Dear Governor Cuomo,
I write this open letter to bring to your attention alleged egregious conduct by Judge Margaret Parisi-McGowan of State Supreme Court, in Queens County. Here’s a quick summation of two cases covered in Black Star News. We are reviewing additional cases.
Dr. Siranush Cholakian alleges that in an ongoing divorce case filed by her husband federal immigration judge Frederick Leeds on Jan. 30, 2018, Judge McGowan made egregious rulings against her after she refused to drop criminal charges against her husband.
Dr. Cholakian claimed that as the marriage broke down, prior to divorce proceedings, Judge Leeds assaulted her in a domestic violence incident, breaking her arm. Judge Leeds, in court papers, admitted that the incident occurred. He claimed it was accidental and in self-defense. During divorce proceedings, Dr. Cholakian filed a criminal complaint about the domestic incident. Judge McGowan subsequently asked Dr. Cholakian’s lawyer, Max Di Fabio, to tell her to withdraw the criminal complaint. The lawyer was so disturbed by Judge McGowan’s egregious conduct—amounting to obstruction of justice—that he memorialized it in writing in a document signed by both Di Fabio and Dr. Cholakian.
That document, dated July 13, 2019, in part read “…Judge McGowan, in addition to informing me that she was a 50/50 judge, voiced her displeasure at you having filed the criminal complaint more than one year after the incident and immediately or attendant to the filing of your divorce action. She requested that I ask you to withdraw the complaint because, in her opinion, you only filed the complaint to destroy your husband’s career. I explained to the Judge that I would take no such action, and while I understood that the Court did not look favorably on your filing the complaint, nonetheless your claim that you are the victim of domestic violence had to be respected and the decision as to whether to withdraw the complaint is entirely yours and yours alone to make.” In the document, di Fabio also wrote, “…While I disagree with her position, I believe the Judge will take this attitude as she has made it clear to me on multiple occasions that she felt that you filed the criminal complaint out of malice.”
Dr. Cholakian ultimately refused to withdraw the criminal charges. Judge McGowan denied a motion by Dr. Cholakian for the judge to recuse herself. Dr. Cholakian alleges she was subsequently coerced into signing a settlement agreement that harmed her interest. Per the agreement Judge Leeds was granted full custody of the couple’s young children; he was granted the important decision making powers including over the children’s education and healthcare; and, Judge Leeds was granted a stay-away order of protection for five years against Dr. Cholakian.
After a series of articles in Black Star News, Judge McGowan recused herself from the case. Yet, even after recusing herself, Judge McGowan’s alleged egregious conduct continued—she made another ruling on the case, harmful to Dr. Cholakian’s interest. In the course of reporting on that incident, Black Star News contacted the court to inquire as to whether a judge could rule on a case after recusing herself, and also copied the inquiry to your office, and to State Attorney General Letitia James’ office. Subsequently, Judge McGowan “vacated” the ruling she’d made after she’d already recused herself, as reported in Black Star News.
Previously, Dr. Cholakian filed a complaint against Judge McGowan with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The commission in a letter claimed that an investigation had found the complaint to have no merit. Leeds vs. Cholakian is now before Hon. Justice William Viscovich in State Supreme Court in Queens.
In a second case reported by Black Star News, Mahadeo v Mahadeo, another doctor, Robby Mahadeo, also alleges egregious conduct by Judge McGowan.
Dr. Mahadeo’s wife filed for divorce on January 30, 2015. Dr. Mahadeo alleges that during the divorce proceedings, his wife claimed he’d fed their young daughter peanuts even though he knew she was allergic, provoking a medical reaction. Dr. Mahadeo alleges that Judge McGowan subsequently refused to admit evidence he obtained from the hospital where the child had been treated, showing that she had not suffered from a peanut allergy, but that she had strep throat. Yet, on the basis of the unproven peanuts allegations by Dr. Mahadeo’s wife, Judge McGowan stripped him of his parental rights. The couple has three children.
Dr. Mahadeo also alleges egregious conduct by Judge McGowan in handling the couple’s prenuptial agreement. Judge McGowan initially upheld its validity on August 4, 2018. She then vacated her ruling on September 25, 2018, stating that a confidential informant (CI) had informed the court that Dr. Mahadeo may have bribed a witness in the prenup hearing. Dr. Mahadeo later determined that the CI was his then 12-year old son, at the instigation of his wife. After the Queens County District Attorney declined to pursue the bribery allegations due to lack of credibility, on January 28, 2019 Judge McGowan again reaffirmed the validity of the prenup agreement. The judicial yoyo continued. The attorney for the children (AFC) asked Judge McGowan to hold yet another hearing so he could present argument showing that the prenup agreement was harmful to the couple’s children’s interests. So, once again, Judge McGowan vacated her previous decision affirming the validity of the prenup agreement.
Black Star News covered Dr. Mahadeo’s case. Eventually, Judge McGowan recused herself. In the meantime, Dr. Mahadeo has not seen two of his children, who are now both teenagers, in three years. This case is also now before Judge Viscovich.
Both Dr. Cholakian and Dr. Mahadeo filed a complaint about Judge McGowan’s conduct with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. They did not know each other before their separate court cases.
The Commission has informed them both that an investigation has determined that their allegations had no merit. The two doctors claim the Commission routinely rules in favor of judges.
Governor Cuomo, in light of the above, Judge McGowan’s alleged egregious conduct warrants a serious review.
Milton Allimadi, Publisher
Black Star News