Whatever Happened To Kelley Lynch by Ann Diamond
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Whatever Happened to Kelley Lynch?
Kelley Lynch is the woman accused in 2005 of skimming millions from singer Leonard Cohen’s retirement fund. I knew of her through friends of Leonard Cohen, and had heard her described in glowing terms as the agent who, singlehandedly, saved Cohen’s career in the 1990s.
In early May of this year, Lynch suddenly contacted me. She said she was mainly interested in my perceptions of Cohen as a former friend and next door neighbour in Montreal. At one time I also studied with his Zen Master in California, and had spent time with him on Hydra, Greece.
Not having heard her side of the story (I doubt that anyone has, apart from a circle of her closest friends), I was curious. Over the next few weeks, she shared several documents pertaining to the case including an affidavit written and signed by her older son, Rutger.
Together, they paint a picture very much at variance from the sketchy media image of Lynch as a reckless, delusional woman on the brink of a career meltdown. Lynch's own timeline also includes disturbing behind-the-scene dealings that suggest she may have been set up to take the blame for Cohen's tax situation.
The following account is based on what Lynch has sent me --
Since 2005 when she became the object of media gossip, little if anything has been heard from Kelley Lynch.
A single mother with two sons, Lynch was Leonard Cohen's personal manager from approximately 1988 to 2004, and was known for her skill, hard work, and dedication. Until 2004, Kelley lived and worked in Los Angeles where she still has many friends and acquaintances in the entertainment world including Phil Spector and Oliver Stone.
Her own account of the events that wrecked her career, varies widely from the media portrait of a reckless, delusional woman in the throes of a personal meltdown. The meltdown was real, however. By late December, 2005, Lynch had lost custody of one son and was homeless and living on the streets with her older son, Rutger, who witnessed the chain of bizarre events that had begun a year earlier.
In 2004, Lynch owned a house in Brentwood, and still worked for Cohen, who owed her money for royalties and other services, but was increasingly involved with his new girlfriend, Anjani Thomas, ex-wife of Cohen’s attorney, Robert Kory.
In retrospect, Lynch believes she was set up by Cohen and his representatives to help cover up a tax situation which made the IRS “nervous.” In September 2004, Cohen’s attorney Weston told Lynch that a financial entity known as Traditional Holdings, LLC could be overturned by the IRS. Lynch, who had been selected as a partner on the entity, became uneasy and consulted a new accountant, who referred her to tax lawyers, who found irregularities in Cohen's tax history, both in the US and Canada where he has residences.
Rattled by what she was hearing – that she was being dragged into criminal tax fraud -- Lynch called the IRS in Washington and also contacted their website. An IRS collection agent advised her to call the Fraud Hotline, which she did.
Told that any further action on her part might implicate her in fraud, Lynch refused to meet with Cohen or turn over the corporate books. At that stage, Cohen’s advisers began claiming that certain payments, distributions, or advances made to her were actually "over-payments." Lynch says their accounting was incomplete and ignored her share of intellectual property, unpaid commissions and royalties, and share in Traditional Holdings, LLC. Apparently Lynch had also been issued K1 partnership tax documents and made a partner on another Cohen investment entity, LC Investments, LLC, without her permission or awareness.
Lynch says an increasingly nervous and desperate Cohen was pressuring her to agree to mediation and told a friend of hers that Lynch was "the love of his life." She and Cohen had had a brief affair in 1990, but Cohen now was offering her 50% of his "community property" as well as "palimony" through lawyer Robert Kory at a meeting attended by Lynch's legal representatives and her accountant, Dale Burgess. To Lynch, none of this made sense at the time.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office received an anonymous tip informing them that Lynch was a friend of producer Phil Spector, whom Lynch maintains is innocent. Cohen, on the other hand, had given an interview in which he described a gun-waving Spector who threatened him during recording sessions in 1977.
At around the same time he was offering her “millions”, Lynch says, Cohen was also circulating slanderous stories about her. She believes Cohen encouraged Los Angeles record producer Steve Lindsey, the father of her son Ray, to initiate a custody suit – on May 25, 2005, the same day a 25-man SWAT team from the LAPD, acting on a bogus 911 call, suddenly cordoned off her street and surrounded her home in response to a "hostage taking."
Earlier that morning, Lynch says, her 12 year old son Ray woke up not feeling well. She sent an email to his school informing them she was keeping him at home. When the boy's father found out Ray was home he became agitated and abusive over the phone to Lynch.
Lynch says she had young people who worked for her coming and going that day, and did not want Ray’s father coming to the house and attacking her, as he had in the past. She called her older son Rutger, who was visiting a friend nearby, and asked him to pick Ray up and take him down the hill where actress Cloris Leachman waited in her car. Leachman, a friend of Lindsey, took charge of Ray – just as seven LAPD squad cars came speeding up Mandeville Canyon Road in the direction of Lynch’s house. With them was Ray’s father, Steve Lindsey.
Lynch says she looked out the window and saw armed men on her lawn. Her son Rutger and his friends were telling police there was no hostage-taking, that they had spent the morning with Lynch, and that there must be some mistake. For reasons no one understands, LAPD/Inglewood PD decided to believe Steve Lindsey, who had left the scene.
Police later gave varying explanations about what led up to the incident. West LAPD said they responded to a report that someone heard "shots fired." But a company that oversees SWAT said Lynch would have to have a superior caliber weapon to warrant such a high risk entry. A member of the SWAT team claimed to have seen a note that Lynch’s sister had placed the call stating Lynch posed “a danger to herself and everyone around her.” Her sister denies this.
Lynch stayed inside her house and called her former custody lawyer, Lee Kanon Alpert. She also called Leonard Cohen, assuming he had played a role in the events unfolding on her lawn. Lynch says she knew Steve Lindsey had also been meeting with Cohen and his attorney, and had recently told their son Ray that Lynch was “going to jail,” upsetting the boy. She says Cohen taped the phone call later used in his successful court case against her – for which, Lynch says, she never received a summons.
Lynch says, “Police were on my hillside and crouching under my kitchen window.” She says the standoff on her lawn continued for several more hours, disrupting the neighbourhood. Members of Inglewood Police Department also participated in the operation.
Eventually, she decided to go into the back yard. Seeing her son Rutger acting as a “human shield and hostage negotiator,” Lynch ventured out front with her Akita on leash and joked to the cops: "Who am I supposed to be holding hostage? My dog?"
The police responded by telling her son they would only shoot Lynch and her dog if necessary.
“That was when I dove into the pool.”
SWAT team members searched her house. As they entered, Lynch's African Grey parrot, Lou, called out: "I see dead people!" – further alarming the nervous cops.
Offering her a hand out of the pool, one officer said they were only there to help her and not to hurt her.
“No one asked me if I was all right; no one questioned me about my well-being.” The Medical Examiners Office later wondered how the police had evaluated her. After stating they were not arresting her, they handcuffed Lynch, still in her bikini. On her way out the door, her son managed to hand her a brocade jacket.
Although she lived near UCLA Medical Center, she was taken in a squad car to King-Drew Medical Centre in Watts, 40 miles away and a three-hour drive in traffic. Known as one of America’s worst hospitals, King-Drew was recently closed down as a place where patients routinely die from neglect and medical errors. During the long ride through South Central Los Angeles, Lynch says she was questioned closely about her relationship with Phil Spector, who had been charged with first degree murder of Lana Clarkson. In the car, Lynch voiced concern over what awaited her at the hospital but was told by a woman cop: "This will be good for you."
“I felt I was being kidnapped”.
At Emergency, the admitting psychiatrist administered anti-psychotic drugs without authorization and left Lynch in the waiting area for hours, still in her bikini and brocade jacket, and handcuffed to a chair. A nurse advised her she would be transferred – but did not tell her where. Examining her file, the nurse noticed it listed her as 19 years old with wrong social security number, wrong date of birth, wrong religion, and her name misspelled as "Kelly Lynch" Lynch thinks it was the same file she had seen, several months earlier, in the hands of the Special Investigator who came to question her about Spector.
A second doctor told her to wait her turn to ensure no further harm would come to her, and assured her that nothing in the King Drew report could cause her to lose custody of her child. The following day, she was released after nearly 24 hours in the psych ward.
Back home, Lynch learned that while she was being held at the hospital her younger son's father, Steven Clark Lindsey, had filed for custody of her son Ray Charles Lindsey and obtained a restraining order denying her access to the boy. She says Lindsey attempted to convince doctors at King Drew that she was dangerous, in order to have her committed, She says Lindsey also threatened the psychiatrist who had her released.
On that same day, Cohen’s attorney Robert Kory filed a Declaration in the custody matter, as did Betsy Superfon (a friend of Cohen, Kory and Lindsey who had befriended Lynch a few months earlier ). Superfon later told Lynch she didn't realize what she was signing, and that Cohen had offered Lindsey money “or something else” to take Ray away from Lynch.
Her older son alleges Lindsey offered him money to go to Leonard Cohen's lawyer's office and transfer or sign over Lynch’s house to Cohen or his attorney Robert Kory. Rutger refused and phoned his own father, who advised him to contact a lawyer.
Two weeks later, in early June, as she drove down her street to buy dog food, a Mercedes sped out of a neighbouring driveway and rear-ended her car, Lynch was thrown forward, fracturing her nose against the steering well, and was knocked unconscious. Later, she says, as she drove back up the hill to her home, the same driver was standing in his driveway and called out: “We are watching you” as she passed.
Seeing his injured, bleeding mother enter the house, her older son again phoned his father, who may have called 911. Accounts vary as whether the call referred to an incident of "domestic violence" or a "drug overdose." Either way, police arrived at Lynch’s door for the second time in two weeks. Over the protests of her son, they entered while she was on the phone to a friend, Dr. Wendi Knaak who stayed on the phone talking with Rutger while police again handcuffed Lynch. This time they took her to UCLA hospital where her obvious head injuries were ignored. Instead, she was once again drugged and placed in the psychiatric unit where she remained for several days.
Lynch and her advisors maintain these events were coordinated by Cohen, Kory and Lindsey, with the help of former LA District Attorney Ira Reiner in a well- orchestrated plan to traumatize and discredit her – paving the way for media stories which accused her of skimming millions from Cohen’s retirement fund.
In the summer of 2005, as Lynch was struggling to save her home and protect her child from a father her friends describe as "viciously anti-social" and “violent”, reports of Leonard Cohen's financial troubles hit the press. They alleged the 70-something singer had been scammed by his personal manager, Kelley Lynch, who colluded with an advisor at the AGILE Group in Colorado to send him false financial statements while emptying his accounts of millions of dollars.
Although listed as the owner of Traditional Holdings, the entity in question, Lynch says she never received any statements from the AGILE Group -- who instead had been sending them to Cohen -- having changed her mailing address to Cohen's home in Los Angeles. She has since filed a complaint with the US Post Office for mail tampering.
She insists Cohen sued her because she went to the IRS about his tax situation. She says he is not, and never was, "broke" and that missing funds went to buy homes for his son Adam Cohen and girlfriend, singer Anjani Thomas, ex-wife of Robert Kory. Noting Cohen is famous for his financial largesse and once gave Zen Master Sasaki Roshi $500,000 as a gift, Lynch also cites hefty payments to advisers, various transaction fees, personal taxes, and other monies which may have been sent offshore.
While Cohen and Lindsey attempted to persuade others, including LA Superior Court, that she intended to flee to Tibet or another non-extradition country, Lynch was isolated and penniless and still in Los Angeles. Lynch was former personal secretary to the late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a flamboyant Tibetan spiritual teacher who founded Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado in the 1970s, and died in 1987. She says various Tibetan lamas are praying for her safety.
Journalists covering the story were either unable, or didn't bother, to track Lynch down, and most reported Cohen's statements as fact. The NY Times contacted Kelley for a quote which they never printed
By July 2005, Lynch had lost her custody battle and Ray went to live with his father. On December 28, she and Rutger were evicted from the house in Brentwood, and ended up homeless in Santa Monica, which has no resources for the homeless. The Police Department gave her no help and, she claims, laughed when she brought in evidence that she was being stalked by a known serial killer while she camped on the beach.
In 2006, Cohen was awarded a symbolic $9 million settlement in a civil suit against Lynch, who still does not have a lawyer representing her. Corporate books and other evidence of fraud appear to have been overlooked by Judge Ken Freeman in his judgment, Lynch says, although she admits she has not read the court documents and was never served a summons. At the time of the decision, she told reporters she lacked the money to make a phone call. That same year, her older son lost his fingers in an accident with a meat grinder while he was working at Whole Foods in Los Angeles and Lynch could not afford a bus ticket to visit him in hospital.
Lynch heard through a journalist that Cohen later testified for the District Attorney’s office in a secret grand jury relating to the Phil Spector case with former District Attorney Ira Reiner acting as his lawyer. Reiner is a personal friend of Cohen, and as D.A. presided over some high-profile cases including the “Night Stalker” serial killer and the McMartin Day Care scandal.
Recently, on June 17, 2008, Cohen's lawsuit against the Agile Group was thrown out of court for lack of evidence. In response the AGILE Group dropped its counter-suit accusing Cohen of defamation and fraud. AGILE still claims to be shocked that a singer of Leonard Cohen's talent and stature would engage in false accusations against his own representatives.
Lynch believes Cohen and AGILE colluded to defraud her. She continues to deny all allegations against her, and remains hopeful that Phil Spector's lawyer, Bruce Cutler, will represent her in recouping damages to her livelihood and reputation. She now lives in another state and recently learned her younger son, 15, whom she has not seen since July 2005, stopped attending school last January.
These days Cohen’s fans seem to have expended their rage at Kelley Lynch for driving their idol into bankruptcy. Some now say she unwittingly did them a service -- by forcing him to go on tour for the first time in nearly two decades.
At 74, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen continues to ride a wave of sympathy, gathering wide support from the music world and even some British royalty. Unquestionably, his career and finances have benefited from news reports that he is too impoverished to retire.
From his tower of song, Cohen has written:
I smile when I'm angry
I cheat and I lie
I do what I have to do
To get by
And I’m always alone
And my heart is like ice
And it’s crowded and cold
In my secret life
My Secret Life. Leonard Cohen
His many admirers need to listen closely.http://riverdeepbook.blogspot.ca/2011/0 ... y.html?m=1