Truth is stranger than fiction

The saying "truth is stranger than fiction" didn't originate in a trusts-and-estates case (see here) . . . but it should have. 

For example, say you went to a movie and the plot line revolved around a brilliant but eccentric MIT professor who allegedly staged his own "hit" by two masked men with Russian accents then blamed his son in order to gain the upper hand in litigation involving a family trust.  You'd say "no way, that could never happen."  And you'd be wrong.  As reported in Former MIT professor headed to trial in allegedly staged shooting that's exactly the real life drama currently playing itself out in a Boston courtroom:

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (AP) -- What the former MIT professor and wealthy businessman told police sounded like a scene from a bad spy novel: He was shot by two masked men with Russian accents, and saved only because two of the bullets bounced off his belt buckle.


Five months later came the indictment -- against him.

Prosecutors say John J. Donovan Sr. staged his own shooting to gain an advantage in a legal battle with his own children for control of trusts that he claims are worth at least $180 million. He's accused of trying to get back at his oldest son by falsely accusing him of hiring his would-be killers.

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Donovan is charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum one-year sentence. His trial is scheduled to begin Friday in Middlesex Superior Court.

"John Donovan repeatedly provided false information to police about a crime that did not occur in order to 'frame' his son for a crime his son did not commit and had no part in," prosecutors claim in court documents.

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During the 911 call Donovan made from his cell phone after the shooting, he told a state police dispatcher that his son James, now 40, "laundered $180 million" and had threatened to kill him.

Prosecutors say Donovan made up the story to exact revenge, but his lawyer Barry Klickstein calls Donovan "the innocent victim of a violent crime."

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Peter Falcon - August 8, 2007 9:47 AM

All in an apparent effort to disqualify his children from a comparitively meager trust benefit. It underscores the importance that one must be extremely confident in the verbiage contained within a trust. Once in ink, it can be difficult to modify without compelling circumstances. It is unfortunate that Mr Donovan may have tried to synthesize compelling enough circumstances to make changes to a trust that should have had sufficient flexibility to account for changing relationships.

-Peter F.

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