If you were watching that bizarre facsimile of what we are now calling NFL football on the TV last night, you may have noticed that one Civil District Court race has "gone negative," as they say. Division F candidate Jennifer Medley ran an ad during the game that attacked incumbent Judge Chris Bruno for his "silver spoon" upbringing. This was, of course, contrasted with Medley's supposed meritocratic virtue. Medley is, herself, the daughter of former Judge Lloyd Medley so it's a bit rich to be raising the issue of which candidate was born into what. Medley and Bruno, in fact, have had more TV ads running than just about any local candidates on the ballot this fall. It's a curious distinction for one among many judicial races on the slate. We're now starting to learn what that's about.
It turns out that the ad we saw last night wasn't even the one Medley's people wanted to run. Instead they had cued one up that accuses (apparently falsely accuses) Burno of having been a "deadbeat dad." But the campaign was enjoined from running the ad at the last minute because of the dubious nature of the accusation.
The ad references a divorce case that began with a filing by his then-wife Kate Bruno in March 1995. It wasn't until 2009 that the child support question was settled with a consent judgment between the parties. In the meantime, according to an affidavit filed on Bruno's behalf by family law attorney Steven Lane, there wasn't a child support judgment or decree against him.
Bruno's own son filed an affidavit calling Medley's ad "blatantly false, malicious and insulting to him and his family." Both his parents had supported him financially, the son said.
More to the point, though, it also turns out the money to pay for all of this mudslinging comes from Sidney Torres. Here is why.
One of Bruno’s lawyers questioned why Torres’ production company was involved in making the ad buy. The lawyer, Megan Kiefer, claimed that Torres is pouring “tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars” into Medley’s campaign to “exact some vengeance” on Bruno.
Bruno last year issued a ruling against Torres in a case involving the ownership of 500 Frenchmen Street, which houses the night club Vaso.
Recall that the Vaso dispute pitted Torres against the Motwanis in a clash of real estate weasels struggling for control of Frenchmen Street. When the dispute flared up in 2018, Torres (probably taking some words out of context) publicly accused his opponents of making physical threats.
Torres cited a voicemail he said was left on his agent’s phone, as well as a phone call that, according to a court filing by Torres, had Aaron Motwani saying that if Torres didn’t comply with demands, “It will get bloody.” Torres' attorneys, in the court filing, cited what they described as a call log Torres' agent wrote shortly after the call, as well as a recording of the voicemail.
“I want to ask nicely for you to call us back," Motwani says on the voicemail cited in court. "But if you want to handle it the other way, we can handle it the other way, too.”
Aaron Motwani said his voicemail was taken out of context and did not reference a threat of physical harm. He declined to be interviewed but sent a text message in response to questions about the calls.
“As far as the comments, about blood on the street, those comments are completely false and were completely taken out of context,” Motwani wrote in the text message. “I have never or would ever threaten harm in a matter that should be handled through the courts. It’s a distraction from the facts of this case.”
Eventually, Bruno ruled against Torres who, while calling it a "snake move," on the part of the Motwanis went on to promise, "this whole thing is basically not over." And so now here he is funding Bruno's opponent. And that's how the blood feuds between oligarchs spill over into your elections, and onto your TV.