CORRECTION — In its original version, this story included a reporting mistake. Maggy Hurchalla and her legal team did NOT offer to settle the case with Lake Point for $7 million. According to trial transcripts, Hurchalla and her lawyers offered to settle for $1.7 million. Gossip Extra apologizes to Maggy Hurchalla and her legal team for the mistake and is happy to be able to set the record straight.
STUART — Already on the hook for a $4,391,708-judgment, 77-year-old environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla could be forced to pay another $311,000 in court costs to Lake Point, the winner of a recent lawsuit against her.
The costs, as well as a motion to jail Hurchalla for allegedly dragging her feet in filing paperwork showing her wealth, is set to be brought up at a long hearing tomorrow in the same Stuart court where Hurchallas was branded a liar in February when she was found to have interfered with a contract between Lake Point and several government entities to exploit vacant land near Lake Okeechobee.
The hearing, set to start at 2 p.m., could end with the judge finding Hurchalla in contempt of court for failing to disclose her finances in due time.
Worst case scenario for Hurchalla, according to court records: She was be slapped with sanctions — including some time in the county clink!
The sister of Bill Clinton‘s U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, Hurchalla is believed to have investments estimated to be in the $500,000-range, even if the Everglades advocate told Gossip Extra and other media during the trial she owned little more than an aging Toyota and a couple of kayaks.
According to records filed by Lake Point, Hurchalla owns Merrill Lynch investment accounts worth a total $232,000 in February as well as Bank of America accounts for a total $58,000 and a safe deposit box.
Hurchalla, who has created the image of penniless environmental fighter, is also believed to own a yet-to-be-determined number of municipal bonds with The GMS Group and a trading account with AmeriTrade, but Lake Point has not been able to get numbers.
So far, Hurchalla has claimed the accounts, which have been frozen, are either for retirement or owned jointly with her husband, which could make the money out-of-reach to Lake Point for the judgement, which increases by $250,000 a year in interests.
Hurchalla also owns, with her husband James, seven mostly-vacant plots of land in Martin County.
“We still have no idea if she is able to pay for the judgment,” said Honey Rand, a spokeswoman for Lake Point. “And that’s what is going to be discussed tomorrow. There’s supposed to be a process where she has to be forthcoming, honest and upfront with what she owns. She has failed to comply. And now she could be going to jail, which is incomprehensible.”
Meanwhile, Hurchalla has been taking donations for her defense through websites like defendmaggy.com, slappmaggy.com, and fundly.com. So far, she has raised about $5,000. The sites refer to Hurchalla as the victim of a vindictive developer and a SLAPP lawsuit. Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), such lawsuits are intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics of usually large corporations.
In Hurchalla’s case, however, a jury of six Martin County citizens sided with Lake Point.
Meanwhile, Martin County Circuit Court Judge William Roby, who presided over the February trial and will oversee tomorrow’s hearing, has been getting visibly annoyed with Hurchalla, who also filed an unsuccessful motion for a new trial.
Roby has accused Virginia Sherlock, Hurchalla’s Stuart attorney, of making “scurrilous and frivolous arguments” to slow down the process.
The case stems from a larger legal action where Lake Point claims Hurchalla conspired with Martin County Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Fielding, and former Commissioner Anne Scott to break a Lake Point contract with Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District to exploit a mine near Lake Okeechobee then use the land as a runoff water-cleaning area.
Lake Point sued the county for violation of public records laws after the trio failed to produce email exchanges with Hurchalla, including emails where Hurchalla coached Fielding on how to get rid of the Lake Point contract and claimed falsely that Lake Point was destroying wetlands.
The county settled out-of-court and signed off on a deal that could end up costing taxpayers as much as $25 million. And the SFWMD also settled.
The three politicians were arrested last year, Scott twice, and charged with misdemeanor counts of failing to produce public records. They pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial in December.
Hurchalla was the only defendant who wouldn’t settle. During the trial, Lake Point claimed Hurchalla’s lawyer asked Lake Point to pony up $1.7 million (see correction above) for Hurchalla to settle. They refused, so Hurchalla went to trial.
When asked if Lake Point, partly owned by Miami arts collector George Lindemann Jr., wouldn’t be best served by forgiving judgment against the elderly grandma, Rand said the damages to the company were enormous.
“Her lies cost Lake Point millions,” Rand said. “It will take years for the company to recover. She has to know there’s a penalty for lying, whether one has grandchildren or not. There’s a penalty for lying.”