Rhode Island taxpayers have contributed an enormous sum to wage a war that most of us know nothing about. The systems our state established to protect children have instead subjected many to danger and trauma that will profoundly shape the rest of their lives. Who will help to build public awareness and political consensus to protect children from those who prey on them or who profit from their abuse? How should government respond in ways that are transparent and accountable?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Patrick Lynch builds his war chest, Part 2

A current custody case shows Attorney General Patrick Lynch's strange priorities in allocating Rhode Island's scarce resources for prosecuting criminals. His office assigned two Special Assistant Attorneys General, Daniel Carr Guglielmo and Peter Roklan, as prosecutors in a case that should never have come to criminal trial at taxpayer expense. At least a half dozen men entered the courtroom at various times yesterday and today, seeming to advise the two young attorneys. Moments before the trial, one assured them: "I'm here for you."

Why was this case so important to Lynch?

Today, November 4, 2009, a Superior Court jury threw out the disorderly conduct charges that Lynch's prosecutors tried to pin on a toddler's mother in a tumultuous divorce and custody case. Finding the mother not guilty took the jury less than an hour.

Jury members never learned the backstory to the case that began when the baby's father came home from work on March 1, 2007, packed his clothes, and took their son to his sister's home. Just one year old, the baby was still nursing. When his mother went to her sister-in-law's house searching for her son, a fight ensued, leaving the baby's mother with a broken nose. Police came and arrested the mother.

Nor did jury members learn about the spate of harassing phone calls allegedly made by the husband, his sister and mother, or the numerous charges instigated, not only against his wife, but against her mother and stepfather--each one a costly ordeal for his wife's family to fight in various courts.

This kind of persistent litigation, dragging a civil case into numerous criminal courts, is a strategy we have come to call domestic violence by proxy.

In this case, the ongoing harassment led to the baby's mother being repeatedly imprisoned on spurious charges, losing not only her child, but her 13-year career as a social worker at DCYF. Prison clinicians diagnosed her with post traumatic stress disorder, and townspeople told me that his stalking and lying about her still continue.

Only two months ago, Special Assistant Attorney General Peter Roklan was at another courthouse trying to get her imprisoned again. To read more about that incident see

Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Gilbert Indeglia briefly excused the jury while defense attorney Jeffrey Pine, himself a former Attorney General, moved for acquittal. He argued that the evidence presented by the state's witnesses fell far short of the legal requirements for disorderly conduct.

The jury never saw the odd performance by Special Assistant Attorney General Guglielmo, who vehemently jabbed his finger again and again at the defendant, inches from her face, as he stammered with vitriol that she had uttered a profanity and threat in the corridor of Family Court. She had plenty of motive to threaten her husband's girlfriend, Guglielmo exclaimed, for she probably did not like the woman's testimony that day.

Judge Indeglia interrupted the young attorney's aggressive behavior and questioned his assumption, but also denied Pine's motion. Later the judge would instruct the jury clearly in the legal requirements for finding someone guilty of disorderly conduct.

Prosecuting attorney Roklan admitted to the jury: "We can all agree" that the man behind the whole ordeal "is a bad person" who "lies" and "cheats" and "uses" people. Still Roklan urged them to believe the testimony that his now ex-wife had been guilty of disorderly conduct against his now former girlfriend.

By noon on their second day, the jury returned, filing past the defendant, Attorneys Pine, Guglielmo, and Roklan. All four stood in a formal sign of respect. Jury members had been unfailingly serious before, but now they smiled. They had reached unanimous agreement: The accused ex-wife is not guilty.

As in other heavily litigated domestic violence cases I have witnessed, Superior Court juries have a gift for promptly concluding matters that would escalate into a vicious, ongoing game of cat-and-mouse at Family Court.

It is hard to fathom why this case matters so much to Attorney General Patrick Lynch except perhaps that the little boy's father hired a well-connected attorney, Scott Partington, who happens to be his town's municipal court judge and husband of Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Partington and son of a legend in Rhode Island law enforcement, the late John Partington.

In stark contrast to Patrick Lynch, Jeffrey Pine's years as Attorney General brought significant progress to Rhode Island in addressing the crime of domestic violence that places a huge burden on private citizens and public funds.

Mr. Lynch's term in that office has tipped the balance back to abusers who become obsessed with using police, judges and state's attorneys to further their own private campaigns--getting the state to drain its low resources on frivolous cases that commit domestic violence by proxy.


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About the Author & Purpose

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service provided since 1996 by Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. The coordinator, Anne Grant, is a retired United Methodist minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter and service agency for battered women and their children. We research and write about official actions that endanger children and the parents who are trying to protect them. Our goal is to reform this area of government and to establish an effective, transparent and accountable child protective system.

We first reported on this case at http://custodyscam.blogspot.com/

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Comments and corrections may be sent in an email with no attachments to parenting project @ verizon.net

About "Parental Alienation"

If you are not familiar with Richard Gardner's theory of "parental alienation" and how it is being used in custody courts, scroll down to the earliest posting, "Junk Science in Custody Courts." For more scholarly research, visit  http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/1.html

For more on the scandal in custody courts, see: