Former boxing champ Sugar Ray Leonard and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Juanita, walked out of a Montgomery County courtroom yesterday with their arms locked around each other, only a few days after newly opened court records revealed that Juanita Leonard had accused her husband of adultery and physical abuse. The Leonards were the picture of marital bliss after they had decided to kiss (literally) and divide a multimillion-dollar fortune as part of an out-of-court settlement of their divorce.
At a joint news conference on the ground floor of the Circuit Court building in Rockville, Sugar Ray, attired nattily in a gray houndstooth suit with matching black-and-white tie and socks, said the couple settled their differences to avoid adverse media publicity and to protect their sons, Ray Charles Jr., 16, and Jerrel, 6.
"This has not been a happy moment for either of us," said Sugar Ray, surrounded by a phalanx of cameras and scribes. "It's been very painful, agonizing for the last three years."
But Sugar Ray, 34, said: "We have two lovely kids. I still love her and she loves me. We'll go our separate ways."
Neither the smiling couple nor their entourage of attorneys -- which included Los Angeles celebrity divorce lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, representing Juanita Leonard -- would discuss the specifics of the settlement.
"Both parties are happy with it," said Mitchelson. "This is one of the more pleasant endings I've been involved with in 34 years." Mitchelson, who said Sugar Ray Leonard is worth "in excess of $50 million," said the accord resolves all disputes about property, alimony, child support and prenuptial agreements.
The court file, unsealed last week, will be closed again as part of the settlement. A final divorce decree is expected in several months, Mitchelson said. The couple legally separated in December, after nearly 10 years of marriage. Sugar Ray Leonard filed for a divorce in March.
Asked at the news conference about his wife's allegations of adultery, Leonard said, "Certain things were said ... we didn't want to add to the file. There is always room for forgiveness."
Queried about claims of abuse, Juanita Leonard, 33, dressed in a white embroidered jacket, matching silk blouse and black slacks, responded, "Everybody who's ever been married has their fights." Asked a follow-up question about physical abuse, Juanita, a clothing boutique owner, said, "We fought each other."
When a National Enquirer reporter pressed the issue, a visibly upset Sugar Ray cut off the interviews and left, holding hands, with Juanita.
The local celebrity couple came to court for what was billed as a half-day hearing on Juanita's request to increase monthly alimony and support payments from $12,000 to $50,000.
Juanita Leonard and her team of three attorneys arrived first in the seventh-floor courtroom. About 9:15 a.m., Sugar Ray and his two lawyers showed up. As news spread of Sugar Ray's arrival, secretaries, judges, maintenance workers, prosecutors, divorce attorneys and curious onlookers gathered around Courtroom 12.
Then the high-stakes gamesmanship began. Sugar Ray and Juanita were closeted in separate, adjoining conference rooms between the courtroom and the hallway. For two hours, the attorneys shuffled from one room to another, carrying deals from each side. At times, the attorneys huddled in the hall, shaking their heads and calculating figures on yellow notepads.
The presiding judge, William C. Miller, never appeared in the courtroom, working on court files in his chambers.
Twice, Juanita Leonard left Conference Room 1 to talk privately with her husband in Conference Room 2, absent the lawyers. At one point, Juanita's pastor, the Rev. Roland Kenner, counseled his parishioner. By 11:30 a.m., Mitchelson's scowls had turned to smiles. The deal was done.
Outside the courthouse, the couple kissed, then went their separate ways.