Major Update – Mar. 13, 2016
Vicious, Malicious, Seditious, and Meretricious
In the world history of missteps by academics you will NOT find a worse example than this email, sent by a disgruntled, neophyte art collector, Dr. Jonathan Browne, Ph.D, of Ottawa, Ontario, to blogger Ugo Matulic, all based on false hearsay evidence, from the most discredited source in Canadian art history, Ritchie Sinclair.
The NMHS Sucker Punches a Gullible Neophyte Art Collector
Browne’s main claim to fame BEFORE he sent this ludicrous email, in 2011, was listening to members of the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society, (NMHS), probably at a National Gallery of Canada kaffeeklatsch, in late 2008, encouraging him – in secrecy – to publicly denounce as a “fake,” a painting he had then recently bought from Bearclaw Gallery, in Edmonton, AB, a magnificent Morrisseau BDP “Grandfather Speaks of Ansistral Warriors.” He did their bidding, so ending up publicly making an ass of himself and his wife.
At that time he totally embarrassed himself, for the Ages as – at best – a very ill-informed “art expert,” with his ill-advised, and totally unsubstantiated claims and aggressive public outbursts on the web regarding the genuine Morrisseau BDP “Grandfather” and the people who sold it to him.
Dr. Browne compounded that idiocy by brusquely refusing – you will not believe this; he had offers from two people who were willing to pay for it – forensic examination of the BDP “Grandfather.” This he blusteringly turned down. This academic wanted, for some reason, it is clear, more than anything, for the painting to be declared “fake.”
Dr. Browne Listening to Ritchie Part 1 – All completely understandable, when you learn that this apparent Ph.D. was being directed by school-dropout, cyber terrorist and art fraudster, Ritchie Sinclair, and was in fact using Sinclair’s own lawyer Zak Muscovitch to threaten the gallery owner.
A delicious story: According to Joe McLeod, as he deciphered it all, and reported to me, later, Zak Muscovitch, for acting as lawyer for Sinclair in an earlier (fraudulent) action*** against Randy Potter, apparently made an agreement with Sinclair to be paid – not in cash from a starving artist – but in Morrisseau paintings.
***Muscovitch sent a nasty lawyer’s letter – I have a copy – to Potter threatening him with legal action if he sold off a consignment of Sinclair “Faux-nishinaabe” paintings which a storage company had seized with a Sheriff’s order, and sent to him to auction, because Sinclair, the starving artist, had not paid fees owing. Sinclair probably sucker-punched his lawyer with the same story he told everywhere else, that Potter had “stolen” his paintings. Which was as bald a lie as it’s possible to make – a talent in which Sinclair has no peer. There is no law that says you can’t lie to your lawyer. Did even Zak begin to sour on continuing to represent Sinclair when he discovered the truth about his client? So apparently ending a lawyer-client relationship of some 10 years…
Professional Misconduct – Zak ought to have known that a lawyer can get into a heap of trouble if he has a client who lies to him, is involved in a scam or fraud, and uses a lawyer to front for him to advance a business con or fraud of any kind against other citizens.
In fact, the Law Society of Upper Canada has stringent Rules of Conduct, barring its lawyers from fronting for frauds and scams. Zak may have decided, it was a good time to bail out on Sinclair, figuring his career as a lawyer might have been damaged irreparably, if he stayed involved with a proven scammer, for whom truth was just a negligible bump on the road and no impediment whatsoever for just publicly spouting off whatever he wanted “truth” to be at the moment.
Extract – Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers
– Law Society of Upper Canada
Dishonesty, Fraud, etc. by Client or Others
A lawyer shall not knowingly assist in or encourage any dishonesty, fraud, crime, or illegal conduct or instruct a client or any other person on how to violate the law and avoid punishment.
A lawyer shall not act or do anything or omit to do anything in circumstances where he or she ought to know that, by acting, doing the thing or omitting to do the thing, he or she is being used by a client, by a person associated with a client or by any other person to facilitate dishonesty, fraud, crime or illegal conduct.” (Quoted Law Society of UC)
THEN! After the first installment of Morrisseau paintings had been paid, apparently an eager Mrs. Muscovitch showed up with an armful of the art at McLeod’s Maslak McLeod Gallery, to have her “Morrisseaus” evaluated by Canada’s top and most reputable Morrisseau art expert. Were these “Morrisseau” paintings – she and Zak must have wanted to know – as valuable as Sinclair grandly spouted them to be?
McLeod took one look and informed her “These are NOT Morrisseaus; they’re ersatz Ritchie Sinclair paintings!” It appears the Muscovitches – here we go again with art collecting neophytes – thought they were getting Morrisseaus and ended up – SURPRISE! – with cheap “Faux-nishinaabe” knock-offs by Ritchie Sinclair.
And so actually worthless… Well not quite; at Randy Potter Auctions, on Feb. 14, 2004, Sinclair’s “Faux-nishinaabe” aka “ersatz Morrisseaus” had been getting $30 and $40 apiece. And that’s for sizable acrylic panels folks…, not small pencil drawings…
Presumably Mrs. Muscovitch did not go home a happy camper. It appears that Muscovitch – who had been Sinclair’s family lawyer for years – did not represent Sinclair after that, being replaced by Jonathan J Sommer who in the years thereafter, appeared arm-in-arm with Ritchie Sinclair in numerous “fakes” promotions in the media and in courts.
I watched Sinclair openly and aggressively directing Sommer in what to do, both in Small Claims Court proceedings – even though he was neither the Plaintiff nor the Defendant – and in Superior Court, before the Hon. Madam Justice Mary Anne Sanderson – where again, Sinclair was NOT a client of Sommer’s or a Plaintiff or a Defendant in the action.
I didn’t need particularly good eyesight to see this; I was sitting immediately beside Margaret Hatfield and Ritchie Sinclair in the cramped Superior Court room. All of us sat immediately behind Jonathan J Sommer.
On one memorable occasion – while the Hon Madam Justice Mary Anne Sanderson was in an aside with Defendant lawyer Brian Shiller, Sinclair shushed Sommer into turning around, because he had taken exception to something Sommer had told Justice Sanderson. Then Sinclair furiously dictated a note, while Hatfield scribbled beside me. Then Sinclair took the note and reached it forward to Sommer. Sommer glanced at it, then informed Justice Sanderson that he would like to make a correction…
Here’s Jackie!!! – Jackie Bugera – of Bearclaw Gallery, in Edmonton, AB – who couldn’t stand the public noise of this raving lunacy anymore, gave Browne back his money, but totally refused Browne’s insistent demand that she acknowledge she had sold him a “fake.”
Hell she knew it was genuine; her mother, a longtime highly respected art gallery owner, had long personal and professional ties with Norval Morrisseau, long before he became a TIBWAP, at a time when he was still mentally, physically, and artistically flourishing.
She was as certain of her art, as Dr. Jonathan Browne was NOT.
But the Gallery owner DEMANDED AND GOT Browne’s agreement and compliance that he would STFU, with his vicious, malicious, seditious, and meretricious outbursts on the internet, and remove his vile, fraudulent, and defamatory website.
NOTE: The BDP “Grandfather Speaks” was subsequently sent to an independent forensic scientist for examination and evaluation – which the academic Browne had scorchingly disdained to do. The BDP painting was found to be – what else is new? – an authentic Morrisseau BDP, with DNA certainty, on Dec. 19, 2011.
So Dr. Browne lost, not only a fine Morrisseau, but whatever remained of his tattered reputation as some kind of “art expert” or judicious, reasoning, and thoughtful academic.
Here He Goes Again! Dr. Browne Listening to Ritchie Part 2 – So Dr. Browne went underground.
In court, on May 31, 2011, Margaret Hatfield testified in Hatfield v Artworld that it was Dr. Browne who introduced her to Ritchie Sinclair, who in short order convinced her that her BDP “Wheel of Life 1979” was a fake and that SHE should sue Artworld.
That lawsuit, which Hatfield lost spectacularly, as well as the Appeal of that scorching loss, is covered elsewhere. They were both handled by lawyer Jonathan J Sommer. Sommer came on the scene when Zak Muscovitch (Sinclair’s previous lawyer) was sued and Sommer represented him.
When Zak departed the scene, Sinclair then brought in Sommer to also spear-head the bogus Hatfield lawsuit among others.
The Hatfield BDP “Wheel of Life” was authenticated with “beyond DNA” certainty, by a top forensic scientist, and also confirmed as a 100% authentic Morrisseau BDP by Deputy Judge Paul J Martial (Mar 25, 2013), and the Hon Madam Justice Mary Anne Sanderson (Dec. 17, 2013).
In delivering Hatfield into Ritchie Sinclair’s arms, it did establish that Dr. Browne is hugely responsible for making the retired old lady schoolteacher waste some $60,000 of her paltry old age nest egg, in legal fees – her penalty for only listening to Browne, Sinclair, and Robinson’s fraudulent claims. As Judge Martial reminded her. The losing lawyer in both actions (trial and Appeal) was Jonathan J Sommer.
The Damning Indictment for the Ages – Art neophytes who become gullible and willful tools in the hands of art scammers, submit to becoming their proxies in the courts and the media, and shoot off their mouths in public with vile allegations about “fake” art, a subject none of them have a clue about – like Dr. Jonathan Browne, Julie Witmer, Margaret Hatfield, John McDermott, Kevin Hearn, etc. – as a consequence bear a huge responsibility for destroying Canada’s art heritage, and in this case, the art of Norval Morrisseau.
Without their compliant help the scam would never have found traction. Norval’s art valuations would NOT have been destroyed. In a real sense they are worse than the scammers themselves. They could have done some reading, some research, some basic investigation – hell, some thinking – before acting out publicly so viciously, maliciously, seditiously, and meretriciously.
Judge Martial, in his judgment scorched Margaret Hatfield for this very sin, reprimanding her for relying only on Donald Robinson and Ritchie Sinclair – two witnesses he went on to discredit – instead of doing Due Diligence, and seeking alternative expert advice regarding her art. Her willful wrong-headedness ended up costing her some $60,000 of her paltry pension, wasted on a painting she had only paid $10,000 for.
Didn’t her lawyer, Jonathan J Sommer tell her that spending $60,000 on court actions for a $10,000 painting made no sense, in this world or the next…? Did he have to tell her? Or is that her business, not his?
Now her name, and those of the others guilty of the same failing, will live in infamy, for the Ages, in the history of Canadian art.
No Tears for Hatfield – The art world – hell the business world, the investment world – all hate uncertainty. When people – even ignoramuses – shoot off their mouths, making vile allegations about creeps, crooks and cons involved in a supposed forgery scam – no matter how utterly false – and go to the media to sound off, collectors and prospective customers freeze, scared they’ll end up with a “fake,” and lose their money. Predictably they look elsewhere to buy. The targeted art dies a miserable death as wary investors and collectors, predictably, abandon ship and buy something more reliable, like guaranteed mail-order Russian virgin brides.
How big a disaster did these gullible proxies help to orchestrate? One art dealer says the damage to the art valuation of Norval Morrisseau alone is probably in the $100 million range. This does NOT include the ripple effect damage to the art of other Aboriginal artists who suffered huge collateral damage from the wanton attack on Norval.
Racism compounds the damage. If the leading Indian artist’s art is “fake,” then what possible guarantee have you got that the Indigenous art by lesser artists is not “fake” as well? You know “Made in China” or “Japan,” or by “Faux-nishinaabe” white Indian imposter cross-dressers like Ritchie Sinclair.
OUCH!!! – Mr. and Mrs. Zak Muscovitch, apparently, made exactly such a disturbing discovery… They thought they had genuine Morrisseaus, in fact real Anishinaabe art; only to discover that all they had was fake Sinclairs by a white Indian imposter/impersonator cranking out bogus, and so worthless “Faux-nishinaabe” art…
Here We Go, Once More… Dr. Browne Listening to Ritchie Part 3 – Then two years after being hopelessly tarnished by immersing himself in the Bugera “Grandfather,” and Hatfield “Wheel” fiascoes, Dr. Browne tried his hand as some kind of journalist or reporter on an event he did not even attend and had only hearsay evidence for, and that, from about as unreliable and discredited “source” as its possible to get, Ritchie Sinclair… And sent the email (top) to Ugo Matulic, a blogger.
But I was there in court, and heard and saw it all… the only journalist to do so…
On Jan. 11, 2011 Judge MD Godfrey announced his judgment in a Toronto court in Otavnik v Sinclair, dismissing suit and counter-suit, telling both parties to just go away and, each, bear his own costs.
“My Mentor & Me” by Ritchie Sinclair – Sinclair and Donald Robinson, despite herculean efforts with their testimony, and Robinson’s spurious “expert report,” had utterly failed to convince Judge MD Godfrey that Otavnik’s BDP painting “Jesuit Preist” was a “fake.” The judge told Otavnik they had not damaged or undermined his genuine painting, and implied he should have sent it for forensic examination. Meaning, it would have sped up the court process.
Browne, in the email, telling Matulic to look at the trial transcripts – as Browne seems to imply Browne has – only 3 (that’s three) days after a trial finishes, is a ludicrous physical impossibility, all in its own right. Trial transcripts are virtually NEVER available until months after a trial finishes. Certainly none were available to Browne or anyone else by Jan 14, only three days after the judge spoke…
Tracking Down the “Source” – I was the only journalist in the public gallery, sitting beside my wife.
I published nothing; the judge published nothing; the court reporter published nothing; Otavnik published nothing; neither did anyone else…
The only other members of the public there at the time were a Ritchie Sinclair “Party of Four.”
Raising the obvious question: where did Dr. Jonathan Browne, less than three days after the judge read his judgment, to this tiny closeted group, get all the false information that he quoted in great detail, to Ugo Matulic?
And giving at the same time, the inescapable and damning answer.
Now, the circumstantial evidence is incontrovertible, he was listening to Sinclair again… His group was the only possible source in the court room. Nobody else…
Browne had previously discredited himself by listening to Sinclair, and acting out publicly, with his fraudulent claims, two years before. Most of us, “once bit; twice shy” veer away, big time. But not Dr. Jonathan Browne.
And then it gets worse…
Vile Scatological Email: Within only a day of the unpublished Godfrey judgment (Jan 11, 2011), a vicious and vile “Anonymous” email, also targeting the same Ugo Matulic was sent to him, which also betrayed unique insider courtroom knowledge that could only have come from within the tiny group who was there.
Like the content of the Browne email, it certainly didn’t come from the Judge, the court reporter, Otavnik, myself, or my wife…
Which brings us, AGAIN, to the only other people in the courtroom at the time: the Ritchie Sinclair “Party of Four…”
And just in case you were interested, Otavnik’s BDP painting, which Sinclair and Robinson both insisted was “fake” – though Godfrey didn’t buy it – was sent for forensic examination, as the judge had suggested.
The BDP “Jesuit Preist” came back certified as an authentic Morrisseau BDP, with DNA certainty!
But then you already knew that was coming, didn’t you?
And what about Browne’s reference to “White and Kim?”
That multi-dealer lawsuit became White v Sinclair, after a judge said the multi-dealer lawsuit could continue in White’s name alone.
That court case – most of which I attended as an investigative journalist – finished on Aug. 5, 2015, when Deputy Judge CW Kilian scorched Ritchie Sinclair of Toronto, ON, longtime business associate of Toronto’s Kinsman Robinson Galleries, and Toronto “entertainment” lawyer Jonathan Jerome Sommer, as Guilty of Libel & Defamation in All Respects (Defamation & Slander of Title).
And fined him $25,000 plus costs of $3,750. (Both the maximum allowed in Small Claims Court)
Judge Kilian thundered, that had it been in his jurisdictional power to do so he would have also fined Sinclair another $10,000 for Punitive Damages,
“For his reckless false allegations disseminated on a world-wide media.”
FINAL NOTE: I might note that Ritchie Sinclair strongly demanded that both Judge MD Godfrey (on Nov 16, 2010) and Deputy Judge CW Kilian (Nov 14, 2014) evict me from the public galleries in their respective courtrooms. Why would he do that?
Both judges just smiled, and said “He can stay.”
So I am reporting what I saw and heard with my own eyes, or read afterwards, in well over 1,000 pages of court transcripts which I have looked at, many multiple times…