Friday, November 11, 2011

JUDGE HULSING JAILS MOTHER BECAUSE HER KIDS REFUSE TO SEE THEIR FATHER

And in case you're wondering: No, it isn't Wendy G. (see my previous posts if you aren't familiar with the Wendy G. case). But there are striking similarities between the case I'm writing about today and Wendi's, including the crucial decision by the judge to refuse to hear evidence.

The mother is Ann M. She has six children, but four of them are adults and thus are no longer subject to court orders. But the two who are still minors, ages 15 and 17, refuse to go on visits with their father. I had the opportunity to speak with Ann at length today and hear her account of what has taken place (which this post will barely scratch the surface of).

The family reports that the father has a long history of serious assaults against the kids. They say that, for example, he pushed one of his sons down a flight of stairs and on another occasion grabbed his daughter by the throat as if he was going to strangle her. He threatened to shoot himself in front of the kids, and on repeated occasions threatened to kill himself by various means. One of his children was afraid enough of him that he would sleep with a knife under his pillow, and testified to that in court in front of Judge Hulsing at a hearing three weeks ago. None of the four children who are now adults wants to see him.

These reports from the family represent serious violence and the potential for lethality. However, parallel to what he did in Wendi G.'s case, Judge Hulsing simply refused to consider the reports. Then, at the most recent hearing, the minor children (17 year-old boy and 15 year-old girl) appeared at court and were prepared to speak to the judge, but he refused to hear from them, despite their age. And he refused to allow the mother to speak about anything other than whether the visits had taken place.

In the brief time that she was permitted to speak,, Ann told the judge that her children had gone on the previous visit but had been frightened by his driving, so when he came to pick them up the next time, the children refused to drive with him and said they wanted to take a separate car (with the 17-year-old driving) to his house, following him. The father was angry and drove away, and then he failed to show up for the next three scheduled visits. Ann went on to tell Judge Hulsing that the children were present at the court and wanted to tell him in their own words what had happened.

But Judge Hulsing refused to hear from the children, and apparently was not interested in whether the father had actually been the one to choose not to have the visits. He would not allow Ann to say anything more, and he ordered her directly to ten days in jail because her children had not gone on the visits. (And he apparently was unmoved by the fact that he had heard testimony before from one of the older children about how afraid he was of his father.)

Adding to the inappropriate behavior on Judge Hulsing's part is that Ann M. was unrepresented at the hearing, but had a lawyer present who was ready to represent her as soon as he could get prepared on the background of the case. She requested a two-day continuance from the judge so that she could be represented at the hearing, and Judge Hulsing refused, ordering her into jail immediately.

What possible pretext could there be a for a judge to jail an unrepresented mother when she would be able to be represented in a very short time?

Rachel, one of Ann's adult children whom I was able to speak with at length, visited her mother in jail and wrote about her experience on Facebook: "As most of you know, mom is in jail right now for not forcing her teenage kids to their father and get into his car for parenting time... She has been crying all day. She is cold (and needs me to bring her socks when i come visit her tomorrow.) For her ONE visit per week. She said it is a very sad and dark place there, but she had gotten to share Jesus with a lot of women... She is innocent and Judge Hulsing a terrible judge. He would not even listen to ****and ****. Please pray for my mom right now!" [I edited out the children's names.]

I spoke with Rachel yesterday and she told me that when her mother (who is in her mid-fifties) was released from jail two days ago she had lost weight and was badly shaken by the experience. She was kept in terrible conditions in the prison and was freezing cold when attempting to sleep.

In our conversation, Rachel confirmed the long history of violence and terrifying behaviors by her father toward her and her siblings.

There is also important evidence, including written documentation, indicating that Judge Hulsing has engaged in ex parte (private) communications about this case with people who are involved in it. If true, this would indicate another type of misconduct on Judge Hulsing's part, and a severe one. (I will write further about this issue soon.)

It would appear that there is an urgent need to focus on Judge Hulsing's conduct. Given what we know about the Wendy G. case, we now have two recent examples where Hulsing is refusing to follow proper procedure or consider the evidence, and is punishing mothers and children severely for their efforts to protect themselves and each other from what they describe as long and serious histories of abuse. With these examples in hand, we can reasonably worry that Judge Hulsing may have violated the rights of other parties as well; misconduct this extreme is unlikely to be isolated to these two cases.

I am therefore putting out a call for any parents who have received inappropriate treatment, failure to follow procedure, or destructive rulings from Judge Hulsing to please contact me at lundy.bancroftblog@gmail.com. I would like to collect as many of these stories as we can track down, to help us establish whether there is a pattern of unjust behavior on Judge Hulsing's part.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I'M STILL WAITING FOR EVIDENCE FROM THE OTHER SIDE

The handful of emails and phone calls hostile to Wendi G. that I've received have been revealing ones, and I thought you would like to hear about them.

The first was an email about two months ago, which included a series of allegations about Wendi's character and behavior (though nothing about her as a parent), and that offered no evidence about the concerns about the children except to say that the father "wouldn't even think of doing such a horrible thing."

But the end of the email was the most revealing: "I don't expect to hear back from you since your blogs testify to the fact that you're just as looney as Wendi herself. Perhaps once she's done with [man's name] ... or if he just opens his own eyes... you can make her Wendi Bancroft... and you can start your own religion/cult together. Wouldn't that be nice. (hear the sarcasm?)"

[The ellipses (series of three dots) were in the email. I have quoted these sentences verbatim, except for cutting the writer's name at the end.]

Although the name signed was a woman's, the writing seems more likely to be a man's. But in any event, the email seems to illustrate the principle that if you don't have significant arguments or evidence to offer, you focus on personal attacks and insults instead.

The second was a phone call from a woman named Tricia who stated that she was a school psychologist in Holland, Michigan. She stated that Wendi is a "very sick, very broken person" and an "extreme narcissist," though she did not explain how she knew these things. She offered to send me documents that she said would prove Wendi's dishonesty. I called Tricia, got her voice mail, and encouraged her to send the documents to me and provided my mailing address. I called again two or three weeks later and told her that I still had not received the documents, and that I was hoping she would send them. Another months has passed and there is still no sign of any documents. (Normally I wouldn't print the person's name, but I'm including it here because of the fact that she said she was a school psychologist, which, if true, would raise ethical questions about the appropriateness of the statements she left on my voice mail.)

Last, about a week ago I received the following comment, quoted in its entirety: "Do you allow any comments that disagree with the you. Where is your courage to allow both sides to be heard? It is stunning what you apparently elect to ignore the facts which are so overwhelmingly in favor of the father. Any legitimate attempt to report this story objectively is lost. You are profoundly misguided, what a shame."

Again, it's noticeable that with "all the facts" being out there, the writer doesn't offer any.

The overall effect these communications have on me is to strengthen my impression of Wendi's credibility and my concern for her children. No critical writer so far has offered anything they observed directly, any important reports they heard from the children, or any documents they have read, nor has any of them communicated in an appropriate way that is not focused on personal attacks. If this is all the other side has to offer, shouldn't we all be screaming for these kids to be moved to safety?

By the way, in answer to the question about allowing critical comments: I will allow comments that are against Wendi if they have something constructive to say or if they actually offer evidence, including the writer's own observations of events -- nothing like that has come in yet. I don't permit personal attacks in my blog. I would not, for example, permit any writings that strive to personally insult or demean even the alleged perpetrator in this case, rather than focusing on his reported behavior. I deleted a comment that ridiculed a judge, though I have freely included comments that named and criticized judicial actions in an appropriate way. The children need us to restrict ourselves to responsible communication, even when -- or perhaps especially when -- we have strong disagreements about their needs and their safety.

Note also that I myself have not written insults or accusations about the alleged perpetrator in any of my posts. My focus has been on the irresponsible, biased, and at times unethical behavior of government officials in Michigan and Colorado. The forensic investigation included tremendous detail about the children's statements, and found no indication that those statements were false, pressured, or rehearsed. Since there's no evidence that their mother put them up to saying what they said, it is the responsibility of officials to keep the children safe until it can be established why they made the statements they did. Moreover, the research on child sexual abuse and the research on domestic violence indicate that the most likely reason for the children's statements is that they are telling the truth.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

KIDNAPPING CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST WENDI G.

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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