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Albemarle prosecutor claims online harassment by ex-lover

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 23, 2013

Albemarle prosecutor claims online harassment by ex-lover

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 23, 2013

hAlbemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Y. Lunsford is alleging that a high-profile Missouri attorney harassed her online, posting semi-nude pictures of her after their intimate relationship ended.

That Missouri attorney has responded with a litany of accusations about Lunsford.

On Sept. 12,  Lunsford filed for an order of protection in a Missouri family court against David Cosgrove of St. Louis. Cosgrove served as chief legal counsel for the office of the governor from 2003 to 2005, and as Missouri’s commissioner of securities.

Lunsford alleged in court filings that Cosgrove had “posted nude and semi-nude photos of me on Twitter including my name and occupation as the elected prosecutor in Albemarle County, Va.”

Cosgrove slapped back in court, calling his ex-lover’s action baseless and asking for sanctions against her and her attorney.

Lunsford wrote that Cosgrove is addicted to alcohol and perhaps other substances. She called his posts to social media “rampant” and “obsessive.” She said they increased in frequency after she asked him to stop.

“Worst also has been effort to damage my professional career & publicly embarrass me with postings of nude photos, most of which I was unaware were taken,” she wrote.

She sought an ex parte order of protection that would prohibit Cosgrove from committing or threatening to commit domestic violence, stalking her, entering her home or place of employment or coming within 500 feet of her or her children, and that he cease posting her image or name on social media.

Reached at her office, Lunsford referred questions to her attorney, Susan K. Roach of Clayton, Mo.

Roach suggested the exposure of the court files was a tactic of Cosgrove and his lawyer.

“The court takes special care in these orders of protection to maintain the confidentiality of the parties,” Roach said. “And so we’ve done nothing to make this a public record.”

Lunsford’s name did not appear in filings on, a Missouri court case information database, as is the standard practice with petitioners in adult abuse cases.

However, Lunsford’s name was on Cosgrove’s response, and her petition and his response were publicly available. A Missouri Lawyers Weekly reporter was able to review and scan documents in the file at the courthouse.

Cosgrove and his attorney, Michael P. Downey of St. Louis, filed a response Sept. 20.

“To our knowledge, there was nothing done to seal the file,” Downey said in an interview.

Cosgrove alleged he and Lunsford had been intimate while they were law students at Washington & Lee law school in 1988.They parted ways but rekindled their affair after connecting on Facebook in 2012.

In his court filing, Cosgrove asked that the order of protection be vacated and dismissed with prejudice, and that the court impose sanctions against Lunsford and Roach. It said that Lunsford was “perhaps misleading this court” and was not in any real fear of Cosgrove.

“Legitimate fear of harm was not driving her actions: Mr. Cosgrove has never injured or threatened Ms. Lunsford, has not come within 700 miles during the last three months, and has sent her only three docile electronic communications in the last month,” according to Cosgrove’s filing.

The response said that Lunsford is “abusing and misusing” the Missouri Adult Abuse Protection statute in order to “stigmatize or silence” Cosgrove.

“The only so-called injury that Ms. Lunsford may reasonably fear, and that Mr. Cosgrove suspects is the real reason for Ms. Lunsford’s overreaching, baseless petition, is that Ms. Lunsford does not want Mr. Cosgrove to disclose what he knows about her repeated misconduct and bad judgment and thus harm her political ambitions,” Cosgrove said.

Cosgrove’s response admitted much of what Lunsford alleges, but said that it did not rise to the level of requiring protection from abuse, because victims “must generally show extreme emotional distress” and a fear of physical harm.

Roach contested the account in Cosgrove’s response.

“This information is one-sided. It is not accurate. It is a woeful misrepresentation,” she said in an interview with Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

Cosgrove did not return a voice mail left at his office by Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

The Cosgrove response acknowledged that Cosgrove is a “recovering alcoholic” who had “fought the insidious menace of this disease for 15 years,” but called that fact “irrelevant.”

Both Lunsford’s petition and Cosgrove’s response mentioned Lunsford allowing a man she had charged with felony forcible sodomy, her former political assistant, to watch a movie in her home with her child present.

Cosgrove’s response identified the man in question as lawyer Christopher Dumler, a fellow Democrat and former member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. He resigned from the board in June following an outcry about his January guilty plea to misdemeanor sexual battery. A recent report indicated Dumler has dropped from public view, even missing scheduled court appearances.

Cosgrove’s pleading said all the pictures at issue were either supplied by Lunsford or were taken with Lunsford’s knowledge. It said she deleted pictures she considered unflattering and approved the ones she preferred.

Cosgrove sought sanctions against both Lunsford and her lawyer, including an award of attorneys’ fees, saying the petition was filed to punish Cosgrove and protect the prosecutor’s political ambitions.

Cosgrove alleged Lunsford’s conduct violated ethics rules in both Missouri and Virginia.

Roach – Lunsford’s lawyer – said the motion for sanctions is misplaced as to her, because she did not assist Lunsford in preparing or filing her accusations against Cosgrove.

A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 3.

-By Melissa Meinzer with additional reporting by Peter Vieth

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