Posted: July 16, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

A judge could kindly spare Sylvia Korn, a 94-year-old widow, from the long drive from New Castle County to Sussex County, but not from the ordeal of being sued by her own son.

The son is Richard Korn, a sometime politician, and it was his second session in a court in as many weeks in a one-man legal sideshow, juggling criminal and civil cases.

The first one was tried upstate in Wilmington in the New Castle County Courthouse, where Korn was acquitted last week of possessing kiddie porn on a computer, charges that had materialized as spillover from an unsavory divorce.

The second one was heard downstate on Tuesday by Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III, sitting in Georgetown in the Court of Chancery in Sussex County, to sort out the sorry saga of a son trying to part a mother from her money.

It was left unresolved. Glasscock will not rule until both sides submit further arguments in August.

Richard Korn was in the courtroom to represent himself, because he said he was unable to afford two sets of legal bills at once. He went to law school, but never became a lawyer, before he tried to make it in politics, only to wash out, first in New York and then here in Delaware as a serial Democratic candidate for county and legislative offices and state auditor.

Sylvia Korn was not in the courtroom. She was represented by her lawyers after Glasscock excused her, a courtesy in contrast to an ugly case.

It was entirely acknowledged that Sylvia Korn gave Richard Korn hundreds of thousands of dollars through the years, until she cut him off in 2012. It is an open question, left to Glasscock to decide, whether Sylvia Korn gave Richard Korn the money out of the goodness of her heart or whether she was cynically manipulated by her son until she got wise to him.

When the checks stopped coming, Richard Korn sued. His mother had added his name to a Morgan Stanley investment account and to the deed on her condominium in Hockessin, and he wanted the court to award him a share of the investment account and to order the sale of the condo with half the proceeds going to him.

A cemetery plot with eight gravesites was also in dispute. The court record shows Sylvia Korn paid $4,000 for the purchase, but it was put in Richard Korn's name. Sylvia Korn's husband, mother and brother -- that would be Richard Korn's father, grandmother and uncle -- are buried there.

As a letter in the court record reads, Korn tried to use the cemetery plot against his mother once they were estranged. He wrote in January 2013:

"As far as I'm concerned the person I knew, remembered, cherished and loved -- my mother -- died sometime last year. That person that I knew worried about me, cared about me and loved me, as I did her, each and every day. You are not that person. . . .

"You will never see me again and I will never see you again. I never stole one dollar from you. You voluntarily choose to put me on all the accounts. . . .

"Unless you forgot, I own the cemetery plots. The deed to the 8 graves is in my name. Here is a copy. My god forgive me -- Dad forgive me -- Nana forgive me -- Uncle Mort forgive me -- but I will NEVER EVER give permission for a grave to be opened for you to be buried there -- NEVER -- I will NEVER do that -- and should I die before you -- which will likely happen -- I have taken care of things so you can NEVER be buried there -- EVER.

"Good bye. You will never hear from me again."

The courtroom proceeding was contentious. Korn was a balky witness, given to moments of self-pity over the criminal case -- "It took 18 months to prove my own innocence, and this was a very, very tough situation" -- until Glasscock, reduced to rubbing his forehead more than once, ordered, "Would you just answer the questions, please? We'll get through this a lot faster."

What happens next to the investment account, the condo and the cemetery plot is up to Glasscock. As if Solomon himself would know what to do with this baby.