The Ottawa County (MI) Prosecutor's Office has dropped all charges against Wendi G., who went into hiding with her children for 18 days this past August. The news is both good and bad, as we will see.
First, the good news: Wendi won't have to endure the stress of a criminal trial, with a risk that if she were found guilty she could have serious legal consequences, including jail time, and a criminal record. She won't have to worry about jail cutting her off from contact with her children -- although this is a non-issue at the moment because the family court is not permitting her any contact with her children, as I will discuss in a post soon.
The bad news is that the criminal trial was going to be an opportunity for Wendi to present the facts about her case, which family courts in both Colorado and Michigan have refused to let her do, in a stark violation of principles of justice and due process. Wendi's defense at her criminal trial was going to be that there had been no choice for her but to hide out with her children, because of:
1) the seriousness of her daughter's disclosures;
2) the fact that her son was backing up what her daughter was saying;
3) the family court's refusal to allow Wendi to keep her children safe while a proper investigation was carried out to get at the truth of what had occurred;
4) the fact that her children's statements to forensic investigators at a Child Advocacy Center in Michigan had fully corroborated what Wendi said about her children's disclosures, and those investigators had not found evidence that the children's statements were rehearsed or coerced.
Now Wendi can't present that defense because there's no trial. Wendi's supporters have reason to suspect that the prosecutor's office dropped the charges for exactly this reason -- to keep the forensic investigation from being publicized by the media, as would no doubt have occurred. A careful examination of that report -- which I have done -- casts huge doubt on the ethics of the prosecutors and family law judges in both states who are unwilling to look carefully at this case and take appropriate action. The reason for this reticence is not clear, but one possibility is the alleged perpetrator's status as a minister of the Reform Church of America.
The prosecutor's office gave as its reason for dropping the charges that they didn't want to put the children in the position of testifying. But prosecution knew from the date the charges were filed that the children would be their main witnesses; they didn't suddenly discover this fact. Moreover, the children in this case appeared eager, not reluctant, to have their stories heard. It seems much more likely that the charges were dropped either:
1) because the prosecutor's office was put under political pressure from officials connected to the alleged perpetrator (to keep Wendi from presenting her case), or
2) because the prosecutor's office realized that a jury was not likely to look favorably on their decision to charge Wendi, once they got a chance to hear the evidence.
Wendi G.'s case is, I am sorry to say, not at all unusual. In fact, the reason I have chosen to devote so much space to the case in this blog is that it captures poignantly what is going on in dozens of other cases that I am familiar with. I would like to see Wendi's case become a rallying point to demand family court reform across the continent -- not because it is a special case, but precisely because it is so tragically ordinary.
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