayers’ dime. Being the fiscal conservative he is, he opted to pay a $74,000 fine to avoid a State Ethics Commission hearing.
Mark initially tried to fall back in love with his wife, but that didn’t work out so well because he just couldn’t stop being madly in love with Belen; thus, the Sanfords ultimately divorced in 2010, and Jenny began what Mark considers her bitter crusade of retribution.
And yet, while on the stand at the 2012 hearing, Mark made this absolutely bizarre admission:
So I have said continually, if you want to get back together, let’s get back together, but let’s not torture each other.
For some inexplicable reason, Jenny didn’t want to take him up on that offer, and a few short months later, Mark announced his engagement to his “dear, dear friend” and mistress.
On Friday, however, Mark announced in the latest in his series of cringe-inducing Facebook postings that, thanks to Jenny’s relentless mission to destroy his life and seize all of his happiness from him, the engagement is off … for now:
No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter, and for this reason Belen and I have decided to call off the engagement. Maybe there will be another chapter when waters calm with Jenny, but at this point the environment is not conducive to building anything given no one would want to be caught in the middle of what’s now happening. Belen is a remarkably wonderful woman who I have always loved and I will be forever grateful for not only the many years we have known and loved each other, but the last six very tough ones wherein she has encouraged me and silently borne its tribulations with her ever warm and kind spirit.
Maybe it’s time for Mark to make another unwanted attempt to reconcile with Jenny.
Mark’s needless lie about legal representation.
In the same Friday Facebook post, Mark also stated that he would finally retain an attorney to represent him against his ex-wife’s latest lawsuit and the “preposterous, crazy and wrong” charges that he is, among other things, a mentally unstable alcoholic and a danger to his children. How could she possibly think that Mark, who had admitted during the 2012 hearing that “did not have control” over what happened with his children while at the family farm, where two children had already died, was incapable of keeping his children safe? Absurd! After all, he repeatedly trespassed on his ex-wife’s property to ensure the safety of his 14-year-old son who couldn’t be left alone to watch a football game on TV.
In his rambling post, Mark said that he was finally lawyering up, which he’d never done before:
I am going to get a lawyer to defend me on this case. I will instruct them not to fight back, to work to de-escalate and defuse and to look for measured justice and an end to controversy. At the time of the divorce I did not get a lawyer because I could not imagine standing in a court room with one in some adversarial form against the mother of our boys. Since then, and almost as clock work over the last four and one half years since the divorce, unfortunately there has been either the threat of lawsuit or actual lawsuit about every six months. In every instance I have either settled, represented myself or gotten two longtime friends to help me in responding.
Except that, per the 2012 hearing transcript, he did have legal representation. The judge noted that the original divorce agreement was “an agreement that both of you entered into, both of you had advice of counsel in drafting this agreement.” The judge also noted that Mark’s former counsel, a “Mr. Kuyk,” had “informed the court that he was no longer representing Mr. Sanford.” That would appear to be Jim Kuyk, a prominent South Carolina attorney and long-time Mark Sanford supporter, who, among other things, was chairman of the 501(c) Carolinians for Reform, which financed ads in 2009 in support of Sanford’s opposition to the stimulus package, back when Sanford was still living in the glory days of his governorship and seriously considering a run against President Obama in 2012.
Mark’s very good friend Mr. Kuyk apparently also had assistance from Charleston attorney Glenn Churchill during at least one of the divorce hearings, but maybe Glenn is just another good friend who was helping out.
Now maybe Mark just doesn’t understand that even when “two longtime friends” help you through your divorce, when one of them is your official attorney of record, that still counts as legal representation. So his recent and clearly false claim that he is finally and for the first time ever reluctantly hiring an attorney begs the question: Is Mark Sanford a liar or just plain stupid? Probably yes.
We already know he’s a liar, of course. As to whether he’s stupid, there’s a strong argument to be made in that respect as well. He clearly didn’t understand a number of the issues that have arisen during this drawn-out battle with his ex.
During the hearing, when the judge asked if there was anything more he would like to say (and he foolishly did not say “nope, that’s it”), he responded:
I would just like to ask that the court consider the longer construct … and at the end of the day, we’re still squabbling about something [the family farm] … that my dad and mom bought way before we had ever met.
It’s a dumbfounding comment, to put it generously, for a man who has twice served in Congress, who was governor of South Carolina, and who once upon a time had presidential aspirations. And yet Mark seems genuinely confused as to how the long-ago purchased farm is in any way relevant to his divorce settlement, even though it was his idea to make Jenny a partial owner in exchange for reduced cash payments. But to Mark, apparently, there was no reason to even discuss its current standing, the lawsuits against it, the safety repairs that needed to be made to prevent any further accidental deaths, or why Jenny was concerned about it.
The next chapter.
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that it was Maria Belén Chapur, Mark’s no-longer-fiancée, who had called off their engagement, after the two spent a week together in Paris.
“We had a great time here, we were like in a honeymoon,” she said. “I thought that he might tell me, ‘O.K., let’s put a date, end of 2015.’ But that didn’t happen. That’s why I wrote to him, ‘I had a spectacular week, you know I love you, but I don’t want to continue in the category of mistress, and if we continue like this I continue in that category, and I can’t bear it anymore. It has been really painful to me.'”
Mark apparently told her, “24 months. If not I’ll say goodbye and I will look for you in 24 months.” While she says she asked him to make the end of their affair public, he did not, apparently, inform her that he intended to announce it on Facebook. On Saturday, she “learned it from the press.”
On Monday, according to Mark’s Facebook statement, he will again return to court, this time with legal representation, to defend himself against his ex-wife’s latest charges. Stay tuned, readers. The Sanford saga is far from over.