Saturday, August 7, 2021

Britney Spears’ dad reveals he recently discussed possibly placing singer back in mental institution

By Ben Feuerherd and Nicholas Hautman

Britney Spears’ father on Friday revealed he recently discussed whether to place his daughter back in a mental institution — as he rejected efforts to remove him as co-conservator of her multimillion-dollar estate.

Jamie Spears claimed in documents filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court that he wasn’t responsible for committing his daughter in 2019, a move that sparked the now-famous “#FreeBritney” movement.

But he said he got a call from Jodi Montgomery, who is in charge of the singer’s personal and medical affairs, on July 9 pleading for help over Britney’s “recent behavior” and mental health. 

Montgomery allegedly expressed concern that the pop star hadn’t been taking her medications properly — and brought up the possibility of a 5150 psychiatric hold, which, under California law, allows a person to be held for psychiatric evaluation if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

“Ms. Montgomery felt that Ms. Spears was spiraling out of control,” Jamie Spears said in a court declaration.

A banner reading “Free Britney” is seen at the Christopher Street Day parade in Berlin.
Jörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images

He claimed that Montgomery later backtracked and said a 5150 wasn’t needed.

The dad noted that beginning in 2018, he was not in control of Britney’s medical decisions, including her being committed to a mental facility the next year. When it surfaced that the former pop star had allegedly been involuntarily committed, fans took to social-media to demand she be “freed.” 

“Although I did not formally step down as Conservator of the Person until September 2019, I had not been in control of my daughter’s medical treatment since late 2018, when, due to my own personal health issues, I had to step back in this role,” the dad said in the filing.

Instead, Montgomery, who was added to Britney’s conservator team amid Jamie’s health issues, and a lawyer who used to be involved in the case made the decision, the court papers state.

“It was Jodi Montgomery, along with the Conservatee’s former attorney Sam Ingham, who admitted Ms. Spears to a facility in early 2019, including but not limited to signing the admittance documents,” the court filing states.

But Montgomery’s rep fired back in a statement to The Post on Friday, “As Case Manager, Ms. Montgomery worked under the sole direction and control of Jamie Spears. 

“She had no power or authority to place Britney Spears in any facility as a Case Manager – only Jamie Spears had that power in March 2019.

Britney Spears was checked into a mental health facility in 2019.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“It is unequivocally NOT TRUE that it was Ms. Montgomery and Sam Ingham ‘who admitted Ms. Spears to a facility in early 2019.’

“It is in Ms. Spears’ best interests that her father step down as her Conservator, so he can go back to just being Ms. Spears’ father, and working on a healthy, supportive father-daughter relationship,” the statement added.

Montgomery’s lawyer also said that though she has concerns about the “Toxic” singer’s mental health, Jamie Spears had misrepresented their conversation. 

“At no time did Ms. Montgomery express to Mr. Spears that Ms. Spears would currently qualify for such a (5150) hold,” Montgomery’s lawyer said in a statement. 

Montgomery believes that having her father as conservator was having a “serious impact” on Britney’s mental health, the statement said.

Jamie Spears’ has been at least one of his daughter’s conservators since 2008, when the star suffered a string of public meltdowns.

Britney has sought to free herself from the conservatorship — and called for her dad and anyone else involved in it to be jailed.

“Ma’am, my dad and anyone involved in this conservatorship, and my management, who played huge roles in punishing me when I said ‘no’ [to going on tour] — ma’am, they should be in jail,” she told a judge last month.

Jamie claims in the new filing that he’s done nothing but try to protect his daughter.

“Throughout his service as Conservator, Mr. Spears’ sole motivation has been his unconditional love for his daughter and a fierce desire to protect her from those trying to take advantage of her,” the papers state.

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SU Professor To Help With Financial Fraud Investigations

by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL – A special investigator is expected to assist the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office with financial fraud investigations.

The Worcester County Commissioners this week voted unanimously to approve a request from Worcester County State’s Attorney Kris Heiser to authorize a special investigator position to help with financial investigations. The position will be filled by a Salisbury University professor who is a certified fraud examiner and attorney who was previously a federal law enforcement officer with the FDIC.

“I’m excited to be able to even present this opportunity,” Heiser said. “It’s really a revolutionary program that Salisbury University has started.”

Heiser told the commissioners she was seeking approval to have Salisbury University Professor David Weber to assist her office as a special investigator. He’s a licensed attorney, certified fraud examiner and former law enforcement officer with the FDIC.

“He would be a great benefit to us,” she said.

Heiser said he was willing to work without compensation and in addition to serving as a special investigator could be an expert witness in complex financial cases.

“The service we would need to be able to make the strongest case possible for prosecution sometimes is very cost prohibitive because it requires forensic accountants and their services are very expensive,” Heiser said. “He’d be willing to serve in that role.”

She said his upper level students could assist as well, though her office would be able to decide which students were eligible.

Commissioner Chip Bertino questioned why Weber was willing to offer the county so much at no charge.

“He’s willing to do it because it benefits his students,” Heiser said. “The practical work experiences — they’d be testifying in court potentially. He really is committed to showing the students what a certified fraud examiner and what a financial abuse investigation would look like. He has over 20 years of experience in that role. When I say expert witness, he’s like a unicorn. I couldn’t find somebody with better qualifications.”

Commissioner Ted Elder said he was pleased to see elder financial exploitation on the list of cases the Salisbury University program targeted. Heiser agreed and said she’d been trying since 2019 to find someone skilled in that area.

“I do see it as a gap for our county,” she said.

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Newly formed guardianship reform group to meet next month

SANTA FE – A newly formed partnership of stakeholders to provide ongoing evaluation of New Mexico's adult guardianship system will hold its first meeting on Sept. 9.

The Supreme Court issued an order earlier this week appointing members of the Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders (WINGS), which includes protected persons under a guardianship, a family member, a professional guardian and conservator, and representatives of the executive, legislative and judicial  branches of government.

Similar WINGS programs operate in more than two dozen states. The WINGS in New Mexico was established by a new law (House Bill 234) enacted earlier this year. The law designated a wide range of stakeholder categories to be part of the group and directed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to appoint members representing them.

"Continued improvements in the guardianship system for vulnerable New Mexicans require a sustained collaboration by state courts and stakeholders in our communities. Our newly formed WINGS will operate as a partnership for advancing guardianship reform," said Justice C. Shannon Bacon, who is among four WINGS members representing the Judiciary.

Court-appointed guardians make personal and health care decisions for individuals who are incapacitated. Conservators are appointed by a court to manage the financial and possibly the property affairs of an incapacitated person, including those who may have dementia, traumatic brain injuries, a developmental disability or mental illness.

Under the new state law, the duties of the WINGS are to:

"A. identify strengths and weaknesses in New Mexico's system of adult guardianship and conservatorship;

"B. identify the least restrictive decision-making options for alleged incapacitated persons and protected persons under guardianship and conservatorship;

"C. review national standards on guardianship and conservatorship practices and recommend standards for implementation in New Mexico;

"D. proposed methods of training guardians and conservators in best practices or adopted standards;

"E. recommend outreach, education and training as needed; and

"F. serve as an ongoing problem-solving mechanism to enhance the quality of care and quality of life for adults who are or may soon be in the guardianship or conservatorship system."

Second Judicial District Court Judge Nancy Franchini will chair the WINGS, which by law must meet at least four times a year.

The first meeting will be held virtually on the Zoom platform on Sept. 9, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The second meeting is scheduled for Nov. 30, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Information about the WINGS and the September meeting, including how to remotely participate, will be posted on the Judiciary's webpage at a later date.

"The WINGS will build on work started by the Guardianship Steering Committee three years ago to promote the well-being of New Mexicans no longer able to manage their financial and personal affairs," said Judge Franchini, who chaired the committee.

The Supreme Court formed the steering committee after the Legislature approved guardianship system improvements in 2018.

Other members of the WINGS are: First Judicial District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid, Twelfth Judicial District Court Judge Dan Bryant; Anastasia Martin, designee of Aging and Long-Term Services Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez; Alice Liu McCoy, executive director of the New Mexico Developmental Disabilities Planning Council; Bryce Pittenger, designee of the co-chief executive officers of the Interagency Behavioral Health Purchasing Collaborative; State Auditor Brian Colón; Van Snow, designee of Attorney General Hector Balderas; state Sens. Katy Duhigg and Linda Lopez, both of Albuquerque; state Reps. Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces and Daymon Ely of Corrales; Tim Gardner, designee of the chief executive officer of Disability Rights New Mexico; Rosanna Soloperto, a professional guardian; Greg Ireland, a professor conservator; Veronica Chavez Neuman, a family guardian; Catherine Overton, a family member who is not a guardian or conservator; Margaret "Peggy" Graham, an Albuquerque attorney; Dr. Christine Burns, a health care provider in Albuquerque; Jodi Cooper and Steven Simmerson, protected persons under guardianship; Patricia Galindo, an attorney with the Administrative Office of the Courts; and DeAnza Valencia of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

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Friday, August 6, 2021

Britney Spears' Medical Team Supports Removal of Jamie Spears as Estate Manager, Says Conservator

Jodi Montgomery — who supports the removal of Jamie Spears as estate conservator — said having Britney's father as estate conservator "is not in the best interest" of the singer
By Tomás Mier

Britney Spears' personal conservator Jodi Montgomery says she and the singer's doctors are standing by the pop star's request to remove her father as conservator of her estate.

In a court filing on Thursday, Montgomery supported replacing Jamie Spears, 69, as co-conservator of Britney's estate with CPA Jason Rubin. Her medical team also supports the move, Montgomery said.

"[Jamie] should not continue to act as the Conservatee's Conservator of the Estate, because his doing so is not in the best interest of the Conservatee," the filing read. "Because the paramount concern for this Conservatorship is doing what is in the best interest of the Conservatee, Petitioner hereby joins Conservatee in the Removal Petition."

"Ms. Montgomery respectfully notes that Ms. Spears's medical team agrees that it is not in the best interest of the Conservatee for Mr. Spears to be and remain Conservator of the Estate," the filing read elsewhere.

Montgomery also described Rubin, the nominated replacement, as "eminently qualified" for the role.

"Ms. Montgomery believes in good faith that Ms. Spears's bests interests are served by granting the Removal Petition and removing Mr. Spears and replacing him as Conservator of the Estate with Mr. Rubin as requested in the Appointment Petition," the filing continued.

britney spears; jamie spears; jodi montgomery
Britney (L) and Jamie Spears; Jodi Montgomery (inset)
| Credit: Getty; Shutterstock; Inset: Pais Montgomery Fiduciary
Montgomery's court filing comes just several days after Britney, 39, through her lawyer Mathew Rosengart, filed a petition to officially remove her father as estate conservator and replace him with Rubin.

"Ms. Spears respectfully submits that the Court should appoint her nominee; in that, it is an objectively intelligent preference to nominate a highly qualified, professional fiduciary in this circumstance," the documents read. "Moreover, Ms. Spears respectfully submits that, given the Court's recognition at the July 14, 2021, hearing that Ms. Spears has sufficient capacity to choose her own legal counsel, she likewise has sufficient capacity to make this nomination."

According to his employer's website, Rubin has practiced as a forensic accountant since 1993 and has testified as an expert witness in hundreds of cases.

In 2019, Jamie stepped down as the conservator of her person after an alleged physical altercation with Britney and ex-husband Kevin Federline's son Sean Preston, 15. (The exes are also parents to son Jayden James, 14.)

At the time, Montgomery — a care manager — took over as Britney's conservator of her person.

britney spears
Britney Spears
| Credit: Nicholas Hunt/Filmmagic
At a July 14 hearing, Britney scored a major win in her conservatorship case when the judge allowed her to hire her own attorney, former federal prosecutor Rosengart. In the same hearing, Britney — who called into the hearing over the phone — accused Jamie of abuse.
"I would like to charge my father with conservatorship abuse," she reportedly said in tearful testimony. "I want to press charges against my father today. I want an investigation into my dad."

One day ahead of Britney's bombshell June hearing, The New York Times published a report citing sealed court documents and transcripts from 2016 between Britney and a probate investigator

"She articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her," a court investigator wrote in 2016, adding that Spears reportedly believed the legal system had "too much control."

During Britney's June appearance in court, Jamie's attorney Vivian Lee Thoreen shared a message from her client, saying, "[Jamie] is sorry to see his daughter in so much pain. [He] loves his daughter and misses her very much."

As for Montgomery, a source told PEOPLE that Britney was "happy" with how much Montgomery has supported her throughout the process of her conservatorship.

"She is happy that Jodi is pushing back against Jamie's claims," the source said then. "She feels like Jodi is very supportive."

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After decades in woods, New Hampshire man forced from cabin

'River Dave,' as he's known by boaters and kayakers, is behind bars after being accused of squatting for 27 years on private property in Canterbury

CANTERBURY, N.H. – For almost three decades, 81-year-old David Lidstone has lived in the woods of New Hampshire along the Merrimack River in a small cabin adorned with solar panels. He has grown his own food, cut his own firewood, and tended to his cat and chickens.

But his off-the-grid existence appears to be at risk.

"River Dave," as he's known by boaters and kayakers, is behind bars after being accused of squatting for 27 years on private property in Canterbury. As the owner of the land seeks to tear down the cabin, Lidstone has been jailed since July 15 on a civil contempt sanction.

"You came with your guns, you arrested me, brought me in here, you’ve got all my possessions. You keep ’em," he told a judge at a hearing Wednesday. "I’ll sit here with your uniform on until I rot, sir."

Jodie Gedeon, an avid kayaker who befriended Lidstone about 20 years ago, is working with other supporters to help him, including organizing a petition drive and collecting money to cover property taxes.

"He’s just a really, really, big caring guy, and just chooses to live off the grid," she said. "It really is about humanity, it really is about compassion, empathy ... he’s not hurting anybody."

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman agreed that Lidstone isn’t hurting anyone, but said the law is clearly on the landowner's side.

"You’re doing your own thing in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, so there’s a lot of sympathy to you for that," he said. "But there’s a lot of weight on the other side of the balance sheet, and not just about what the (landowner) wants to do with the land, but the weight I feel to uphold the judgment of the court and the rule of law."

Gedeon and other supporters came out to a town selectboard meeting on Monday. Board members said the town currently has no standing in the property dispute.

But even if there were a way to allow Lidstone to stay, it would be an uphill battle. His home is in violation of local and state zoning and environmental regulations, and there is no access to a road.

"You guys are in a quandary. So are we," selectman Robert Steenson said.

The woodlot Lidstone calls home is just a few miles away from Interstate 93. But it's hidden by the trees; it's on 73 acres that's been used for timber harvests. The property has been owned by the same family since 1963. There are no plans at this time to develop it.

Lidstone has claimed that years ago, the owner gave his word — but nothing in writing — allowing him to live there. But in the eyes of the current owner, he's a squatter and needs to go.

Property owner Leonard Giles, 86, of South Burlington, Vermont, didn’t even know Lidstone was there until the town administrator found out in 2015 and told him, expressing concern "with regard to the solid and septic waste disposal and the potential zoning violations created by the structure," according to Giles’ complaint in 2016.

The judge suggested Wednesday that Giles and town officials work with a mediator, but Giles' lawyer said the logistics would be too daunting.

"We’ve got to recognize the fact that this was a managed woodlot, with income which is supposed to support my elderly client in his retirement. At some point, how far is he supposed to go in order to turn his woodlot into a habitable lot for somebody else who’s there trespassing?" said attorney Lisa Snow Wade. "He just wants his land back."

Lidstone, who doesn't have an attorney, insisted his cabin is a hunting and fishing camp, not a home.

"Why do you need a road to it? Do you think I’m an idiot? You’re going to put a septic tank in for a hunting camp?" he said.

He also argued that Giles doesn’t own the property but is being pressured by the town.

"He’s a heck of a nice old man, I’ve talked with him a couple of times. This is not his fault, this is not my fault," he said. "It’s lying, cheating corrupt judges like you that are stepping on little people like me. But I’m telling you, sir, you step on me, I’m going to bite your ankle."

Lidstone, a bearded, small-framed, spritely man, has resisted efforts to leave since a judge issued an order for him to vacate in 2017. Following that, both sides had attempted to reach some sort of agreement for him, but were unsuccessful, according to court documents.

Currently, Lidstone can be released if one of three things happen: he agrees to leave, the cabin is demolished by Giles, or 30 days have passed since he was jailed. Another hearing will be held next week.

He hasn't had any other contact with law enforcement, unlike the case of a man in Maine called the " North Pond Hermit," who also lived in the woods for nearly three decades and pleaded guilty in 2013 to multiple burglary and theft charges.

Over the years, Lidstone, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a father of four who has made money as a woodsman, has been known to invite kayakers and boaters into his home, sharing stories about his life in the wild.

The wooden, two-level A-frame cabin was profiled by a local television show in 2018. There is a small, cluttered kitchen with pots hanging from the ceiling, some appliances, and curtains on the windows. His porch has a footstool with a base made of stacked beer cans. He converted a wood stove into a beehive. He's attached lights, a mirror and a pulley for a clothesline to logs supporting the cabin. There are piles of firewood.

Nearby is a gravel path leading to vegetable garden plots outlined by logs and some berry bushes. Lidstone gets his water from a stream.

Lidstone's decision to live in the woods is "exactly the lifestyle he wants," said his brother, Vincent Lidstone, 77, of Lafayette, Georgia.

"What they're doing to him isn't right for anybody, whether he's my brother or anybody's brother," he said. "He's 81 years old. Leave him alone."

Vincent Lidstone said he lost touch with his brother through the years, but described how the two of them and a cousin enjoyed spending time outdoors. They grew up in Wilton, Maine.

"We lived in the woods," he said. "We camped, fishing, hunting. The three of us did everything together for a lot of years."

It's unclear where Lidstone would go. Vincent Lidstone said he doesn't have the resources to help him. The Associated Press reached two of his three sons, who said they haven't been in touch with their father recently. His daughter didn't respond to a message seeking comment.

Gedeon said the matter hasn't been discussed by her group yet.

"We want to see him be able to live out his remaining years where he is," she said.

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Woman arrested for abusing an elderly person, police say

Veronica Stewart A woman has been arrested for abusing an elderly woman. (SHELBY COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A woman is behind bars after abusing an elderly person at a nursing home.

Veronica Stewart, 40, is charged with two counts of adult abuse/neglect/exploitation and aggravated assault after she allegedly abused a woman with Alzheimer’s and dementia, an affidavit read.

On Sept. 6, 2017, officers were told by a woman that her 90-year-old mother was injured at Graceland Nursing Home on Farrow Road, an affidavit read. 

She has Alzheimer’s and dementia and she requires total assistance with her daily living. She is confined to a wheelchair.

According to court documents, the victim had several injuries to her face, her lips were very badly swollen and she had several read knots on her forehead and a scratch to the left side of her face near her eye.

The daughter arrived at Graceland Nursing Home and discovered her mother lying in bed with unexplainable injuries.

Stewart, a nursing assistant at the nursing home, said she was giving the victim a shower when she became irate and hit herself in the face with a shower rod, the affidavit said.

The suspect advised that she was grabbing objects during the struggle.

Stewart called for a staff person to assist.

MPD detectives interviewed the staff at Graceland nursing home and were advised by the staff that no one assisted Stewart with the victim and the victim did not shower, the affidavit said.

According to police, detectives were told that Stewart asked one of the staff to help her make up the reason for the victim’s injuries and she was told by the staff to report it to the on-duty nurse.

The victim was taken to Saint Francis Hospital and her nose was fractured.

Stewart is due in court Wednesday.

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Thursday, August 5, 2021

Manager and Employee of Assisted Living Facility Arrested for Exploitation and Theft Against an Elderly Person

News Provided By
August 02, 2021, 16:18 GMT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Following an investigation by Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Tavetta Lavetta Jones and Tekera Levine were arrested over the weekend on charges related to abuse and exploitation of a senior. As employees of an assisted living facility in Escambia County, Jones and Levine were supposed to transfer the victim to sign bond paperwork. Instead, Jones and Levine, Jones's manager, abandoned the victim on the side of a road and took the victim’s identification card and debit card. Jones is charged with exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult, and criminal use of personal identification information. Levine faces a charge of accessory after the fact.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “The scheme concocted and carried out by these two caregivers is horrifying—the women abused their positions to steal a patient’s ID and debit card, then abandoned the senior victim on the side of the road. Thankfully, following an investigation by my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, these suspects have been arrested and will face serious charges for this criminal scheme.”

The MFCU investigation revealed that Jones, an employee of Whispering Pines Assisted Living Facility, abandoned an elderly resident on Antioch Cemetery Road in Walton County on Sept. 3, 2019. The elderly victim identified Jones and Levine as the facility employees who orchestrated the abandonment and identified a black Volkswagen as the vehicle Jones was driving while abandoning the victim. Jones and Levine left the victim without a phone, water, money or identification on a particularly hot day.

Levine, the manager of Whispering Pines, gave varying accounts about the occurrence of the abuse and Jones’s involvement. Phone records placed both Jones and Levine in Walton County near the time law enforcement responded to a 911 call by residents on Antioch Cemetery Road. Phone records also place Jones in the vicinity of ATMs where the victim’s debit card and personal identification number were used to gain access to the victim’s bank account during August and September 2019. Video footage places a black Volkswagen or similar vehicle at the ATMs during the transactions involving the victim’s debit card and PIN.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office arrested Jones on one count of exploitation of an elderly person, a third-degree felony; one count of criminal use of personal identification information of a person over 60 years of age and one count of criminal use of personal identification information over $5,000, both second-degree felonies. If convicted on all counts, Jones faces a possible sentence of up to 35 years in state prison.

ECSO arrested Levine on one count of accessory after the fact, a third-degree felony. If convicted, Levine faces a possible sentence of up to five years in state prison.

The cases will be prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Christi Hankins of MFCU through an agreement with Ginger Bowden Madden, State Attorney for the First Judicial Circuit of Florida.


Former D.A. faces ethics complaint for failing to stop misconduct in Topeka murder trial

By: Sherman Smith

Jacqie Spradling, left, arrives for a disciplinary hearing Dec. 7, 2021, in Topeka. A new complaint alleges former Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor shares responsibility for her mistakes. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Former Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor faces an ethics complaint for prosecutorial misconduct by his assistant during the 2012 murder trial of Dana Chandler.

The complaint filed Wednesday by Alma attorney Keen Umbehr is based on a panel’s conclusion that Jacqie Spradling should be disbarred for a deliberate pattern of misconduct, including false statements she made to the jury in the Chandler trial and unrelated case in Jackson County. As Spradling’s supervisor, Umbehr argues, Taylor was responsible for her misconduct and failed to intervene.

“Taylor violated his duties to the citizens of Shawnee County, to the legal system, to the legal profession, and to the public at large, and he did so knowingly and intentionally,” Umbehr said.

Taylor, whose law office is based in Silver Lake, currently works as the assistant county attorney in Bourbon County, according to the complaint. Spradling resigned as the Bourbon County attorney in June after a disciplinary panel determined she should be disbarred.

The complaint says former Shawnee County District Attorney Robert Hecht refused to bring charges against Chandler in the July 2002 double-murder of her ex-husband, Mike Sisco, and his fiancee, Karen Harkness, in their Topeka home. Shortly after Taylor took office in January 2009, he orchestrated interviews between Topeka police Det. Richard Volle and producers of CBS’ “48 Hours.”

Later in 2009, CBS aired an episode about the unsolved murders and identified Chandler as the main suspect. In 2011, Taylor brought a film crew and news reporters with him to arrest Chandler in Duncan, Oklahoma.

Spradling repeatedly made references during the 2012 trial to a nonexistent protection from abuse order Sisco had obtained against Chandler. She asked Volle about the order during the trial, talked about it in closing arguments, and referenced it in briefs she filed when the case was appealed.

Spradling also fabricated the subject of a five-minute phone call between Chandler and Sisco shortly before the murders, talked about Chandler’s supposed escape route through Nebraska, and claimed Chandler had researched articles on how to get away with murder. There was no evidence to support any of those arguments.

In closing remarks before the jury, Spradling violated a judge’s order by pointing to Chandler’s sister in the courtroom. The prosecutor also said Chandler had robbed Sisco’s children of their father, despite knowing it is improper for a prosecutor to comment on the impact a crime has on a victim’s family.

The Kansas Supreme Court in 2018 overturned Chandler’s convictions on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct.

Umbehr, who has advocated for Chandler throughout her appeal, also filed the disciplinary complaint against Spradling. The Office of the Disciplinary Administrator initially determined Spradling did nothing wrong, then reopened the complaint following the Kansas Supreme Court decision.

Spradling conceded mistakes during her disciplinary hearing in December.

Umbehr said Taylor allowed Spradling’s misconduct to go unchecked because he had a “win at all cost” attitude.

“Such abuse cannot be tolerated in Shawnee County,” Umbehr  said. “But the sad fact is that it is tolerated because not a single Shawnee County District Court judge has spoken out or condemned the prosecutorial misconduct occurring in their courtrooms.”

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Man in village near Aylesbury arrested after conning the elderly and vulnerable for significant money

The man is currently released on bail.

By James Lowson

A man has been arrested on suspicion of financial exploitation in Haddenham after elderly women paid significant money to him to complete basic small tasks.

Thames Valley Police reports that two elderly women in Haddenham were conned into handing over large amounts of money.

A series of witness reports described a man in the local community convincing elderly and vulnerable people to transfer over big money in return for small errands.

This man would befriend care home residents acting as if he was doing them a favour, when in reality he was stealing their savings.

A 64-year-old man from Cuddington has been arrested on suspicion of financial exploitation. The man has been granted bail until August 25.

In a joint statement from Investigating officer Detective Constable James Lacey and Rebecca Newman, Protecting Vulnerable People investigator, they said: “We are conducting a full investigation into these allegations. A man has been arrested and is now released on bail.

“Thames Valley Police thoroughly investigates reports of elderly and vulnerable people being targeted for personal gain.

“If you are concerned that you or anyone you know may have been exploited, or is at risk of exploitation, please call police on 101 quoting reference number 43210239551 or make a report online.

“You can also make a report completely anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers, by calling 0800 555 111.”

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Disney Grandson Languishes in the “Unhappiest Place on Earth”

by Downey Brand LLP

While Disneyland may be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” a California probate court may be the opposite for a Disney heir, mused the U.S. Court of Appeals in Lund v. Cowan (9th Cir. 2021) ___ F.3d ___. Bradford Lund, a 50 year-old grandson of Walt Disney, sued the probate judge who rejected a settlement agreement that would have allowed him to access his approximately $200 million inheritance, and the federal appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the suit.

The real drama has played out in the probate department of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Litigation there has spanned 15 years with no FASTPASS or end in sight. Bradford’s story is unlike any Disney movie we have seen, but equally entertaining.

The Disney Family Cast of Characters

According to an article from the Hollywood Reporter, Walt Disney and his wife Lillian had two children, a biological daughter named Diane Disney Miller and an adopted daughter, Sharon Disney Lund. Walt reportedly came up with the concept for Disneyland while watching Diane and Sharon ride the merry-go-round at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

Sharon adopted her first daughter, Victoria, during her first marriage. After her divorce, she married William “Bill” Lund, and they had two children in 1970, twins Bradford and Michelle. Bradford and Michelle each had learning disabilities growing up, according to the Hollywood Reporter article. Bill described Bradford as having Down syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome. Michelle was diagnosed with dyslexia.

Sharon’s three children – Victoria, Bradford and Michelle – were named beneficiaries of several Disney trusts through their mother’s inheritance. In 2014, these assets were valued at approximately $400 million dollars.

Bill divorced Sharon in 1977 and eventually re-married Sherry Lund.

Sharon died in 1993. Victoria died without children in 2002 and the balance of her trust was added to the principal of the trusts for Bradford and Michelle.

When Is a Beneficiary “Mature” Enough to Inherit?

After Sharon died, three separate residuary trusts were created, one for each of her children. Each trust had three individual trustees and one corporate trustee. The trustees have changed over the years, including Sherry Lund, Bill Lund, and Sharon’s older sister, Diane Disney Miller.

The trustees were required to pay the beneficiaries a yearly income payment.

Separately, the trustees were allowed to make distributions to the beneficiaries when each reached the ages of 35, 40, and 45. Each of these birthday distributions was close to $30 million.

However, the trust instrument gave the trustees a discretionary withholding power with respect to the birthday distributions. According to the Hollywood Reporter article, the trust said that the trustees “shall have the power to withhold any such distribution in the event that the Trustees, in their discretion, determine that the child has not theretofore demonstrated the maturity and financial ability to manage and utilize such funds in a prudent and responsible manner.” In the event of such a withholding, the trustees “may subsequently make such distribution, or a portion thereof, if the Trustees later determine that the child has met the required standard.”

“Frozen” Out of the Trusts

The discretionary distribution power has caused great strife.

In 2005, on Bradford and Michelle’s 35th birthday, the trustees exercised the discretionary power for the first time. Bradford got nothing. Michelle, according to Brad, received approximately $35 million.

In 2010, on Bradford and Michelle’s 40th birthday, the trustees again exercised their discretionary power. Bradford got nothing and the trustees refused to revisit the decision made at his 35th birthday. Michelle received her share.

On both occasions, the trustees withheld distributions on the basis that Bradford lacked the mental and financial abilities to manage such a fortune.

Michelle received the distributions even though she reportedly had a history of drug addiction and a brain aneurysm that left her with uncertain mental abilities. Similarly, prior to her death, Victoria received a distribution on her 35th birthday even though she had issues with heroin use and led an extremely lavish lifestyle.

According to the Hollywood Reporter article, Bradford’s lawyers argued that the trustees were trying to take control of the children’s inheritance altogether. For example, the trustees tried to seek a conservatorship over Michelle, move her to a facility in Arizona, and also sought to prolong the administration of the trust in order to get paid hefty trustee fees. The probate court was not persuaded by these arguments, and affirmed the unequal distributions to the twins.

Effectively, Bradford was “Frozen” out his inheritance. He felt that the trustees were “keep[ing] [his] trust hostage, and they refuse to hand me over what is legally and rightfully mine.”

Saga Escalates to Federal Court

Not surprisingly, in 2015, on Bradford and Michelle’s 45th birthday, Bradford again was denied a birthday distribution. By then, his distributions would have totaled an estimated $200 million.

Bradford challenged the trustees’ refusal to distribute his share. The parties engaged in mediation and reached a global settlement agreement. They then approached Judge David Cowan of the Los Angeles Superior Court to approve the settlement.

During the settlement conference, Judge Cowan said, “Do I want to give 200 million dollars, effectively to someone who may suffer, on some level, from Down syndrome? The answer is no.” The judge rejected the settlement and appointed a guardian ad litem, without holding a hearing, to look out for Bradford’s interests.

Bradford initiated a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. He claimed that Judge Cowan violated his rights, including those under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court dismissed the complaint, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal because Judge Cowan could not be liable under the doctrines of sovereign and judicial immunity.

A YouTube recording of the Ninth Circuit argument, which we unofficially rate as “G,” can be seen here.

In its opinion, the Ninth Circuit did “find Judge Cowan’s comment troubling. That someone has Down syndrome does not necessarily preclude the ability to manage one’s own financial affairs. In any event, the record suggests that Lund does not have Down syndrome. But judicial immunity shields even incorrect or inappropriate statements if they were made during the performance of a judge’s official duties.”

Back to Probate Court

With the loss of his appeal to the Ninth Circuit, Bradford finds himself once again in probate court, hoping to get his hands on his $200 million inheritance. His “California Adventure” continues.

The question remains whether Bradford has the mental capacity and the maturity to manage his $200 million fortune. An Arizona court found that Lund is “not incapacitated” and a California court determined that he has capacity to choose new trustees. There is also DNA evidence he does not have Down syndrome and evidence that Bradford held several jobs, suggesting that he has the capacity to handle the fortune like his sister, Michelle.

Depending on the positions taken by the trustees and the probate court, Bradford might receive substantial distributions in the future.

Another Example of Fiduciary Abuse?

Bradford’s tale draws further attention to the possibility of abusive fiduciary relationships in the context of massive fortunes. As discussed in a prior post, Britney Spears and Netflix have led to scrutiny of conservatorships. Bradford’s situation, though not involving a conservatorship, also involves loss of control over wealth.

Bradford has already taken steps to draw more attention to abusive fiduciary relationships, by writing to the House Judiciary Committee to investigate corrupt fiduciaries for depriving beneficiaries of due process.

As the probate battle continues, let’s hope that Bradford gets some time away from the “Unhappiest Place on Earth” to enjoy his grandfather’s famous theme park or catch his favorite Disney film.

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Former district attorney may have violated Oregon law, ethics rules, complaints allege

By Conrad Wilson

Former Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley and his chief deputy, Leslie Wolf, may have violated state law and ethics rules prosecutors are required to follow, by withholding information for years about a city of The Dalles police officer disciplined for violating the department’s truthfulness policy, according to two detailed complaints filed with the Oregon State Bar.

The complaints were filed in the months since Nisley was voted out of office and began work as a prosecutor in Jefferson County. They make accusations of significant problems — ones that undermine the basic principles of the criminal justice system. The allegations are under investigation. If they result in a finding of misconduct, Nisley and Wolf could face reprimand, suspension or disbarment.

Nisley, who had his law license suspended before, and Wolf have asked the state bar to dismiss the complaints. The most detailed allegations were filed by their successors, Wasco County District Attorney Matthew Ellis and Chief Deputy District Attorney Kara Davis, as well as a former criminal defense attorney. Under bar rules, attorneys are ethically obligated to report potential violations or misconduct.

The Oregon’s Disciplinary Board ruled that District Attorney Eric Nisley lied when he claimed he hadn’t made Wasco County’s finance director the subject of an investigation into improper loans.

The Oregon’s Disciplinary Board ruled that District Attorney Eric Nisley lied when he claimed he hadn’t made Wasco County’s finance director the subject of an investigation into improper loans.

John Rosman / OPB

The complaints have called into question previous convictions and open cases investigated by former city of The Dalles police officer Jeff Kienlen, who was fired from The Dalles police department in March. His attorney recently told the city that Kienlen plans to file a civil lawsuit.

Bar ethics rules and a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Brady v. Maryland, all require prosecutors to disclose information that could benefit a defendant in court.

Similarly, state law requires district attorneys to disclose to a defendant “any material or information that tends to “exculpate the defendant” or “impeach a person the district attorney intends to call as a witness at the trial.” The bar rules require prosecutors in criminal cases to “make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense.”

At least one drug conviction from 2011 has been vacated because Nisley withheld what’s since been determined to be Brady material around Kienlen. Other open misdemeanor cases also were dismissed, according to Ellis.

Nisley and Wolf declined to comment. Like Nisley, Wolf still works as a deputy district attorney, though now in neighboring Hood River County.

The bar complaints raise concerns about more than a lack of disclosure, however. They also allege a personal relationship between Kienlen and Wolf could have prevented a fair trial for a criminal defendant convicted of rape. That case is currently being reviewed by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office for conviction integrity.

In May 2020, Nisley lost re-election to Ellis, a former defense attorney. Ellis said when he moved into Nisley’s old office, he discovered an undisclosed disciplinary notice for Kienlen. The notice was under papers in the bottom drawer of Nisley’s desk, according to Ellis.

The Feb. 17, 2011, “notice of discipline” stated that Kienlen was demoted from sergeant to police officer for violating the department’s truthfulness policy. While attending a training conference in Eugene, Kienlen misled the department’s leaders about his need to use a city vehicle, according to a transcript of a conversation Kienlen had with his superiors, which was filed with the state bar as part of the complaints.

Rather than staying with family near Eugene, as command staff and colleagues were led to believe, Kienlen drove from Eugene to Salem twice, where he stayed in Wolf’s hotel room.

“The integrity of police service is based on truthfulness,” then-Police Chief Jay Waterbury wrote in Kienlen’s notice of discipline. “If you are not truthful, you have no integrity. Without integrity you can’t be a good police officer.”

In 2011, Nisley determined Kienlen’s discipline notice was not Brady material and did not need to be disclosed to defense attorneys on cases Kienlen worked. After Ellis found it, he determined it was “unambiguously Brady material” that should’ve been disclosed for years, but had not been.

“Both Mr. Nisley and Ms. Wolf were aware that Officer Kienlen was sanctioned severely for lying,” Ellis and Davis wrote in their April 13 complaint.

“By any Brady standard, even if he was not placed on the Wasco Co DA Brady list, they had a duty to disclose the letter in any case where he could appear as a witness. Neither one disclosed this information,” the pair wrote. “They continued to use him as a witness without disclosing evidence regarding his credibility through 2020.”

In response to the complaints, Nisley’s attorney, Lawrence Matasar, told the bar in June that the former district attorney did not commit any violations, saying the “overstated assertions are far wrong — the undisclosed information is not Brady material at all, and Mr. Nisley’s carefully considered decision not to disclose it was completely appropriate.”

Matasar said the material wouldn’t be admissible evidence.

“Therefore, Mr. Nisley’s decision not to disclose the Kienlen information was correct, and the Bar Complaints should be dismissed,” Matasar wrote.

In a separate response to the bar complaints, attorney Wayne Mackeson wrote on behalf of Wolf last month that they “defer” to the analysis of Nisley and Matasar.

“As the District Attorney for Wasco County, Mr. Nisley made a reasoned decision on behalf of the office in 2011 that the Notice of Discipline did not constitute Brady material,” Mackeson wrote.

In a separate complaint filed with the bar, former criminal defense attorney Brian Aaron stated concerns he had involving a 2010 case prosecuted by Wolf with Nisley’s assistance.

In July 2010, Aaron was representing Gerardo Garcia Gonzalez, who was charged and later convicted of raping a child younger than 12. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, where he remains. Kienlen was the lead investigator on the case. Leading up to trial, Aaron tried to introduce evidence of an alleged affair between Kienlen and Wolf, which he argued could have hurt his client’s right to a fair trial.

“I was deeply concerned that the relationship between Ms. Wolf and Officer Kienlen could cause a conflict of interest for the prosecution team and impact my client’s right to due process,” Aaron, who is now a prosecutor in Yakima County, Washington, wrote in his March 16 complaint to the Oregon State Bar.

During a July 2010 hearing before trial, several people, including law enforcement officers, testified about instances between Wolf and Kienlen they believed were inappropriate, beyond merely being close friends, according to a recording of the hearing OPB obtained through a records request.

After more than an hour of testimony, Wasco County Circuit Court Judge John Kelly ruled evidence of an affair amounted to “toxic gossip” that would not be allowed at trial and ruled the jury could determine if there was bias based on a friendship.

“I am making a determination that a jury can infer prejudice or bias by a witness, Officer Kienlen, in favor of the state because he has a close friendship with Ms. Wolf,” Kelly stated in July 2010.

Nisley helped Kienlen draft an affidavit that denied any affair but acknowledged a close friendship with Wolf that extended to their spouses.

In response to the bar complaints, Wolf said through her attorney there was never any affair — something Kienlen also told Waterbury, the police chief, years earlier.

“Ms. Wolf reports that at no time subsequent to July 6, 2010 did her relationship with Officer Kienlen ever develop into anything more than a close, personal friendship,” Mackeson wrote to the bar in response to the complaints. “The Wolf and Kienlen families have remained close, personal friends. Rumors that she and Officer Kienlen were having ‘a romantic extra-marital affair’ or that they were involved in ‘a romantic intimate relationship,’ etc., are false.”

The bar investigation could take months. Ellis and others who filed a complaint have until the end of August to respond to Wolf and Nisley’s replies.

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‘Where am I gonna go now?’ Stow retirement village closes suddenly

by: Alex Stokes

STOW, Ohio (WJW) — “I would not know what to do and how to get this accomplished,” said Susan Cullado as tears welled in her eyes. 

It’s been an emotional week for the residents at Stow Glen Retirement Village and their families after they say the health care center told them Wednesday that they were closing.

“Stow Glen right now is in some terrible financial constraints and it finally I think came the day that they could no longer do it,” said Stow Mayor John Pribonic.

He says Stow Glen has been around for 37 years in this community and that he didn’t see this coming.

Zelda Burns lived there for almost seven years. “I thought, ‘Well where am I gonna go now?’”

Cullado is her daughter and says they were told to move as soon as they could. “She said that she didn’t want to move because she really loved living there.”

Several nursing homes in the area stepped up including Briarwood Healthcare Community who took in 13 residents.

“A lot of my team here stayed and they got a lot of the rooms ready on our assisted living as well as on our long term care skilled side,” said administrator Tiffanie Kowalczyk.

But moving the residents’ possessions presented another challenge, and that’s where the mayor, the high school’s athletic director and club interact advisor found a way to help.

“The manpower came from asking our students,” said Dinah Henderson, a 9th grade teacher at Stow-Munroe Falls High School who is also the “Club Interact” advisor.

They say more than 75 volunteers made up of students, parents and neighbors, showed up Saturday morning with less than 24 hours notice.

“It went from gathering boxes to putting boxes together to getting into rooms to making sure we had the right rooms, to helping those residents put stuff in boxes,” said Stow-Munroe Athletic Director Kyle Feldman.

“Many of our students came over to their second new home and helped unpack it and said what would it be like for me or what if this was my mom or what if this was my grandparent,” said Henderson.

But the work is not done. “Right now, there is about 218 individuals there at Stow Glen and it’s gonna be a process to go ahead and move these people,” said Pribonic.

That includes non-profit Pathway to Independence, an organization that works with high functioning adults with developmental disabilities. 

“So you’re talking 15 young adults finding apartments in one place. They don’t want to lose the socialization and their friends. That’s pretty much impossible to do. The other obstacle is, this needs to stay in Summit County,” said co-founder Janeen Webb.

They are looking for a place to house them and staff along with an office that has apartment-style living or an apartment complex, something they say isn’t easy to find.

“This isn’t about Stow Glen at all, they have been wonderful, our young adults love living there, our young adults love the staff, this is just about the fact that we were not given any notice,” Webb said.

Pathway to Independence asks that anyone who might have a place for them in Summit County to reach out.

While the residents we spoke to say it was unclear when they needed to move out by, Pribonic says they have until October 26. He also said they are working with the 185 staff members to help them find another job.

We reached out to Stow Glen several times but have not heard back.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

An estimated 1.3 million adults are currently living under guardianship or conservatorship. Courts control roughly $50 billion of their assets.

by Morgan Keith 
Britney Spears' newly appointed lawyer Mathew Rosengart leaves the Stanley Mosk Courthouse following a hearing concerning the pop singer's conservatorship, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Los Angeles. Spears was granted permission by a judge to hire a lawyer of her own choice.
AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
  • US Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bob Casey asked for nationwide data on guardianships in early July.
  • A National Council on Disability report estimates there are 1.3 million active adult guardianships in the US.
  • Abuse by appointed guardians may include financial exploitation, neglect, and physical abuse.

In a July 1 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland, US Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bob Casey asked for comprehensive data on guardianships across the country. 

Only a handful of states actually track and report "reasonably reliable" data on guardianships, also referred to as conservatorships in some states, and that data is often hard to sort through, draw conclusions from, or use to inform policy decisions, according to a 2018 National Council on Disability (NCD) report.

"There's no oversight and there really is no data. And if you think about how scary that is, you know, to have people who have no rights, they're in these guardianships that are potentially abusive, and there are no records being turned in, or they're not keeping track of the accounting," Marcia Southwick, director of the National Association to Stop Guardianship Abuse, told Insider. "You know, it's rife with problems and it's ripe for abuse."

One abusive guardian can wreak havoc for many families at once, Southwick told Insider. For example, in 2019, former Nevada guardian April Parks was sentenced to 16 to 40 years in prison for exploitation, theft, and perjury, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

"She was not a guardian to me," said Barbara Ann Neely, one of the dozens of individuals in Parks' care, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. "She did not protect me. As each day passed, I felt like I was in a grave, buried alive." 

Brenda Uekert, a senior research associate for the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), estimated that there are 1.3 million active adult guardianship or conservatorship cases and that courts oversee at least $50 billion of assets under adult conservatorships nationally, according to the NCD report.

In addition, the extent of elder abuse by guardians nationally is unknown due to limited data, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. Court officials from six selected states that the agency spoke with could not provide exact numbers of guardianships in their states and none consistently tracked the number of cases of elder abuse by guardians.

By 2034, older adults will outnumber children under the age of 18 for the first time in the US, according to Census Bureau projections. Coupled with the direct care workforce shortage, these factors could contribute to an increase in the number of court-appointed guardianships.

NCD cites several systemic problems embedded in courts' handling of guardianships, including a lack of information about alternatives, insufficient due process, and failure to monitor abuses.

"At the [guardianship] summit that I went to, the focus was really on also diverting it away from courts ... because  they're overloaded with cases, courts can't handle them and that's the reason for the lack of oversight. It's not that all people are bad, it's that the system is so inefficient that it allows the bad people to get away with it," Southwick told Insider.

Britney Spears' conservatorship battle has exposed the public to the array of harmful acts that guardianship encompasses, including its most common form: financial exploitation. 

"Ms. Spears' case has shined a light on longstanding concerns from advocates who have underscored the potential for financial and civil rights abuses of individuals placed under guardianship or conservatorship, typically older Americans and Americans with intellectual, developmental, and mental health disabilities," Warren and Casey said in their letter.

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