SARASOTA, Fla., Dec. 2, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- A Florida appellate court has overturned a $38 million judgment against international oil executive Todd Kozel, ruling that Kozel met his obligations in his divorce with his ex-wife, Ashley Kozel.
The Second District Court of Appeal in Tampa ruled that now-retired Sarasota Judge Nancy Donnellan did not have the authority to issue a judgment against Kozel, who had given his ex-wife more than $100 million in stock as part of their divorce settlement. The decision can be found here.
In reversing Donnellan's decision, the appellate court ruled that "the family court lacked jurisdiction to make the money damages it did here.'' The court also ruled that Donnellan erred because the divorce agreement did not allow Ashley Kozel to seek damages after Todd Kozel ultimately delivered the stock in accordance with the divorce agreement.
As part of a scorched-earth campaign to malign Todd Kozel after he remarried, Ashley Kozel and her lawyer pursued criminal charges against Todd Kozel and even sought an injunction to prevent Kozel's new wife from getting fertility treatments.
"Ashley Kozel's behavior toward her ex-husband has been appalling,'' said Jeffrey Crockett, a lawyer for Todd Kozel. "She and her legal team have been on a vendetta against him ever since he remarried. They found a Florida judge who was willing, even eager, to ignore the facts and assist in their demonization of Mr. Kozel. But the facts – and the law – have won out. Mr. Kozel will now be pursuing his extensive legal options in regard to Ms. Kozel and her lawyer.''
In 2018, federal prosecutors in New York indicted Todd Kozel, claiming he hid assets to avoid paying the judgment then due his wife.
Todd Kozel's attorney Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said the appellate court ruling may affect the federal prosecution, which was based on the premise that Ashley Kozel was defrauded of assets to which she was entitled. "To the contrary,'' Coffey said, "the appellate court has now stated that Kozel paid his ex-wife $29 million more than he was required to pay.''
Ashley Kozel, a lawyer herself, had wrongly claimed that her ex-husband had not turned over stock in a timely manner as outlined in their divorce agreement. However, Todd Kozel met all of the contractual requirements for turning over the stock.
After Ashley Kozel had received in excess of $100 million in stock – worth $29 million more than was actually owed –she went back to court seeking damages because the stock wasn't transferred on the original due date. Instead, Todd Kozel transferred the stock shortly after the due date and paid a penalty for doing so – all of which was in accordance with the divorce agreement.
However, in 2016, Sarasota Judge Donnellan sided with Ashley Kozel and imposed the additional $38 million judgment against Todd Kozel.
Ashley Kozel and her attorney used that ruling to harass Kozel and his new family – pursuing criminal charges and going so far as to challenge payments to a fertility clinic where Kozel and his current wife, Inga, were attempting to conceive a child. They had process servers approach Inga Kozel on the street, flashing a gun as they served papers.
Ashley Kozel convinced Judge Donnellan to freeze Kozel's assets and even persuaded the judge to allow his ex-wife to inventory an apartment he used in New York.
Todd Kozel appealed Donnellan's ruling. Attorney John Crabtree wrote that "the court accepted the false premise that Todd's delivery was late and disregarded the cure provisions of the Agreement…. Moreover, the trial court had no continuing jurisdiction to adjudicate a damages claim based upon the timely delivery of stock.''
In addition to reversing Donnellan's ruling, the appellate court granted Todd Kozel's conditional request for lawyer's fees and denied Ashley Kozel's request for fees.
"Ashley Kozel could not tolerate that her ex-husband married a younger woman. Filled with jealousy, she tried to destroy them both,'' Crockett said "The appellate court saw that Todd Kozel had met every obligation required of him in his divorce settlement. It is, however, a lasting shame that Ashley and her unscrupulous attorney were allowed to continue their harassment for this long.
"Ashley's vile behavior will cost her millions of dollars and my clients will never get back the years of their lives that she ruined. Sadly, the only winner is Ashley's attorney, who, no doubt, has reaped millions of dollars in legal fees by exploiting his client's insecurities.''
SOURCE Todd Kozel