The lawyer, the lies and the fast ladies

Speed-trap judge claimed there was a woman at the wheel. There was only one problem: she had been dead for three years

By Keren David and Dan Goldberg, March 26, 2009
Jailed: Judge Marcus Einfeld

Jailed: Judge Marcus Einfeld

He was a highly respected member of the Australian Jewish community, a human rights lawyer honoured as an “Australian National Treasure.”

But when, in 2006, former judge Marcus Einfeld, 69, drove his silver Lexus sedan at 60 kmh through a 50kmh zone, he was on a highway to a prison cell — and by the most bizarre route.

Rather than pay a $AU77 speeding fine — around £37 — Einfeld claimed that he had lent the car to an old friend, an American academic called Teresa Brennan.

But his alibi failed when police discovered that Professor Brennan had been dead for three years.

Marie Christos:  the self-proclaimed prostitute arrives for the hearing

Marie Christos: the self-proclaimed prostitute arrives for the hearing

So the story changed. Another woman, businesswoman Angela Liati, then claimed she had been driving.

But her story of meeting Brennan at a meditation retreat was obviously untrue, and the media delighted in airing previous examples of her as an unreliable witness. She was eventually convicted of perjury.

This week Einfeld began a three-year jail sentence, after being sentenced by the New South Wales Supreme Court.

Justice Bruce James said that Einfeld’s “deliberate premeditated perjury” was “part of a planned criminal activity”.

Speaking on Australian television on the eve of sentencing, Einfeld had admitted: “It was an aberration, completely mad. I don’t have any idea how and why I did it now, I just lost my senses at the wrong moment. I don’t think I’m in the slightest bit dishonest. I just made a mistake.”

In fact, Einfeld made many such mistakes. When he was confronted with the fact that Teresa Brennan was dead, he invented another woman, giving her the same name and background. He later admitted that this was a lie, but said it was acceptable because he told it to a journalist.

However, mobile phone records showed that he was in the area on the day of the speeding offence, at an up-market restaurant having lunch with journalist Vivian Schenker, a woman with whom he had enjoyed a 20-year relationship.

So he then concocted another story. This time he claimed he had been driving his 94-year-old mother’s Corolla while his girlfriend, Sylvia Eisman, took her to the theatre.

But CCTV footage showed that the Corolla had not moved from outside her apartment block all day.

Both his lunch date and his mother withdrew their statements.

The case became even more bizarre when a prostitute called Marie Christos found papers relating to the case in the rubbish bin of Einfeld’s solicitor, Michael Ryan. Ms Christos attended court every day, announcing: “I am the prostitute in the case.”

Mr Ryan, who was exposed as a regular client of Ms Christos, eventually resigned from his job and quit the law.

Marcus Einfeld was a respected lawyer before he pleaded guilty to lying under oath.

He was praised for his work on behalf of Aborigine people.

Under the scrutiny of the Australian media his CV was shown to be riddled with inaccuracies. He had falsely claimed to be a director of Marks & Spencer, bought two degrees from America and embroidered his entry in the Australian edition of Who’s Who.

Einfeld is a former executive member of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, a member of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and patron of the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants.

He worked for the JIA in London during the 1970s and chaired the UK’s National Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

He was awarded the Order of Australia in 1998 for his promotion of human rights, although he may now be stripped of it.

He has already been stripped of his honorific Queen’s Counsel title.

Einfeld was also involved in the Rule of Law project in the Palestinian territories following the Oslo Accords. The project was designed to train Palestinian judges and lawyers to help establish Palestinian law.

Many members of the Jewish community continue to back him, despite his fall from grace.

David Knoll, a former president of the New South Wales Board of Deputies, said: “You don’t abandon people who’ve done that much good in their lives. I use the word mensch, because I knew Marcus as a mensch.”

Courtroom stars of a real-life Aussie soap

Angela Liati
Claimed to have been at the wheel of the speeding Lexus. Had already been discredited as a witness during a 1995 court case in which she was awarded AU$125,000 against the estate of a former boyfriend for “admirably” fulfilling her domestic role by putting his shoes on when he was too fat to do it, cutting his toenails, working the stereo and removing crumbs from his butter.

Vivian Schenker
Lunched with Einfeld on the day his Lexus was seen speeding. Journalist and broadcaster, romantically involved with the former judge for 20 years, according to the Australian media. They met when he was still married to his second wife, and shared a passion for social justice.

Sylvia and Kathryn Eisman
Sylvia Eisman is Einfeld’s long term girlfriend, and de facto third wife. She was taking his 94-year-old mother Rose to the theatre to see Menopause The Musical on the day he was speeding in his Lexus. Her daughter, Kathryn, a Sydney socialite, television reporter and author of How to Tell a Man by his Shoes, was also part of the theatre party. Kathryn was charged with drink-driving in 2007 but escaped conviction.

Marie Christos
Self-proclaimed “prostitute in the case” Ms Christos found papers relating to Einfeld in the rubbish bin of her client, Einfeld’s solicitor, Michael Ryan. Ryan had a six-year liaison with Christos, and she found the papers while searching for proof that Ryan was seeing another woman. Ms Christos wore a different designer dress to every day of the Einfeld trial.

    Last updated: 5:10pm, March 26 2009