A New York hedge fund manager and his new wife have taken the unusual step of securing restraining orders against his ex-wife after she posted a series of threats against them on Facebook. Josh Resnick, a managing partner at Jericho Capital and an early investor in Google, and his wife Danyelle Freeman asked for orders of protection from Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lori M. Sattler, who granted the request in July 2014 after Resnick’s ex-wife, Nirit Resnick Varenbut, posted threatening comments about the couple from two accounts that she controls on Facebook.
The orders specifically prohibited Varenbut from posting about the couple on social media, but even the intervention of a judge didn’t stop a pattern of disturbing behavior that continued for more than a year, despite several arrests and further conditions placed upon her as a condition of bail.
The matter seems to be rooted in a custody fight over the son that Varenbut and Resnick had during their 10 year marriage, which ended in 2012. Resnick and Freeman have had custody of the boy since 2014.
In August 2014, a month after the Manhattan court issued orders of protection, Varenbut was staying at a house she’d rented in Montauk, near the East Hampton home that Resnick and his family own and were staying in.
According to court records, she made a number of threatening posts to Facebook over a four-day period, which resulted in her being arrested by East Hampton Village police and charged with violating the orders.
East Hampton Justice Lisa R. Rana set bail at $5,000, with the conditions that Varenbut get psychiatric help and refrain from using social media.
Even this didn’t deter the socialite, who took to Facebook to argue for her own bodily autonomy and against the medication her psychiatrist had prescribed, demand the return of her son from Resnick and Freeman, and describe apocalyptic visions about what would happen if her son wasn’t returned to her.
And then there were the messages that, according to the couple’s attorney, forced them to live in a constant state of fear for their own safety and that of their children. Resnick and Freeman have two children together, aside from custody of Resnick’s son.
Varenbut posted to Facebook about her ex-husband, “I want you to hurt, hurt, hurt.” And of Resnick’s new wife, she wrote, “I want to be the one who skins her alive. I can make wallpaper out of her.” About the couple, Varenbut is said to have posted, “Josh Resnick married someone more evil than himself. Can you believe it?”
Combined with Varenbut’s presence in the Hamptons while the Resnick family lived nearby, the judge took a closer interest in the matter. Court appearances were ordered which Varenbut routinely missed. In July of 2015, Judge Rana took a harder stand after several skipped appearances and ordered Varenbut held for one week so doctors could perform a psychiatric evaluation.
She was found competent to stand trial, but subsequently missed another appearance later in July, resulting in a warrant being issued for her arrest. Police located her at a rental house in Sag Harbour, where the owner reported that she left spraypainted graffiti on a wall.
On August 1, Judge Rana set a new round of bail at $50,000, with a $100,000 bond that Varenbut used her Chelsea apartment as collateral to post. She then forfeited the bond by skipping yet another appearance. When the bail bondsman turned her in at the East Hampton Village police station, he described her as, “sweet as pie.”
There was another court date in early September, where it was revealed that Varenbut had violated the order of protection again by emailing her ex-husband. She was arrested once more, and a new date was set for September 9, 2015, for the court to hear her plea.
Finally, after more than a year of legal action by the Resnick family, Varenbut pleaded guilty to two charges of misdemeanor criminal contempt. Judge Rana sentenced her to three years of probation, a $2,000 fine, and ordered her to enter an in-house psychiatric treatment program immediately, with the promise of jail if there were further violations.
It’s hard to know exactly where to begin in a case like this, where the normal conflict of divorce, custody fights, and post-divorce issues like one spouse remarrying are exacerbated by what seems like significant mental health issues.
The court seems to have taken a number of steps to push Varenbut toward getting help in putting her life back together, but what of the family that was being stalked and threatened for at least fifteen months? Notably, there’s no mention of any effort on their part to collect damages or keep the fight going. By all accounts, this is simply a family that wants to move on with their lives and be left alone by an out-of-control ex.
The case also points to the growing prominence of social media as a platform for the airing of grievances, appropriately or not. In a divorce situation, it’s all too easy to take to the public environment of Facebook or Twitter and lash out at your ex in front of their friends, colleagues, and family.
It’s also surprisingly easy to get caught up in “winning” the divorce by posting photos or status updates that can be used to challenge claims you make. For instance, an album documenting your getaway to Cancun may not fly when you’re pleading poverty to the judge.
At Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino, we make it our mission to protect our clients in divorce and custody fights. We can help you avoid the damaging mistakes that the digital age has made possible, and win the best settlement possible at the end of your marriage.
Don’t take risks when it comes to the long term financial and custody situation from your divorce. Call us today at 718-523-1111 and talk to an experienced Queens divorce lawyer for free.