Singing sensation Sara Evans has released her newest album, “Stronger,” and reviewers are noting it’s a sign she’s moved beyond the devastation of a “bitter” divorce in 2007 from musician and politician Craig Schelske.
But arguments over that breakup are not over, as a trial is scheduled to begin Monday on Schelske’s defamation and slander complaint against Evans’ celebrity attorney – John J. Hollins Sr. of the firm, Hollins, Wagster, Yarbrough, Weatherly & Raybin.
The case alleges the attorney simply made up allegations that would make Schelske appear to have given Evans, portrayed as the sweet next-door type, reason for divorce.
WND reported earlier when Schelske decided to fight back against claims that included allegations he was involved in extramarital affairs and posted explicit images in the digital world, which he has denied throughout.
At that point, Schelske started working with a newly formed organization called FamiliesUnite.org, which seeks to protect parents who are targeted in divorce fights.
He also brought a multi-million dollar slander case against his former wife’s divorce lawyer, a case that insiders report to WND appears to be strong since similar claims against the lawyer by Alison Clinton Lee, the couple’s former nanny, already have been settled for a large sum of cash.
Schelske told WND he’s fighting this fight because of the damage to his career – he was a candidate for Congress in 2002 from Oregon’s 5th District – he wants his children to know his innocence and he wants to be able to meet people without having to explain his defense of the sordid allegations.
“I want my name back. Schelske has been a good name for generations,” he said then. “I hope my story can inspire other people.”
In a statement released this week by Schelske’s representatives, it was announced that the trial will address allegations made by Evans’ attorney that were “reported not only on ABC’s ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ commented upon by Sony-BMG label group, and covered in music industry media such as CMT and GAC but also reported throughout the entire media.”
The statement said the case alleges “defamation, slander, false light, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of harm, and fraud.”
The attorneys’ statements reportedly were made to People magazine at the time Evans was pursuing a divorce action against Schelske.
“Hollins’ comment was spread all over the Internet and made many national headlines across the country, damaging Schelske’s name and reputation throughout the media,” the statement said.
Schelske told WND in an interview that the case already has survived defense motions for summary judgment, and case insiders report to WND that the defense position will be that the statements were privileged.
WND calls to the Hollins office did not generate any response or comment.
Schelske previously described to WND the couple’s 13 years together – mostly made up of times of success, happiness and descriptions as a “model couple.” The couple met in Nashville in the early 1990s and married in 1993. He had put a political career on hold while she pursued a country music career that soon skyrocketed.
But as a Christian, he began to see things in the entertainment industry with which he was uncomfortable: some issues behind the scenes, the type of people frequenting their home and influences on his children.
He blames the divorce on influences that he says affected Evans. The singing star did not respond to WND attempts to obtain comment.
Eventually, she decided to get an attorney and file the divorce complaint, he told WND. But his reputation was a clean slate.
His lawsuit alleges that the divorce lawyers then simply made up claims about him to provide her grounds for her action.
“While the allegations contained in the complaint for divorce falsely accuse the plaintiff of adultery and other alleged misconduct, the plaintiff does not base this present action on the fact that false statements about him are contained in the divorce pleadings, or upon any statements made by the defendants in the course of judicial proceedings,” the complaint states.
But, “defendant Hollins made the following extra-judicial statement to a representative of People magazine: ‘He (Schelske) was quoted in the press as saying he hadn’t done anything wrong and he wanted everybody to pray for Sara. Let me tell you what, everything we allege, we’ve got photographs to back up the allegations of the complaint,’” the lawsuit said.
“At the time the defendant made this extra-judicial statement, he knew it to be false, and he also knew that no photographs existed which depicted the plaintiff engaged in any type of illicit or adulterous activity,” the action states.
The complaint continued with a description of another comment from Hollins “in the presence of representatives of the national and local press, including People magazine, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ Inside Edition, The Tennessean, and others.”
Hollins stated, according to the complaint: “Hell, we have a picture of them (Schelske and former nanny Lee) having oral sex.”
Once again, the complaint states, Hollins “knew them to be false and that no photographs existed.”
The comments, the action says, were false, malicious, reckless and resulted in “mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation and emotional suffering and injury to reputation, loss of earning capacity, and loss of enjoyment of life, for which he is entitled to judgment.”
The result of the statements was predictable: “Sounds like a country song in the making: You can keep your porn stash/I’ll take the house, kids and cash,” wrote Yahoo.com
The ribald headlines developed even though the “photographs” allegedly of Schelske actually revealed men of different races, sources within the dispute told WND.
And E!News reported at that time “the caregiver and her hubby scored more than $500,000 in the settlement” of their lawsuit.
Law professor Jeff Atkinson of DePaul University told WND such slander claims against divorce lawyers are unusual but not unheard of. Often, he noted, in divorce actions there are “bad feelings” directed against opposing counsel.
Sources said that the case is especially bad for the divorce lawyers since Evans stated during a deposition that the divorce complaint allegations about the nude photographs of her husband were incorrect.
A video also revealed that a testy Hollins admitted Lee had accused the law firm of contriving the allegations.
By this time, the Yahoo reporting had changed. “We can’t wait to see her legal team try to boogie their way out of this,” the agency said.