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A Hollywood detective who investigated the incident later wrote that the boy had only a slight red mark on his thigh. The detective also spoke with Kahn. "Doctor Kahn... stated that the mother has always appeared to be a capable parent," the resulting report reads. According to Kahn, Donald "was being treated for depression," and the state report about the alleged abuse that Donald filed against Marilyn "is just a ploy on Mr. Tobkin's part to gain custody of the couple's children due to the fact that Mrs. Tobkin recently filed for divorce." The detective considered the case unfounded. But Marilyn contends she was fearful for her custody rights, so she dropped the divorce suit she had filed on December 30, 1996, and remained with her husband.
"I really do believe," Marilyn says, "that if Donald would have just submitted to treatment and medication, he could function normally. And if he could function normally and direct his intelligence for good instead of destruction, he could really help a lot of people. He could have a good life, and he could be a good father.
"But instead, he chooses to hurt people, and if he gets a mad-on for somebody, it doesn't matter if you did something wrong -- he'll find something; he'll make something up. And torture you."
On a Sunday afternoon in late 1997, Sheldon Greenbaum, a stocky and soft-spoken man, was standing in the garage of a lovely two-story home on Lincoln Street in Hollywood and chatting with the home's builder, Kim Scoratow. Greenbaum and his wife, Susan, were planning to move in soon. It would be their first home together. "I was so happy," he says.
As Greenbaum and Scoratow talked, Donald Tobkin appeared, wearing a Speedo-style bathing suit and sweating. He demanded the builder's attention, saying he urgently needed to buy a home. Scoratow agreed to sell the place next door to Donald and Marilyn, who by then was about to give birth to a third child with Donald.
It was an accident of timing that Greenbaum would live to regret, for in 2002, Donald sued the Greenbaums, alleging that, among other things, they had tried to turn Donald's kids against him.
On a recent rainy morning, the stout, bearded Greenbaum showed a visitor his Hollywood office, where he runs a business importing, exporting, and manufacturing perfumes. Thousands of dollars of his income from the small business has gone to defending himself in court against Donald. "He just destroys everything in his path," Greenbaum says. "He leaves a wake of destruction behind him."
The Greenbaums, Sheldon explains, had a front-row view during the four years that Donald and Marilyn lived together in Hollywood. The neighboring couple did what they could to be friendly and would look after the Tobkins' kids when Marilyn asked. But they tried to keep a social distance.
In those days, Donald's work as a lawyer put food on the table, but it also brought out a dark, aggressive side, Marilyn contends. In one case, for instance, Donald tried to sue two former clients, Kimberly and Linda Jarboe, for libel because they complained to the Florida Bar that he mishandled a probate case for them. The Florida Supreme Court threw out the case in 1998, ruling that Donald couldn't sue a client who had done no more than report him to the bar. He told the Herald at the time that the Jarboes had complained to avoid paying their legal fees.
Donald's philosophy in taking depositions, he says, was "arrive late, start a fight, leave early," but he outdid himself during a 1999 trial. On behalf of a Vero Beach sexagenarian named Beatrice Rose, who had suffered complications during a 1995 hip-replacement surgery, Donald sued a host of medical providers. According to legal records, a judge tossed the case because of Donald's delays, histrionics, and mistreatment of witnesses and opposing counsel. "Plaintiff did everything possible to thwart a fair and orderly trial of this case," the final judgment reads. "Everything was attempted by surprise."
Says Dr. Charles M. Fischman of Vero Beach, one of the doctors named in the suit: "I'm not a psychiatrist; I'm an internist, so people would say I don't know what I'm talking about, but the man is just bizarre."
It got worse, Marilyn says. In early 2000, she underwent abdominal surgery. She suffered an infection in the recovery, and, she contends, her husband demanded that she retain him as counsel to sue. She waffled. As they crawled into bed one night, he asked her a final time. She refused, she says, and he straddled her hips and punched her in the lower abdomen. He then lifted her legs up, she says, and slugged her twice in the vagina. She rolled out of bed and ran downstairs. "He said, 'Don't bother calling the cops; they won't see anything through your hair,'" she recalls.
On April 13, 2000, Hollywood police arrested Donald on charges that he punched his wife "with closed fists in the victim's groin area." The report includes this telling exchange: "The reportee questioned as to why he was being arrested if the victim does not have any fresh marks (defendant was referring to victim's body). It should be noted that the defendant was not advised at that point that he was under arrest."