She stood before Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove with a sense of determination to bring a bit of closure to the most painful experience in her life.
The woman — whom The Gazette is not identifying because of the nature of the crimes committed against her — faced former attorney Michael Fine on Monday and read a victim impact statement before Fine was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.
Two months ago, Fine pleaded guilty to charges he used hypnotic skills to control six women for his own sexual gratification.
She was one of those women, victimized by Fine just three weeks after her divorce was final.
“I have come to realize it was not my vulnerability that caused this to happen,” she said in court. “I went to Michael Fine with help in getting out of a terrible and abusive situation. I paid him to help me. He used my trust and his position as my attorney to gain information about my vulnerabilities. He then used that information not only to protect and defend me, but also to manipulate, hurt and take advantage of me.”
The woman said her worse suspicions about Fine were confirmed the morning of
Nov. 19, 2014. That was when a friend sent a link to a news article written by Brad Dicken, senior reporter at The Gazette’s sister newspaper, The Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria. It made public the details of a criminal investigation against Fine.
“It confirmed my worst fears,” she said. “That my attorney, the man who had come to my rescue through a very painful divorce, the man who had made himself invaluable to me through this extremely difficult and vulnerable time in my life, the man who helped me with every challenging issue I encountered in my life and the man who built up my confidence when I was feeling anything but confident by calling me special, unique and beautiful, was sexually misusing many of his other clients as well.”
Fine, 59, entered guilty pleas to five counts of kidnapping and one count of attempted kidnapping during a September hearing a week before his trial was set to begin. Each of those charges carries a sexual motivation specification. Cosgrove classified Fine as a Tier II sexual offender, a designation that comes with registration every 180 days for 25 years.
Prosecutors dropped numerous other charges as part of the agreement reached during private pretrial negotiations.
In addition to the woman who spoke in court, statements from two other victims also were read into the court record. Together, they paint a picture of how the victimized are working to put their lives back together and move on from the experience. One woman wrote she now suffers from panic attacks and struggles to have intimate relationships with men.
“He gets a 12-year sentence. I get a life sentence,” the statement said. “Is 12 years long enough? Is this enough time for the pain, hurt and suffering that I now have to live with? This will be a part of who I am to become. This is now part of my being — not by choice, but by circumstance. Twelve years compared to a lifetime — just doesn’t seem fair, does it?”
Cosgrove also had very strong words for Fine, condemning his crimes while noting the overwhelming support Fine continues to have in the community.
“There is a real dichotomy here. There are two different pictures of Mr. Fine. One is the one portrayed by the defense and in over 50 letters of support for Mr. Fine,” Cosgrove said. “From his wife, from his mother, from his two sisters, from friends, church members, clients and associates, even his pastor of his church wrote a letter on behalf of Mr. Fine. They all talked about how amazing he was as an individual, how supportive he was – a role model, a father and a best friend. And, I read over and over ‘This is not the Mike I know.’ I contrast that with the evidence in this case and statements from the victims. At the lowest point in their lives when they came to you for help in the throes of painful divorces and custody battles, you took advantage of them. You took advantage of their trust and faith in you by sexually abusing them.”
“You deserve to be punished,” Cosgrove later said.
Fine’s wife, Aneta, said Fine was a good man who made some bad decisions.
“This was something that came out of nowhere,” she said. “He has been a loving husband and father to our two girls.”
Fine fell under scrutiny after one of his legal clients became suspicious of lost time she was experiencing and because “she was wet in her vaginal area, that her bra was disheveled” after she left Fine’s office or had conversations with him.
The woman took her concerns to Sheffield police, who initially suggested she find another lawyer, but the woman instead recorded her interactions with Fine, including when he placed her in a trance, according to documents filed by the Lorain County Bar Association in November 2014 seeking an emergency suspension of Fine’s law license.
Fine was accused of putting the woman into a trance and giving her sexual commands, including telling her to have an orgasm and that she was “being made love to by the world’s greatest lover,” according to the Bar Association filing.
The woman took the recordings to law enforcement, and she agreed to wear audio and video recording devices into a meeting with Fine at his Sheffield law offices. Once Fine put the woman into a trance, law enforcement raided the office and searched it for evidence, according to court documents.
After the allegations against Fine, who permanently relinquished his law license last year, became public, Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office fielded calls from numerous women saying they, too, were victims. Several women also filed lawsuits against Fine and his former law firm.