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Matos under fire in cross-exam

She spends day on stand; more today

ELIZABETH, N.J. - Opposing sides in the divorce trial of New Jersey's gay ex-governor focused on his estranged wife yesterday in an acrimonious dispute over whether she is entitled to collect on the opulent lifestyle she lost when a sex scandal toppled his administration.

Dina Matos - who said she now prefers to be called by her maiden name - was to face more tough questions today after spending all day on the witness stand yesterday.

Under gentle questioning from her attorney in the morning, Matos painted herself as a dutiful spouse and loyal political partner of former Gov. James McGreevey. But under a heated cross-examination in the afternoon, she was badgered into acknowledging that she was just another unpaid member of his political team.

She grew agitated as she was grilled by McGreevey attorney Stephen Haller about her contributions to his two gubernatorial campaigns and her ability to earn money after his resignation.

Matos, who was married to McGreevey for four years before they split in 2004, is trying to show that she should be compensated for the 13 more months she would have lived in the governor's mansion had her husband not resigned in disgrace.

The 41-year-old hospital executive said that she will be unemployed as of tomorrow, when the hospital closes.

She is asking for alimony and child support, and has asked the judge to award payments based in part on her husband's conduct during the marriage. In his "I am a gay American" resignation speech, McGreevey said that he had had an affair with a male staffer while married to Matos. The staffer denies the affair and says he was sexually harassed by the governor.

McGreevey, 50, now a seminary student, made $48,000 last year from part-time teaching and consulting work. He contends that he is too poor to pay alimony and that the trial has put him more than $200,000 in debt.

Matos testified yesterday that her lifestyle plummeted from luxurious to modest when she had to leave the governor's mansion four years ago.

"Obviously, I don't have a state police vehicle, no driver, no security, no housekeeping manager or other staff, chefs and groundskeepers, that were available. I also pay the mortgage, all the utilities and other expenses," she testified.

McGreevey contends that the governor's office perks are not a marital asset.

Matos said that she can no longer afford to shop for her daughter's clothes at high-end boutiques, has taken only one vacation and has borrowed $100,000 from a friend to make a down payment on her $430,000 Union County house. She said she has $250,000 in outstanding legal bills, excluding the costs of the divorce trial.

She also said that she cannot offer her daughter the things she enjoys when she stays with her father at his boyfriend's house in Plainfield. There she has her own bathroom and playroom, and can play on grounds designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York's Central Park.

Matos testified that she was proud to be New Jersey's first lady but that she doesn't expect to return to that lifestyle unless she hits the lottery. Even though no longer in that role, she said it continues to influence her life.

"Once you're in that role, I believe people expect you to conduct yourself in that manner," she said.

Earlier, she testified that it was McGreevey's idea to live in the governor's mansion. She said she went along even though the move to Princeton added an hour each way onto her daily commute.

She said that she continued to work after their only daughter was born because McGreevey wanted her to.

"Jim thought it would enhance his image to have me continue to work, so I decided to continue," she said. *