When Dreams Become Nightmares
February 25, 2002
Ever have a dream where life was just perfect? That everything you did and said was the epitome of grace and everybody was kind and supportive? Ever have a dream just like that, but which suddenly took a nasty turn to reveal its true nature and show it for the nightmare that it really was? That's about when you wake up in a cold sweat, grateful to be given back your mundane existence, right?
Dream along with me for a moment. Imagine that you are in your late twenties.
Imagine that you and your wife (or husband) have three beautiful little girls - blond, blue eyed and button cute.
Imagine that your wife is (or you are) pregnant again, due to deliver in a month.
Now, imagine that you are traveling around the country with your family in your motor home, hoping to see as much as possible before the girls reach school age. Imagine stopping for a time in a picture-book perfect little town.
It's summertime. It's warm. Birds are singing. There's a light breeze soughing through the tree branches, carrying the smell of lilacs.
Imagine that, while your family has lunch in the motor home, parked for the morning in the public library parking lot, you are inside using the public-access internet computer. You have a modest business, buying and selling things on eBay, mostly computer-related, but it's enough to supply money for gas and food while your family takes this extended vacation.
Your littlest girl is just getting over a bout with the flu. But she's coming around now - kids always do.
Life is good, huh? Now your dream takes an unexpected turn.
You look up and see your mate coming toward you, shepherding the girls like a mother hen...followed by several police officers.
After a heated discussion, you take your family and retreat to your motor home. The police demand entry. They speak with your youngest girl in private. Before nightfall, you are in jail on unfounded and false charges of child neglect, the result of a stranger's anonymous call to the authorities earlier that day. Your three girls have been taken by the state. You don't yet know that you will see them only twice during the coming year. Your wife is left alone, pregnant and with no money, sitting in the motor home as the sun goes down.
Released on bail a few days later, you and your wife demand to see your children. No, you are told. You fight the system. You haven't done anything wrong.
Deeply religious, you and your wife pray for guidance and have faith that God will guide you to the reunification of your family.
Then the authorities say they will take the girls away from you permanently because you haven't played ball. Because you didn't go for the psychological evaluations or the counseling they required. Because you didn't bow and scrape for the authorities or the judge. You believe them because they tried so hard to take your newborn baby, too, who you gave to your mother halfway across the country for safekeeping, granting her permanent guardianship. Though a local judge issues an order to seize that baby, a judge in that distant state says no.
Finally, you agree to do what the state requires, but still they insist that it is too late and your little girls all will be adopted out.
Desperate, crazy with worry and pushed into a corner, you persuade the state to allow you to visit with the girls for only the second time since they were taken from you. At the designated spot, you verify that they are okay. You cry and you laugh together for a time. Then, you tearfully part company.
You leave your wife and follow them. Allegedly at gunpoint, you commandeer the state car they transported the kids in and drive a short distance to where you have stashed a car. Together with your wife, you flee the state with your children, leaving behind the motor home and all your possessions. It doesn't matter. You are a family again. All that matters is that your children are safe. By the way, your wife is seven months pregnant again.
They catch you, of course, two states away.
The girls are immediately taken back to the foster home they had been placed in. You and your wife are held in two different jails, several hundred miles apart.
Ever have a dream take a nasty turn like that? That's about when you wake up in a cold sweat, thankful for the return to your humdrum reality.
Imagine this, though: imagine that all of this is true and, not only do you never wake up from it, but it actually gets worse. Meet Brian and Ruth Christine. They have been living this nightmare-come-to-life for the past year.
The three oldest Christine Girls: Bethany, Miriam and Lidia.
Brian and Ruth refused extradition from the Montana jail cells in which they sat, hoping to delay the inevitable until after Ruth gave birth to their fifth child. Oregon, which took their three oldest girls and tried mightily to take their fourth, boldly stated that it would take their fifth as a newborn baby, directly from the delivery room and place it for adoption in Oregon, too. Brian and Ruth hoped to have a Montana judge intercede, just as an Indiana judge had for baby Olivia.
This is the point at which I was asked to help Ruth and Brian. Although I am allowed to practice law in Oregon, I had to work through other lawyers in Montana. Though I have been working pro bono, all other lawyers have demanded payment, which some on this list have been kind enough to provide, though it has been close so far.
Finally, in frustration with Montana lawyers that did nothing and demanded to be paid anyway, I employed a once-in-a-legal-career device called pro hac vice admission to enter the Montana court myself and forced a guardianship hearing just as Montana was about to railroad a custody hearing into a transfer of the just-born baby Abbey Rose to the Oregon authorities.
We were assigned to a judge that listened, thankfully. He agreed with us that baby Abbey Rose should not be handed over to Oregon, as the Montana child protection services demanded. Instead, he directed that baby Abbey Rose be given to Brian's mother that very day, under a temporary guardianship, then he transferred jurisdiction to an Indiana court for a permanent guardianship hearing.
Brian's mother and Abbey Rose left the next day. Little Abbey Rose saw her older sister, Olivia, that night for the first time. She has never seen her three oldest sisters. Neither has Olivia, for that matter.
Brian and Ruth were swiftly taken back to Oregon, where they have been sitting in jail cells in Roseburg ever since, awaiting trial on a raft of criminal charges. If convicted of even half of them, this young couple will spend the rest of their lives in prison. Foremost among them: kidnapping, of course...kidnapping their own children.
Brian, Ruth and the three oldest girls in happier times.
Their trial starts on March 19, less than one month from now. Two weeks ago, they finally signed away their parental rights to their three oldest girls, hoping to spare the girls any further trauma in what was a doomed struggle to retain custody. Only because they were assured that Ruth's parents, residents of Great Britain, would be strongly considered for adoption, were they willing to sign off. That prevented the trial on termination of parental rights which was scheduled for last week.
Such a parental rights termination "trial" is held before a judge, only, in a closed hearing and the presentation of witnesses and evidence is limited to what the state produces. Parents have no rights to independent examinations in these proceedings, thereby ensuring the outcome in the state's favor. This is truly a guilty until proven innocent railroad job, all but impossible to derail.
The Douglas County District Attorney had steadfastly refused to discuss any sort of plea arrangement, saying to call him once Ruth & Brian gave up rights to the three girls, suggesting a reasonable plea offer would be made once they did such. Today, that offer was communicated to us. Now that they have spent six months in jail already and now that they have given up their three oldest girls to Oregon authorities and their two babies to Brian's mother, here is what Oregon thinks they should still suffer: plead guilty to a "Measure 11" felony (mandatory minimum sentencing) and serve 7-1/2 years each in prison. No kidding.
We have a technical term in the law business for this sort of situation: it's a "no-brainer." Call your first witness, Mr. DA, because we'll take our chances with a jury.
Once we got the baby safely out of Montana, I stepped into the background so as to force the appointment of public defenders in Oregon for Ruth and Brian. The geographic distance made my day-to-day handling of the case impractical. Today, with it apparent that we will be going to trial, I have reassumed direct handling of their case.
Now, we must make up lost ground because we are adamant about suffering no further delay. We feel as though the DA snookered us this last time, by causing us to delay the trial once already, yet produce nothing reasonable by way of a plea deal. What would a reasonable deal have looked like? Plead to misdemeanor custodial interference and time served. Anything beyond that gets Ruth deported (she is a British citizen). She would not be allowed back to visit her two babies or Brian and you can bet that Brian would never be allowed into England.
All because some busybody called the authorities in Grants Pass, Oregon, eighteen months ago, to say that there was a little girl in a motor home in the library parking lot who looked a little peaked. Because of that, a family is torn asunder and lives are destroyed. Your tax dollars at work.
Ruth and Brian now face life in prison for rescuing their children. Meanwhile, rapists get probation and murderers are out in two-to-four. Oh, did I forget to mention that Ruth and Brian are somewhat politically incorrect? Silly me. It makes such a difference these days, doesn't it?
Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002
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