McGreevey's divorce trial to start

May 6, 2008 3:27:41 AM PDT
She claims she was duped into marriage by a closeted gay man who needed the cover of a wife to advance his political career. He says he gave her a child and the coattails she rode to the governor's mansion, thus fulfilling the marriage contract.As Jim and Dina Matos McGreevey's three-and-a-half-year separation approaches the duration of their marriage, the former first couple is about to become unhitched - finally - when their divorce trial starts Tuesday.

New Jersey's former first couple are fighting over custody of their 6-year-old (he's seeking a 50-50 split), alimony and child support. But the question that everybody has asked at least once - did she know he was gay? - is likely to grab headlines throughout the trial because it's central to her case.

Matos McGreevey, 41, is seeking $600,000 as compensation for the time she would have lived at the governor's mansion in Princeton had her soon-to-be-ex not resigned in disgrace. Perks enjoyed by a sitting governor's spouse include household servants, access to a state police helicopter and a state-owned beach house.

Absent an 11th-hour settlement, which all sides indicate is unlikely, the gay former governor and his estranged wife will sit at adjacent legal tables, fewer than 5 feet apart, in the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, as their high-priced lawyers lay bare the pair's sex lives and finances. Only issues concerning custody of their kindergartner are expected to be decided away from the glare of tabloid reporters and Court TV.

McGreevey's political career unraveled during his first term after an affair with a man he put on the state payroll as homeland security adviser. McGreevey says the man tried to blackmail him. (The man, who denies being gay, says the governor sexually harassed him.)

The McGreeveys split, unceremoniously, when they moved out of the governor's mansion and into separate residences in the fall of 2004.

McGreevey, 50, who now lives with a male partner and is studying to be an Episcopal priest, says in his book the marriage was "a contrivance on both our parts."

To buttress his defense, his lawyer intends to call as a witness a young aide who claims to have been involved in three-way sexual encounters with the McGreeveys. The ex-campaign aide, Teddy Pedersen, 29, went public last month with allegations of regular trysts beginning when the couple was dating in 1999, and ending two years later, after they were married and Jim McGreevey had been elected governor of New Jersey.

"Plaintiff will testify at trial that he needed to have a disrobed male present in the room with them when the parties had sexual relations in order to maintain an erection," McGreevey lawyer Stephen Haller wrote in recently released court papers. "This tends to prove that plaintiff was at least bisexual, a fact which should have been obvious to defendant prior to the marriage."

John Post, who represents Matos McGreevey, wants to bar Pedersen's testimony, which he says is "irrelevant" and "inflammatory." Even if it's true, which Post doubts in court papers, he said it proves only that the McGreeveys engaged in heterosexual activity.

A full transcript of Pedersen's sworn deposition has not been released, and Pedersen has not responded to repeated requests for an interview.

In excerpts of the deposition attached to the recent court filings, Pedersen described his sexual encounters with the McGreeveys. He portrayed a setting in which McGreevey and his future wife had sex while he watched and masturbated. He did not indicate that he had sexual relations with either of the other two and said he did not learn that McGreevey was gay until the day before the governor's famous "I am a gay American" declaration during his nationally televised resignation speech.