Archive for October, 2011
By Attorney David Engler
In Florida if you punch a guy over 65 in the nose it is a felony. No matter what.
A Sheet and Tube Mill retired mid-level executive and his retired school teacher wife moved to a Condo golf course townhouse near Naples. A boy who had grown-up in Brier Hill during the forties, went to Korea, worked at a mill in purchasing, was now taking it easy. He would visit the grandchildren every winter holiday back in Youngstown, Ohio, play golf and sometimes drive over to see the dogs race. Brier Hill was a melting pot of immigrants and their children. Everybody had a church…Poles, Italians and the Irish like him. Mac learned to play golf at the nine-hole-public course, up Fifth Avenue, closer to where the wealthier people lived. You could not spend more than $20 for a season. The beer gardens were nearby for after a round, where everyone knew who was a golfer or a sandbagger.
Down South, where he and Lorraine now lived, just outside his very modest townhouse; the sliding glass patio door was just 10 feet away from the practice putting green. Every day another retiree from New Jersey who had worked in retail clothing and lived at an even more modest condo further away from the Ocean, practiced his putting and very little chipping. The 30 by 30 green was close to one of those many man-made drainage ponds that courses gussy-up and call a lake. Herb, the guy from Jersey, apparently suffered from a BiPolar Disorder and retired early and moved to Florida. He was 69. His wife was happy anytime Herb was out of the house. So Herb joined the closest golf course at River Wind and obsessed over putting. He was on the practice green for more than three hours a day, 10 feet from Mac. Mac was getting older by the day and had always been an unreasonable man. And it is suggested by research, that early onset dementia can start to turn a cranky person, even crankier.
Day after day Mac either sat in his condo looking out the screen door, past the small concrete slab of a porch, at Herb, the skinny guy from New Jersey putting hour after hour. Or if it wasn’t too hot, Mac would sit on his porch and look at him. Mac believed that a man ought to be able to sit on his back porch drink Buds, eat grapes and spit seeds and not have to look at Herb. So after Year 3, Month 4 of the incessant putting, Mac starts with the comments. Mac had no idea of Herb’s ethnic background, place in life or mental history. He decided to call him everything and anything for days under his breath, but loud enough for a 69-year-old guy to hear. The day In August was hotter and stickier than most Florida days; and the war began. Herb mouthed something back and Mac arose from his canvas-back camp chair, strode 7 f feet and landed a blow to Herb’s nose. Down goes Herb. One of the dozens of other old people simply looking out their screen doors for amusement and a chance to spot the book club girls making the turn at 10, called the Police.
Herb was okay. But since he was a senior (someone over 65 in Florida) it was more than a misdemeanor assault; it was a felony. Herb could care less than he got decked by a guy 11 years older than him with two replacement knees. No, Mac had to be stopped. A couple of the condo ladies agreed and let the Judge know it. Mac was too proud to hire an attorney. The Judge would have to be a fool to see that a man should not have to look at the same lame golfer taking thousands of putts all within the reach of a grape seed spit. Maybe one of the condo commandos had some clout because the Man in the robe came down heavy on Mac. He was given a death sentence. Five Years reporting probation and HE WAS NOT ALLOWED TO GOLF! The $500 dollar fine and court cost was nothing All those years paying a silly HOA fee and paying off the mortgage so he would never had to see another house payment in his life; and “this is what he gets?”
If he wants to go back North, he needs the permission of his probation officer. He stills sits on the porch and reruns the injustice in his mind. None of his kids bring it up at family celebrations, because they know Dad won’t stop talking about it. Herb no longer plays golf at River Wind anymore. In fact someone thought he had died. Two more years of probation and maybe he’ll play again. Or maybe he won’t since that would be a good way to show the traitors that turned him in that he could hold a grudge.
There is no real moral other than 1) get an attorney, 2) older people can get cranky and could use the help of a therapists 3) the law shouldn’t apply if you are an older person hitting a younger person and 4) do not in any manner, piss off a guy from Brier Hill!
As with all of our stories, the people and stories are real, but the names have been changed. In every case we have received the permission of our client to tell the story.
By Attorney David Engler
It is a first in our country for a Catholic Bishop to be charged with failure to report a priest who was suspected of at least harboring child pornography. The Kansas City Prosecutor’s office charged the Bishop because he knew or should have known the Priest had ‘kiddie’ porn saved on his laptop. The Bishop denied the charges and plans to fight the allegations. The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City was also named in the indictment.
The same laws exist across the country. The idea is that if you know of a crime against children you should report it. The laws also recognize the idea that if you provide a dangerous environment for a child then you can be convicted of child endangering. An example of a dangerous environment could be a room utilized for the abuse of a child, on your premises, while purportedly under your supervision.
In Trumbull County, Ohio, located in the Northeast corner of the State, a 13 MONTH old child was alleged to have been sexually abused by her parents during a supervised visitation while on the actual agency’s premises! The parents are being held, each on a million dollar bond and both face tremendous sentences. The local prosecutor, who also represents the Agency, has not yet announced a criminal investigation of the Agency but has simply endorsed an independent review.
Governments and their lawyers have a hard time with the concept that even when your motivations are pure, it is critical to the public that there not exist even the appearance of a conflict or impropriety. Especially where negligence may have occurred.
In an earlier blog post I had mentioned the cloak of infallibility that governments often adopt.(Couple Molest Child During Supervised Visit at Agency) The government lawyers feel that if you question the bureaucrats, (in this case, Trumbull County Children Services) then you are saying that person’s motivation must not be pure. These same government attorney insinuate that such questions are not designed to arrive at the truth.
The Trumbull County controversy is like that in Kansas City, but there, the Prosecutor sought a criminal investigation against the Diocese. It is ultimately healthy for both institutions, the Diocese and the Government to examine the criminal culpability of harboring a Priest it knew was at the very least involved with child pornography.
In the Trumbull county case the Agency knew or should have known that the alleged molesting father had a juvenile history of sexual abuse against children. They should have known that the Mother was willing to do whatever the Father asked. And then of course, there is the issue of it being what was called a ‘supervised’ visit, that apparently wasn’t! The Agency might say it was not foreseeable. I think it was obvious.
More about the Kansas City case as reported in the Washington Post: “Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking Catholic official charged with covering up the sexual abuse of children since the scandal erupted in Boston in 2002.
“As far as we know this is the first time a bishop has been indicted on this type of charge,” said Mar Munoz-Visoso, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Last February, Monsignor William Lynn, the former vicar for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was charged with endangering the welfare of children for allowing “dangerous” priests to remain in parishes, according to a grand jury indictment.
The charges against Bishop Finn represent a major setback for efforts by the U.S. bishops and the Vatican to put the scandal behind them.
Instead of focusing on what the church has done to change its policies to protect children, church leaders will be forced to answer questions about how they police one of their own.
According to the indictment issued by a Jackson County grand jury on Oct. 6, Bishop Finn and the diocese had “reasonable cause” to suspect that the Rev. Shawn Ratigan had subjected children to abuse.”
The victim in the Ohio case has no advocate. The agency entrusted with her care, allowed a room for abuse to exist at its own building. Not a single person has stepped forward yet to acknowledge the agency’s direct failure and potential criminal conduct. That is a shame.
By Attorney David Engler
A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds. More than 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse. Approximately 80% of the children that die from abuse are under the age of 4. And more than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
Out of these terrifying statistics there are none documenting the lightning-hitting-the-same-person-twice-odds of a child being sexually abused during a supervised visit at the Children Services Agency and oh, by the way, her older sister was murdered by a foster mother approved and monitored by the same Children Services Agency!
The official response to date has been tepid. It was a combination of how can we stop the sickness of people like the baby’s parents and we-will-ask-the-State-to-review-our-policies boilerplate whitewash.
The Director should voluntarily place himself on administrative leave and the Board, County Commissioners or County Prosecutor should call for a Federal investigation. The Board is a recipient of Federal funding.
To be sure the alleged perpetrators involved in this tragic mess are all broken, poor, with multiple mental health diagnoses, criminal histories, likely victims of abuse themselves and barely literate, if that. But the one clear fact is that the 13 month old little girl was innocent. Now she is an improbable and horrible statistic.
By Attorney David Engler
The article in the TribToday of October 5, 2011 laid it out in black and white. Relatives of a 13 month old baby girl sexually molested her during a supervised visit at the Trumbull County Children Service agency during this past summer. It is too shocking to understand. First you need to know that this baby was taken into the custody of the government from the moment she was born. The grandmother said it was because the mother could not pay any bills. Often children are lost to CSB at birth when drugs are involved and no father can be found. So a young couple, the mother, Felecia, 21 and her husband, Cody Beemer, 23 get a supervised visit at the agency’s offices. He videos or takes pictures of he and Felecia “performing sexual acts on the child.” Did I just read that? I re-read it several times till the utter depravity and ugliness of that claim registered. A 13 month old baby is raped while at the agency’s own offices.
It cannot get any worse. But it does. The sister of the 13 month old named Tammy Sue Banks was “immediately taken into CSB custody after her birth in June 2007.” She was then given, at some point by CSB, to a foster-mother, Bonnie Pattinson, who suffocated and beat her to death in the 21st month of her short life. Pattinson is doing nine years.
This is an agency that is funded by the public to protect children. How is it possible that two children from the same family either died or were raped as infants under CSB’s watch? This is not a coincidence that tragedy has come to these two little girls. The prosecutor suggested an independent investigator be hired. Much more is required. A federal investigation is required. Our youngest have a right to life. These losses are a denial of basic civil rights. There are dedicated professionals at CSB, but there are also poorly trained caseworkers who appear to lack any meaningful supervision. I have been in court with both.
The problem with CSB is that they develop an institutional arrogance. It comes from believing that because its mission is protecting children, then it can never be questioned. If their decisions go unquestioned by the courts and its appointed Board, then the immunity it enjoys under the law becomes a cloak of infallibility.
For the baby, Tammy Sue and for the little girl raped while at CSB offices, a swift and transparent federal investigation is required, not a suggestion of improvements. That will come later. Who will stand up for these children abused by the one’s who gave them life and not protected by the people who get paid to do just that?
By Attorney David Engler
In my practice, I have had the opportunity to represent about 8 people of the Muslim faith seeking a divorce. Most of these have been women and the rule in almost all marriages … it is the husband that causes the problem but the wife files for divorce. Like usual, I am always left wondering how in the heck did some guy get a beautiful educated woman willing to take care of him, get away. Bad judgement is consistent across all faiths. There have even been a couple of instances where I have been hired specifically to meet with the husband and talk some sense into his head.
Sharia law is given by God to provide guidelines and rules for much of the personal life and conduct of the Muslim. The concept of love and responsibility and respect for each other is found in Sharia. In America we develop an instant bias against anything Muslim given much of our knowledge comes from CNN news clips or political rants by anti-immigration crowd. Our law comes down from our representative bodies and the judges who interpret the law through cases. We rely on the courts and lawyers to help straighten out a messy divorce In Sharia the plaintiffs and defendants usually represent themselves. But the concepts of marriage and divorce in Sharia law mirror our U.S. Courts, so the effects of a Sharia Law marriage can largely be enforced in an American divorce court.
A marriage can be terminated by the husband in the ‘talaq’ process, or by the wife seeking divorce through ‘khul’. Under ‘faskh’, a marriage may be annulled or terminated by the ‘qadi’ judge.
Men have the right of unilateral divorce under classical Sharia. A Sunni Muslim divorce is effective when the man tells his wife that he is divorcing her, however a Shia divorce also requires four witnesses. Upon divorce, the husband must pay the wife any delayed component of the dower. The American lawyer should introduce the Sharia marriage contract as evidence that this gift should be enforced during the temporary orders or as part of a property division.
If a man divorces his wife in this manner three times, he may not re-marry her unless she first marries, and is subsequently divorced from, another man. Only then, and only if the divorce from the second husband is not intended as a means to re-marry her first husband, may the first husband and the woman re-marry.[Qur’an 2:230] A woman may not remarry for 5 months after a divorce to protect the proper lineage of children. In our courts we ask women of all ages before granting the divorce, “are you now pregnant.”. So often the name of the former husband appears on a birth certificate because the woman became pregnant during the marriage but not by the husband. It is interesting in Sharia law that this issue is dealt with by prohibiting marriage for five months after the divorce.
‘Mahr’ or dowry is a beautiful concept. It is security for the woman even if it is more in a symbolic sense. The bridegroom makes a gift of value that takes the form of a contract. The gift can be jewelry, money, a car or other items of value. Like our common law practice a gift like an engagement ring cannot be taken back because the marriage did not last.
At a Muslim marriage there is a point where the bride leaves to become part of the groom’s family. This can be a very touching moment because the daughter is now literally part of a new family. This does not mean she is subservient to this new family, just that the responsibility for her care belongs to the groom’s family. The modern reality is that Muslim women in America are career-oriented, well-educated and can usually take care of themselves. But once again the American lawyer should become familiar with Sharia law and consider calling an Imam, or cleric, to speak to as an expert as to what was considered as the parties entered the marriage contract.
In our temporary hearing orders or in determining an appropriate spousal support, the law provides that the understanding of the parties is appropriate evidence. It is also important to determine if the wife has sacrificed her income to support the husband’s education or stayed at home to raise children. Likewise it makes sense to introduce the Sharia marriage contract and cultural customs that form the basis of what the parties intended.
The fact that a marriage was arranged has no impact on a division of assets or spousal support award. It might even mean more in support if the court understands that it was the understanding that the woman truly was to be part of this new family and left so much behind. As a father of two young daughters (21 and 23) I definitely believe I could make a better choice of their mates than they could. I and their mother have more life experiences to draw upon and know what mistakes to avoid. So I do not look poorly upon arranged marriages even though my children can only be subjected to my gentle persuasion. If I push too much I will be tuned out. So it is interesting to note that in Muslim divorces it is not the fact of an arranged marriage that is at the root of the divorce. It is the usual suspects of lack of respect, infidelity, money problems and immaturity of thought.
My exposure to Sharia law and my Muslim clients has been one of the most positive in my career. There is little deceit and a great sense of honor that makes it easier to do my job.