Saturday, December 7, 2013

ABC Action News I-Team: Willi Berchau Enjoys First Hours of Freedom From Florida's Guardianship Program!

A man who has spent years under the control of Florida's guardianship program is now free to come and go as he pleases and says it's thanks in part to the I-Team.

The cry from friends and supporters was "Free Willi,”as Willi Berchau battled a court system that he says was working against him.

 He is now out of his court ordered guardianship and is speaking out.

With a smile on his face and a bounce in his step, Willi left his assisted living center for the first time without having to ask permission to go eat pizza.

“I feel like I lost all the problems in my life,” Berchau said.

When we met Willi over the summer, he had been placed in an Alzheimer's unit by his court appointed professional guardian Patricia Johnson.

“If you stayed there any longer, you would mentally go down,” Berchau said back in August.
Berchau had been in a guardianship after he reportedly tried to sell his home for too low of a price back in 2010.

Johnson, who he had never met, asked the court to become his guardian.

“I got the letter from the court to appear in court. Once I appeared in court, I knew that they got me,” Berchau said. “And I couldn't get out.”

Willi was declared incapacitated, lost all his rights and was appointed a guardian.

After he was put into an Alzheimer's unit, we got involved. Days later he was moved to a less restrictive environment.

Last month, he was re-evaluated by a doctor, who found that he had full capacity.

“At my age, I guess I'm doing pretty good,” said Berchau, who will turn 100 in April.

Full Article, Video and Source:
Man enjoys first hours of freedom from Florida's Guardianship Program

See Also:
ABC Action News: Willie Berchau is Freed!

Panel seeks ouster of judge who didn’t reveal conflicts; she calls probate-court cases ‘ministerial’

A New York judge who has served on the state's probate court for more than a decade should be removed because she failed to reveal conflicts and recuse herself on multiple occasions, a disciplinary panel has recommended.

Previously censured in 2007 for her testimony before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in support of a now-disbarred former state supreme court judge, the respondent, Albany County Surrogate's Court Judge Cathryn M. Doyle, 60, didn't learn from this experience that she needed to be more careful about the appearance of impropriety, says the commission's administrator in a written statement provided to the Albany Times Union. .

"From 2007 to 2011, Judge Doyle failed to disqualify herself from, and took judicial action in, nine matters involving attorneys with whom she had close professional and personal relationships," said the commission in a written opinion filed with the state Court of Appeals.

Full Article and Source:
Panel seeks ouster of judge who didn’t reveal conflicts; she calls probate-court cases ‘ministerial’

Denville man says he 'accidentally' sexually assaulted disabled woman, authorities say

A 58-year-old Denville man is facing sexual assault and neglect charges after he sexually penetrated a disabled woman, authorities say.

The woman, who is severely autistic, disclosed to authorities that Raymond Boyle sexually penetrated her, acting Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp and Denville Police Chief Christopher Wagner said in a joint news release.
When interviewed, Boyle admitted to "accidentally" penetrating the woman, they said.

Boyle was arrested Monday following an investigation by the Morris County Prosecutor's Office and the Denville Police Department, Knapp and Wagner said. The investigation is ongoing, they said.

Full Article and Source:
Denville man says he 'accidentally' sexually assaulted disabled woman, authorities say

Friday, December 6, 2013

ABC Action News: Willie Berchau is Freed!

A man who the I-Team first reported was locked up in an Alzheimer's unit by his court appointed guardian, despite evidence he didn't belong there, just had his rights restored by a judge.

The I-Team first reported the story of Willie Berchau back in September. Berchau had twice been declared incapacitated by the court and was locked up in an Alzheimer's unit at the request of his court-appointed guardian.

His friends and supporters who believed he didn't belong there contacted ABC Action News. Berchau was frustrated with the system. "We have a free society," he said. "I have no rights to decide where I like to live and makes the few days I have left to live so miserable and uncomfortable," said Berchau.

After the interview aired, that all changed. A doctor found that he is capable of exercising all of his rights and recommended that he be discharged from  his court-ordered guardianship and be free to live where he wants.

Berchau's guardian had been opposed to him having his rights restored, saying his condition had actually worsened, but she later withdrew her objection.

Now, a judge has signed an order restoring all of Berchau's rights and ordered his money to be promptly returned to him.

Man Locked in Alzheimer's Unit by Court-Appointed Guardian is Now Free

See Also:
ABC Action News:  Who is William Bercheau?

Oversight of Nursing Home Trust Funds Limited

Many states do not require criminal background checks on nursing home staff who manage residents' trust funds, and few demand audits of those accounts – a regulatory gap that contributes to scores of cases in which the money is stolen or mismanaged.

Nearly every state requires background checks for nursing home staff in caregiving roles, but 20 states don't apply that requirement to office workers who do not routinely have direct patient contact, a USA TODAY review of state laws finds. Those office employees typically manage the trust accounts that nursing homes must maintain for residents who request that the facility safeguard their money.

In an investigation published in October,  USA TODAY found that thousands of nursing home residents have had their savings stolen while held in the trust accounts, usually by business managers, bookkeepers and other office staff. Because the accounts generally don't have to be audited, those crimes often go undiscovered for months, even years, and the thefts can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Obviously, this is a problem that should be addressed, and obviously it's one that hasn't been addressed very well," says Janet Wells, former director of public policy for the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

Federal law provides the regulatory framework for the nation's 16,000 nursing homes, which have to meet an array of standards to participate in Medicare and Medicaid. Federal rules do not require audits for resident trust fund accounts, and most states take the same approach.

Full Article and Source:
Oversight of Nursing Home Trust Funds Limited

See Also:
Thefts From Nursing Home Trust Funds Target the Elderly

New scrutiny for guardians of vulnerable Nebraskans

LINCOLN — A group advocating for disabled Nebraskans plans to look into other “guardianship mills” following last week’s arrest of a Gering woman who had been named guardian for hundreds of people.

Judith Widener, 70, has been charged in Scotts Bluff County Court with stealing money from her wards.

Court records show that her company, Safe Haven Inc., had been assigned to act as the guardian for 688 people in more than 60 counties. The total includes inactive and closed cases, as well as ongoing ones.

Tim Shaw, CEO of Disability Rights Nebraska, said Widener’s firm is not the only organization that has sprung up recently to handle the affairs of elderly, blind and disabled people in Nebraska.

He said the firms need greater scrutiny, given the size and scope of problems uncovered with Safe Haven.

“I think there are questions to be asked about how these other guardianship mills are acting,” Shaw said. “Who’s watching them?”

Disability Rights, which provides legal representation and does other advocacy work, is pushing for Nebraska to create a public guardianship program that could end the reliance on private companies.

“Our current guardianship system needs reform,” Shaw said. “This case is yet another example of that need.”

Full Article and Source:
New scrutiny for guardians of vulnerable Nebraskans

Boulder theft from elderly case leads to woman's conviction

A 54-year-old woman was convicted Wednesday in Boulder District Court on felony theft charges for scamming an elderly Boulder couple of almost $600,000 over the span of seven years.

Michelle Ann Hebert was found guilty on two counts of theft from an at-risk adult -- a Class 3 felony -- as well as eight tax related charges by a jury after a four-day trial.

According to an arrest affidavit, Hebert met the victims, Howard and Charlotte Krasnoff, in 2001 when Howard Krasnoff, 89, became a patient at a Longmont eye clinic where Hebert worked as a receptionist.

The Krasnoffs said Hebert's behavior toward Howard was "flirtatious," and that she would often show him pictures of her daughter because he had a soft spot for children. He also had several medial issues, including Parkinson's disease and memory issues.

In 2005, Hebert showed up at the Krasnoffs' door and asked for a $300 loan to help pay for living expenses, according to court records. The Krasnoffs were confused by the request, but gave her the money because they knew her and thought she was a good person. Hebert did pay back the $300 loan.

But after that Hebert began seeing Howard Krasnoff -- a psychotherapist -- as a patient and asked him for more money. She told him stories about how her daughter was sick or that she was afraid of her ex-husbands when asking for loans, sometimes ranging in the thousands of dollars.

Hebert told the Krasnoffs she would pay them back when she won a multi-million dollar lawsuit she said she had filed or sold her house in Wyoming, but none of the loans were ever repaid.

She also used a credit card belonging to Howard Krasnoff to make purchases until he cancelled the card.

The Krasnoffs finally brought their case forward to investigators in April.

Howard Krasnoff passed away on Oct. 3, but was able to give a recorded deposition that was played for the jury, and Charlotte Krasnoff testified at the trial in person.

Full Article and Source:
Boulder theft from elderly case leads to woman's conviction

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jenny Hatch Becomes Icon for Disabled

Jenny Hatch has worked at a Virginia thrift store for more than six years.

“I love my thrift store,” she said.

The 29-year-old is meticulous -- making sure the shelves stay organized and the merchandise, fashionable.

“So the pink is, like, done now,” she said.

She even runs the register, with a little help from her co-workers.

The store owners, Kelley Morris and Jim Talbert, have long been Hatch’s friends. Now, they are also her guardians-- the result of a landmark legal battle for her independence. 

“I feel so much happy that I live here now because now I just come home and spend time with my friends,” she said.

Hatch, who has Down syndrome, wanted to live with Morris and Talbert. Her mother and step-father wanted her to live in a group home.

The case went to court.  Jenny won.

“We had to change long held, you know, ingrained beliefs about what people with disabilities can and can't do,” said attorney Jonathan Martinis.

The judge granted Morris and Talbert temporary, limited guardianship over Hatch until August 2014. After that -- it's up to her.

“I don't think Jenny needs a guardian for everything in this world,” Martinis said. “I think, to quote Jenny, she just needs a little help.”

Since her court victory, Hatch has become an icon for the developmentally disabled. In October, she also became the face of a foundation:  The Jenny Hatch Justice Project.

Full Article and Source:
Woman With Down Syndrome Becomes Icon for Disabled

See Also:
Disability is No Excuse to Deprive One of Civil Liberties

Press Release: Illinois Leads Way in Laws Protecting Seniors

Illinois is a leader in protecting its elderly population through a host of special laws. As such, lawyers often are empowered as seniors’ first, strongest allies against abuse, Barry Kozak, director of the Elder Law Program at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, said during a recent panel held at the school.

Seniors, their advocates and government workers can take action against physical, emotional, sexual and financial exploitation, confinement and passive neglect. Illinois also is one of the few states that protects against self-neglect, such as hoarding.

Illinois has had the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act for several decades, which until recently had protected adults over age 60. The law was amended this year and renamed the Adult Protective Services Act, so now adults ages 18 to 59 with disabilities also are protected from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Illinois lawmakers used the state’s child abuse laws as models when writing laws to protect the elderly. It made sense to follow the pattern because both populations need protective care in the likelihood of abuse, Kozak said at a recent John Marshall-sponsored panel on elderly issues.

As the public comes to recognize the needs of seniors, attorneys will be able to offer greater assistance because of Illinois’s protective statutes.

“This is a constituency that becomes more dependent on those around them,” Kozak said. “Attorneys will, in some cases, be their first line of defense against the unscrupulous actions of others who attempt to steal seniors’ assets or deny them the care they require.”

Panelists outlined how the Illinois Department on Aging, the Chicago Department of Aging, and support groups, including AARP, provide services.

The Illinois Department on Aging, for example, spends most of its budget working to keep people safe in their communities, said Mary Killough, deputy director for the Illinois Department on Aging. She explained to John Marshall students how the agency spent a year examining breakdowns in services and revamped many of its initiatives to make certain Illinois contractors were giving the care seniors needed. Today, Illinois’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Act is a societal model.

Full Press Release and Source:
Illinois Leads Way in Laws Protecting Seniors: John Marshall Professor

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Judge Steven Jones' romance allegations to come before panel

After months of delays, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline finally gets a chance Monday to hear allegations that suspended Family Court Judge Steven Jones mishandled a romantic relationship with a prosecutor who appeared before him.

Jones plans to hold back no punches in his bid to avoid losing his longtime seat on the bench.
He has subpoenaed a slew of fellow judges, including Chief District Judge Jennifer Togliatti and Chief Family Court Judge Gloria O’Malley, to testify during his defense in the weeklong hearing in the boardroom of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“Judge Jones looks forward to working with the Judicial Discipline Commission to demonstrate his continued fitness as a sitting judge,” said his lead lawyer, James J. Jimmerson.

Jones fought to derail the hearing for months, arguing the commission violated its own rules and his due process rights during its investigation into the misconduct allegations.

Attorneys for the commission have their own headliners waiting in the wings to testify at the hearing, including former District Attorney David Roger and the two deputies who helped expose the relationship between Jones and the prosecutor, Lisa Willardson.

Roger removed Willardson from handling child abuse and neglect cases before Jones after the relationship became public in October 2011 and appeared to invite a professional conflict of interest for both Willardson and the judge.

Roger later fired Willardson.

More than a year later, in December 2012, commission attorneys filed a 12-count complaint against Jones, accusing him of violating Nevada’s Judicial Code of Conduct.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Steven Jones' romance allegations to come before panel

See Also:
Family Court judge to face disciplinary hearing in December

Judge Jones tries to stop discipline hearing over alleged mishandled relationship

Nebraska Editorial: Guardianship System Needs Improvement

State Auditor Mike Foley has exposed so much fraud and corruption in state government that his revelations have almost become a matter of routine.

His latest audit deserves a second and third look.

One reason is because once again criminal charges have been filed on the basis of alleged wrongdoing uncovered by his team of crack investigators.

Another reason is that his probe suggests that further action by lawmakers might be in order for the protection of disabled and elderly Nebraskans for whom a guardian is appointed.

The situation depicted by the audit of programs serving elderly, blind and disabled Nebraskans is atrocious.

In the sampling of cases studied by the auditor, investigators found that in more than a third of cases, the state Department of Health and Human Services was making payments that were unreasonable or in violation of state law and regulations.

Foley pointed out that taxpayer money was being squandered because of insufficient oversight.

As he also said in a news conference that it was far worse that HHS negligence was jeopardizing the welfare of some of Nebraska's most vulnerable elderly and disabled citizens.

The audit led to a felony charge being filed against Judith Widener of Gering, who was legal guardian for more than 600 people in 60 counties across the state. The audit alleged that Widener took about $35,000 from client accounts for her own personal use.

Widener should be presumed to be innocent until found guilty, but it's clear that Nebraska's handling of guardianships is ripe for reform.

Foley's audit makes clear that Nebraska's way of handling guardianships is flawed. Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln said after the audit that he is studying options for improvement. Reform of the guardianship system should be a legislative priority next year.

Full Article and Source:
Editorial:  Guardianship System Needs Improvement

Lawyer who asked client to buy pot loses license

WAUSAU -- A lawyer from Wausau who asked a teenage client to buy drugs for him has been suspended for three years.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the Wisconsin Supreme Court levied the judgement against Ronald J. Moore ofn Friday.

Moore pleaded no contest to six different ethics violations, and was ordered to pay $1,245 to cover costs for the prosecution of the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

According to the complaint, Moore told his 18 year-old client that his house was going to be raided by police in 2010. He then told the client to bring any evidence relating to drugs to Moore's office.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer who asked client to buy pot loses license

MI: Advocacy Group Sues Nursing Home for Records Related to Resident's Death

Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, a state-appointed group charged with investigating allegations of abuse and neglect against individuals with disabilities, recently filed suit in federal court.
A state advocacy group is suing a Fenton nursing home for its alleged failure to turn over documents related to the death of a resident last summer.

Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service filed suit earlier this month in Flint U.S. District Court against Fenton Healthcare, 512 Beach St., obtain records detailing the care given to four disabled residents of the facility, including one who died MLive reports.
Officials with the state-appointed advocacy group, which investigates allegations of abuse and neglect against individuals with disabilities, said they learned of the possible abuse and neglect of several residents last summer.

The group’s allegations were based on survey conducted June 13 by Michigan’s Bureau of Health Care Services, which found that emergency medical services were not provided following incidents involving four residents who had previousy been diagnosed with disabilities.

Full Article and Source:
Advocacy Group Sues Nursing Home for Records Related to Resident's Death

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Linda Kincaid Reports: Monterey County Counsel and Public Guardian Evade Questions About Elder Abuse

Margarita Zelada is a victim of elder abuse perpetrated by the Monterey County Public Guardian and County Counsel. As of this writing, Margarita is unlawfully confined and isolated at Senior Paradise in Del Rey Oaks, California. She is allowed no visitors, no phone calls, and no mail. Margarita has not been charged with any crime. Yet, Monterey County officials allow the frail elderly woman fewer privileges than enjoyed by convicted murderers.

On November 1, 2013, this Examiner sent a list of questions to Senior Deputy Public Guardian Teri Scarlett. The list requested Scarlett cite the legal authority supporting certain activities by Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis.

On November 8, 2013, Scarlett sent the following email. “You will be receiving a response from our attorney, Cathleen Giovannini.”

On November 13, 2013, Deputy County Counsel Cathleen Giovannini sent the following email. Her attached letter contained many factual errors and was not responsive to the questions asked.

“Dear Ms. Kincaid,

“I am a deputy county counsel with the County of Monterey. I represent the Monterey County Public Guardian. Atttached please find my responsive letter to your November 1, 2013 letter to Teri Scarlett, Chief Deputy Public Guardian, as well as an Ex Parte Application and Proposed Order we have filed with the Monterey County Superior Court which is scheduled to be heard on November 20, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. at the Monterey Superior Court, 1200 Aguajito Road, Monterey, California. I will be forwarding you the exhibits to the application under separate cover, as they are too large to send in one email.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you any questions.

Cathleen Giovannini

Deputy County Counsel
County of Monterey
(831) 755-5362”

The ex parte application mentioned in Giovannini’s email refers to a motion heard by the court on November 20, 2103. At that hearing, Empasis, Scarlett, and Giovannini convinced the court to strip Margarita of her constitutional right to interact with individuals of her choice.

Full Article, Documents, and Source:
Monterey County Counsel and Public Guardian Evade Questions About Elder Abuse

Nevada: I-Team: Family Court Judge Charged in $3M Fraud Scheme

A controversial family court judge has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of defrauding people of more than $3 million over a 10-year period.

Clark County Family Court Judge Steven Jones, a 20-year member of the bench, has been charged by federal authorities with conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering crimes for devising and participating in an investment fraud scheme in which he and five others swindled more than $3 million from victims, announced Daniel Bogden, United States Attorney for Nevada.

Jones, 54, was indicted along with Thomas A. Cecrle, Jr., 55, and Terry J. Wolfe, 57, all of Henderson, Constance C. Fenton, 68, of Gig Harbor, Wash., Mark L. Hansen, 54, of Corvallis, Ore., and Ashlee M. Martin, 38, of Las Vegas. The group faces a total of 20 charges including one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of engaging in money transactions in criminally-derived property, and nine counts of money laundering.

Full Article and Source:
I-Team:  Family Court Judge Charged in $3M Fraud Scheme

$600,000 for Interim Leadership at Austin Facility is Latest in Long Line of Fix-It Efforts

TX:  The state nearly paid $600,000 over five months this year for consultants to supervise and overhaul Austin’s long-troubled institution for people with disabilities, but continuing problems there raise concern that this was yet another improvement effort that fell short.

Between May and September, the state shelled out almost $585,000 for a team of advisers from the Columbus Organization to improve the Austin State Supported Living Center, a state-run institution for 300 residents with intellectual disabilities. About $105,000 of that price tag was for the consultants’ food, hotels, rental cars and flights to their homes across the country.

Full Article and Source:
$600,000 for interim leadership at Austin facility is latest in long line of fix-it efforts

Monday, December 2, 2013

Linda Kincaid Reports: American Public Health Association on Elder Abuse in Monterey County, California

The American Public Health Association annual conference draws public health experts from around the country. In November 2013, about 13,000 public health researchers, practitioners, and policy makers met in Boston to discuss best practices. Attendees discussed formation of a Special Primary Interest Group (SPIG) to address civil rights and violations of rights in conservatorship.

A session titled Civil Rights: Pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Happiness into the Golden Years? discussed abusive conservatorships in California. Margarita Zelada and her case history were the center of attention.

In September 2012, the Monterey County Public Guardian seized Margarita’s $9K/month income and $1.5M estate. She was left destitute and unable to provide for her basic needs.

On March 9, 2013, the Public Guardian seized Margarita’s person as well. Witnesses tell of a night of terror when Margarita was dragged from her daughter’s home screaming for help.

According to neighbor and private duty nurse Tara Robinson, ten Pacific Grove police officers stormed the home with guns drawn and leveled at Margarita’s daughter, Patricia Conklin. The officers dragged Margarita from her bed, rolled her in a sheet, strapped her to a gurney, and carried her to a waiting ambulance.

The nurse said Margarita’s screams were the most horrible sounds she ever heard. Officers admitted they had no warrant to enter the home or seize Margarita. Pacific Grove police reports indicate the siege was the result of allegations by Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis.

Full Article and Source:
American Public Health Association on Elder Abuse in Monterey, California

Linda Kincaid Reports: Timeline of Elder Abuse by Monterey County Public Guardian

Deputy Public Guardian Jennifer Empasis pursued a campaign of false allegations and abuse of power to control the assets of Peruvian immigrant Margarita Zelada. Her estate is valued at around $1.5M.
Margarita’s three bedroom home in San Francisco’s desirable Outer Sunset neighborhood sits vacant. Empasis changed the locks to prevent family entering the home. Patricia’s 2001 Mercedes, a gift from Margarita, is now in Empasis’ control.

In July 2012, Empasis alleged that Patricia financially abused her mother. Margarita repeatedly insisted Patricia did nothing improper. Patricia provided a full accounting of expenditures. No charges were filed.

In September 2012, Empasis seized control of all assets belonging to Margarita and Patricia. Mother and daughter were left unable to meet their financial obligations. Both experienced severe financial hardship.

On October 5, 2012, the court awarded temporary conservatorship of Margarita’s estate to the Public Guardian.

On December 13, 2012,
Margarita recorded a video stating that Patricia did not abuse her in any way. Margarita was emphatic that she did not want the Public Guardian involved in her affairs.
The video was never presented in court. Empasis had full knowledge of the suppressed evidence.

On March 9, 2013, Margarita was forcibly taken from Patricia’s home in Pacific Grove. Patricia and neighbor Tara Robinson said ten police officers stormed the house with guns drawn and leveled at Patricia. Officers acknowledged they had no warrant.

The officers dragged Margarita from her bed, rolled her in a sheet, and strapped her to a gurney. They carried her to an ambulance waiting outside. Robinson said Margarita’s screams were the most horrible sounds she ever heard.

Full Article and Source:
Margarita Zelada:  Timeline of Elder Abuse by Monterey County Public Guardian

Elder abuse: Seniors swindled out of $2.9 billion each year

Earlier this year, hired caregiver Melissa Renee Murray bilked an elderly Fort Collins woman out of more than $45,000.
A caller pretending to be a granddaughter in need of bail money for a Peruvian jail earlier this month tricked a pair of Fort Collins grandparents out of $16,000.
Garry Kohler, a former Windsor business owner, was sentenced to two years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from his elderly business partner.
To the common eye, these cases are just another instance of theft. To those more trained, they’re yet another example of the most common form of elder abuse. A Colorado law will take effect July 2014 and offer new hope for the sobering plight.
More than 60 percent of elder abuse cases — or abuse against older adults — involve financial exploitation. Like many of the cases above, most are perpetrated by someone in a position of trust, typically a family member or caregiver with a “sob story” or access to important financial documents or credit cards, said Helen Davis, coordinator for the Colorado Coalition for Elder Rights and Prevention and a local expert on elder abuse issues.
Full Article and Source:
Elder abuse: Seniors swindled out of $2.9 billion each year

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mary Sykes' Niece on Her Aunt's Guardianship

Dear Sir or Madam,

I'm weighing in here to lend credence to Mr. Ditkowsky's statements. I've addressed a few specifics below, but what happened was perfectly framed and orchestrated.

My Aunt (Mary Sykes) was placed under an adult guardianship under cover of darkness. She wasn't informed (i.e. her daughter who applied for the guardianship had her then attorney send multiple notifications of the application to Mary Syke's home in Chicago, while forcing her mother to stay with her in Naperville barring her from access to her own mail or a process server).

In fact when Aunt she heard there was going to be a court hearing, she was told by an employee of Rehab Assist (engaged by the GAL's on behalf of Carolyn Sykes), that it was NOT necessary for her to attend.

The one day she was in court, no one (neither GAL, Judge Connors, or Carolyn Toerpe) told her that she was to be guardianized. Aunt being fully aware that something was afoot, approached Carolyn Toerpe during a recess while Carolyn sat in the back of the courtroom. She scrunched down in front of Carolyn so that she was face to face with her and stated "You're rotten."

Ms. Farenga stated at one point that Mary Sykes was in opposition.  Mr. Stern at another time stated that if Mary Sykes was to ever be told about the guardianship, he would suggest that a professional be the one to do it.

When Aunt questioned Judge Connors as to who is fooling who and for what? There was no response from either the Judge or the GAL's.

My mother (Yolanda Bakken) and I were both accused of agitating Aunt. Mom had leaned over and felt the fabric of Aunt's slacks, asking her as to the material. (Aunt had just retired from being a seamstress).I asked Aunt if she would like a glass of water, then took her glass to the water fountain, filled it, and returned it to her. This was reported by Ms. Farenga as agitation. Mom was said to the have been 'pulling' at her clothes. Nothing specific was said as to what I did, but as my ONLY interaction, other than giving her a kiss Hello that morning, it must have been my intent to keep her hydrated that was misconstrued.

From that day forward, it was all downhill. All of our reputations have been maligned and we been punished for supporting Aunt in what she asked us to do. In February of 2009 my Aunt begged my mother and I to help her stop Carolyn Toerpe from taking over her life.

When Aunt questioned Carolyn regarding the $4000 that was missing from her bank account (Feb 2009), Carolyn's response was that she had invested in an IRA for her. (BTW, Aunt had just turned 90, and as anyone with a little accounting sense knows, she would not be allowed to invest in an IRA at that age.)

I've approached Carolyn Toerpe, Peter Schmeidel, Cynthia Farenga, and Adam Stern on numerous occasions in the hope of arranging visits between my Aunt (now 94) and her sister Yolanda (now 84). The sisters live less than 20 miles from each other, but have only had a handful of visits in the last 4 years.

Telephone calls are not answered and voice mail messages left with the guardian are ignored, and have been since BEFORE the guardianship was approved.

Judge Connors was very specific in her instructions to Carolyn Toerpe regarding contact between Aunt and her family.  Aunt was NOT to be isolated. Both GAL's and Mr. Schmeidel are well aware that my aunt has been and continues to be isolated from the family she was so very close to, and yet it continues.

I welcome any and all questions from anyone interested in resolving this situation, and who care about the rights of the elderly.


~Kathie Bakken

See Also:
NASGA: Mary Sykes, Illinois Victim

Attorney Ken Ditkowsky: The Need for an Honest, Complete and Comprehensive Investigation

Disney In-Laws Sue Lawyers for $100 mil

A real estate developer sued a law firm for $100 million, claiming it defamed him on its website to justify "pillaging and plundering" millions of dollars in fees from trusts for his children, heirs to the Walt Disney fortune.

William S. Lund, of Arizona, sued the trust's attorney Peter Gelblum and the law firm Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp in Superior Court.

A self-described "respected and successful entrepreneur," Lund says he has acted as an officer and trustee for 13 trusts, including the Walt Disney Foundation and trusts for his son and daughter, twins Bradford Disney Lund and Michelle Ann Lund.

Lund says he collaborated with Walt Disney in a feasibility study for a Disney World site. In 1968, he married Disney's youngest daughter, Sharon. The couple divorced in 1977 but Sharon named Lund as one of the trustees to manage their children's trust, which disburses roughly $20 million to each child every five years, according to the Arizona Republic.

The Republic reported in 2010 that Lund lived close to his son Brad, but his relationship with Michelle soured as the family feuded over management of the trust.

In that article, cited in Lund's lawsuit, Gelblum accused Lund of making money on trust business transactions involving secret land deals and forging Michelle and Brad's names to push through the transactions.

But in his 9-page lawsuit, Lund claims Gelblum "blatantly lied" to the Republic. He claims the law firm falsely accused him on its website of secretly profiting from the trust's business dealings at the expense of his children.
 Lund claims the law firm "viciously" defamed him "so as to justify payment to themselves of millions of dollars of attorneys fees ... pillaging and plundering the estate and legacy of Sharon Disney Lund and her progeny," according to the lawsuit.

He is represented by Joyce Vega.

Full Article and Source:
Disney  In-Law Sues Lawyers for $100 Million

See Also:
The Disney Family Court Battle Continues

Editorial: Wesley Smith: Death Doctors' Zeal Only Euthanasia Boundary

Euthanasia is only as limited as the consciences of doctors willing to kill. In other words, given that the supposed limits are wholly unenforced–and mostly depend on self-reporting–the only limits to euthanasia and assisted suicides are those doctors impose on themselves.
As we have seen with Jack Kevorkian and Phillip Nitschke, there are always ghoulish doctors out there with no brakes. In Belgium, that doctor is named Wim Distelmans. From the National Post story:
In September, the 60-year-old physician gave a lethal injection to Nathan Verhelst, 44, depressed over a failed sex-change operation. Last year, he oversaw the double euthanasia of Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45-year-old deaf twins who chose to die after learning they would lose their eyesight. Also last year, he euthanized a despondent Godelieva De Troyer, 64, whose children learned of her death after the fact. And he acknowledges there are many more “borderline” cases that the public never hears about.
Nothing will be done about this man’s radical death-on-demand absolutism. Hence, he–and others like him–rather than the law, control the limits of euthanasia. He essentially has a license to kill anyone wanting to die who he thinks has a life not worth living.

That is the only real limit on euthanasia–the farthest extent to which the most radical death doctor is willing to go.

Wesley Smith:  Death Doctor's Zeal Only Euthanasia Boundry

See Also:
Death by doctor: Controversial physician has made his name delivering euthanasia when no one else will

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Elderly Abuse