When Child Custody Becomes Deadly

“His children were his life,” Prather’s sister Jerdonna Sawyer told The Associated Press by phone. “He wasn’t crazy at all. He just chose a terrible way to deal with his pressure and his stress.”

We are all saddened by this tragedy in Georgia, in the town of Douglasville, in which a father just could not take it any longer. Family members are grieving, and we may never learn the whole story.

Loss and stress do terrible things to the minds of people who could otherwise manage fine, but the escalated conflict surrounding divorce and child custody is enough to put many over the edge.

This father is one of a large handful in Georgia to end his own life, and one of several around the country who have murdered family members during the taking of their own lives.

So we advocate for reducing conflict and ensuring protections, as much as can possibly happen. Based on our data the courts and certain court professionals are exacerbating conflict rather than helping parents receive proper counseling and guidance.

If you recall the murder of Donna Kristofak in Cobb County not too long ago, she also had a restraining order and the court knew she was in danger. She tried to protect herself. These cases are different but there is still much we can learn by studying what happened in both.

When one parent loses control and believes they can no longer function or have any quality of life, something can switch in their brain and cause the urge to do something extreme and rash like finding a gun or a knife to use. It is not the choice of the weapon that matters, but the opportunity and the circumstances that feed this rage and desperation.

We can and must do better.

Our research has identified cases that are ripe for more loss and tragedy, and much of it could have been lessened if not avoided.

Please join the conversation on Pro Advocate Radio and follow our posts on our blog and on other social media. Let us know what you can contribute – how you can help?

In the meantime, watch for parents who are struggling around the loss of their children, their jobs, homes and health. Look for ways to ease their stress and to intervene if the situation makes no sense.

Court House

Court Watch: Do Georgia Predators Have It Easy?

Is being a sexual predator in Georgia just entertainment, or are we ready to call it a crime to sexually assault someone or to secretly videotape children and adults during private moments?

Three fathers in Georgia have so far avoided conviction and real consequences for alleged sexual misconduct, as has former magistrate judge and Guardian ad Litem Doug Nelson in the Augusta Judicial District.

Before we get into the specifics of these cases, we want to make sure you are aware of this video and the related document. The Georgia Domestic Violence Bench Book exists to help guide professionals in family law and child custody cases involving violence and various forms of abuse.

In the Atlanta area we are asking the question, “Should this man, William Randolph Cushen, be considered as safe for any child?” Would you leave him unsupervised with your own child or anyone else’s child?
CBS46 News

This post covers the issue of protection being avoided intentionally by certain professionals, and avoided consistently across Georgia counties in family law, child custody, family violence and child abuse cases. It touches on our analysis and reporting from the Atlanta area counties, including Cobb and Fulton counties, to the Augusta circuit including Richmond and Columbia counties. The more you learn about what it takes to prosecute offenders and to protect victims, the more you realize we clearly need more help in Georgia on abuse cases. We hear and read a lot about DFCS being blamed for situations involving harm to children due to a shortfall on caseworkers, negligence or lack of oversight, but what about cases where DFCS and law enforcement are kept out, and family court professionals are to blame?

Comparisons: Some crimes are committed and recorded – literally – which show that assault is a crime. (See Turnage and Cushen, as examples.) Others are clear as well in that ethical, credible professionals have substantiated claims of abuse, only to be blocked from testifying or ignored by the courts.

Turnage: This past year we learned this older GOP official, also a predator, was foolish enough to “play” around in front of Skype getting himself caught in the act of attempted rape.  Billy Joe Turnage, chairman of the Union County Republican Party in northern Georgia, was arrested after police responded to an ongoing rape that had been seen on Skype. (Photo removed March 2015)

Georgia just can’t help it, it seems, when it comes to sexual predators and wanting to be seen in the news.   This official and GAL Doug Nelson were caught in the act, but only one was arrested.   The one responsible for helping to commit fraud during litigation and causing damages to innocent parents – and to their children – has not been arrested, and the family court judge close to this situation said “sexual harassment is not a crime in Georgia.”  Judge Roper, what was done in Augusta is not mere harassment; it was assault and it was done in the context of coercing victims using their children as leverage.

Other judges in that area knew the Guardian ad Litem Doug Nelson was a predator, sexually assaulting mothers, throwing cases based on whether they complied or not, but they did nothing to intervene. Nothing has been done yet to correct the situation. This damaged both good mothers and good fathers. The toll on the children is still rising, but Georgia officials have done nothing so far. Some of these family court cases involve DFCS investigations, but we can show that the injury to children and parents is not related to any alleged DFCS failures. It is the family court professionals who are blocking protections.

How is it that sexual predators just have an easier time with help in avoiding prosecution? Either way this news coverage of sexual misconduct and attempted assault or actual assault is critical.  

What is hard to believe is that the Cobb County, Georgia, man – William Randolph Cushen – who secretly videotaped adults and children using the bathroom in two states is still able to avoid consequences in Cobb County Family Court while his victims await justice in the criminal court. He was able to plead out in Florida on similar charges after avoiding arrest in Georgia to be extradited to Florida, but family court professionals like Guardian ad Litem Larry Yarbrough do not appear interested in using the evidence on this case to protect the children. Certain court professionals have held the mother hostage in the legal process while waiting to see if the father Randy Cushen was indicted. They stalled decisions and protections in this case, even though there is no question that he committed these crimes, including secretly filming other adults and children.

Update: now that Randy Cushen has been indicted, we will get to see if the Child Custody expert, GAL (guardian ad litem) Larry Yarbrough and the Superior Court judge give this man free reign to continue abusing, or if they protect the children and hold him accountable. In addition to the damages caused to the victims of his crimes, and the risk to his own children, the father’s attorney and other court professionals appear to want the mother to lose her business and to be unable to provide for their children. There is still much here to investigate. One question parents and counsel might consider is whether or not to allow a criminal defense attorney who is positioned to defend alleged perpetrators (as opposed to protecting children) to be assigned as guardian, especially in cases where child abuse or violence may exist.

Case history:

MARIETTA, Ga. – November, 2013. A Cobb County man is accused of secretly photographing and recording both children and adults at a pool and in restrooms.   Investigators say William Randolph Cushen, III of Kennesaw set up hidden cameras at both a neighborhood pool and his own home. According to an arrest warrant, Cushen secretly photographed women at the pool at the Overlook at Marietta Country Club, and in a bathroom at his home on Grey Point Court.  The warrant says Cushen secretly videotaped women, men and children in the bathroom. Cobb County police would not comment about the case, citing its nature and an ongoing investigation. …Talk about being caught in the act!  

We want to bring your attention quickly to a major problem for victims and for our State leadership:  

Victims often do not get the support or protection they need, or the crime isn’t called a crime apparently until the victim is nearly dead, or deceased. This is not just because victims are afraid to speak up, and it’s not just that the evidence does not exist or hold up. This may be over-simplifying the answer, but it seems that the core issue is that it is more profitable to avoid protecting victims and to let true offenders off the hook. This is what we refer to as putting profit over protection.

Maybe the assault in front of Skype referred to here will make a difference even though police say the victim was “not physically injured,” or will this be forgotten? Thanks to this assault being seen, Billy Joe Turnage was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual battery and criminal attempt to commit rape.

But what about Randy Cushen’s victims? Child abuse can be prevented_My Advocate Center

When is it their turn to have justice?

Perpetrators of sexual assault, even those careless enough to leave evidence on text (Doug Nelson, GAL), on their computers (Cushen), or on Skype (Billy Joe Turnage), and even those exposed in the news media, often do not get prosecuted, and in some cases they do not face the consequences that early reporting suggests they will receive.

Two other cases we follow, one in Fulton County and another one in Cobb County, both involved investigations that led to substantiated abuse reports (one by DFCS), but the alleged perpetrators are still given either primary custody or visitation rights without any regard for the protection needed by the children.

It does seem that Georgia has a problem with tolerating sexual assault and abuse, even when the crimes and evidence are clearly identified and the victims are begging for justice (Cobb County let father John Kristofak out of jail knowing he was mentally unstable and committed to murdering his former wife).  

These are not isolated incidents and much of the injury is predictable, and avoidable.

If national news media is what is needed to make a difference, then we hope this SKYPE spotlight will serve us well!

In the meantime, please keep asking this question: is it all of Georgia leadership and all courts or agencies, or is it mostly family court professionals who put profit over protection?

Either way, KEEP THE PRESSURE ON to have predators and those who cover for them held accountable, while ensuring protections and treatment for victims.

Union County Sheriff Investigator Staff Sgt. Darren Osborn told the paper that 911 dispatchers received a report of an ongoing “assault and rape” of a 39-year-old female at Turnage’s residence last week. Osborn said that investigators from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted two days of interviews before bringing criminal attempt to commit rape charges against Turnage.  

 

This is KEY: the GBI only needed two days to decide to bring criminal charges for the attempt to commit rape.

But in the Fulton County Superior Court case, the GBI did not follow through on twice-confirmed evidence of child pornography, and both police and forensic experts were not allowed to testify for the protection of this child. Now the alleged perpetrator is getting away with making false allegations against the abused child’s mother, and she has been run into the ground from trying through the court system to defend herself and to protect her child. 

Why should the public follow up on this particular story about the rape assault on Skype? Because other sexual assault victims in Georgia, and victims of other types of assault or exploitation, are not getting justice or any kind of protection in many cases.  If we lose interest in these stories everyone loses, especially victims of crimes. In other cases the perpetrators do not have the political pull and connections this man apparently has. So if those other offenders are never convicted and their victims do not get justice, what do you think might happen here?

In the Augusta area, mothers who were sexually assaulted by the GAL Doug Nelson during their child custody cases cannot get law enforcement to take action against this predator. This is in spite of his text messages revealing his actions and their video testimony, and in spite of the fact that there are multiple victims and clear damages.  

There is even proof that judges knew this was going on and did not intervene, ignoring the damages to both parents and to their children. Good mothers lost custody of their children when they did not comply with his demands for sex, while at least two good fathers lost their rights – and a lot of money – when the mothers on those cases allegedly complied with Nelson’s advances.  

What in the world is going on outside the gates of the peaceful and austere grounds of the Augusta National Golf Course, home to the Masters Tournament?  This can’t possible be the same place the world sees as a golfers paradise?

Back to other news: The New York Daily News and other major media outlets spent time to learn whether this is the norm in Georgia, or was this aging now-former official just that stupid on top of being willing to commit the criminal act of raping a woman?

“A Georgia Republican official is facing criminal rape charges after he broadcast on Skype an alleged sexual assault attempt, according to a bombshell report.

Billy Joe Turnage, the 76-year-old GOP chairman in Union County in northern Georgia, allegedly tried to rape a 39-year-old woman in her house — and he televised the disgusting act on the Internet, according to the North Georgia News.”

 On this AJC page covering the Georgia election updates, more is explained about how this went down – or actually went UP, as in on the air: “Oct. 22, dispatch received a 911 call at approximately 4 p.m. of what was believed to be an assault and rape,” Sgt. Osborn said. “It was being viewed via Skype. Deputies responded and I responded as well.”

Ryan Mahoney, a spokesman for the state GOP, said state party officials have received no communication regarding Turnage’s status. Any effort to remove him would require action at the local level, Mahoney said. A picture of Turnage and David Perdue, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, is on the Union County GOP Facebook page. It’s not likely to be there long. (If you follow up on this story, please let us know if this offender was held accountable.)

Correction: the Union County GOP Facebook page is GONE.  So apparently that is one way to rid yourself of pesky photos of predatory pals.

 

 

For now we’ll leave you with these questions:

Do victims of assault experience real damages even if they are not physically injured or if the injuries do not include physical bruising or tearing?

Do we expect our Courts and Law Enforcement to prosecute crimes and protect victims even when news media is not applying pressure?

If this kind of abuse is being reported on by news media, and victims are still not receiving any help from the courts or from state agencies, then what hope is there for other victims?

   

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The Mystery Around False Allegations & Alienation

The subjects of False Allegations and Alienation of parents and children come up often, and are also often intertwined. In a large number of the cases we see, the parent who is committed to hurting the other parent – using the children – engages in tactics to either cut off the other parent from the children and / or works to discourage the children from loving and trusting the other parent.  This hurts the children in harsh and lasting ways, so this is why you see groups around the country focusing on stopping this form of abuse called alienation.

Making false claims against the other parent is just one way that the aggressor parent and his or her lawyer can manipulate the court into disrupting the relationship between the other parent and their children.  The aggressor parent can be motivated to punish the other parent, looking to use the children to control the outcome of the case, and using this form of foul play to reduce the financial settlement and child support to the other parent.

This is what we have observed in the Newnan story reported on by news media, as it was being driven by false claims perpetuated and leveraged in court by certain experts and attorneys. This case is not the only one where a mother is being falsely accused and prevented from seeing her children. Another Fulton County case reported on by news media shared the same use of foul play – creating a situation that could be falsely claimed as being the mother’s fault – to support a motion to make her pay…in every way possible. In both of these cases the local law enforcement and courts are being manipulated, undermined in their duties and leveraged to increase damages financially and legally to the targeted parent.

Most of these targeted mothers and fathers do not have much of a voice, and often have been drained of resources so they are unable to recover and manage through the necessary litigation to get their children back.

What is interesting is that at least one attorney calling himself a “Father’s Rights” attorney is doing to good mothers what men claim is being done to them — setting them up to fail and preventing them from having a relationship with their children. Based on what we’ve seen this attorney do in court, this is not just a big problem for fathers. Do your due diligence before you hire, and think twice before you wrongfully have another parent prosecuted.

More recently we are seeing good parents (mothers, fathers, grandparents) and professionals come together to support each other and to see what can be done about this.  Is it possible to intervene and turn these cases around, and to help victims recover?

It is terrible for these children to lose healthy, loving parents, and some of these children are being abused by the parent that the court awarded custody to, while ignoring and suppressing evidence of abuse. This is the situation in some of our Cobb, Fulton, Forsyth, Newnan Augusta stories.

If the mother is using false allegations, she may be looking to increase the amount of child support or the financial settlement by using fear and duress around the children and the father’s career and reputation. She may just want the father out of her way so she can move where she wants to freely, or may need him to appear guilty when she is the one who is addicted or violent. This is the situation in several of the Atlanta and Augusta cases we are analyzing and reporting on. Neither the aggressor parent nor their attorneys – or the custody experts involved – are thinking twice about the damages to the children, let alone the fact that they are destroying an innocent party.

False Allegations_Unreasonable Child Support Either way, this is wrong and should not be enabled by court professionals. We are looking to the court professionals to allow more transparency and to stop encouraging and enabling these harmful practices. False Allegations and alienation tactics are coming up a lot on cases because they cause the cases to be prolonged and lead to larger billings for certain family law and child custody professionals. Where we can see the active participation of certain professionals in using these tactics, whether it is causing them or enabling them – dishonestly and unethically – we refer to this practice as “Putting Profit Over Protection.”

One of the worst cases, and one with the highest dollar amounts going to dishonest professionals is a Fulton case you have seen aired on CBS Atlanta news reports. The GAL Jim Holmes has billed and been awarded approximately $166,000 in fees, and while helping to ensure that evidence of child abuse and child pornography are not allowed on the record. This GAL and others use psychologists such as Dr. Howard Drutman and Dr. Betty King to instead point the blame at the other parent, so as to justify the court’s ruling to punish or restrict that targeted parent.

This happens to both mothers and fathers, as personality disorders, abusive conduct, fear and hate are not gender-specific problems. The abusive parent can easily use the court system to control, punish and undermine the other parent.  The myths you may hear about is that more women alienate fathers, or you may hear that more men are abusive and able to get away with foul play because they are men and control the money. It is not that simple, so we use case studies to educate both men and women, and ask them to look at ways to intervene and support each other – meaning good parents and good professionals have to work together to address what is really driving and enabling the foul play.

The truth is that foul play comes in many forms, but the abusive parent is the one most likely to aggressively seek out ways to harm the other parent, and certain family court professionals are inclined to reward that behavior as it pays them well, regardless of which party has access to the funds from which they’ll be compensated. The truth is that certain professionals do not care which parent – mother or father – is willing to be abusive.

It doesn’t matter either whether their client or the other party has some form of misconduct they are motivated to hide or to continue doing (like child abuse, violence, substance abuse or financial fraud).  It is not the concern of certain professionals, according to what our case studies show, if this misconduct continues even if it is hurting children and the parents these children need caring for them and protecting them. When we use the term foul play, we do not just mean what one parent is doing to another, but what those professionals are enabling and ignoring. In this context, when we say foul play we mean where certain attorneys and select custody experts are used to help either suppress evidence – evidence that should be used on the record to protect children or the targeted parent – or where they are used to launch and validate False Allegations against an innocent parent.

By keeping evidence off the record, filtered out and hidden from the custody reports and “psych evaluations,” and by causing False Allegations against the innocent / targeted parent to appear valid, they can manipulate what the Court hears and rules on, and they can alter and manipulate the outcomes of court cases. For many of these professionals, this is just standard operating procedure, but the problem is that we have an unsuspecting public who does not realize that it is not safe for them.

If you are innocent and simply believing the court professionals will use the evidence and funds to protect you, your children, your rights and your property and life savings, you will face a rude awakening, but probably not until it’s too late. Because of this situation, we see many good parents losing their children, their homes, their careers and health, and filing bankruptcy. Some parents try to stand up for themselves and appeal rulings to correct a situation where they and their children have been set up to fail, and they wind up in jail because the judge and opposing counsel do not want to allow the case to be exposed or corrected. Fortunately this practice is not being used by all attorneys or condoned by all judges. All child custody “experts” and mediators are not involved or complicit.

In our reports you will learn about ethical, talented attorneys and child custody professionals and therapists speaking up and taking a stand to interrupt these practices and to help parents and children recover. To help you learn more from experts across the country, we shared this video from 2007 which includes a police officer who speaks to the use of False Allegations in the context of custody cases.  Her background leads her to speak more to men as the victim of this form of foul play, but our data is showing that women are just as likely to be falsely accused, to lose their rights to care for and protect their children, and to be destroyed financially and even jailed. Currently we have several parents who are in jail where their cases have been brought to our attention, and from all we’ve seen there is no valid reason for them to be in jail, and the fault lies with the professionals who acted as described above. In other cases, the abusive parent is going after the targeted or innocent parent, and lying to law enforcement and the courts to have the other parent cut off from their children and even jailed.

From what we are learning, law enforcement would prefer not to be lied to and used this way. It is a waste of our tax dollars and manpower, and it is leading to our communities being LESS SAFE and less economically sound or prosperous.

Law enforcement officers are seeing the damages to the children around the use of these foul play tactics.

We are asking the community to get more informed, to learn about these cases, and to ask legislators, news media, law enforcement and our leadership to get involved. This is destroying good families, destabilizing children and causing them to fail in school and to develop addiction problems, worsening their health and setting them up to repeat these cycles. Is that what we want?  Should we allow certain court professionals to keep building the mystery around the use of false allegations and alienation? Or is now the time for us to look at these issues and bad practices, and intervene? This is a Mystery that we can now take head on and clear up.  

Protecting Children from Family Violence

The stories are worse than the stats, so if you don’t have a strong stomach, just turn away.

But we dare you to watch and learn, and take a stand in your cases and in your courts.

Many injuries and deaths are preventable, so stop making excuses. #ProtectChildren

Atlanta News: CBS Asks Why the Need for Family Court Reform

You may have learned over this past year that just because police and DFCS substantiate claims of child abuse, that does not mean the judge and custody experts will use this evidence to protect a child.

It does not even mean that the child’s THERAPIST will take the evidence seriously in order to protect the child…how is that even possible?  This therapist was chosen by the mother, but only because she had a credible background and substantial role in advocacy for children.  However, when money becomes an issue…it appears evidence and the medical needs of a child do not carry much weight.

This therapist would not listen to police, the child, other real doctors and is not trained to treat dissociative disorder.  This disorder can manifest for victims of severe and prolonged abuse.

This medical disorder and the signs of trauma are glaring in a number of cases in Georgia that are being handled much like this one.  Should our healthcare community and educators be made aware, so they can get involved to help stop this?  We think so.

Dr Danielle Levy decided that overwhelming evidence of abuse & trauma should be ignored.  $$$

Dr Danielle Levy decided that overwhelming evidence of abuse & trauma should be ignored. $$$

 

My Advocate Center has been researching cases across counties and collecting data, and unfortunately the pattern is the same.  If certain attorneys and select custody experts get together, they can put profit over protection.

By hosting the world premiere of the Divorce Corp. film narrated by Dr. Drew, Atlanta was able to bring together parents and professionals to expose the truth and discuss reform.

Continue reading and watching our news coverage as there is much more to report that will help drive change, should you choose to understand and then act on it.

 

 

This is the second in a series of interviews on this case, but the start of a national movement with My Advocate Center to help fathers understand what mothers like this one are going through.  We are all on the same team around protecting children who are being harmed by unethical court practices, foul play, and the “Pay to Play” system.

Guilty parties will pay large amounts of money to have evidence suppressed, and to retain access to their victims.   It is a “Pay to Play” system that allows violent or abusive parties to use children as pawns and to use the process to hide crimes and punish parents seeking protection from the court.

This “Pay to Play” concept also works in reverse, where certain attorneys counsel clients to lie to police – wasting our law enforcement resources – and use false allegations to gain advantage or punish the other party.  Either way, children are harmed, as is our State.  The case revealed in our local coverage fits the Pay to Play concept, and foul play is involved, but it is not a false allegations case as the father’s attorney is asserting.  Look at the facts of the case, the record, and what the professionals were paid to keep the available evidence and testimony – including from police – OFF the record.

There is more to follow, including the tactics of working to deny a litigant the opportunity and right to appeal.

Now is the time to get involved, and save these children and the good parents counting on our Courts and laws for protection.

Please follow updates about Family Court Reform and ask your legislators to help see this through.

Twitter: Follow @MyAdvocateCentr  using #FamilyCourtReform #ImproveFamilyLaw #NeedsofChildren #MyAdvocateCenter — and help stop these #shenanigans.

 

Atlanta News Radio – Family Court Reform

The gavel dropped to open the 2014 Georgia legislative session, right after this brief segment aired.

All News 106.7 and Scott Kimbler reveal what is going on behind the scenes at My Advocate Center regarding Family Court Reform.

Help us serve the real needs of children who are not being protected due to foul play and hidden influence in certain family court cases.

Play

The Full Story Behind the Divorce Corp. Film

There was another documentary made before this Divorce Corp. film, but from a different perspective. It was not narrated by a big name media personality so most of us did not hear about it. My Advocate Center’s Executive Director Deb Beacham learned about this documentary after talking about the Divorce Corp film with family court leaders and advocates around the country.

That’s the lead in to the rest of the story, a story that will continue developing as we get closer to our event and the world premiere of this shocking film.

Just know it’s about more than one film, and about more than one voice.

While waiting to hear what Dr. Drew says about the family court industry, please watch this trailer and understand the issues from the perspective of children. Many of Dr. Drew’s adult patients were victims of childhood abuse.

No Way Out But One is important, and is complementary to what we are talking about on the night of our Divorce Corp. screening.

This is about child abuse that is covered up, but using the same court professionals who punish innocent fathers.

 

After you watch this trailer, please join Court Watches around the country like this one in Cobb County, Georgia.