NOTE: Folks have asked repeatedly why Part 5 of 5 is not posted online. Simple answer: it’s not been written yet. We were hoping at some point that the law would be followed and the teenagers would be allowed to comment. They have been silenced. Part 5 – their story – does not exist…
Copies Father’s Lawyer’s Recommendations Nearly Word-For-Word –
Rejects Mother’s Request to Speak to Her Daughters
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: MASS. DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
PART 4 of 5: Brooke (15) and Summer (11 1/2) “Grabbed” by DCF While at School
by Lonnie Brennan
Denied the right to see, talk, e-mail, send Morse code, smoke signals, or have any other form of communication with her two daughters for more than seven months, Ginamarie Tolentino learned the hard way what happens when a divorced mother goes up against Judge Robert A. Scandurra, First Justice of the Barnstable Probate and Family Court.
Ginamarie appeared before the judge as another distressed, distraught mother, locked in a seemingly endless custody battle case with her ex-husband, who in the past she has accused of physical abuse of her daughters. (A bloody nose, rug burns, locking in the basement, etc. Her husband had been arrested for one of those incidents, but denies anything happened, essentially counter-accusing his two daughters and ex-wife of lying to authorities.)
When Judge Scandurra pulled his ace card – the Department of Children and Families (DCF) (which sent Ginamarie’s two daughters into DCF care) – a nightmare ensued, and hence the beginning of our multi-part series on this child custody case.
Note to readers: Despite a seemingly highly intelligent, compassionate, attentive, and at times jovial court official, Judge Scandurra’s reputation remains questionable for Ginamarie and other mothers who have come before him. In 2012, a Cape Code Times investigative report and subsequent articles chronicled how the judge ignored the pleas of another mother (who this summer took to the radio on WXTK 95.1 Ed Lambert’s show to support Gina Maria and speak out against the judge). That mother had repeatedly – over a period of five years – accused her ex-husband of abusing her son. Despite a preponderance of inquiries from social workers, teachers, therapists and others, the judge refused to take action in favor of the mother. That is until forensic DNA evidence confirmed that the father’s semen was found on the boy’s pajamas following a visit to the father. (Cape Cod Times: Jan./June 2012).
Tolentino vs. Mueller – The Judgment:
1,821 Words, 1,810 Written by the Father’s Attorney
Following at least a year of court actions which sent Ginamarie’s daughters, Brooke (15) and Summer (11 1/2) off to one DCF foster home after another, and four days of custody trial this past summer, Judge Scandurra sided with the father, Kurt Mueller, and his lawyer, and gave full custody of the girls to Mueller.
In fact, he didn’t just side with the father, he overwhelmingly sided with the father and his attorney. Out of the approximately 1,810 word recommendation of settlement terms proposed by the father’s attorney, Judge Scandurra incorporated all but two words in his “Consolidated Judgment.”
Specifically, the judge didn’t have to do much heavy lifting: his Doc. No. BA09D0485DR Consolidated Judgment shows the judge simply changed the words “is granted” to the word “shall” in his six-page, approximately 1,821 word decision. (The judge’s document was slightly longer, as he had added in the names of the two Guardian ad Litems involved in the case, and he also altered some headings and the numbering of the 1,810 word recommendation from Mueller’s attorney. For example, the judge numbered things as a., b., c, instead of i, ii, iii, and in one place he inserted the word “the.”)
Brief Re-cap of the Case:
Choosing a Nightmare, Grabbed from School,
The case of Brooke and Summer, two girls apparently loved by their mother, their father, their extended family, is long and storied. In Parts 1 – 3 of our DCF articles (see prior editions), we detailed some of the father’s arrest records, some of the long-term acrimony between the two parents, the conflict, and the seemingly endless trips to court as the father sought to obtain full custody of his daughters. Mostly, our focus had been on the care or rather lack of care and lack of attention paid to the children while in DCF care.
How did the children get in DCF care? They refused to visit with their father. Judge Scandurra gave the children a choice: go back to your father or go into DCF care. The children chose DCF, and to their surprise, were instantly whisked out of the courthouse, ripped from their mother, and sent off. [Court documents later revealed the entire ordeal was a direct, staged plan to begin the psychological conditioning of the children – more in our next edition.]
Ginamarie contacted her parents in Florida, who returned abruptly from their vacation, and immediately sought to get the courts to release the children to them. Several days later, the girls began their temporary residence with Dr. Anthony Tolentino, a retired dentist, and his wife, Stella. But that was not to last for long.
How Did Brooke and Summer Appear in this Newspaper?
How did this custody case result in a series of articles in this newspaper? Well, from our first edition 31 months ago, we began by chronicling the plight of Justina Pelletier and other children in the DCF system. Then we received a phone call from a grandfather, similarly distraught about his granddaughters. Dr. Tolentino had not just read of the horrors of DCF in this paper and many other papers, and the multitude of children who have run away, been murdered, molested, or otherwise abused while in DCF care, but was living his own unsuspecting nightmare with DCF.
Think of Justina Pelletier, for example: a case in which Children’s Hospital, Boston, used DCF as a tool to separate Justina from her family and friends, and allowed the girl to atrophy from medical neglect while they subjected the teenager to more than a year of physiological experimentation. Or think of 2-year-old Avalena Conway-Coxon of Auburn, who died in DCF care, or 5-year old Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg and his horrific death in DCF care.
Dr. Tolentino related how his ex-son-in-law had been constantly taking his daughter back to court, relentlessly, to stop child support payments and to gain full custody of the girls. And he related how DCF had “grabbed” the children away from him and his wife, while the teen and near-teen were at school. Their only explanation at the time was that their home did not pass muster for DCF.
As we previously noted, Broadside staff members visited the home and reported that the home and grounds were pristinely maintained, and while property values fluctuate, their home and grounds located adjacent to Hamblin Pond near Seconsett Island in Waquoit Bay is valued in the $900,000 plus range according to multiple sources. DCF later backtracked that it was not the home, but rather the grandmother whom they had an issue with: accusing her of not encouraging the children to spend time with the father.
The Magic Word: Alienation
Mueller won his case by arguing that Ginamarie was alienating his daughters from him. He also won it by applying repeated pressure on Ginamarie and by working with DCF to get the girls away from their mother and grandparents and into various DCF houses. In the end, when the daughters were returned to the father’s house, the stability of one home must have been a godsend compared to the nightmare experience one of the children detailed in a note smuggled from school (portions of which we previously published).
In various court documents, the reasons given for awarding the children to the father included that the mother and grandmother in their actions and words acted to alienate the children from their father. Further, the mother acted to alienate the children from DCF foster care placement.
The mother was further taken to task by the judge, who once again, in his opinion, adopted word-for-word the written opinion of the father’s lawyer: “Additionally, despite the Court’s intervention and its attempts to stabilize the hostility between the parties, Mother continued to make matters worse as she appeared on the radio, broadcasting to the public, that Father is abusive toward the children (something that is completely unsubstantiated) and that DCF had kidnapped her children.”
The judge also noted that many witnesses which were brought forward by the father’s attorney testified in court and “each witnesses’ testimony lended strong credence to the Father’s assentation of alienation of the children [from the father] by the Mother.” An example, Dr. Harry Somers noted that following an incident of alleged abuse, the mother “completely refused to have the children see their father.” DCF case worker Brian Gordon found the mother to be odd and disturbing and recommended psychological testing, Mary Burkinshaw, a supervisor at DCF, said she looked into the mother’s allegations against the father and found that nothing was ever substantiated. She and Gordon also noted the mother’s acrimony towards DCF, and her public protests against the taking of her children, etc.
An interesting notation in the court documents was from Karen McCormick the father’s girlfriend of the last four (4) or so years. She testified that in the fall of 2015 Brooke said to her: “Karen you don’t know how much my father has abused my mother and me over the years.” But she went on to say that the children were usually fine, except when the mother called, then “a switch was flipped,” and they would behave differently against their father.
Further testimony from others brought the judge to note: “The Court is concerned that Mother does not see the negative affect her behavior has had, and continues to have, on the children, and on her relationship with them, as well as the effects Mother’s behavior has on the children’s relationships with other people who play important roles in their lives. The Court finds that Mother is unable to recognize that is in the minor children’s best interest, as evidenced though numerous instances of inappropriate and upsetting behavior, unfortunately either directed at or conducted in the presence of the children.”
One court appointed attorney involved in the case, Lorelei M. Hayward, Esq., referred to the mother as “not credible, and in fact found to be very dishonest and not grounded in reality.” She recommended immediate placement in family counseling of the girls with their father “to assist in healing the damage done to their relationship by the Mother.” She spoke glowingly about the father.
Gag Order: Mother Shall Tell the Children Nothing
In his ruling, Judge Scandurra placed a gag order on Ginamarie: should she, at any time in the future, be granted the right to speak with and visit with or have the children visit with her, she “shall not engage in any disparaging remarks about the Father in the presence of the minor children. Mother shall not discuss any aspect of the divorce, custody arrangement, Court intervention or contents of GAL report with the children at any time.” In a nutshell, she’s to smile and say, talk to your dad.
A Pathway to Shared Custody?
In the judgment, the mother may be granted supervised “parenting time once (1) per week for one (1) hour at the Community and Family Resource Visitation Center in Hyannis, MA, or a supervisor chosen by the Probation Department of this Court. Any costs associated with said supervised parenting time shall be paid by the Mother.”
A series of visits at DCF, followed by months of counseling may lead in the future to Ginamarie regaining some shared custody of the children. (She would need to accomplish months of supervised visitation without incident, and months of very limited, unsupervised parenting time, again with no incident, never stepping on a sidewalk crack, to regain seeing the children, at most from Thursday school dismissal until Monday morning school start time.)
The Final Word: Praise for DCF from Judge Scandurra
In his ruling, Judge Scandurra stated that he “does not doubt that either party loves the children, however, because of the acrimony between the parents, the children are placed in the center of the turmoil, left feeling confused, anxious, and at times, hostile toward their father. Throughout the four-day trial, it became evident that the parties have an inability to communicate effectively regarding the children’s needs. The parties’ interactions have been troubled by personal and emotional conflict that had, and continues to have, a direct impact on the children. The court recognizes that the Mother has been the primary facilitator with respect to this acrimony.”
The judge went on to praise DCF in its handling of the case, expressing his gratitude for its work. “This agency does not get easy cases; all cases referred to it are extraordinarily difficult, heart wrenching, and sad. This case was different, however, in that custody was granted to DCF not because of physical abuse or neglect inflicted by a parent upon a child, or because parents were incapable of taking care of their children due to drug or alcohol issues, or that parents were absent from their children’s lives. This case was referred to DCF due to the utter refusal of one parent, the Mother, to allow her children to have a normal and healthy relationship with their father, and the Mother’s active participation in alienating the children from the father. This behavior on the part of the Mother could not be condoned any longer, but due to the Father’s estrangement from the children for a long period of time, it was also not possible to place the children with him then, which was made even more problematic by the criminal charges pending against him. The court thus resorted to DCF and placed the children with it. The placing of the children with DCF clarified that indeed this alienation was taking place, and not only from the Mother herself, but from her parents as well. DCF social worker acted properly and efficiently in their actions in this case, and certainly did not deserve to be condemned and excoriated in the media by the Mother. While this undersigned judge does not agree with DCF in all cases, its handling of the parties’ children in this case was exemplary, and assisted the Court greatly in it decision.” ♦