Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Q&A with the Ravenstahls' Attorney

he following Q&A is a transcript of my telephone interview with Luke and Erin Ravenstahl's attorney, Richard Sprague of Philadelphia.

Bob Mayo Q: My request to your earlier was that the mayor sit down and speak with us on camera as he has done in one other case, to talk about these developments. Will he do that?

Richard Sprague A: The answer is I have advised him not to and his wife as well. On the basis that I was retained, really, after they announced that they have separated to then then give them privacy, leave them alone. They've announced they've separated, they're going to work on their own problems but that's a personal matter. It's got nothing to do with the mayor's public activities as the mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, and his wife's private -- as a private citizen, what she does. And for him to appear on other channels, on the radio interviews, is really not keeping private about which I have asked the media to honor. And so I have advised them not to give any further statements or interviews.

Mayo Q: If that was the intention, why was that one venue chosen -- before we move on, just to clarify that?

Sprague A: I met with the mayor. As far I know they were readily available, and I agreed that we would give one statement and he would give a public release today. And since all he's going to be saying in any interview is 'that my wife and I have separated'. The only other thing that I made clear is that he is living in the City of Pittsburgh, so he's meeting the residency requirement. That's the only thing that would be said. How many times does he just say that over and over? I understand every TV channel and radio feeling 'well, why weren't we selected?'. But, you know, tough.

Mayo Q: Moving on. In what capacity has the couple retained you? Are you handling legal separation, a legal divorce?

Sprague A: Fair question. I am not their lawyer on the domestic situation between them. I am strictly their lawyer to try to preserve their right of privacy. I recognize the mayor as a public official won't have quite the privacy that his wife would have since she's a private citizen. But I am trying to get for both of them the recognition, just like any other couple, just like if you were getting a divorce, or getting -- I shouldn't even use that word, because that's not in the offing. It's a separation. If you were separated, you'd want to have privacy, work it out with your wife. You have a one year old child. Those are private concerns, it's got nothing to do with administering the city. So my role is to try to get them their privacy. And secondly, to prevent there being a whole bunch of smears, innuendoes, defamatory things being suggested. Because if that is so, I will bring appropriate legal action. But it's limited to that. I am not their domestic relations lawyer.

Mayo Q: To clarify, under Pennsylvania law. Is there legal separation under Pennsylvania law and in what sense is that term being used here?

Sprague A: Well, the separation is something that the parties have mutually agreed to and worked out between themselves. And that is fine wherever you are... it's just whatever is agreed to. Sometimes it's not agreed to between the parties, one just separates from the other. And other times the parties can mutually agree , and here it was mutually agreed.

Mayo Q: But there's no document filed with the court now or at any other point regarding separation?

Sprague A: Not in this matter.

Mayo Q: And you have referenced earlier about whether there's any prospect of divorce documents being filed. That-- ?

Sprague A: Divorce is not in the offing. The only thing that's in the picture now is they have separated. They are interested in their child, they are interested in working things out between them, and what happens in the future we'll have to see.

Mayo Q: You had referenced earlier in this interview and in our phone conversation when we spoke earlier in the day, concerning your role in protecting them from defamation, from smears, from invasion of privacy. Has there been anything in your view that has approached that? What is the basis for that concern?

Sprague A: No, there's nothing. As a matter of fact, I must say this, because there's been calls from great numbers of the media in Pittsburgh. And you know I'm not out there, I don't know how they're carrying it. But in the interviews by the reporters, including yourself, I think there's been a full appreciation of a couple wanting privacy, and their personal domestic situation. It's got nothing to do with his running of the city.

Mayo Q: Now, in the one on camera interview that the mayor did, he was asked about and answered questions about talk about (topic redacted). That was brought up in that interview --

Sprague A: I've got to interrupt you on that. See, I think that is outrageous to even raise that kind of a -- and I call that a smear. And if you're broadcasting that, and making that statement, then say so and I'll action against you. You understand that the mayor did not respond to that question raising that, saying things will work out. And that, you know, reporters can something -- I can say on this broadcast right now something terrible, saying, well, there's a report about this or that. And that would be terrible for me to do. You deal with a situation that they are separated and leave it like that. If the mayor answered the question you're talking about then he did not follow my advice, which is he is not to dignify anything like that and he's not to talk further. He's told the citizenry that they're separated and has asked for privacy, which I think is appropriate and i think the media ought to respect.

Mayo Q: Is the reporter who broached that subject liable for potential legal action by the mayor?

Sprague A: I'll have to look and see what he said. (pause) And how he said it.

Mayo Q: The announcement by the couple came a few weeks after the general election. Can you address whether or not there was a choice made not to bring this information into the public spotlight until the election was resolved? Was a decision made earlier that they'd be moving forward with this but to defer until after the election?

Sprague A: I understand that question, but that would involve a conversation between me and my client. As I'm sure you're aware, attorney client conversations are privileged and are not discussed.

Mayo Q: So you're not authorized to address that either way on behalf of your client?

Sprague A: That's correct.

Mayo Q: Do you have anything else regarding any aspect the mayor's official role? Or his use of any resources, whatever, in his role in the office of the mayor that in any way relates to this? Or is there no connection or relationship in any way between his official, public, elected role and this sad turn in his private life?

Sprague A: There is absolutely no connection. There, you know , let's face it. People get married, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. That's a private matter between a couple. In this case, obviously they have decided to separate. They are going to work on their problems. And that has nothing to do with his role as Mayor of Pittsburgh and the request of the couple for -- on that issue, on that issue alone -- privacy. If you like or don't like what he's doing as mayor, take him up on those activities, but leave this couple alone in terms of their personal marriage.

Mayo Q: Is there anything else that you want to add or to emphasize in your role speaking for the mayor, dealing with the media for the mayor in this case that we've not covered?

Sprague A: No, I think that you've asked good questions, you've covered it. I do resent the question that picks up what I consider, you know -- I hear rumors, innuendoes. I don't think that's appropriate. But other than that, I think it's fine. And I think, as I've said, this has got nothing to do with his business as the Mayor of Pittsburgh. People ought to understand, and I think the public does understand the request for on this issue to the media -- 'leave us alone on this issue' -- is very understandable. And I think the public would stand behind the mayor and his wife 100 percent. And I really think except for the media feeling 'well we've got to get something that another media doesn't have' -- your question about why was it broadcast on one station and not on others. You know, that's just the media wanting to be at the center of some matter. The media ought to have the decency just to leave them alone on this issue.

Mayo Q: And again, the reason why I asked the question was that it was within the scope of the one interview that he chose to grant... I wanted to see if that suggested if it was something that you wanted to address. But you're saying even the broaching of that question by his chosen interviewer, you feel was inappropriate?

Sprague A: If he raised that, I think it's absolutely inappropriate. I think on a public broadcast there are some standards that the media should stand to. And that is you don't publicly give 'I hear', or 'there's rumors', or 'there's innuendoes'. I don't think that's proper newsmaking.



Monday, November 23, 2009

Luke & Erin Ravenstahl's Statements on Separation

The following e-mail arrived tonight from the mayor's office:

(PITTSBURGH) November 23, 2009

Today, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Erin Ravenstahl issued the following statements:

Mayor Ravenstahl:

“For some time, like many couples, Erin and I have been working hard to build a successful marriage and have faced the challenges associated with that. Sadly, Erin and I have decided that it is in our family’s best interest to formally separate.

As public people, we recognize that we must share this information. We have strived to work through our challenges and to do so as privately as possible. However, now reaching the decision to formally separate, we felt we should let Pittsburgh know.

Erin and I are now focused on continuing to enjoy a relationship, albeit a very different one, for the continuity and benefit of everyone involved, most importantly, our son Cooper. Our relationship is, and will continue to be, amicable.

We do not know what the future will hold for us. We have no immediate plans to pursue a formal divorce. We simply ask that Pittsburgh understand and respect our family’s privacy as we deal with this very personal matter.”

Erin Ravenstahl:
“Luke and I have made the very difficult decision to formally separate. I am a private person, so sharing this very personal matter publicly is difficult for me, but I understand that this is something that Pittsburgh should know.

I will always be Luke’s friend and continue to share with him our love of our son, Cooper. We will continue to make sure that he is raised in a loving and supportive family. For his sake, and the sake of our entire family, I thank Pittsburgh for respecting our privacy and allowing us to deal with this as well as we can under difficult circumstances, made all the harder by the public nature of our family.

Luke and I will not be making any further public statements on our separation or our family. Because our privacy on this is so very important to us, we have sought professional assistance, retaining the services of attorney Richard A. Sprague, to help us to address privacy matters. We both will be referring all questions from the media to Mr. Sprague.

[Updated with link to Sprague biography at law firm site.]