ARTICLE FIRST PRINTED IN COUNTRY NEWS
OCTOBER -- NOVEMBER 2002 ISSUE
WARNING: THIS IS AN AMBER ALERT
FOR CHILD'S PROTECTIVE SERVICES!
By Gene Beley © 2002
Today there is a bigger chance that the County's Child Protective Services may be the kidnapper of your child or grandchild than the monsters shown on TV or the new Amber Alerts. Would you believe they get up to $6,000 Bonus per child from the State and Federal governments for each one they place for adoption and up to $100,000 a month to care for special needs children? Sure there are some circumstances that justify to removing a child from the parents' home, but the system is being abused and the legal justice system is not providing justice for the parents. One knowledgeable person and advocate for the children and parents said only about one out of four cases is legitimate. There is suspicion that select attorneys don't protest in order to gain favor from certain judges and cases are being manipulated, all the way to the Supreme Courts, to engineer laws in favor of this lucrative system. Along with advocates for homosexual rights, our entire society is being re-engineered against traditional family values. The long term consequences are very scary. In an age when no one protested much against President George Bush being placed in power when more people voted for the other man, what chance do you have against the government to win your children back in their biased system?
One parent victim went so far [as] to call it "organized crime".
A quota system has been established where social workers realize that if they don't place enough children for adoption, the State and Federal money won't be there for them to get their salaries. Unfortunately, this is happening nationwide, in great secrecy, with too much power relinquished to the social workers and the system -- another blight on our nation's freedom and a disgrace to the founding principles of this nation. Worse yet, the government kidnapping system preys on the poor who can't hire adequate legal help and keeps publicity below the radar screen. The rumor is that when they expand to the middle class, the working stiffs are next -- the ones who work so much they have no time to protest. Even if you can hire attorneys, they may be so closely tied to the corrupt system that they will tell clients to "Submit".
"That is key word," said Bob Powell, a private attorney who practices in juvenile, family and federal courts.
In this writer's research, the most shocking thing learned was that the county's system has taken away two children from a devoted father and placed them with a convicted rapist and child molester who moved in with the father's ex-wife! When Joe Caetano's wife filed for divorce in 1987 after three years of marriage, he left the house with the clothes on his back. They were given joint custody of their two children, and that's when the ex-wife's boyfriend moved in and filed a complaint with the county's Child Protective Services that Caetano had molested their three-year-old daughter. Later, the boyfriend who was a convicted rapist and child molester admitted he was the one who molested the daughter. They filed the complaint against Caetano to get more alimony and child support money.
Caetano's story has been the subject of a 1992-1993 Grand Jury investigation and even the U.S. Dept. of Justice is aware of the facts. But, the children stayed with the convicted child molester and Caetano has only been able to spend 20 hours with his two children in the last 15 years. The daughter is now 18 and the son is 17, he said.
"I'm upset with Santa Clara County's District Attorney George Kennedy, because he placed my children with a child molester," Caetano said. "The man living with my ex-wife has not even registered as a sex offender pedophile, which is required by law."
In Santa Clara County Rick Gordon, a retired San Martin truck driver, has lost 14 relatives of his extended family to this kidnapping system of Santa Clara County. He and his family have become reluctant experts on the subject.
* "The first experience was when four children were taken from my brother when they accused a dying grandfather of sexual molestation of the children," said Gordon. "It took four years to get those children back, even though the parents had nothing to do with the charge. Furthermore, the grandfather was never charged with any crime. The Federal money ran out for the County's Child Protective Services. I don't think this was a coincidence about the timing of the children's return. Worse yet, the children, who were all were very religious, good kids when they went into the system, were returned to the family with a lot of problems that included drug addiction. One later stole a car. The damage done to these kids was irreparable."
* The second experience was when my niece Kathie Bettencourt had her four children taken because her house was dirty.
* The third experience was when a cousin called the County's Child Protective Services when her son had touched her daughter and the parent was seeking help in the way of counseling or other aid. The county took all four children from her. That was their idea of helping her. It was later found that the son had touched his sister's stomach.
Another time Gordon said a daughter-in-law had two children taken by Child's Protective Services. Although they relinquished one 14-year-old daughter back to her, the daughter was told she didn't have to mind her mother or go to school. "They told her if her mother reprimanded her in any way, or yelled at her, or worse yet, spanked her, the mother would be jailed," said Gordon.
Gordon said the family's next experience with this powerful agency was when his grandson got into a fight at school and had to go to the principal's office. "My dad's going to take me out to the barn and make me clean cobwebs," he grandson said out loud. The other boy used an old figure of speech when he said his dad would kill him. As required by law when they hear such things today, the teacher called the police.
When the police came to their house, the boy wasn't there yet. "So by the time Child Protective Services arrived, we had an attorney," Gordon said.
"What are the charges?" the attorney asked. "Nothing," he was told. Then his attorney asked, "Why are you hassling these people?" "Because we think they might do something."
"They had to release the boy," Gordon said. "My son has since moved his family to Utah to protect his children and because they fear the Santa Clara County system."
However, such a move guarantees nothing because these abuses are going on nationwide because of the Federal money involved; California is no worse than Utah. Florida's system has been featured on a 60 Minutes TV show and other such programs many times for their flagrant abuses. But until you talk to local people, you think, "Oh, that's way far away and doesn't affect us."
Kathie Bettencourt, who formerly lived at Gordon's house, has become a full time child advocate fighting the system. She works closely with Klout For Kids in San Jose and has learned she can do more herself than the original private attorney that took her case. This all began back in 1998 when her house in Santa Clara was vandalized and she was dating a person who double crossed her. He told Social Services she was keeping her children in a dirty house and she was on drugs.
towards the $250 cost of a dumpster to clean it up in a very short time. I didn't have the extra money to get the dumpster, so that was a problem. I did go to parenting classes and drug rehabilitation. I had already turned my drugs over to the police back in 1994 and told them I wanted help.
"I trusted the public defender at first, but I learned the hard way that they didn't represent me properly in my efforts to get back my children."
"Kathie would have been better off on her own," interjected Attorney Powell, "because any objection she could've made would have been deemed by the Appellate Court to have been made. This is an important legal step that was not done."
"One year later we realized out attorney, John Padilla, was not doing his job," added Bettencourt. "As I began doing some of it myself and filed one motion and he did just the cover sheet, he had four errors on the cover sheet. One [error] stated my two daughters were married to each other!"
Attorney Padilla was named attorney of the year by the Santa Clara County Bar Association, after being recommended by Judge Leonard P. Edwards. Power said Padilla was handpicked by Judge Edwards simply because Padilla doesn't register objections to hardly anything.
"We would stand a better chance with the Mafia!" Bettencourt said about her experience of Padilla representing her with Judge Edwards.
When Bettencourt went into Superior Court by herself the first time, she even read the handbook written by the court Judge Leonard B. Edwards.
"The judge yelled at me that I needed to hire an attorney," continued Bettencourt.
The County put the head D.A. and head County Counselor up against her in this Superior Court case, but she managed to win overnight stays with her daughter.
" My other daughter was lied to and told I was arrested for prostitution, which is not true," Bettencourt said. "They even told I was excommunicated from our church. We've made it clear we are Mormons and it is actually hard to get an excommunication from the Mormon Church and simply not true. But they convinced her not to see me again and I'm under a court order not to talk to her or I'll never see either of my children again."
Attorney Powell told about another one of his outrageous cases where a mother, Candida, lost five children to the system.
"The first three were for a dirty home and the next two were for child abuse perpetuated by the father who is now in prison. Last Feb. 15 Candida had another baby by a man who has helped her turn her life around. They were living in an immaculate house when trouble came again from Children's Protective Services.
"Santa Clara County has what they call Sibling Protocol where they came out to investigate after the new baby was born. They came on March 12 and the house was immaculate and there was food in the cupboards and even extra breast milk in the refrigerator. They had even bought a $600 crib. Candida was told by the social worker that they would write 'a favorable report.'"
"Three days later the social worker submitted a petition that only contained information about the other children and why they had been taken. There was not one iota of information about the current situation and her clean house. The bottom line is the whole story wasn't told. The County came and took the one-month-old baby and placed it with the father. She had to move out. Now he's a bus boy and she's a waitress so they couldn't afford attorneys to fight the case.
Attorney Powell and Paralegal-Advocate Junior Manning said the County has three grades for rating cases with children:
A. is "intentional".
B. is the big gray area...."Failure to protest" -- Powell and Manning say this can cover almost any case.
C. is severe emotional abuse.
Powell said the first important hearing is the Detention Hearing and that hearing costs about $20,000 for the trial.
"People believe, if they do what they are told to do, they will get their kids back. Sometimes that does happen, more frequently not."
"Then the next step is the Jurisdiction Hearing where they decide whether to keep the children out of the home. The third step is the Disposition Hearing that tells the parents what services are needed and hoops to jump through to get the children back. Half of these services usually fit and 50% are put on for conditions to guarantee failure of the parent(s) so the County will get the child. Babies are the easiest to get adopted. In Candida's case, with her first four children, no witness and no document was put in on her behalf or any third party statements.
"When it came to the baby," explained Manning. "Powell took over and found they had no current circumstances to seize the child. They had taken the child on a phony warrant obtained by a person who had no personal knowledge of the case. That is why I call it a phony warrant. Everything on the petition was about her previous five children."
Reunification is a word you hear a lot around the victims of the County's Child Protective Services. This is the program that gives the County the authority to dictate what is necessary to get the children back.
"Kathie's reunification is a joke," Powell said.
"I was set up to fail every direction," Bettencourt confirmed.
"I was going from Stevens Creek and Monroe by Valley Fair to visit my daughters in a foster home (where she had supervised visitations) and then, after that, going to see my son in a shelter near the 85 freeway and Union. This was about six miles in high traffic time. I was getting slammed for being late for my visits. One time the social worker changed the visit time on his schedule by an hour but didn't tell me.
"One time during the Christmas season, Uncle Rick picked up my grandmother in Salinas and was bringing her to see the boys at Clover House shelter. They told him she wasn't allowed. My 86-year-old grandmother began crying. They told her if she didn't shut up, she'd never see her grandchildren again."
"The system tries to minimize visitations to break the family bond," explained Powell. "If they decide they want the kid for the $6,000, they'll get the kid."
"Courts are like slot machines," said Manning. "They even ignore precedent winning cases. Last year in Illinois Judge Paloymar ruled that the Dependency System in that state is unconstitutional. California learned from that and is now plotting their cases (to combat the Illinois case)."
"I have personally witnessed perjury of social workers in court," San Martin resident Gordon said.
Bettencourt told of one incident when she was accused of an unauthorized visit with her children at a San Jose swimming pool on July 4, 2002. Deputy D.A. Carol Jones and her investigator, Michael Gammino, and Social Worker Debra Dougherty had filed a complaint that Bettencourt had committed this offense. However, Bettencourt was at Gordon's house on July 4 at the alleged offense time enjoying a barbecue with about 75 people. When she offered to bring four people into court to testify as witnesses, the court refused to allow that to happen.
Bettencourt had shingles when the court took up the matter and Judge Thomas Hansen ruled, because she was contagious, they would allow a telephone conference hearing.
"When the court was asked if they condoned the perjury, the judge took the remark off the record and Judge Melinda Stewart hung up."
Perjury is not prosecuted in Santa Clara County," said Powell.
Attorney Powell told Country News about another recent case where the County told a lie that a mother wasn't feeding a child.
"When we got to court, the petition didn't say anything about not feeding the child," Powell said. "There was a digestive tract problem. This was a special needs child. The County can get up to $100,,000 a month for a special needs child."
The Klout for Kids group accuses the County Child's Protective Services of using half-truths and petty things to make a false case against parents to grab the children they want.
"One woman received a bed and a table on welfare, which was against the rules, and was convicted of fraud 11 years ago," continued Powell. "That was in the Child's Protective Services petition when they took her child. After I got the kid back, that was to be stricken from the record, but they put it back in the next day!"
Powell summarized the problems with the system:
* It is closed to the public and the public can't come to court to watch.
They really use that to their advantage. In Colorado they have gone to jury trials at the option of the parents.
* The money incentive system to the government screws up everything.
* Hearsay evidence is allowed. They can talk to Joe Blow, The Eskimo and get testimony.
* The indigent parents get extremely poor representation. These court appointed attorneys just tell the parents to submit, submit, submit.
On the positive side, one of the most encouraging things to happen in the law is GC820-21 that was enacted in 1995. For the first time, the immunity of social workers changed from absolute immunity to qualified immunity.
"They can now be liable if they misrepresent, commit perjury, fraud or produce testimony gained under duress -- like bargaining for control of one child or more over other children in the family," Powell said.
"The bad news is the social workers still do this all the time! The social workers are a major problem. They are under trained, and undereducated in the law and given far too much power."
Usually states earn $4,000 for each child adopted from foster care and $2,000 more for each "special needs" child. In order to be eligible for incentive payments, each state must increase its adoptions. If they don't, the state receives nothing. These incentive payments are based on the number of adoptions that exceed the average of the previous three years. If that number of adoptions that exceeds the average of the previous three years. If the previous average number is 500 adoptions and the current number if 600, the state receives incentive payments for 100 adoptions. The math is easy. Increased adoptions = increased money. Where the emphasis was formerly on "reunification" with the natural parents if possible, the trend now is towards quick adoptions. The County maintains this is to prevent children from languishing for years in foster care. After Pres. Clinton passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in 1997, child protection became big business.
Whereas parents used to have 18 months to rehabilitate themselves, the window was shortened to one year, or, if the child was under three, the parents are only given six months. Another law referred to as concurrent planning even allows social workers to begin planning immediately for adoption while the parents are still struggling to regain the children. Once a parent loses reunification rights, he or she has only seven calendar days (not working days) in which to file an appeal. They will probably have to do it themselves and it is a intense exercise hard for even legal minds to accomplish. This is another way the out-of -control system is biased against the parents.
"You've got people firing their attorneys and going it alone," summarized Advocate Manning. "How bad is that?"
If the children are returned to people who have the money or property, the parents get a bill from Child's Protective Services, and other multiple sources for up to $100,000. If they don't have the money, the County will usually bill the state and the Federal government.
"In a recent County budget," stated Manning, "it said that Child's Protective Services had no cost to the County. Isn't that interesting?"
by Gene Beley © 10-11-2002
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ARTICLE FIRST PRINTED IN COUNTRY NEWS
DEC. 2002 AND JAN. 2003 ISSUE
AMBER ALERT --
THE STORY THAT GREW LEGS
AND WALKED OFF THE PAGE
By Gene Beley © 2002
"WARNING: This is an Amber Alert for the Children's Protective Services!" The article in our last issue that got more telephone and mail response than any other article we've ever run in 13 years. Unfortunately, "Murphy" (from Murphy's Law) came to work for us the day before we published and all the corrections we made did not matriculate through the several different computer disk versions to make it to the printing plates and press in Salinas where we print. Thus this follow-up story takes you behind the scenes on a Country News investigative story under deadline pressure with just a country editor at work and no assistants except a good proof reader who is not at fault for any of the computer errors. This story reveals some strange twists and turns where the story simply walked off the page.
On the light side, the experience reminds me of what a Montana editor once said: "I don't print the truth. Only what people tell me." On the serious side, we printed that Joe Caetano's name was Joseph Caetano, as we originally thought he said "g" instead of "t". San Jose attorney, Michael Schwerin, kindly wrote and faxed us to point out this fact. He also accused us of having another gross error of falsely accusing a man of rape, because it was plea bargained to kidnap charges by the (Santa Clara County) D.A.'s office George Kennedy! We are also printing a letter to a judge from Michael Schwerin, where he apologizes for lying under oath!
"No, that's okay, Gene," he told me. "I saw a copy of Attorney Schwerin's letter and he had my first name wrong. It is not Joseph! My legal name is Joe. I really got upset when people call me Joseph!"
So even attorneys can make mistakes. They are human too. Also, on the most negative side of the ledger, a key source on our last issue's story got arrested for being an unregistered sex offender and harboring two children from their father. I discovered this fact when I awoke at 5 a.m. on November 4, 02, and turned on the TV, to see Junior Manning, 46, whose legal name is Florencio Maning Jr., being arrested and handcuffed at the Budget Inn Motel in Morgan Hill. The children were returned to Channel 7 in San Francisco, so they considered it a big scoop and ran the story for several days. The next morning, the San Jose Mercury had Maning on the front page and also featured more details for several more days.
When I met with Maning at the California Family Advocacy Centers' Justice for Children office in San Jose for our original story in the last edition along with attorney Robert R. Powell (whose business card reads, "Family Dependency, personal injury law and bankruptcy"), both men impressed me as being very bright and passionate about their child advocacy cause. I later asked local family law attorney Laura Perry if she knew them. She said she did not know Maning, but that Powell had an excellent reputation and "he would not lead you astray."
Maning and Powell wanted to inform the public that the Children's Protective Services is a government agency that needs to have more checks and balances.
My family had a close call with our grandson being checked on by Children's Protective Services while my daughter was going through a divorce and was at work. Her ex-spouse had a relative across the street who called CPS and allegedly said drunks were taking care of my grandson. That's when I began taking more notice of how dangerous this agency can be. Research on the last edition's story educated me about how federal and state adoption bonuses to Children's Protective Services have corrupted the system. These adoption bonuses from $4,000 - $6,000 came into law during the Clinton Administration. The purpose was to speed up the adoption of children in shelters. Now it has become a major source of funding for Children's Protective Services and allied agencies. In short, it has become an industry.
Fortunately, an intelligent deputy sheriff answered the call to my daughter's house, rather than a social worker, and recognized it was wasting his time. But it was too close for comfort. Others haven't been so lucky. So this personal experience led me to have great empathy for their cause.
This Children's Protective Services government agency, the courts and attorneys end up with millions of dollars that should be going towards free legal service for needy parents whose children have been extricated from them, frequently for flimsy reasons. Although many of these people who fall prey to the system are not poster children for society, the majority are just single, hard working parents going through divorces and trying to pay the rent, food, and basics of life. Many are outstanding parents. They just fall into the American Legal Black Hole where it's "Justice as much justice as you can afford," as one Beverly Hills attorney long ago told me when I had a problem in another business.
After paying one attorney $5,000 to start proceedings for out daughter's divorce that would determine which percentage of custody she would obtain for our grandson, we balked at paying the next $4,000, because I realized this would become a lifetime support for attorneys. That second payment dropped to about $1800 when the law firm found out we wouldn't foot the bill and the firm kindly showed my daughter how even the secretary could do some of the paperwork. Now my daughter is handling her own legal case and learning the system the hard way. I'm encouraging her to read Nolo Press law books and become a paralegal, if not an attorney, to help herself and perhaps others. She will be dealing with child support issues with our grandson's father until our grandson in 18 or beyond, if he goes to college. There are millions of others like her who need a better, simpler system. This writer proposes a new court system based on the Small Claims Court where no attorneys are allowed and the litigants can present their own cases to the judge and get a fair hearing.
We need more checks and balances to get rid of the present expensive and unfair system where ex-spouses and their relatives can call Children's Protective Services and make blind accusations against their ex's, using the children as pawns -- which are sometimes believed in an upside down court system. It is outrageous that ex-spouses and their relatives can call Children's Protective Services and make upside-down allegations that have no basis in truth and plunge the victims into the court system that becomes a 24-hour nightmare, seven days a week.
In the Elizabeth Summers/Allen Brumbaugh case we chronicle in the last segment of this series, they tell how a court-appointed attorney for their children even acted like a Superior Court judge, allegedly calling their school and telling the school psychologist not to allow the mother to attend her parent-child's conference! At best, these victims fall into a legal manhole where it takes a lot of money for attorneys to get them back out, or a lot of time off work for the victims to do the legal work themselves that is sometimes rejected by the courts, simply because they aren't using attorneys!
In my entire journalistic career of more than 40 years, I have never thought to have a police report run on a story subject, but after Junior Maning, it taught me a new journalism lesson. If I'm dealing with a sensitive story like this, perhaps it's not a bad idea. Although I was depressed over the turn of events with such a key source as Maning, my wife, who has listened to another friend's incredible story of how they've lost one of their grandchildren to Child's Protective Services, said, "The story needed to be told." And the many calls and e-mails I've received from victims living in fear of the Family Court System and Child's Protective Services have led me to believe all media needs to do more stories on this subject.
Attorney Robert Powell claimed we didn't give him a copy before we went to press and misquoted him for a quote that should have been attributed to Paralegal Junior Maning. We'll admit he was right and we had endeavored to change that before the press date, after talking to Maning and Cathy Bettencourt who reviewed the story before we went to press. Again, Murphy worked overtime and it disappeared into the computer Black Hole and we apologize to Powell on behalf of our sometimes failed system -- just like attorneys and courts can make mistakes. Taking notes from three or four people in the same room can lead to that problem, but we did fax a copy of the story to Maning and Powell before we went to press. It was also seen by Cathy Bettencourt, another child advocate and victim, and Joe Caetano.
"If Junior goes to jail," Powell told the San Jose Mercury News for their November 8, 2002 story, "as long as it's not forever, he would gladly do that if he felt it had caused society to look at the underbelly of the CPS system and of family courts."
Although I don't condone what Junior Maning did in his past, he may be just a strange missionary for the cause not unlike some Catholic priests who have gotten into trouble the past few years, shocking parishioners, and discrediting themselves. Like the priests, many of Manning's loyal followers have turned against him for his sins of omission of not revealing his past conviction and failure to register as a sex offender.
That October-November 2002 issue of Country News was widely distributed in Santa Clara County legal circles, especially during protests against the Children's Protective Services and the court system that seems to work against people who can't afford $250 an hour plus attorneys. Protesters claimed that more damage is being done by Children's Protective Services than good, with their tendency to encourage divorce and adopting out the children to people outside the family, even when grandparents and responsible family members are willing to take charge.
We received another e-mail November 7th from Sue Averett, who works for the Department of Family Court Services (DFCS):
I read with some concern your recent article of support for Florencio "Junior" Maning. Often, these kinds of situations have many more facets than meet the eye. There was an article in the San Jose Mercury News earlier this week regarding Mr. Maning. He was arrested several days ago, having been accused of harboring two young girls who were allegedly kidnapped. Further, it was reported in the Mercury News article that Mr. Maning is a convicted sex offender, who has failed to register himself as he is legally mandated to do, according to Morgan Hill police.
I think it is important for your readers to know there are more aspects to this story than were originally presented by the Country News. I work for DFCS, and while I realize that the agency may not always respond to the media regarding case specific charges, due to the confidential nature of our work, I noticed that there was no mention in your story of any attempt by the Country News to obtain comment or information from DFDCS regarding how we actually deal with DFCS child abuse allegations.
Sincerely, Sue Averett, Gilroy, California
This writer immediately responded to her via e-mail that I would welcome such a meeting. She wrote again.
Thanks so much for your reply. I am forwarding it to our community relations department. Hopefully, they will be contacting you.
Sincerely, Sue Averett
Although I looked forward to such an interchange where I could take a knowledgeable "victim" with me to help in the interview, no one ever responded before we went to press for this issue on December 1 and I wrote her back with this information.
On the good side, we heard that some judge's law clerks were telling people about the judges reading the Country News article and calling other judge friends and telling them, "We don't need this kind of publicity." (It came out just before the election, which was probably another factor for their emotional response and interest.)
Now we'll print the two attorneys' letters verbatim, chastising us with every accusation they could muster. We'll give them their equal time, which will probably surprise attorney Michael Schwerin, who wrote, "It's too bad the general public will never know about your incompetence because I am sure your outright failures regarding this article will never become public."
But since he ended his letter saying, "Now that I know the type of garbage your publication is, I will never pick it up again," he probably won't get to read his letter, of the other NEW supporting story showing that corruption exists in the system. Such information in the public domain will undoubtedly tick off more attorneys and/or judges, but we feel these people being beaten down by the system still have a right to tell their stories and what's being done to them. Not enough newspapers are aware of this public crisis or are willing to go on the attack mode, which leads to a secret government within the system that is far too powerful with too few checks and balances. And as we have emphasized, the problem is being aggravated by state and Federal money being poured into adoption bonuses for Children's Protective Services. These good intentions of the Clinton Administration to get kids in shelters adopted out faster had good intentions, but the road is paved with lots of government good intentions, right?
LETTER FROM ATTORNEY MICHAEL C. SCHWERIN (printed verbatim)
Schwerin and Sumcad Law Offices
84 W. Santa Clara St., Suite 550
San Jose, California 95113
Tel. (408) 295-4232
Oct. 7, 2002
The Country News
17790 Manzanita Drive
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
Dear Mr. Beley:
I was floored when I read your article title, Warning: This is an AMBER ALERT for Child's Protective Services. I was not floored by what your article said but by the inaccuracies and the failure to verify even the smallest facts contained in that article. I hope you don't have the nerve to ever call yourself a journalist because even five minutes of basic fact checking would have shown that much of the article is pure nonsense. Anyone who considers himself a serious journalist has some basic integrity and does some fact checking. It's too bad the general public will never know about your incompetence because I am sure your outright failures regarding this article will never become public.
Your first basic error is the fact that you don't even have the name correct for the first character you are trying to feature. Joseph Caetano is the man's name, not Caegano. If you can't even get the name right from the start, it is clear you did not check anything else. The court records (most of which are public) have the name spelled right. Obviously you did not take the time to verify any of it or even look at the court documents. The family law case number is 187FL627140 in the event you are interested in going to the courthouse (191 North First Street, San Jose, California) and looking at the court file. It is many volumes long and tells a very sad story.
Your second basic error, which opens you up to a huge lawsuit, is the fact that your refer to a "convicted rapist and child molester who moved in with the father's ex-wife." The man was never convicted of rape. The man was never convicted of child molestation. The man was never required to register as a sex offender. In fact, the man became the children's stepfather and they had more of a relationship with him that they did (Editor's note: grammatical error of Schwerin's retained so nothing in letter is than changed) with Mr. Caetano.
There is no document anywhere or any court hearing when the man "admitted he was the one who molested the daughter." The daughter to this day, believes it was Mr. Caetano himself who was improper with her.
I could go on and on. This case has been going on for years and the reality is, it is a very sad story. The bottom line is, after all these years, the children came into open court, on the record and testified, in front of their mother, father and other family members and the Judge, that they did not want to have anything to do with Mr. Caetano. It was a brave thing for Lisa and Jason to do. It was also a sad thing for them to have to do.
How do I know these facts. I was the attorney appointed to represent Lisa and Jason through the family court process. I have known Lisa and Jason for years, since I was appointed to represent them. I did my own investigation into this matter when I was first appointed. I met with Mr. Caetano and listened to his sad story for almost four hours. I did my own independent research into this case, reviewed the facts and drew my own conclusion.
Apparently, you did none of this. If I were you I would be embarrassed and ashamed to have put out the product you did on the newsstand for public consumption. I began reading your paper because my neighbor, Lois Bianachi, was doing food reviews and I enjoyed reading about her and Dennis' explorations.
Now that I know the type of garbage your publication is, I will never pick it up again.
Very truly yours,
Michael C. Schwerin
Attorney for Lisa and Jason Caetano.
(Editor's Note: Lois Bianchi's name was misspelled by Schwerin, so we hereby correct that spelling [Bianchi]. We just wanted to run his letter with every word the same for public consumption.) Yes, even attorneys can misspell names. However, perhaps this will show how even we journalists, too, can unfortunately misspell names.
The other attorney, Robert Powell, who served as our other principal source of information on the story, along with the now jailed Junior Maning at the same meeting in San Jose, wrote the following letter shortly before Maning was arrested November 4, 2002. Powell's letter is printed below verbatim.
October 17, 2002
Dear Mr. Beley:
I first want to make clear that although I am writing to you to "complain" about some things, I am sincerely thankful that you took the time to meet with me, and others, about the problems in our juvenile court system in Santa Clara County. We need more press like this before anything will ever change here.
That being said, there were a couple of rather critical mistakes in the article, that I wish to ask you publish a correction, or retraction on. In the future, I am going to request that you bring a tape recorder for a meeting of the size we had, or even if we meet one on one. That will help you verify what was said. It would also be wise to allow the persons you are quoting to "proof" the article before publication. That way, no one will be needlessly, or merely incorrectly quoted in a manner that misrepresents facts, persons, or circumstances.
I want to address two things. First, I did not, at any time, say that John Padilla was named attorney of the year, or that he was hand picked by Judge Leonard P. Edwards because he doesn't register objections to hardly anything. I have no idea if Mr. Padilla was ever named attorney of the year for anything. I am not a member of the local bar association, and since I care so little about such awards I would have no reason to even inquire who had been named "Attorney of the Year" either. Mr. Padilla contacted me and wanted to know if in fact he had ever been named Attorney of the Year because he didn't know anything about it.
I did not say anything during our conversation about John Padilla, and suspect you integrated some comment thrown out by someone else while you were talking with me. So, please print whatever kind of retraction or correction is necessary to make clear I never made such a comment.
(Editor's note: After I received this letter, Powell's researcher and paralegal Junior Maning verified by telephone that he (Maning) made that statement. But we have no way of knowing now if Maning's credibility is worth two cents -- like the Montana editor said, it's what he told us and we may have gotten taken and add us to his victim list. If so, we apologize to Attorney Padilla.)
The second matter has to do with the recitation of facts about a person named Candida. I did not tell you that no witnesses were ever called in her four contested trials. I told you that in two of the four, no witnesses were called. In one of them only she was called. And, in another, only she and a social worker were called as witnesses. The part about no documents submitted on her behalf in all four trials is, sadly, absolutely correct. Please do correct the "witness" claims just for the sake of clarity.
Finally you wrote that I said a special needs child can garner the county $100,000 per month. I never said that. That should have been quite obviously incorrect, because if it were correct, they would only need a few to sustain their entire budget! I note you do have the correct figures elsewhere in the article, and that too should have caused you to pause. Please correct that as well.
(Editor's note: When we gave Maning a copy of the article before we went to press, he did correct this figure. He said it should have said "up to $100,000" which is a lot different than $100,000 per child, but this is one of the many corrections in this article PLUS some other articles that never made it to the press due to computer link glitches when Murphy worked overtime that weekend.)
All I am asking Mr. Beley is to be a little (o.k. a lot) more careful when taking down information. There are a lot of problems with the juvenile court systems, not just in Santa Clara County, but statewide, and I will talk with you for days about them if you would like. I presently am involved in eight civil rights cases against social service agencies in the state, and if I had more time I would be able to take about one a week. The abuses are frightening. However, I and others will be hesitant to talk with the press if not correctly quoted.
I want to finish with again thanking you for your efforts in this regard, and I do hope that none of the flak that you may receive will deter your efforts. This is a story that needs to be told and needs very badly to be told.
Sincerely, Robert Powell
Cc: Judge Leonard Edwards and John Padilla, Esq.
Editor's Note: Before Maning was arrested and jailed, he did confirm with us that he told Powell that I had sent them a copy of the story before it went to press. Powell may have been out of town at the time, but it was sent to Powell, Maning and Cathy Bettencourt. Before we went to press, we tried to contact Attorney Powell, but he did not return phone calls. Undoubtedly he is swamped with work. Country News even referred several people to him looking for a good attorney who knows this field.
Most people who called us or wrote us were in absolute fear of the system, and thus did not want us to print their letters or use their names. We had a brave exception that validated the importance of trying to help Powell communicate to the public that the system needs to be changed.
By Gene Beley © Dec. 2002 and Jan. 2003
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EDITORIAL FIRST PRINTED IN COUNTRY NEWS
DEC. 2002 - JAN. 2003 ISSUE
THANKS, ATTORNEY MICHAEL SCHWERIN, FOR LEADING US
TO MORE INFORMATION ON HOW THE FAMILY COURT OPERATES
An Editorial by Gene Beley
Editor and Publisher of Country News
When Michael C. Schwerin accused Country News of not having our facts correct on a person we said was an alleged rapist and child molester living with Joe Caetano's ex-wife and two children (with the Family Court and Children's Protective Services' blessing), the attorney's letter did cause us to do even more research. We wish to thank Schwerin. It's amazing what we found.
In addition to his wrong spelling of restaurant writer Lois Lamb Bianchi's name in his letter to us, after pointing out our name spelling error on Joe Caetano, we found an even more serious error he made in his professional life. Country News uncovered a document dated Dec. 2, 1997 , where he wrote a letter to Commissioner Mary Ann Grilli, Santa Clara County Superior Court, apologizing for not telling the truth under oath! Interestingly enough, it involved the same felon he wrote us about. So it is very pertinent that we let our readers know about his letter to the court:
"I presented to the court some misinformation at the last hearing in this matter, Oct. 28, 1996, and would like to correct my statements," the letter from Michael Schwerin on his law firm stationary begins. "My statements were not directed to intentionally mislead the court or influence the court improperly. The error is completely my responsibility and I hereby apologize to the court, to Mr. Caetano, and his counsel and to Ms. Lopez and her counsel. As part of my statement at that hearing, I indicated that Mr. Lopez had never been convicted of a felony. That statement is not correct. Mr. Lopez has in fact been convicted of a felony, possibly two. It appears that one was in 1987 and the other in 1983."
In that research, we learned that it appears that D.A. George Kennedy and his office did a plea bargain with the accused man, G. Lopez. We also learned Lopez, a legal resident alien, has used eight different aliases. In a San Jose Police Dept. Crime Report Case No. 84-022-049, it describes an alleged "Kidnap and possible lewd acts committed on a 14 year old girl in 1984." The summary begins, "On 1-22-84, at approx. 0830 hours, a sexual assault occurred on an unknown street in the secluded hills of Sunol, CA." A 14-year-old girl, who was a friend of the Lopez family, and worked with him at the Berryessa Flea Market, was being driven to work by him, but instead drove her to a secluded area and tried to make a sexual advance. The 14-year-old fled the vehicle and was rescued by Art Newberry who resided at 12355 Foothill Road in Sunol.
A Santa Clara County Juvenile Court Memorandum from Delphone Scott we were able to obtain gave a "Rap Sheet of Gregory Lopez." After giving his eight alias names, it continues to say, "Some of his charges consisted of: DWI (driving while intoxicated), failure to provide family support, vagrancy, annoying or molesting child under 18, enticing a child under 14, assault and intent to commit mayhem, rape, sodomy, oral copulation, lascivious acts upon a child, penetration genital/anus and foreign object and violation of promise to appear. These incidents occurred between December 8, 1974 through June 21, 1988. This recent information is a necessary addition to the court hearing. It was stamped, "Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office Confidential Record for official use only."
In reading Case #1-87-FL627140, Lopez was asked, "Do you understand the proposed disposition to a plea of guilty to the charge of kidnapping alleged to have occurred on the 22nd of Jan., 1984, the victim being _____________________________ (a minor)____in Santa Clara County, forcibly stealing or taking her away? If you do plead guilty to that charge, it will be with the understanding that you not be sent to prison. You will, however, or can however, be sentenced to one year in the County Jail. You can be required to be on probation for up to five years, and required to perform conditions that relate to the probation order.
"Okay," Lopez said.
Lopez was then told if he violated his probation terms, he could be sent to state prison for up to seven years.
"Do you understand that?"
"Okay. It's, okay."
"When you say, "Okay", say "yes", if that's what you mean," the prosecutor added.
It is interesting that George Kennedy, who campaigns on his tough stance on child molesters, was the prosecutor on this case in the People Versus Gregorio Lopez. (John Padilla was representing Lopez.)
"I'd be willing to enter into a stipulation at this time on condition the defendant not go to prison at this time if he pleads guilty to a violation of penal code section 207 (A) as alleged," Kennedy told the Judge Lawrence F. Terry in Dept. 3 Superior Court in 1984.
"And that's a felony kidnapping with a conditional plea?" the Judge asked Lopez's attorney, Padilla.
"Yes," Padilla replied.
"All right," the judge said. The judge added that he advised him this charge could affect his immigration status and result in his being deported or being denied re-entry or being denied re-entry into the U.S. and that he was required by law to inform the man. He went on to question Padilla about his education (sixth grade).
Okay, so Kennedy's office plea bargained with this man on the rape charges to kidnapping to make Schwerin technically correct on his claims to Country News. The point is this man is not Father of the Year material. As we read, this case is an example of how the courts, Family Court, and police agencies have knowledge of these things, but the legal system twists them and does back room deals to the public's detriment, as well as to law enforcement's hard work. As Schwerin's own letter to a judge admits, attorneys sometimes do not tell the truth even under oath.
We thank Schwerin for writing us to make these points even more clear. He is an interesting source to write such a strong letter, criticizing others for a spelling error and a technicality. But again, we appreciate the letter that led to getting a bigger picture of the Santa Clara County old boys' legal system, where Schwerin is still practicing today, despite lying under oath and writing a letter to apologize to the court.
The public has watched the OJ trial, but they don't get to see these more mundane criminal court cases and back room deals done by the DA's office where people like Lopez are turned loose on society after a slap on the wrist. If anyone can explain why, they are a lot smarter than this writer! In the Lopez trial, a motion by the defense to exclude witnesses such as William Newberry and the minor were granted. Why?
Who can explain? It's "the system".
The point is, for our story referring to Joe Caetano, Lopez is not a model citizen who should have had more custody over Caetano's children than he, the natural father, who has no criminal record. Caetano has become a poster person for father's rights and even more than a $40,000 judgment against his ex-wife Judy Caetano Lopez and her felon husband discussed, Gregorio Lopez, for false accusations against him.
To this day, Caetano lives in a small studio apartment in San Jose, surrounded by legal documents and a computer for research, fighting the system and openly bitter on how the Family Court treated him. Although his two children have grown to 17 and 18 years old now, the legal battle and expenses have consumed Joe's life and he is forever changed by the system. Schwerin has earned a living off cases like these, fighting the Joe Caetanos of the world, who got none of the money from the courts and had to pay every time he went to court. His meager judgment won probably didn't even pay his legal expenses.
Again, it's time to give pink slips to these attorneys and create a Small Claims type court for Family Court where attorneys are barred and only a modest fee is charged to litigate issues.
by Gene Beley © December 2002
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ARTICLE FIRST PRINTED IN COUNTRY NEWS
DEC. 2002 AND JAN. 2003
ALLEN MILLER BRUMBAUGH & ELIZABETH SUMMERS
DISCUSS THEIR BATTLE WITH THE FAMILY COURTS
By Gene Beley © 2002
Allen Brumbaugh, an ex-sheriff's deputy and son of an early chief engineer of Memorex, and his ex-wife Elizabeth Summers, a medical imaging document control employee, are fighting the Santa Clara Family Court Services to get their two children back. They have taken a brave step to go public with their plight by telling their story to Country News. Although they divorced in March 1998 after six years of marriage, they say they have become better friends in this joint fight to get their children back to Elizabeth. In their case, they have never had any disagreements on the children's welfare.
Allen has even sold his house in Gilroy to raise money to hire an attorney, because "the only thing we are concerned about now is getting the children back home with Elizabeth," Allen said.
Their sad saga began in September 2001 (three years after his divorce from Elizabeth) when Allen broke off with an ex-fiancee, who reportedly got even with him by making an allegation that Allen was a child pornographer. The courts ordered an investigation; the Gilroy Police Department started the investigation and the Family Court Services took the children from Allen and gave them to Elizabeth at that point. Once they got dropped into the government Family Court system, things began to get ugly.
"Were there any grounds for the pornography accusation?" this writer asked him. Did he read Hustler Magazine or something similar?"
"No, I don't have a clue to this day," Allen answered.
The Gilroy Police closed their investigation in July 2002. Allen and Elizabeth went to Dept. 74, Family Court to appeal to them on July 6, 2002. (The court had fortunately not put them in a shelter, but allowed an aunt to have custody.)
"We were told to take parenting classes in September 2001," begins Allen. "If I was convicted of the crime I was accused of, I was to follow orders from the DA's office, or Probation Department and was told I had 24 hours to sign up for the class."
When Elizabeth tried to sign up, she was told, "We don't do that any more."
"During this period, I was on supervised visitations with the children until we were assigned a new court date," said Allen. The children were assigned a court appointed attorney, appointed by Judge Mary Ann Grilli. Elizabeth was also ordered to take parenting classes."
Elizabeth was bluntly honest that she was in trouble three years previously on a drug charge in March 2000 when she was in a bad relationship with a man who was making drugs in her house and they got arrested. "I went through a nine month program and graduated and am still on probation from that man's activities."
This is mentioned only because it is pertinent to how the system will seize on anything in their past and use it against them, although they have paid for that mistake and have led model lives. Elizabeth's life is typical of the many case histories of women, especially, who are not rich enough to hire knowledgeable attorneys who know how to beat the system.
"Elizabeth completed every class they asked her to PLUS some," said a friend, Shana Ruth of San Jose.
"I even had a commendation in my probation file from a judge," Elizabeth added. "That judge is a good guy. I really like him!"
Allen said he had an epiphany in Feb. 2001 when his daughter had her seventh birthday.
"Elizabeth had invited me to come to the birthday," he said. "I realized the children were in the right place. Both our son and daughter were in a stable home and making progress. There was no reason for me to pursue any custody-timeshare issues because the children were in the right place."
"March 19, 2002, I was scheduled to go back to an Early Resolution Conference," Allen continued. "My intention was to get off supervised visitations with the children because they charge $140 an hour for these supervised visitations when I was employed. Several times, Elizabeth had to pay $500 for two visits with our children the following month! However, when I became unemployed, the charges dropped to $20 an hour; but being unemployed, I couldn't afford that either."
By now they thought they had completed all instructions of the court. Elizabeth had finally found someone to do the in-home parenting class, but the two of them said, "All she did was come and talk."
"I paid her $199 for a class advertised at her business, Angel's Haven Family and Community Service," Elizabeth said.
They added that this company, which they later learned had no license to operate, is now out of business. But it shows how there are even outside people who prey on people caught up in this nightmare system.
"No one likes to attack the Family Court System," Elizabeth kindly added. However, after going through what they have experienced, they feel the public has a right to know how people and their children are suffering. Both of them feel like victims.
Next time they went to court, the children's attorney told them that she had written a document for the court and the judge asked for hair tests. These "hair tests" give a three months' history to reveal whether or not you've used illicit drugs and cost the two of them $75 each. Nothing is free!
"Because Elizabeth's boyfriend was living with her at the time, added Allen, "he was asked to give a hair test on a voluntary basis. That was $75 more, of course."
When they returned to court on April 11, 2002, Elizabeth had the attorney she had previously retained, Attorney Jason Laindes, of San Jose, whom she felt was very fair.
"Both Elizabeth and my tests came back negative (no drugs) but Elizabeth's boyfriend's came back positive."
"He was on probation and had a relapse in January and didn't tell me until the end of January," Elizabeth said, "but said his Probation Officer and Counselor was working with him."
So this did not sit well with the Family Court.
On Easter Sunday, March 31, 2002, the director of Angels Haven came to Elizabeth's house on an in-home parenting class. And Elizabeth attended three more classes at the Angels Haven place of business in San Jose for which she paid $199. She was told she would have to begin paying more money, because it was getting more complicated.
On April 5, 2002, the director of Angels Haven showed up 30 minutes early at Elizabeth's house at about 4 p.m. Moments later, the children's attorney suddenly appeared and the parenting director acted surprised to see the attorney was there!
"I was doing laundry, folding clothes in the living room. My five-year-old son had just had an accident where he had a bowel movement and some feces fell out of his pants. Their timing was bad, because just before they came in, I stepped on my son's feces. Regardless, I invited them in and told them to sit down. I quickly cleaned up the mess and my son before I gave a tour of the house. The parenting director and I then sat in the kitchen and chatted. I was obviously nervous while the attorney proceeded to play with the children in the yard."
"Don't worry," she said, "you're doing fine."
The parenting director and the children's attorney left at 5 p.m.
"On April 9, 02 I went to the parenting director's class and asked for a promised letter to verify that I had been in her classes. She told me she didn't have the letter and that I'd have to come back the next day."
But when Elizabeth returned the next day, the letter consisted of one sentence that said the parenting director had informed Elizabeth of the things she had to do to make her home child proof.
"What is that?" Elizabeth asked, adding, "She never discussed this."
"Oh, don't worry," Elizabeth was told, "it's just about keeping chemicals out of reach of children and keeping your cabinets locked."
When the two of them, Allen and Elizabeth, went back to court April 11, 2002, Elizabeth saw the parenting director standing outside.
"I asked her what she was doing there," Elizabeth said. "She told me the court asked her for a report the day before. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach."
"Pretty soon the children's attorney walked up to me inside the Courthouse," Allen interjected, and said, "I have this report I want you to read."
"Now I am legally disabled with dyslexia and told her I needed more time to read the report in a quiet place," Allen said.
"Would you like for me to read it to you?" the attorney asked Allen.
"Yes," he quickly responded.
She read him some of the high points but he didn't know she was paraphrasing some of the report -- not reading it verbatim. It referred to the human feces on the floor at Elizabeth's home. She read how the bathrooms were unsanitary and the toilets were filthy.
And then this attorney looked straight at Allen and made a scary accusation.
"I think your son has been molested and you're a suspect," the female attorney told Allen.
"Where did you get that idea?" Allen asked her.
"I don't have to tell you that!" Allen said she told him. "All you have to know is you are a suspect and charges may be brought against you."
"She admonished me that I should not talk to Elizabeth or her boyfriend (who flunked the hair drug test)." The attorney said her goal was to remove their two children from Elizabeth's custody. Then the attorney showed the report to Elizabeth, the boyfriend and their attorney only for a few minutes before the court convened.
"The judge ordered an emergency screening, based on the report submitted by the children's attorney," Allen continued. "The person the court assigned to the emergency screening investigation came in at 11 a.m. that morning, but said she didn't have enough time to do it now. So they asked where could they place our children? They wanted to put them in a Children's Protective Service shelter, but I asked for the court to let them stay with their maternal aunt and there were no objections."
Allen and Elizabeth did not get a copy of the report submitted even after Family Court did their investigation.
In Dept. 95 on April 1, 2002 the judge made an order that Allen could continue his supervised visitations with his children. Also, Elizabeth was placed on supervised visitations. The children's attorney got supervised visitations to be supervised by the parenting director (who allegedly wasn't even licensed to be in that business). Then the judge put them back in Dept. 74 to continue emergency screening on April 18, 2002.
"We returned to court on April 18, 2002. We were each ordered to have our telephone calls restricted with the children to once a week on Wednesday and 20 minutes on Saturday with each of our two children," said Allen. "So the children remained with their aunt in Sunnyvale."
"Meanwhile, we still didn't have a copy of that damaging report," Allen added.
Elizabeth had her first two visits with her children at the Sunnyvale Mall before the April 18th court date.
"I felt I was being set up!" she said adamantly. "I wanted to get out of it so badly, because, after I read the report she wrote, why did I think she would write anything good about me or my kids?"
I told my attorney Jason that I was being set up and didn't want to do this, but I wanted to see my children," she said. "On April 16, 2002 I went to the mall about 3:30 p.m. There was a park near the Mall. The parenting director and another girl, Julie, were there. The parenting director kept close to me while the kids were playing. She said they're getting their new shoes wet."
"I told her that's what washers and dryers are for," Elizabeth added, laughing, letting her kids be kids.
"I was set up to fail at this visitation."
I went again the next day, April 17th, and kept them at the mall, bought them lunch and stayed 30 minutes."
The next court date was the next day, April 18, 2001.
"The supervised visitation report was completed but we still hadn't gotten a copy of the court report yet," Allen said. "When we went into the emergency screening, I went in both as my own attorney and defendant. They gave us a copy of the Court Report then at 10 a.m. It stated that the residence needs to be cleaned, the refrigerator was unsanitary, debris was in the yard, and the windows were covered with bed sheets."
(Editor's note: Have you ever noticed when expensive homes are built, their windows, too, are frequently covered with bed sheets because they've run out of money building the expensive house?)
The report added that, during the supervised visit, the children were running unsafely in the parking lot of the mall.
"The children were taken and both of them given assessments. After we did this, then the court promised that they would make their recommendations. The court also said the children should no longer see the counselors that their father Allen and I had obtained because "they were too aligned with their mother."
"I read the Court Report in my car at lunch time," Allen continued. "The children's attorney fabricated a lot of things. She paraphrased a lot that she said when she supposedly read the report to me the first time outside the court. I would've objected to the introduction of this report as evidence, had I known the real contents. During the afternoon, I spoke to the person the court had assigned to handle the emergency screening and mediations to get the children back. I addressed my concerns about Elizabeth's parenting director's qualifications."
"No one is going to get everything they want," Allen was told.
"It is then we learned considerable weight was given to the parenting director's Court Report. We feel the parenting director was coerced by the children's attorney into writing the report that way. The court confirmed all of her recommendations without even talking to any of our neighbors or friends to see what kind of parents we are."
"I brought pictures of my house and pleaded for someone from Family Court Services to see my house," Elizabeth added, "but no one came."
Allen and Elizabeth were going to be charged $1400 for this "assessment" by the Family Court.
It was about this time that Allen, acting as his own attorney, filed a motion to remove the children's attorney, saying she took advantage of his dyslectic reading problems to make him believe the report was written in a fair way.
The motion was denied.
Next they were ordered to see Janet Bacheler, PHD, a San Jose psychologist. Although her cost was $1350 per person, the court agreed to contribute $750 of taxpayers money each and $1500 for both children's psychological evaluation. Allen and Elizabeth were given some tests for evaluations and Allen recognized it was like the ones given people applying for a police department job.
"What it does is show mental disposition," Allen explained.
"Bacheler spoke to us," Allen continued. "She is a very astute psychologist and is a very good, fair and impartial person. We had three visits with her. Unfortunately, we couldn't afford the $1350 each for her to continue the assessments. So we cancelled our appointment and went back to court and told the judge that we couldn't pay Bacheler. The judge had us fill out fee waivers and see Bacheler just for the testing and Family Court would continue the assessment. The assessment was supposed to be completed by August 14, 2002. We went back to Bacheler for three more visits to complete the testing."
"By now our son was having severe emotional problems, defecating in his pants at school," Allen said, who added, "I had guilty feelings that I should never have gone back to court on March 19, 2002 to get off supervised visitations with the children if I had known this would happen."
This is when Allen used some of his former police work knowledge and launched his own investigation.
"The Court Report was not signed by the parenting director. When I called her to ask about this, she would never return my calls. Under Title 28, U.S. Code, unsworn declarations are admissible only if a written statement is signed and dated, and is true, under penalty of perjury. Under Rule 11 of the Civil Code, papers should be signed by an attorney or person of record, making such a statement. Any unsigned papers should be stricken from the records. We still can't prove who wrote this Court Report."
This is when Allen learned that California did not license the parenting business.
"I confirmed this with a professional investigator and he couldn't find anything either," Allen said. "I was told, even if she was counseling without a license, it takes three to five years to prosecute. Even the court-appointed emergency mediator said she knew the parenting director wasn't licensed."
Allen said on April 22, 2002 Pamela Thompson, the children's baby sitter and friend of Elizabeth's, returned a book to the parenting director and was told spontaneously that the children's attorney advised her how to write the Court Report. And that's when Allen learned that the same parenting director had alleged that their son had been sodomized by "someone".
"On April 24, 2002, I spoke with Jill Kaplan, our son's licensed counselor intern," Allen said. "She said she told the children's attorney that our son should not be removed from Elizabeth's care."
"On April 30, 2002, Elizabeth called me and said the school psychologist called her with some bad news," Allen continued. "She said that the children's attorney had told the principal that Elizabeth could not attend our son's individual educational plan conference scheduled for May 2, 2002. The school psychologist had called and left this message, so we recorded that message for future proof, because I felt the attorney was now acting as Superior Court Judge."
"I called and left a message with the school psychologist that I would attend this conference. She called the children's court appointed attorney. The attorney said it was okay for both of us to attend. Elizabeth, the children's aunt and I all attended."
This government intervention in their daily lives for such court victims illustrates why their frustration grows and makes it hard for them to lead normal lives. Having to attend all these court sessions and court-appointed classes may explain why many of them have trouble holding jobs. Their minds are elsewhere, as they battle to get back their children. Allen's other frustration, acting as his own attorney, was hearing the judge say things like, "You're stating the facts, I want to know the LAW." His tape recording of the school psychologist's telling them about the children's attorney's conversation was ruled "hearsay".
"In order for me to rule on anything, you're going to have to state the law."
"I finally gave up," Allen said. "Doesn't the truth matter?"
The judge finally got angry at me and said, "I suggest you get a lawyer."
"I'm unemployed. How can I afford an attorney at $250 an hour?"
Then the female judge admonished Allen and told him he shouldn't file any more motions or he could be held financially responsible to pay the children's attorney and all court costs.
"There is no reason for the court to be in my life," Allen believes. "I was taught in school that courts don't get into your personal lives. After all the money spent by the courts and ourselves, the court said Elizabeth's judgment with men is questionable and I'm a bully."
"When we started all this nightmare, I had nothing on credit cards," Allen continued. "I now have run up $15,000 on credit cards and have just sold my house, because I have hired an attorney, Stuart Fishman in San Jose. My children have been damaged by this court system. I've got to protect them from this bizarre court system that feeds the attorneys' and court's interests more than the children's. The court even tried to bill Elizabeth's sister $150 for an evaluation after it had been paid, because the court claimed she was a party to this action -- only because she has been caring for the children. She has gotten no financial support from the court for being a foster parent. We've been paying for her groceries, the baby sitter, and helping her all we can, the best we can. I've been paying since September 2001 on over $1,000 of Family Court Service bills. I'm sorry, but they just want MONEY! Elizabeth had to pay $300. Again, she never did anything wrong to start with, and neither did I."
He said judges are not accountable and he can't get the American Civil Liberties Union to take his case because they said they wouldn't get involved in the Family Court.
"When I made a complaint to the California State Bar, they said the tactics used were 'just tactics' even though I quoted their own Code of Ethics. They deemed this to be 'nothing'. I even wrote to the D.A.'s office, asking about questionable billing practices and coercive tactics and got no reply. It really comes down to Family Court Services has no watch dog over it, yet is one of the largest industries in California since 50% of married couples gets divorces. It is a nation wide epidemic. No one wants to touch the Family Court System. It is designed to keep parents at odds with each other. In fact one judge told us that it is very unusual for two divorced parents like us to be battling the children's court-appointed attorneys. The judge said it is usually the parents fighting over custody of the children amongst themselves.
"There's no way out. Now I understand why parents are kidnapping their kids out of desperation."
Their nightmare was supposed to be over on August 14, 2002, but it was postponed to September 9, 2002. The evaluator filed a 60-day extension to November 12, 2002, but the final recommendations still aren't in.
"The children are still with my sister," Elizabeth said, just before we went to press, December 1, 2002.
The evaluator reportedly visited her sister's house on October 16, 2002 and spent three hours talking to the children and Elizabeth's baby sitter.
"Elizabeth even offered for her to come with a surprise visit anytime," Allen said, "but she has never come."
"I've called her four times to offer my co-operation," Elizabeth interjected, but she would never return my calls from her answering machine, or when I'd leave them with another person who answered. I finally figured I wouldn't call her anymore because it is not my job to do her job."
"Elizabeth is a very strong woman," Allen said. "Elizabeth has been going to her sister's house every day to help our two children with their homework. She is the only person keeping some semblance of emotional stability in our children's lives. All through this life of fear we're entrenched in now, all I can do is support Elizabeth in any way I can. The court has tied my hands. Elizabeth is carrying the entire burden even though she didn't do anything wrong."
"My ability to care for my children is not even being considered," Elizabeth said.
"I am not a child molester," Allen added, "or child pornographer. Gilroy Police Department dropped that investigation in June 2002. The allegations were proven false. I have just been trying to follow all these court orders to get the children back for Elizabeth. I'm now convinced the courts are just putting us through all these hoops for the money. It is an industry that feeds the judges, attorneys, counselors, parenting directors, and many others at the expense of the children and victims like us. The only thing we are concerned about now is getting the children back home with Elizabeth who is and always has been a good mother.
"Parents need to quit bringing in their feelings and focus on the children," Elizabeth added. "If, for no other reason than not getting the courts involved."
"My advice," Allen concluded, "is if anyone wants a divorce, get a third party mediator and work it out, or else you could end up in a bad situation like us with the Family Courts ruining your life. If the average person in the U.S. has an income of $44,000 a year, and the average attorney's hourly wage is $225 an hour, that is 11.5 times the average hourly income. Haven't the courts effectively created the Jim Crow laws so only the wealthy can afford justice in this country?"
Allen said his father was one of the first chief engineers of Memorex who retired at 42-years-old. Allen grew up in Monte Sereno near Los Gatos and Saratoga. He obtained his AA degree in liberal arts from West Valley College. He continued to get a B.S. and M.S. degrees from San Jose State University. He worked as a deputy sheriff from 1978 to 1986 in three different Northern California counties.
Elizabeth grew up in Michigan and moved to California in 1980. She attended DeAnza and is only five classes short of an AA degree in quality assurance. She has held her current job for 11 years and added that she has never been unemployed in her adult life.
"The Court System has stepped over their bounds in starting to dictate social conscience to individuals," Allen concluded. "They call the Family Court 'fudge law' because when it gets hot, the law melts."
PICTURE - FAMILY COURT KIDNAPS ETC.
THIS PROTEST SIGN AT ALLEN BRUMBAUGH'S GILROY HOME in May 2002
got huge recognition from the general public, Allen said. "Many people came to my door
and explained how the Court System had terrorized their lives." He took it down only
because he had to sell his house to raise money for an attorney in the fight to get his
children out of the court's system. He said one real estate agent refused to sell his
house if the sign remained. "That blew me away," Allen added. "But setting my home
to finance our battle was even more important than free speech at this point."
By Gene Beley © December 2002