ORLANDO — An outspoken liberal congressman from Florida will argue in court today that his 24-year marriage should be annulled because his estranged wife committed bigamy, the opening salvo in an acrimonious divorce case a judge likened to an episode of the TV series House of Cards.
Rep. Alan Grayson says his wife, Lolita, was still married to Robert Carson when she and the multimillionaire congressman married in 1990 in Virginia. Grayson, a Democrat and highly successful trial lawyer, said the marriage to Carson wasn't dissolved until 1994 in Broward County.
But Lolita Grayson says she divorced Carson in Guam in 1981, and she disputes that she was divorced in Broward County. She also said she isn't the "Lolita B. Carson" cited in a dissolution of marriage final judgment that Alan Grayson, 56, says is proof that she was still married to Carson when they wed. Neither side has found Carson.
If the marriage is annulled, Alan Grayson would avoid having the court divide personal property or decide whether he owes Lolita Grayson alimony. In court papers, Lolita Grayson puts her husband's worth at $31 million.
An outspoken liberal, Grayson gained national attention during the debates over health care reform when he said the Republicans' opposing plan was "don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly."
Besides bigamy, the divorce has featured mutual allegations of battery, accusations by Lolita Grayson of financial abandonment by the congressman and a trial delay caused by Lolita Grayson's leaking breast implants.
During a recent pretrial hearing, when attorneys were arguing over who had access to the couple's financial documents, Circuit Judge Bob LeBlanc likened the scenario to the well-known Netflix political drama.
"This is starting to sound like House of Cards," LeBlanc said.
Attorneys at the hearing suggested that politics, in part, may be preventing any effort to reach a quiet, confidential settlement that the judge hinted is the best option for both Graysons.
"When lies are told about you and you're in the media, your detractors are going to use it and use it forever more. You have to neutralize that and the only way to do that is to get the truth out," said Mark NeJame, one of Grayson's attorneys.
When the judge said that both sides had "calmed down" from the initial acrimony of last year's divorce filing, NeJame shot back, "Except the Republican Party."
Lolita Grayson's attorney, Mark Longwell, said the congressman was going to "drag her through the mud" so that he doesn't look bad.
Longwell, who only got the case within the past month, is her third attorney. He requested a trial delay so he could have more time to prepare. The judge will consider another delay today. The trial will move ahead if he decides against it.