By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
In her four years as a family court judge in Harris County, 48-year-old Republican Annette Galik has presided over a stream of divorce and child-custody cases in which spouses have alleged infidelity and adultery by their partners as reasons to receive favorable cash and property settlements as well as control of their offspring.
Now, as she is running for re-election against Democratic family law attorney Bill Connolly, anonymous sources have circulated videotapes and tapes of phone messages and phone conversations documenting Galik's continuing, not-so-subtle affair with 54-year-old Dr. Mohammad Athari, a married family man.
Although the phone conversations are the most explicit, videotapes taken this summer by an unknown camera operator show the judge and Athari nuzzling and kissing in a parking lot outside a Galleria-area store and in an undisclosed sidewalk location at nighttime.
In the Clinton-Lewinsky era, in which personal lives and political fates seem hopelessly intertwined, is Galik's outside-the-courtroom behavior relevant to her position as a judge -- one who determines the fate of ordinary citizens who have engaged in similar behavior? She doesn't think so, but some courthouse observers disagree.
The judge refuses to discuss her relationship with Athari, a contributor to her campaign and a part-owner of the Magic Island club on the Southwest Freeway, where Galik has staged a campaign party. (One Galik supporter who is pro-Israel refused to attend the event after visiting Magic Island and spotting a Yasir Arafat portrait in a club office.)
Galik says her personal life is private, and she will only discuss her record and activities as 245th District judge. Athari did not return an Insider phone inquiry concerning his relationship with Galik.
Galik has pressed Athari to leave his wife and children after she wins re-election. According to sources, Athari and the judge slipped out of town together for a weekend getaway to Seattle in April and an eight-day European jaunt to Milan, Italy, and Monte Carlo in May. There is speculation that the leaker of the material linking Athari and Galik is close to the Athari family and wants the judge to break off the relationshp and for Athari to keep his marriage and family intact.
Although the two have previously been linked in print as social acquaintances, Athari apparently disguised his relationship with Galik by introducing her to his wife as a family friend and confidante. According to sources, the pair hoped to keep the relationship under wraps until after her election for a second four-year term. If she is re-elected, his divorce proceedings might involve Galik and embarrass her, but would not endanger her judgeship.
Some of those familiar with the two say they have carried on their relationship during morning hours, before Galik gets to court; her morning docket during the past year began at 10 a.m., an hour later than most judges begin their day. According to sources, the pair often meets at Athari's Galleria-area office or Galik's home in the afternoon, perhaps explaining the unusual number of days that Galik's court required the services of a visiting judge. By July, Galik and Athari recognized the danger of having their affair exposed, and have been far more circumspect during the last several months, sources said.
Though Galik, like President Bill Clinton, insists her personal life is nobody's business but her own, a Republican lawyer familiar with the workings of her court begs to disagree.
"How are you going to be able to be objective in a matter regarding the implications of adultery in a child-custody suit or the implications of adultery in the division of property?" asks the attorney.
"How can she do this objectively when she is alleged to be participating in similar conduct? If you're a cuckolded husband standing there saying, 'How dare that whore go off and fuck somebody while she was married to me,' how is [Galik] going to respond to that if she is participating in the conduct that is described? If this turns out to be true, it goes to the core of her ability to make good, sound rulings."
The attorney pauses. "What you are doing when you vote for these judges is voting for their judgment."
Galik refused to discuss the suggestion that personal involvement in adultery might conflict with her own ability to be objective in cases involving infidelity.
Her attorney and campaign supporter, Jim Evans, was quick to draw a parallel between the President and the judge when told that this story would include his client's relationship with a married man.
"Ah, so there are no more private lives, contrary to what we hear about Bill Clinton," exclaimed Evans, a self-proclaimed former college radical in the '60s who has now seen the conservative light. "Private lives are the issue."
Just as Bill and Hillary Clinton blamed the revelation of his affair with Monica Lewinsky on "a vast right-wing conspiracy," so Evans quickly pointed his finger at local Democrats for spreading information about Galik's affair with Athari.
"We know that Connolly and the Democrats are out pumping crap as fast as they can," says Evans, who claims Galik's GOP primary opponent, Donna Detamore, was a Democratic stalking horse who tried the same tactic and failed. "The more shit she put out on Annette, the worse she did," says Evans, "and Annette beat the hell out of her. I predict the same thing will happen with Connolly, whose only hope is to besmirch her name a little bit. But that's okay."
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