Mary Louise Starkey, head of the Denver-based Starkey International Institute of Household Management, lately has been spending almost as much time in court as she does teaching her butlers-in-training. In June, she was in Denver District Court, where she pled guilty to assaulting one of her students, Lisa Kirkpatrick, in a January 2007 incident that helped spur many former Starkey teachers and students to come forward alleging misconduct and mismanagement at the school (see the August 9, 2007 Westword story "At Your Disservice.") Last week she faced another judge, in Denver County Court, regarding a May incident in which she allegedly attacked her husband, Adil Karim – and this time the law found in her favor. The judge dismissed the domestic violence charge against Starkey with prejudice, which means the case can’t be re-tried, says City Attorney spokesman Vince DeCroce.
Karim is not pleased with the outcome
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"I am really frustrated about what happened. I can’t understand this kind of judgment,” says Karim, a French painter who met Starkey while she was traveling in Paris around 2000. Karim, who splits his time between Denver and Paris, says the judge dismissed the case because the officer who took statements from him and Starkey in May was not able to appear as a witness last week – and the judge would not reschedule the case to give the officer another chance to show up.
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That’s bad news for Karim, who says he delayed his regular summer trip to paint in Paris to be here for the trial. "How does the judge allow this for a victim who is in a very bad financial situation, who cannot go back to France to make money?" he says. "How can the judge not look at the victim, who’s been in pain and waited for a month for the trial, and not allow him a chance to speak? I wish the dismissal occurred because of the judge or jury, not because this one witness was not there. This was not justice, this was gambling."
According to Karim’s statement to police, he and Starkey had been been living apart for several months, then met one day in the apartment where Karim had been staying and got in an argument. Starkey punched him several times on the shoulder, he told police, and "then scratched him on the right cheek causing a small laceration."
Starkey, who did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment, still receives prominent attention for her school despite recent controversies. A September 20/20 news segment on the "Perks of Privilege" included a flattering look at her 27-year-old operation. When asked on the show what she advises household help to do if they have an affair with their employer, she responded, "Well, if he’s married, you’d better pack your bags!"
Karim is taking that advice, packing his bags permanently. He says the couple’s divorce will be finalized by the end of the month, at which point he’ll return to Paris for work. Karim says he hopes to return to Denver, both to fight the court’s decision and also because he now thinks of it as home: "I never dreamed of being here, But now that I’ve lived in this country, I’ve found the people here are really great.” -- Joel Warner