By John Clark
An Illinois court has dropped criminal charges against a man who was accused of forging divorce documents in order to remarry, according to a report from CBS News Chicago.
Sources say Steve Fanady was initially charged with forging the signature of a Cook County judge, as well as the signature of a divorce lawyer, in order to receive an annulment of his marriage from the Greek Orthodox Church.
Without the religious annulment from the church, sources say, Fanady would have been forbidden from remarrying.
And while sources do not say if the court ruled on the issue of whether Fanady actually forged the signatures in question, the aggrieved man was able to escape the charges based on a novel legal argument.
According to sources, the Illinois court ruled that it could not determine whether Fanady had illegally created the divorce documents because the dispute was between him and his church.
Before making its ruling, the court accepted an argument posed by Fanady’s divorce attorney that prosecuting a man for allegedly lying to his church violated the time-honored separation between church and state.
Sources say that Fanady’s lawyer, while never acknowledging that the allegations were true, successfully argued that the trouble was between Fanady and his church, and could not be resolved in a U.S. court.
The prosecution, in return, claimed that Fanady had forged the signature of court officials, and lied to the church, and thus was eligible for criminal punishment.
But, according to Fanady’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, under the prosecution’s argument, “if a Catholic went to confession to get absolution, and lied to the priest, and got absolution, he could be charged with deceptive practices and theft by deception.”
This, Brodsky claimed, would be disastrous, but never occurs thanks to the fact that, in the United States, “church and state are separate, thank God.”
Sources note that, if Fanady had attempted to pass the forged documents to a court, or other government agency, that the court may have had cause to prosecute him.
But since Fanady only allegedly tried to trick his church into thinking he was divorced, he cannot face criminal consequences for his actions.
After the court’s decision to drop the case, Fanady denied that the allegations were true, but also expressed relief that the legal saga had ended.
“It’s a relief, and it’s really fine to just get on with life,” said an exhausted Fanady. “When the matter first came out, it’s very distressful, it caused a lot of loss of sleep, it was very disconcerting.”