(CNS) – A judge today levied $1,500 in monetary sanctions against the man she appointed as Mickey Rooney’s conservator due to delays by the actor’s attorney in getting documents to a defendant named in the star’s elder abuse petition.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Reva Goetz granted the sanctions on behalf of Cindy Smith and against Rooney conservator Michael Augustine. Smith became an employee of Rooney’s in 1984 worked for the actor for more than 20 years, the latter portion as his bookkeeper. Last Sept. 15, Smith was named in the second petition brought within a year on behalf of the 91-year-old Rooney.
The latest complaint, brought by Augustine, alleges that Rooney’s stepson, Christopher Aber, and his wife, Christina, financially and verbally abused Rooney over a 10-year period, leaving the entertainer powerless over his assets and personal life. The petition also alleges Smith used credit cards issued to Rooney for her own personal and business reasons.
Her attorney, Bruce Schwartz, states in a sworn declaration that one of Rooney’s lawyers told him in January that she had proof Smith transferred money from Rooney to Christopher Aber so he could pay his American Express credit card bill.
In February 2011, Goetz granted court protection to Rooney, appointing attorney Augustine as his conservator. Schwartz told Goetz he waited for months to get the documents he requested, far longer than should have been necessary. He said one of Rooney’s attorneys told him she had personal problems and another said he was ill.
Schwartz said he needed the information to defend his client so that he knows what evidence the Rooney lawyers allegedly have in support of their allegations against her. Rooney attorney Richard Petty said it would have been difficult to copy all the information Schwartz requested. He said the documents could have been inspected by Schwartz at Petty’s office. But Goetz said Petty should have come to court, explained any problems and asked for relief.
In their court papers, Rooney’s attorneys allege the Abers are liable for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud stemming from the elder abuse, along with misappropriation of Rooney’s name and likeness.
According to the complaint, Aber took advantage of the trust and confidence that Rooney put in him, and in the process took control of the actor’s income and finances to enrich himself and his wife, while leaving Rooney no control over or access to his finances.
Rooney alleges that the Abers regularly withheld food and medication, leading to bouts of depression. According to the petition, Aber insinuated himself into Rooney’s financial life in 2001 by naming himself an account owner and listing himself as a signatory on all of Rooney’s personal and business checking and savings accounts. That included Rooney’s account known as Densmore Productions, Inc. — the primary vehicle for managing his professional activities.
Rooney alleges that Aber retained exclusive control over those accounts and used them regularly to sign checks payable to himself, to pay his personal expenses and to transfer Rooney’s income to his and his wife Christina’s personal accounts. Aber arranged for ATM debit/credit cards in the name of Densmore and regularly used them for his own benefit, while Rooney had no knowledge of their existence, the petition alleges.