U.S. Representatives, Georgia Needs You

You’ve seen the news reports, heard the stories and talked about it on social media, or maybe only quietly shared it with your counselor when privately grieving what has happened to you or to your loved ones.

The next step for Georgians is to ask our policy leaders to help create momentum on this issue. Please sign the petition below and get to know your U.S. Representatives by sharing your experience with them.

What is the overall goal?

Keeping our children safe, our families stable and healthy, protecting our rights as parents and grandparents to care for our own children. To do this, we need to improve how our courts and legal professionals manage family disputes that enter the the legal system.

Did you know? We reached over 1000 signatures on our previous petition, so just imagine what we can do now!

News Report: Call for Fulton Family Court Investigation

What do Fulton County families and children need most?

If you ask parents caught in legal conflict, you’ll likely hear the word transparency.

Georgia news media, parents, advocates and legal professionals attended a press conference on April 24th that covered in detail the danger experienced by safe, loving parents and their children in family court cases.

The allegations are serious and a plea was made to Fulton County’s District Attorney Paul Howard to investigate the claims.

The press conference featured Georgia expert William Perry who is known for his news reports on ethics failures in government. Perry, who goes by Georgia Ethics Watchdog in his reports, learned just how dangerous the legal environment is for families, and decided to do something about it. Several tragic stories were shared and family law attorneys weighed in, agreeing that something needs to be done. Atlanta’s Fox5 News aired the story that evening, doing a remarkable job at laying out what is complicated and challenging to explain.

The news report explained that for these parents who are being victimized, nothing is more important to them than their children. Children are reportedly being taken from them without any regard for the law.

Perry addressed needed policy changes and spoke about his challenge to law enforcement and other authorities to investigate cases where good parents are wrongfully accused, torn from their children and set up to fail.

My Advocate Center’s term to describe the problem is profit over protection.

Outcomes make no sense given our laws and the facts in such cases.  The real needs of children are thrown by the wayside. Does it need to be this way?

The image here was taken by a news team at the Fulton County courthouse in recent years, when custody experts were paid to suppress evidence of child abuse that was substantiated by forensic evaluations and law enforcement. The litigation resulted in protection and proper medical treatment being withheld from the child.

Young adults are coming forward now to speak about their experiences such as what this child experienced when outcries for help were ignored and silenced. There is no need to wait in beginning investigations and working to remove danger by closing loopholes in state policies.

When families are exploited there is often a lack of transparency and due process in the management of the litigation, so Perry emphasized the need for parties to be allowed to record their own court proceedings.

Superior Court Rules on Recording Court Hearings

This issue was addressed by Georgia’s Supreme Court and Superior Court judges and includes recommendations from stakeholders in the press, My Advocate Center and other advocacy groups.

The new rule changes take effect in May of 2018, benefitting the public, professionals who are ethical and committed to protecting clients and children, and also benefitting the courts in creating more efficiency and positive outcomes.

Parents, grandparents, professionals and even children are speaking up about experiences and the need to take action. Contact My Advocate Center’s founder Deb Beacham here to report details to My Advocate Center or to ask for assistance.

Investigations and News Reports Matter

Learn more about what is happening across Georgia and how investigations can make all the difference in improving safety, family stability, and the ability for parents and children to recover from trauma.

Contact My Advocate Center to review case studies and data on these issues. Investigators will discover that the problems described here are wide-spread and found nationwide, but with Fulton County’s large population and high rates of domestic violence and child abuse, there is a special need for a concentrated review of cases in this area.

Background material for news reports and investigations can also be found in reports such as this story by an Augusta news station about glaring misconduct by a Guardian ad Litem who manipulated cases based upon whether vulnerable women would comply with his demands, or not.

Georgia Political Update: Victim Protection and Perpetrator Accountability

Many of our citizens believe that protection for victims is the battle cry only heard from the progressive side of the aisle, but in this past legislative session I learned about the role of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and how conservative values drove policy reform efforts to better serve victims of abuse and to improve safety and stability for our citizens.

One of the things that stood out for me is that the Georgia Baptist Mission acknowledged its members have as much to lose as other religious groups from extending statutes of limitations for suing not only sexual predators but also the entities that enabled and/or covered for the predator. In spite of this financial and public exposure risk, the Baptist leadership stated firmly its position to seek better protection for the vulnerable and real accountability for perpetrators of child exploitation.

This is not a liberal or conservative issue, nor is it a characteristic of one party or another.

It is resoundingly a matter of right versus wrong.

We need more of this form of advocacy, this type of integrity and leadership. We need more people across society to loudly and firmly, “No,” to putting profit over protection. In my work and social engagement, online and offline, I’ll continue to acknowledge and support good work by those on all sides of political, faith, protection and enforcement issues. The more we all pull together and close the divides that exist around this problem, the faster we save lives and stop abuses of all forms.

The topics of predatory behavior, the lack of transparency and accountability for perpetrators, the lack of protection for children and adult victims of abuse, and the extreme difficulty for victims and survivors to recover are ones I’ve been studying, analyzing and reporting on for years. I’ll continue this work far into the future, specifically focused on solutions that both prevent and assist in recovery.

I’m especially grateful to all participating actively and investing in creating change in this area of our society. Thank you for standing up, speaking out, and showing up repeatedly and demonstrating your commitment to improving safety and allowing for recovery.

In this section below, I’ve included an excerpt of the legislative update from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Public Affairs team:

SEXUAL ABUSE

“On a positive side was legislation like HB 732, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Silcox, that increases fines and penalties for pandering and solicitation for sex trafficking. These are the “middle men” who are out there drumming up business for pimps and johns. This legislation is needed to crack down on all who are a part of sexual exploitation of individuals for sex trafficking in our state. See GBC resolution on this issue https://gabaptist.egnyte.com/dl/JTaByb5jS7/RESOLUTION_ON_HUMAN_TRAFFICKING.PDF_ .

Rep. Jason Spencer addresses the topic of sexual predators at a press conference. MIKE GRIFFIN/Index

A bill that caused a sizable amount of controversy had to do with HB 605, The Hidden Predator Act. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer, (https://christianindex.org/children-hidden-predator-act-2018/ ) passed the House by a 170-0 vote. The bill basically allowed the statute of limitations to be extended to allow victims of child sex abuse to sue entities who had covered up child sexual abuse in the past. The bill was severely amended in the Senate. (https://christianindex.org/legislative-update-georgia-hidden-predator-act/ ) It was amended so much that there was very little legal remedy left for those whose statute of limitations had run out for criminal prosecution.  This legislation was introduced in the context of the legal cases regarding the Boy Scouts, The Catholic Church and USA Gymnastics.

Georgia Baptists supported this bill because we felt that it struck a balance in allowing the victims to sue, and the rights of the entities to defend themselves. However, because of the severe amending done by the Senate, the House did not agree with their version. The Senate would not appoint a conference committee and the House would not agree to the changes and the bill, therefore, died. This is a sad outcome for these victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.”

 

Let me know about your involvement in these issues and how I can better support you by contacting me here, and by connecting and engaging on social media.

Thank you,

Deb Beacham

My Advocate Center on Twitter

Facebook Advocacy

 

Protected: Children Traded as Commodities

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The Right Bug Repellant

Years ago when I first started studying the conduct of professionals who assist families during times of conflict, I noticed something interesting. When someone who is intensely worried and frustrated believes they have the right counsel, they will dress as they are told, cut their hair and change various behaviors for the sake of achieving the objective of the day. These changes in behavior and style and speech seem to happen quickly, without study, due diligence or challenge.

Imagine if a man relying on counsel is heading into the woods instead of into a courtroom.

He’s mainly worried about mosquitoes.

He asks his highly recommended counsel to hand him bug repellant to save him from the buzzing mosquitoes. He’s assured that if he applies this spray liberally and forges ahead, he will come out fine on the other side of the woods.

As he heads into the woods, believing he is covered and really has only about 100 yards to go, the buzzing sound goes away but he notices something else. He pulls up his pant legs to find a handful of ticks – you get the picture.  Ticks dig in and they are hard to get out. Treating disease caused by ticks? Expensive, time-consuming, stressful, and not always possible.

The man is confused. He has no reason to believe that his counsel would not give him the right advice or that he wouldn’t receive the protection he’s paying for and expecting, so he starts looking around trying to figure out where all the ticks came from and why he wasn’t warned about them. The ticks are much more threatening and painful than the mosquito bites he was trying to avoid…so what to do?

He calls out to his counsel who offers to sell him another bottle of spray and some ointment. So the man pays for what he is handed, takes the bottles out of the bag and begins spraying and applying the ointment. While he’s busy with these bottles another problem hits him. He can’t see his feet…or his ankles any longer. While applying the ointment to the back of his legs and prying out ticks, he doesn’t see he’s been standing in quicksand. He panics – he’s never seen quicksand before and realizes it seems to be pulling his legs in an inch at a time!

Now angry and scared, he calls out loudly to his counsel. Then he pauses.

He sees his counsel and a couple of other suits approaching with shovels and barbed wire. Quickly he tries to rationalize how they are going to save him with barbed wire? Is the shovel enough to move the quicksand away as he is now in up to his hips?

Feeling stuck?

You know what to do now, right? Click here for the right tools.

 

Protected: Corruption Investigation in Dekalb County by Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde

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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?

   

Economic Impact: Reform Makes Business Sense

Business leaders and business press:

My Advocate Center has been tracking for several years the impact on each community, and on our state.

You’ve seen it in your firms and corporations: the lost time from work, lost productivity, higher levels of stress and inability to focus.  You’ve seen the increase in healthcare costs, and the time lost to moving to smaller homes and dealing with children who are not coping well.

Now it is possible to see how the bad practices in Family Court are feeding and escalating these issues, and on a larger scale than you might imagine.  You know the divorce rate in Georgia?  Across the country?  You also are aware of the foreclosure rates here as well.

There is a direct correlation between what we are measuring and reporting on, and the economic impact felt by both our business community and our citizens.  When you see the data it will be an easy decision to make.  Backing reform over how our families and children are treated as they work through legal conflict will become a priority.

If the economic impact is not a concern to you or your business, then think about what is happening that could also happen to your children and grandchildren.  As we are proving now, no one is immune.

On Twitter:

#ReformMakesGoodBusinessSense #AtlantaNews

#BusinessofDivorce #FamilyCourtReform

#LostRealEstate #EconomicImpact

LinkedIn:

Discussions are developing around the country between professionals, professionals and parents, and in the business and healthcare communities regarding why we should collectively address these bad practices, and how to help our families and communities recover. The numbers are too staggering to ignore any longer.  And now we have the data and the solutions.

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