|Laura Martinez and her attorney Phil Ross|
Photo: Carlos Javier Sanchez /Contributor
The acrimonious legal fight over Charlie Thrash, 81, a mentally incapacitated millionaire, came to a dead halt Tuesday.
Thrash’s legal guardians went to court to seek a permanent injunction against his girlfriend Laura Martinez, her lawyer and various family members. But the matter was put on hold when Phil Ross, the lawyer for Martinez, asked to recuse Probate Judge Oscar Kazen.“Today would have been the hearing on all the marbles but Mr. Ross, at the midnight hour, filed a motion to recuse,” said Kazen, who declined to step down.
Kazen signed a temporary restraining order March 14 that accused Martinez and her family of fraud, converting Thrash’s property, committing assault and battery against Thrash and interfering with his court-appointed guardians. That order expires Thursday.
On March 15, Kazen annulled the March 4 marriage between Thrash and Laura Martinez, citing a court order that Thrash, because of his mental incapacity, not be allowed to drive, vote or make important personal decisions.
A few days later, District Judge David Canales voided the March 5 adoption by Thrash of Martinez’s two adult children, Joe and Brittany Martinez.
Martinez says she began dating Thrash in 2012 when he was still operating his business, CT Thrash Differential & Axle Service on West Avenue.
Thrash’s estate is worth an estimated $3 million, and Martinez said she is his sole heir.
In his recusal motion, Ross cites a host of reasons why Kazen should step down, ranging from the judge’s decision not to hold a political fundraiser that Ross offered to host in 2018, to ignoring pertinent evidence about Thrash’s restored mental state, to scolding Ross in open court about unprofessional conduct.
Lawyers for Thrash’s two court-appointed guardians said the recusal motion was little more than an attempt by Ross to delay.
“We will argue it is a motion filed in bad faith, a dilatory tactic,” said Laura Cavaretta, who represents Tonya Barina, the guardian who last week attempted to make an inventory of Thrash’s assets, including his classic car collection.
Barina said that all but one vehicle — a $100,000 Corvette — have been recovered. It is believed to be in Junction.
Thrash was not present at Tuesday’s hearing. On March 6 ,he was removed from the home in Shavano Park he shared with Laura Martinez by his personal guardian, Mary Werner.
Werner said she took the dramatic action, backed by Shavano Park police, because she feared for Thrash’s safety. Since then, she said, Thrash has been staying with a relative.
“He’s doing good. He’s getting out and about. Yesterday he got his hair cut,” Werner said.
Ross, who has been publicly criticized by both Kazen and Canales, said he is trying to rid Thrash of the guardianships on the grounds that his mental capacity has been restored and to reverse the annulment of the marriage to Martinez and the voiding of the adoptions of her children.
“We are fighting for everything,” he said.
“We’ve also asked Judge Kazen to appoint a medical expert and make a report to the court on whether Charlie has capacity,” he added.
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