Saturday, November 27, 2021

Prosecutor: Oakland County probate judge charged with domestic assault

County’s chief probate judge accused of assaulting boyfriend

by Cassidy Johncox
Oakland County's chief probate judge, Kathleen Ryan, has been charged with one count of domestic assault and battery on Nov. 25, 2021. Photo courtesy of Oakland County's website.
Oakland County's chief probate judge, Kathleen Ryan, has been charged with one count of domestic assault and battery on Nov. 25, 2021. Photo courtesy of Oakland County's website. (WDIV)

Oakland County’s chief probate judge is facing a domestic violence charge, according to officials.

The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday that Hon. Kathleen Ann Ryan was arrested and charged for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend Wednesday night.

Judge Ryan was charged Thursday with one count of domestic assault and battery, officials said. She has reportedly been released on a personal bond.

“The fact that Ms. Ryan is an elected official did not play any part in the charge that was authorized, and will not play any part in the handling or disposition of this case,” said Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald. “The case will be handled like any other case.”

No other details have been released at this time.

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Why it took so long to bring a disbarred Middle Tennessee lawyer to justice

by Dennis Ferrier

Even though he had at least 127 victims, it took years to bring Hendersonville’s Andy Allman to justice.

Why did it take so long? Partly because Allman is a lawyer and he is convicted of robbing people with a pen, paper and smile. But for many of his victims, it would have been better to have been robbed at gunpoint.

Back in early 2017, FOX 17 News packed the station with Allman’s alleged victim. Horror story after horror story. At the time, Allman’s law license was merely suspended but had been under investigation since 2014. A secret investigation. His clients had no idea who they were hiring.

Allman is accused of stealing Cathy Brown's entire inheritance: $230,000. Much of that money was supposed to go to her nephew Baylor Bramble, the Murfreesboro teen horrifically injured in a high school football game.

Andy Allman (Sumner County Jail)

Cathy Brown created a whole group of Allman victims, that’s how we all met. FOX 17 News started putting the pressure on the board of professional responsibility to do something significant and finally, in 2018, he was disbarred.

“That took longer than it should have for sure. I really think your story prompted that to happen. I yelled, fussed, sent letters complaining, didn’t get anywhere but when your story broke it put pressure on them to disbar him. They had a stack this big of complaints and they hadn’t done anything about it until then,” said Brown.

The board of professional responsibility that oversees lawyers says it just took time, there were so many complaints from so many people and everything had to be thoroughly investigated.

Meanwhile, the criminal charges percolated. After being arrested for the Bramble theft, Allman was charged with 18 counts of felony theft in Sumner County.

Kevin Dycus hired Allman to put his late wife’s insurance policy in his son’s name, the $106,000 disappeared the next day.

“I guess I was just na├»ve and expected he’s going to go to jail that day. Andy’s knowledge of the legal system he was able to game it for some time,” said Dycus.

He would hire and fire lawyers, and get delay after delay. Finally, Sumner County Judge Dee Gay said enough, we are going to trial. Allman represented himself in Sumner County.

The jury found him guilty of 18 counts of felony theft—a possible but improbable 81 years in jail.

The victims are thrilled, but they will not get back any of the $1.1 million owed them, and it’s actually more. Noreen Gibbons didn’t just lose her legal fees, she lost her case, she missed all the deadlines, she says she lost more than a million dollars by hiring Allman, who at the time was in big trouble with the board of professional responsibility. But again, it was a secret investigation.

“He shouldn’t even have had his license to practice law when I hired him. It had already been established that there were multiple complaints and there was no way of knowing that,” said Gibbons.

During the trial, it came out how quickly Allman converted the client's money into his money.

It was just enlightening to see how fast the money would go in and how quickly it would go into Andy’s trust and then dispersed into personal finances, business expenses, european vacations, almost 20 thousand dollar engagement rings, an Alaska trip, boats, clubs,” said Kevin Dycus.

Brown still waits for her justice in Davidson County and her opportunity to address Andy Allman.

“I don’t know if I even have words that I want to say to him. He caused delays in my nephew’s treatment. Caused duress on our whole family. He tore my whole life apart. I lived with such guilt for so long that I chose him for my attorney and he betrayed me,” said Brown.

I spoke with the prosecutor in the case Thomas Dean. He wrote:

This victory belongs to the victims. They testified and had to endure cross examination by Mr. Allman himself. Each of them honestly demonstrated the painful circumstances of their cases. All withstood the travail of testifying and being cross examined by someone who they once trusted as their attorney. Their testimony was the lynchpin to our success. The thanks, handclaps, and hugs from the victims after a hard-fought verdict like this one are the things a prosecutor remembers and cherishes long after the details of a trial fade from memory.

Sentencing is scheduled for mid-January.

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Conservatorship system is slow to change, despite availability of less restrictive options

By Carter Barrett

Ten years ago, Nick Clouse was riding shotgun in his friend’s Camaro when the car jerked and he felt himself flying through the air. Clouse’s head slammed against the passenger side window.

The traumatic brain injury caused severe memory loss, headaches and insomnia. Clouse, who was 18 at the time, didn’t recognize his friends and family.

Shortly after the accident, his mother and step-dad requested to be his legal guardian, which meant they’d be responsible for making all of his financial and health decisions. They said it would be temporary. A judge in Indiana made it official.

Years after recovering, Clouse wanted to make his own choices again — to put gas in his car, buy his daughter diapers and take his wife out for dinner without permission. But he ran into opposition. His parents didn’t want to give up their power, Clouse said, and he had to find a way to fight for his rights.

“They had 100 percent control over my life and I just didn’t have any say in what I did or anything,” Clouse said.

If a judge determines an adult is unable to make responsible choices, the person can be placed under a court-appointed guardianship. The arrangement is known as a conservatorship in some states.

It’s a system that’s come under scrutiny nationwide, after details on pop star Britney Spears’ conservatorship came to light. In September, Clouse testified at a U.S. Senate committee hearing focused on the issue of guardianship reform.

In recent years, there has been a growing shift toward less restrictive options that allow adults with physical or intellectual impairments more independence while providing them support for making decisions. Advocates for people with disabilities say the shift is long overdue, and some argue the system needs a complete overhaul.

“People with significant disabilities have long been discriminated against, because people think that they [lack] the ability to make decisions,” said Derek Nord, director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community.

While the disability rights movement in the U.S. has made “huge strides” on many issues, Nord said additional reforms and better oversight are needed to protect people from exploitation.

Guardianship cases most often involve people with disabilities, the elderly, people recovering from an injury or medical condition, and people with severe mental illness.

An official count does not exist, but the AARP estimates about 1.3 million adults in the U.S. are in legal guardianships. In Indiana, where Clouse lives, 11,139 adults are in permanent guardianships, according to state officials.

In Indiana, entering a guardianship starts with filing a petition. The petitioner can submit evidence, like a doctor’s report, and appear in front of a judge, who then decides if the person in question is considered to be incapacitated.

The judge can establish limitations for the guardianship, although they rarely do, according to Indiana Disability Rights attorney Justin Schrock.

“We’re talking about decisions about where to live, whether to get married, where to work, what medical care to receive, what to do with their money,” Schrock said. “They really do lose all of their most fundamental basic rights.”

Some guardianships are necessary, but advocates for reform argue they’re overused, since most of the time people with disabilities can make choices for themselves — sometimes with guidance — and should maintain that right.

“Before I entered this field, I assumed that [entering a] guardianship was a fairly innocuous step,” Schrock said. “I also assumed that there were a lot of protections in place to prevent unnecessary guardianships from being established, which is absolutely not the case.”

Legal guardianships should not be the default for people who need help making decisions, said Kristin Hamre, social work professor at Indiana University Bloomington. It’s in taking risks that people learn and grow as individuals — and restrictive legal arrangements like guardianships rob people of that opportunity.

“The right to risk is so important,” Hamre said. “Risk is where life happens, right? You begin walking, you might fall; you begin driving, you might crash.”

Over time, Clouse’s traumatic brain injury improved. He started working as a welder, met his future wife — and got his parents’ permission to marry her. Clouse wanted out of the guardianship, but he said his parents resisted.

The lawyer representing Clouse’s mother and stepfather did not return Side Effects Public Media’s request for comment.

People under a legal guardianship face a Catch-22. To regain his independence, Clouse needed to speak with a lawyer and get legal advice. But that would have required his parents’ approval since they controlled his finances.

Because of the way some state laws are written, guardianship cases often lack due process, said Robert Dinerstein, head of the disability rights law clinic at American University in Washington, D.C.

Many states’ guardianship laws ensure a right to legal counsel for people at risk of entering a guardianship. But that’s not the case in Indiana. The law allows petitioners — often a parent or family member — the option to present a consent form signed by the person under consideration for a guardianship, which deems them “incapacitated” and effectively waives their right to contest the hearing or even be present at it.

Indiana law also does not require petitioners to submit medical evidence to the court, although some courts have local rules requiring it.

“I’ve seen over and over again, these guardians’ attorneys will have the individual sign this consent form, file it along with a petition, oftentimes with no medical evidence,” Shrock said. “And some of these courts are just looking at that and saying, ‘OK,’ and then granting guardianship without ever having even laid eyes on this individual.”

Since guardianship cases take place in county-level courts, there’s tremendous variety in how these cases are handled. Larger counties with probate-specific courts can dedicate more time and resources to the hearings, while smaller county courts have a much larger breadth of cases, limiting a judge’s expertise in one area.

A task force formed to examine the use of legal guardianships in Indiana reported that no medical evidence of incapacity was presented in one in five guardianship cases in Indiana. The 2012 report also states that in cases where evidence was presented, the reports were often incomplete or illegible.

The burden of proof — to convince the judge the guardianship is unnecessary — tends to fall on the person with a disability, which differs from most other legal proceedings, Dinerstein said.

Since people have a right to a lawyer in criminal cases, Dinerstein argues that people at risk of entering guardianships should have the same right.

“I think the level of loss of liberty [in guardianship cases] makes a really strong case that there ought to be” a right to legal counsel, he said.

It matters because once a person is in a guardianship, it is extremely difficult to get out of it.

“It’s like Hotel California,” Dinerstein said. “Once a guardian is appointed, even if circumstances change where you no longer think you need it, it’s really hard to get courts to restore your capacity.”

Clouse is now 28 and lives in Huntington, Indiana. With the help of Indiana Disability Rights attorney Justin Schrock, Clouse’s guardianship was terminated in August 2021.

Shortly after, he took his wife and daughter out for dinner — a small luxury after life under his parents’ guardianship.

“I didn’t have to worry about my card getting declined … and bought my daughter a big piece of chocolate cake,” Clouse said. “That made me feel good that I could just kind of splurge a little bit.”

In 2019, Indiana joined a handful of other states — including Delaware, Texas, Ohio and Wisconsin — to pass a law requiring judges to consider less restrictive alternatives to guardianships.

Supported decision-making is one of these alternatives. Adults in these arrangements consult a support team, such as friends, family, social workers, case managers or paid support members, about big decisions in their lives. But, unlike in a guardianship, the individual can still make the final decision.

“Many of us … run important decisions by other people in our lives who are important to us — family, friends,” Dinerstein said. “[Then] you get to decide whether to listen to the advice.”

The year before the new law passed, Jamie Beck became the first person in Indiana to transition from a legal guardianship into a supported decision-making arrangement as part of a pilot program exploring less restrictive guardianship alternatives.

Jamie Beck2

Beck has a mild intellectual and developmental disability and was placed in a guardianship at the age of 19 after her parents died. She spent a year in a nursing home, where she said she was bored and spent her time learning American Sign Language. Beck remained in the guardianship for eight years, even after demonstrating she could live independently and support herself financially.

“She was just doing tremendously … and everyone felt she didn’t need a guardianship any longer,” said Judge Greg Horn, who terminated Beck’s guardianship. “It wasn’t like we were going to send her on her way and let her struggle with life’s challenges.”

To ensure she’d be supported once the guardianship was terminated, the court worked with Beck to come up with a group of advisors she trusted to help her make decisions.

Beck said the supported decision-making agreement lets her have more say in her life. She’s now 31 and lives in an apartment in Muncie, Indiana. She works as a housekeeper at a local hospital and spends her free time playing Pokemon Go.

“I get to do more things like a typical normal person would,” Beck said.

She can seek medical care and travel out of town without needing anyone else to sign off on those decisions.

At least 11 states and Washington, D.C. have passed supported decision-making laws.

In Ohio, lawmakers passed reforms to close loopholes in the guardianship system after a 2014 investigation from the Columbus Dispatch revealed lawyers were becoming guardians for people with disabilities and charging attorney’s fees to perform basic duties, like shopping and cleaning. Today, the state requires guardians to undergo training and education and allows people under a guardianship to file complaints to the court.

But Kevin Truitt, legal advocacy director for Disability Rights Ohio, is skeptical those reforms have led to major improvements for people with disabilities.

“Maybe some people have benefited from these reforms,” Truitt said. “But I worry not a lot has changed for many, many people across the state” because people under guardianship may not be aware of the new law’s provisions.

As part of the new law in Indiana, guardians are required to file reports every other year, documenting whether the guardianship remains necessary and if less restrictive options have been considered.

The law also requires judges to document that less restrictive alternatives have been considered before full guardianships are approved.

But Schrock, the attorney with Indiana Disability Rights, said not much has changed on the ground.

“I see … guardianship petitions that are still filed today that don’t even mention whether less restrictive alternatives have been assessed in any way,” Shrock said. “And that has been … a minimum requirement since July 1, 2019.”

Schrock said even when reports are filed by guardians, they are rarely scrutinized by judges.

State officials in Indiana say they’re not tracking how many people are opting for supported decision-making agreements in lieu of legal guardianships. It’s hard to determine because these agreements can take place outside of a courtroom.

Kim Dodson, CEO of the Arc of Indiana, said she has only heard of a few cases where people are looking to revoke a guardianship.

“That’s not enough, right? We should have a lot more than that, especially two years after the implementation of supported decision-making,” Dodson said.

Dodson thinks the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the education campaign around supported decision-making, so judges and backed-up courts are behind on implementing the changes.

But she’s hopeful that over time, more people will understand the importance of ensuring people with disabilities are placed in the least restrictive arrangement possible.

“We really need to educate attorneys and judges, and make sure that they know about this new alternative, and that they get sold on it,” Dodson said. “And that just hasn’t happened to the extent that we’ve needed it to.”

In Indiana’s upcoming legislative session, Dodson said her organization will be advocating for additional guardianship reforms, such as requiring schools to educate parents of children with a disability on supported decision-making.

This story comes from Side Effects Public Media — a public health news initiative based at WFYI.
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Friday, November 26, 2021

Bobby Schindler: Health Care's March Toward Death

On September 6th, 2021, Jean-Pierre Adams died at the age of 73. You would have never heard of Adams if not that he was a former French professional soccer player. However, what made Adams’ death newsworthy was that his extraordinary wife Bernadette dedicated her life to caring for Jean-Pierre when he sustained a brain injury after knee surgery complications.

Jean-Pierre never regained full consciousness and for 39 years he was dependent on his wife for care. From the day Bernadette brought Jean-Pierre home she was at his bedside, never at any time contemplating ending his life by removing his feeding tube. She taught the world a lesson of unconditional love.

Sadly, we don’t hear enough of these stories. Certainly, there are families who are caring for the “Jean-Pierre’s”, but the reality is that the media – and more troubling – our health care systems, are inculcating the public into their earthly worldview, fostering a culture that accepts the denial of life-affirming care, even if the “care” is ordinary – food and water – based on a person’s utility, as was in the case of my sister, Terri Schiavo.

In fact, it was 18 years ago on October 21st, 2003, when the Florida Legislature passed a bill granting the governor, Jeb Bush, the power to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube after it had been removed for six days. That day marked the beginning of my family’s experience with corporate media and how they would launder the truth of Terri’s situation and condition with “right to die” propaganda.

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Health Care's March Toward Death

DA seeks additional information in case of Dougherty Probate Court judge

by Alan Mauldin

Nov. 25—ALBANY — A prosecutor investigating charges against Dougherty County's Probate Court judge is awaiting reports before making a decision on whether to present the lingering case to a grand jury or dismiss charges.

Judge Leisa Blount was arrested and charged in March 2020 after Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul asked the GBI to launch an investigation. The case was assigned to Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brad Shealy, who said this week that he is waiting for reports from the GBI.

"I had to request some additional information from the GBI, and they have not gotten it back to me," he said. "'I'm hoping to get it back now."

Specifically, the district attorney is seeking additional witness statements and layouts of the courtroom area.

Shealy said he is not ready to make a decision on whether the case merits being presented to a grand jury, but he hopes to make a determination by January.

"No, not until I have all the evidence," he said. "I don't like to make a decision until I have all the evidence in. I think that's fair to the individual. They're having to get those witness statements and put together a report. Hopefully, I can get that pretty soon."

Blount was charged in March 2020 with one count each of terroristic threats and violation of oath of office.

The GBI alleges that Blount made threats against an employee who works with the county's Facilities Maintenance department.

The alleged victim, who was not present at the time that Blount had the conversation with county employees, had reportedly entered Blount's office while she was in the office during a time when he was not assigned duties in that part of the building.

In an affidavit filed in court, Blount indicated that the employee acted strangely. In one instance he told her he was there to turn off the lights, and in the other he did not give an answer for why he was inside the Probate Court area.

During a meeting with officials from the county and sheriff's office, Blount made a remark about defending herself and that she was allowed as a judge to bring a gun inside the building for protection.

Albany attorney Maurice King Jr., who is representing Blount, said that the last he had heard, the GBI had not spoken with the county employee who is the alleged victim in the case.

"They've talked to everybody in the case but the alleged victim, who has said he was not threatened," King said. "That's what he told a coworker. It was my understanding the GBI did not talk to the alleged victim before the charges were filed."

Shealy seems to be doing his due diligence, King said, but the incident does not seem to rise to a matter that could be successfully prosecuted.

"I just don't think they need to waste taxpayers' money on a case like this," he said. "Sometimes you have when time passes that cooler heads will prevail, and I hope that's what's happening here."

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Plaintiff claims probate court complicated control of his father’s estate

Posted by Gabriel Tynes
Ryan Peters was just 7 years old in 1991 when his father, Michael, suffered a traumatic brain injury. Michael, the agent and owner of several McDonald’s franchises in Mississippi, was a passenger in a car that left the road and hit a tree. A branch came through the window and broke Michael’s neck, destroying his frontal lobe and leaving him both paralyzed and in a coma. He partially recovered with treatment and rehabilitation, but lived in a non verbal and dependent state for the next 29 years, until his death in June 2020. 
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Thursday, November 25, 2021

80-odd years of happy

Sixty residents and staff at the Diana Isaac Retirement Village in Christchurch combined all their considerable talents to come up with this tribute, 80-odd years of happy. The residents wanted to show their children and grandchildren just what they're made of!


Meet Saint Paul's 'Dr. Happy Thanksgiving'

A Twin Cities doctor with a quirky name is using it to help ease stress in the HealthPartners urgent care.

Author: Shelley Stridsberg

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — "My name is Happy Thanksgiving Reynolds." 

No, that's not a typo or some editing mix-up. 

We are indeed talking about a physician whose legal first name is "Happy" and her middle name "Thanksgiving."

The doctor with the quirky name works at the urgent care at HealthPartners in Saint Paul, where we caught up with her last week.

"I think it's been at least in my profession in medicine [my name has] actually been a huge icebreaker."

And her patient's biggest question: How did she end up with that name?

"Well, clearly, I'm the child of hippies." 

Born on Turkey Day in 1970, inspiration came easy. 

"My parents decided I'd pick my name by when I was born.  And so, as a happy occasion, and a thanks, and a giving from God," she explained.

Happy says she did indeed have a happy childhood, with parents actively involved in social issues. "Gosh, one of my earliest memories was going to protests." 

And when it came time to decide on a career, Happy recalled, "The joke I tell, which is sort of true, when I decided to go to medical school, both my parents were like, you know, 'don't let it ruin your soul.' And, of course, I'm like, 'I'm going to be a doctor.'" 

Happy's name became another tool while practicing medicine. 

"People are scared, especially in urgent care and urgent situations. And then, if your name is Happy or you're Doctor Happy, I think it's just a moment where it's like okay."

So we had to know: What is Dr. Happy Thanksgiving thankful for in 2021?

"I think I have felt really grateful to work for an organization that has been nimble enough to respond to the changes of the pandemic," she said and then added, "I'm grateful that I get to come to work every day and work with amazing people who really care, and care about our co-workers and care about the patients that we serve."

Then the kicker:  "I'm really grateful to live in Minnesota. I mean, I love our state. Ironically my daughter is also named Minnesota." And when jaws dropped, Dr. Happy Thanksgiving couldn't help but quip, "Yea, that's right."

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Autistic and Blind Boy Singing; His voice Shocks Everyone

Christopher Duffley is a blind autistic kid with an amazing voice. He proves that someone who looks different doesn't mean he has anything less. This boy is a gift for all of us.

Source: YouTube

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

109-Year-Old Veteran and His Secrets to Life Will Make You Smile

Meet Richard Overton, America's oldest veteran. In this lively short film by Matt Cooper and Rocky Conly, hear the whiskey-drinking, cigar-smoking supercentenarian reveal his secrets to a long life.

Source: YouTube

96 Year-Old Woman is a Dancing Machine!

Source:  YouTube

70 People Ages 5-75 Answer: What's Your Biggest Regret?

We asked of every age from 5-75 the same question: What's your biggest regret? From little kids to grandparents, find out who lives life with no regrets and who wish they had a second chance.

 Source: YouTube

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Legal documents, Maserati and criminal past questioned in guardianship case

Judge says document "doesn't pass the smell test"


By: Adam Walser

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Pinellas County man is fighting against his stepmother in a guardianship case over how to best care for his dad.

The ABC Action News I-Team has learned that the case involves questionable documents submitted to the court, a new Maserati and a costly legal battle that has dragged on for more than a year.

St. Petersburg resident Wayne Beckford is at the center of the dispute. Beckford, a Jamaican immigrant who worked for more than a quarter of a century as a radiology technician, raised his only son Charles as a single father.

Wayne supported Charles through an IB magnet high school program, college, and later law school at Florida State University.

“I think he’s what everyone should aspire to be. He cares about his family,” Charles Beckford said. “We didn’t have much, but he was putting things aside so he could take care of me.”

“There is an army, a village Wayne has”

Wayne has three loving sisters who all reside in Florida.

“We only have each other. Our parents are gone. We are everything to each other,” said Wayne’s sister Desrine Beckford.

His sisters said Wayne has almost five dozen cousins and countless colleagues and friends, who have played an important role in his life for decades.

“There is an army, a village Wayne has,” said Wayne’s sister Paula Beckford Harrilal.

Wayne Beckford and his sisters at lunch
Wayne Beckford and his sisters at lunch

But his son and siblings said the court has ignored their pleas. Wayne suffered a major brain bleed in June of last year, leaving him unable to talk, walk and perform other tasks of daily living, according to a doctor’s report.

“Everything is in place for Wayne to be declared essentially as an incapacitated man,” Paula said. “He has not been. And we are now talking about since the process started in October of 2020.”

Wayne’s sister Paula said she doesn’t believe the judge knew all the facts at an Emergency Temporary Guardianship hearing for her brother held more than a year ago.

“We are at the hearing to basically say here’s this man’s situation, we need you to intercede and help us while we sort through this. And we didn’t get that,” she said.

The Emergency Temporary Guardianship Process

Guardianships in Florida are often requested when family members disagree over how to best care for a loved one. The court’s role is to protect alleged incapacitated people from potential exploitation, danger, abuse, or neglect.

Over the past eight years, the ABC Action News I-Team has uncovered significant problems with Florida’s guardianship system.

A judge can appoint an Emergency Temporary Guardian to care for someone for up to 90 days while a committee of three health care professionals assesses whether the person at the center of the case is incapacitated.

If a committee rules that a person is incapacitated, then the judge can appoint a permanent guardian, which can either be a family member or a professional guardian who doesn’t represent any party.

Pinellas County Probate Judge Pamela Campbell ruled against Charles’ request to be Wayne’s emergency temporary guardian, saying Charles and other witnesses offered no proof that Wayne was endangered.

The judge allowed Wayne’s wife Donna to continue to care for him, instructing her to allow other family members to visit him and to be informed of decisions regarding his care.

Charles alleges Wayne’s wife was estranged when he became ill

Charles alleged in his petition that Donna and his dad were estranged and had not lived in the same home since January 2020.

“The reason for the concern, and the immediate need for the establishment of a guardianship over the person and property, is because the Father's estranged wife, Donna Beckford, is improperly taking or moving his assets, with a real fear of dissipation of the Father's monies,” Charles’ petition said.

Charles testified in court that Donna and his dad split up months before his illness. But Donna denied that during the ETG hearing, saying she only moved out of the home before his aneurism due to COVID concerns.

In a video deposition of Donna Beckford recorded on May 26, 2021, she admitted she didn’t stay at the home from April until his illness in June 2020.

“There’s some concerning issues for me with Donna Beckford and the issues about the marriage. Would this be a good case for a professional? Perhaps, but that’s going to be for another day,” Judge Campbell said at the ETG hearing.

Donna Beckford Petition to Be Plenary Guardian of Wayne Beckford
Donna Beckford Petition to Be Plenary Guardian of Wayne Beckford

Donna’s criminal past

Donna and Wayne met online and married in 2003. Donna had multiple felony arrests before meeting Wayne, including the Battery of a Law Enforcement officer, which she listed on her application to be Wayne’s guardian “happened 27 years ago.”

Court records indicate that she entered a plea in January 1998, less than 24 years ago.

“Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing, and the facts alleged are true, to the best of my knowledge and belief,” reads the application Donna signed.

She did not list a second felony. When asked about other crimes in her sworn deposition, Donna admitted she left it off her application.

“I think the charge was robbery,” Donna testified.

That charge from 1991 was resolved by a “no contest” plea and resulted in Donna being placed on probation for two years, according to court records obtained by the I-Team.

Last November, Charles’ attorney filed a motion to disqualify Donna from serving as Wayne’s guardian. That motion said, “On June 27, 1991, DONNA BECKFORD, under her maiden name of Donna Alene Johnson, plead guilty to a felony for robbery, with an adjudication withheld. The charge was based on an armed carjacking that occurred in Pembroke Pines, Florida.”

“Donna Beckford, due to her pleading guilty to a charge of a felony, for a crime related to robbery, regardless of her adjudication, is disqualified to serve as a Guardian in the State of Florida,” the motion to disqualify her said.

Judge Campbell never ruled on the motion.

More than a year later, Donna’s attorney filed a motion asking Judge Campbell for an exemption from criminal disqualification to serve as Wayne’s guardian, saying “The events took place twenty-four (24) and thirty (30) years ago, and should not be a lifetime disqualification barring Donna from serving as guardian for her own husband.”

That motion said Donna already received exemptions from the state to obtain a certified nursing assistant license and to operate a home care business.

Donna’s Devoted Healthcare

Donna Beckford’s company, Donna’s Devoted Healthcare LLC, had 43 employees, according to a PPP loan application she filed with the US Small Business Administration.

Florida Secretary of State Records indicate she registered the company with the state in 2019. The company received a PPP loan of $307,200 which was forgiven.

Wayne assisted her in setting up the company and was on the payroll when he got sick.

“She wanted him under the care of her home companion care company,” Charles Beckford said.

The company emailed Charles and his father multiple invoices for Wayne’s care, charging $456 a day for 24/7 care. Charles said he never paid the bills. Wayne’s sister Paula said employees of the company prevented her and her sisters from spending time alone with her brother.

“It’s this entity, this companion care organization that has taken hold of my brother,” she said.

Donna’s attorney, Hamden H. Baskin III, who declined an interview, said in an email, “Donna has and is paying for caregivers…Wayne receives all therapies and caregiver support recommended.”

“Everything that I’m billing for Wayne comes off of my taxes at the end of the year,” Donna said during her deposition.

After Wayne was released from a rehab center, Charles and his aunts wanted him moved into a facility with intensive on-site therapy.

“He needs to get the most amount of therapy every single day. Every doctor that we’ve talked to said that six month to one year period for his type of brain injury was the most crucial,” Charles said.

“He’s gonna have more success at home. And I truly believe he’s gonna get better,” Donna said in her deposition.

“I sleep at the house with him each night. I’m a C.N.A.,” Donna said, referring to her license as a certified nursing assistant.

But starting months before Wayne’s illness and continuing at least through August of 2021, Donna was spending time at a condo left to her in a will by one of her former clients, according to private investigators Charles hired to follow Donna and account for her whereabouts.

“Private investigators over five to six weeks saw her at the condo 25… somewhere around there… 25 days,” Charles said.

A report prepared by private investigation firm Apex Surveillance and Investigations shows Donna’s Maserati parked in the driveway of the condo during that surveillance period. Investigators also shot video of Donna accompanied by a male companion.

During her deposition, Donna testified she began seeing that man in 2018 and is still in a relationship with him. Donna also testified that in September 2020, she used money from Wayne’s bank account for a down payment on her Maserati.

Wayne was in a rehab center at the time and Donna’s name was not on any of his bank accounts.

“Did you talk to Wayne about using $2,000 from his account to make your Maserati down payment?” Charles’ attorney asked her during the deposition.

“I did not,” Donna replied.

“Wayne didn’t have the capacity to know the difference between a Fisher-Price toy and an actual car,” Wayne’s sister Paula said.

Judge: It doesn’t pass the smell test

The legal fight between Charles and Donna started on October 13 last year, when Charles petitioned to be his father’s guardian.

“Someone is in control of my Dad’s life. We’re filing for guardianship to basically say that someone should come in under the guise of the court and protect him,” Charles said.

The day after Charles petitioned to be his father’s guardian, a lawyer who Donna contacted showed up at Wayne’s home, saying he represented Wayne and brought a 14-page power of attorney agreement with him.

That agreement would allow Donna to control his real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and other assets and according to the language in the agreement “shall not terminate, should I become disabled or incapacitated."

Beckford POA Agreement

The document Wayne signed indicated that by signing the agreement he declared he was “of sound mind and under no constraint or undue influence.”

“My brother did not call this lawyer to come to his home and bring those documents,” Paula said.

She said Wayne wasn’t able to call anyone at the time.

That attorney, who was not Donna’s attorney Baskin, also brought a health care surrogate designation and a living will for Wayne to sign. He was accompanied by a witness who listed the lawyer’s office address as her address and a notary.

Wayne’s sisters said Wayne has been unable to read anything since his aneurysm. Wayne did not sign his full name on any of the documents.

“The signatures are all over the place. They’re scribble,” Paula said.

During the Emergency Temporary Guardianship hearing, the attorney who prepared the document confirmed he was contacted by Donna, not Wayne, and testified Wayne “couldn’t speak, but he could nod yes or no,” according to the Emergency Temporary Guardianship hearing transcript.

The attorney testified he held a clipboard for Wayne “and he had some difficulty sometimes, you know, getting -- quite often actually, getting right on the line.”

During Donna’s deposition, Charles’ attorney asked, “On October 15, 2020, do you believe Wayne had the mental capacity to understand a Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate document?”

“Absolutely,” Donna replied.

“On October 16, the very next day, you filed a petition to be appointed guardian. Do you recall that?” Charles’ attorney asked.

“I think this is where we should bring Hamden in. This is some things that he was directing us,” she replied.

The petition for guardianship that Donna filed under oath said Wayne, “is an incapacitated person.”

In his email response to the I-Team, Baskin wrote, “Donna asserts no guardianship is needed, but if one must be entered, that she should be appointed.”

The transcript said Judge Campbell reserved ruling on the validity of the documents until later and responded… “It’s not a good look. I’ll just put it that way. It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Court transcript in Beckford guardianship hearing
Court transcript in Beckford guardianship hearing

But the judge denied Charles’ petition.

“Caring cannot be litigated in court”

The case has since gone through depositions, mediation and multiple hearings.

Charles said the case has so far cost him more than $100,000, with no decision made about whether his father would be appointed a guardian.

Attorney Baskin blamed the delays and the excessive cost on Charles, who he said in an email has issued, “unnecessary discovery… designed to harass Donna or members of her staff.”

Baskin said Charles “has run up fees beyond reason, funds which should have been used for Wayne’s well-being.”

We went to Wayne’s home in late October to try to talk to Donna. A Maserati was in the driveway, but nobody answered the door.

Charles’ attorney filed a motion to withdraw from the case on November 17, citing “irreconcilable differences” with his client.

Charles said he will continue to fight until all his options run out.

“Who wouldn’t if they love their father,” he said.

He has no financial incentive to continue the court battle because most of Wayne’s money has been spent.

“If we’re not fighting for money, then what are we fighting for? I guess love cannot be litigated in court. Caring cannot be litigated in court. So those aren’t terms that they’re used to,” Paula said.

The case is scheduled for trial in mid-December.

If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email us at

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Grand jury to hear case against Marlboro Co. deputy probate judge on gun charge

by Tonya Brown

A preliminary hearing took place Monday morning at the Bennettsville Municipal Courthouse for former Marlboro County Deputy Probate Judge Tammy Bullock on a charge of pointing and presenting a firearm, according to Bennettsville Police Chief Kevin Miller.

A judge heard the evidence against Bullock as well as allowed her lawyer a chance to address the charge and why it should be dismissed.

The hearing lasted about 40 minutes and a judge decided there was enough probable cause to send the matter to a grand jury. 

That jury will review the findings and evidence in the case and decide if Bullock should be indicted or if the charge is dismissed altogether.

Bullock took office in March and resigned from the position in October.

Tammy Bullock (Credit: MCSO)

Back in February, Bennettsville Police charged Bullock with pointing and presenting a firearm during an argument with a woman.

Bennettsville Police Chief Kevin Miller said they charged Bullock under a city ordinance.

However, Miller said that the charge was dismissed in municipal court earlier this month and refilled in state court.

It will likely be prosecuted by an “outside prosecuting authority,” officials said.

The authority could be a prosecutor in another county or the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

Marlboro County court house (Credit: Tonya Brown)
ABC15 got a copy of the four-page incident report from the Bennettsville Police Department.

The report said the incident took place on Feb. 3, 2021, but a report wasn't filed until Feb. 5.

A 45-year-old woman is named as the complainant in the report and Bullock as the subject.

The woman said Bullock had a gun and threatened to kill her during an argument at a home they shared in Bennettsville.

The complainant stated the verbal altercation resulted in the subject pointing a handgun in her face and making a threat to shoot her with a handgun in question," according to an excerpt from the police report. "The complainant stated the handgun was medium-sized and gray in color. The complainant further stated the handgun contained a hammer located at the back of the side.

Marlboro County court house parking spot for judge (Credit: Tonya Brown)
The officer questioned the woman about why she waited two days to file the incident report.
I inquired with the complainant in reference to the reasoning behind her not contacting law enforcement on 02/03/2021, the complainant stated she did not know what to do at the time of the incident. The complainant stated the subject was further forcing her out of the residence. The complaint stated the subject was directing her to get all items out of the residence that day. I advised to the complainant that the subject could not force her from the residence without first obtaining an eviction notice from the magistrate’s office.

The incident report contains a statement from Bullock.

The subject stated upon her exiting her bedroom, the complainant proceeded to jump in her face again while engaged in a fighting stance. The subject stated she then stated to the complainant 'I got a gun in my hand. I will not fight you. I’m too old, but I will defend myself.' The subject stated she never pointed her gun at the complainant at any time. The subject stated she then stated to the complainant and the complainant’s daughter, 'The best thing for y’all to do is to be moved out by the time I get home from work.' Subject stated she then exited her residence and went to the Marlboro County probate office for work.

Miller said Bullock initially pled not guilty to the charge and has requested a jury trial. He said the trial was scheduled to take place in November.

However, some community members argue Bullock should not have been charged in municipal court or given a ticket which is treated as a misdemeanor because state law is clear and concise on the crime of pointing and presenting a firearm.

Marlboro County court house (Credit: Tonya Brown)

The South Carolina Law Statute SECTION 16-23-410, which deals with pointing a firearm at another person, said:

It is unlawful for a person to present or point at another person a loaded or unloaded firearm. A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined in the discretion of the court or imprisoned not more than five years. This section must not be construed to abridge the right of self-defense or to apply to theatricals or like performances.

Miller said he can't reiterate enough that Bullock wasn't treated any differently than anyone else.

Miller released the following statement two weeks ago regarding the investigation:

First, allow me to please address questions regarding the on-going criminal case against Ms. Bullock. I understand some people may have questions concerning this case; however, let me be perfectly clear that the Bennettsville Police Department is no way connected to Ms. Bullock concerning other investigations or incidents, which have taken place surrounding Probate Court. Furthermore, I have asked state and local officials to look into our case “out of an abundance of precaution” in hopes to dispel rumors and other suggestive language. Decisions regarding the direction of this case were made solely based on existing evidence, which were available at the time of the initial investigation and recommendations by court officials.
Our city attorney will also be conducting an independent review of the case to ensure the integrity of the case and identify any issues, which may be considered a conflict by the court, victim, defendant, or jeopardize any part of the judicial process in this particular case. As the Chief of Police, I have a duty and responsibility to preserve the publics trust and will NOT allow unsubstantiated claims taint this case or ruin the reputation of this great city.

He added the Bennettsville city attorney reviewed their investigation from top to bottom.

The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is already investigating accusations made against Bullock at the request of the Marlboro County Sheriff's Office.

According to SLED, it is in connection to the estate of Hollis Slade who, according to an obituary, died in January 2021.

ABC15 has repeatedly called Bullock and her attorney, but they haven’t returned our calls.

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Fort Smith in-home health aide sued for allegedly exploiting seniors

The lawsuit alleges that Kristy Michelle Weems made unauthorized purchases and cash withdrawals totaling more than $13,400 with her client's debit and credit cards.

Author: Haleigh Schmidt

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has filed a lawsuit against a woman in Fort Smith who allegedly financially exploited senior citizens in the River Valley.

According to Rutledge, Kristy Michelle Weems was a home health aide who provided companionship, personal care and other non-medical “home helper” services for seniors in the Fort Smith area. 

The lawsuit alleges that Weems made multiple unauthorized purchases and cash withdrawals with her client's debit and credit cards.

Weems allegedly spent more than $13,400 on the client's cards before she was discovered and terminated by her employer. 

“Ms. Weems abused the trust of seniors and their families, stealing thousands of dollars from Arkansans,” Rutledge said. “As Attorney General, I have always protected our seniors and the State’s most vulnerable populations.”

Rutledge says she is seeking restitution for those who were victims of Weems and civil penalties up to $10,000 per violation, an injunction, and other costs and fees incurred by the State of Arkansas in resolving this matter. 

Reports on the incidents have also been filed with local law enforcement.

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Monday, November 22, 2021

Serena and Venus Williams’ father are “incapacitated” by being cared for by a mysterious son

Serena and Venus Williams’ father became “incompetent” with two strokes and was taken care of by a mysterious son with a long lap sheet.

  • The fathers of Serena and Venus Williams are “incompetent” and are cared for by their mysterious son Chavoita Lucain, who is the translator and caregiver of the father.
  • Richard Williams was hit twice and couldn’t speak.
  • LeSane faces 61 civil, domestic and criminal proceedings.
  • He was charged, among other things, with peace and fights, several felony traffic charges, arrests and resistance to domestic violence.

Serena and Venus Williams’ dad became “incompetent” after suffering a two-stroke, and the legendary tennis player’s former hard drive coach is being cared for by a mysterious son with a long lap sheet.

According to court records, Richard Williams, 79, empowered his son, Chavoita Lucain, who was born through an unknown relationship, rather than his famous daughter, with little talk and the power of a lawyer. rice field.

According to court records, Williams was “incompetent” and showed that he was taking care of his son, who was an interpreter.

LeSane, 48, lives in Atlanta and has a criminal record until 1998. He has faced 61 civil, domestic and criminal proceedings, five of which remain unresolved.

In 2016, Williams was reported to have had a stroke. However, 2018 court documents show that he actually had two.

Richard Williams (left) is “incompetent” and is cared for by his son Chavoita Lucain (right)

In 2018, it became clear that Williams suffered two blows and had difficulty speaking. Le Sane works as his translator

In 2018, it became clear that Williams suffered two blows and had difficulty speaking. Le Sane works as his translator

LeSane has a long criminal record dating back to 1998, and many of his accusations have been withdrawn or abandoned.

LeSane has a long criminal record dating back to 1998, and many of his accusations have been withdrawn or abandoned.

Williams also suffers from neurological conditions that affect his mouth. In other words, it is up to Lucain to interpret what the once crowded dad is saying.

LeSane, CEO of Florida-based music promotion company ChaVam, helped negotiate with publisher Simon & Schuster about a deal for his father’s 2014 memoir, “Black and White: The Way I See It.” ..

In the Acknowledgments section of this book, Williams writes: He deserves great achievement. ”

In a post last month, Lucain was seen next to his father when the camera crew was filming a new movie, King Richard, of Williams’ tough coaching who made Serena and Venus the two most successful tennis players. Telling a story. world.

The relationship between Le Sane and his famous half-sister is unclear. They joined to win 30 Grand Slam Single titles. Serena, 40, won 23 single titles, the second title after Margaret Court. 41-year-old Venus won seven and four Olympic gold medals.

LeSane has published news in various types of courts throughout her life.

According to Florida records, he was first charged with a deteriorated battery in a pregnant woman in 1998, but the case was eventually withdrawn. Three years later, records show that he was charged with batteries and did not accept the contest.

In late 2007, he was reported as a “addict” for traffic violations and was probated for four years with a driver’s license suspension.

Over the years, he was charged with peace and fight, some felony traffic, arrests and resistance to domestic violence, but because some cases were “withdrawn or abandoned”. I was not convicted.

Williams is the father of Serena (pictured) and Venus, who coached to become two of the most successful tennis stars in the world.

Williams is the father of Serena (pictured) and Venus, who coached to become two of the most successful tennis stars in the world.

Williams’ other two sons, Richard III and Ronner, also have criminal records, including guns and assault charges that led to imprisonment.

Lucain was in charge of his father’s fortune while Williams was in the midst of a turbulent divorce battle with his estranged third wife, Lekisha. 

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Jury Convicts Two Defendants For Stealing Veterans And Social Security Benefits: Three Others Plead Guilty

After an eight-day trial at the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, and after three days of deliberation, a jury found Omar Shaquille Bailey and Ronaldo Garfield Green guilty of their roles in a plan to impeach the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Social Security. to cheat. Administration of more than $1.8 million. Senior District Court Judge James I. Cohn read the jury’s verdict and ordered the defendants incarcerated pending sentencing in January.

A third co-defendant, Jamare Mason, pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy on the second day of the trial. Two other co-defendants, Kadeem Gordon and Mario Ricketts, pleaded guilty before the trial. Two other co-defendants have yet to be arrested.

The jury heard testimony from several witnesses that members of the conspiracy obtained the personal information (including names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers) of disabled veterans and Social Security beneficiaries. The conspirators used this information to fraudulently open bank accounts and prepaid debit cards in the victims’ names. She also forged documents in the name of the victims that instructed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration to deposit benefits into those fraudulent accounts, rather than into the victims’ legitimate bank accounts.

The trial evidence showed that the defendants, along with other co-conspirators, withdrew these funds for their own personal use from ATMs and banks in South Florida and Georgia. Much of the money was eventually funneled to the architects of the plan in Jamaica.

Over the course of five years, from 2012 to 2017, according to evidence presented at trial, members of the conspiracy attempted to divert more than $1.8 million in benefits from more than a hundred disabled veterans and social welfare beneficiaries. security. Although several of these attempts were blocked, the defendants’ settlement resulted in the actual loss of nearly $1 million, money diverted from disabled veterans and Social Security beneficiaries. In any event, the federal government reimbursed these victims the full amount of their stolen benefits.

“We remain vigilant in our efforts to defend and protect our disabled veterans and our elderly,” said US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez. “This successful prosecution demonstrates that, despite recent challenges, our Office continues to prosecute anyone targeting vulnerable members of the community.”

“Yesterday, a jury held these defendants accountable for their roles in a massive, transnational fraud scheme that preyed on veterans — many of whom were elderly and at risk — by diverting VA compensation and retirement benefits to other bank accounts or veterans’ bank accounts,” said Special Representative David Spilker of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General’s South East Field Office. “The VA OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, is steadfast in our commitment to ensuring veterans are protected from schemes designed to steal the benefits they have earned while defending our country.”

“The jury’s verdict holds Omar Bailey and Ronaldo Green accountable for their greedy and unscrupulous actions that deprived Social Security beneficiaries and disabled veterans of their benefits,” said Rodregas W. Owens, special agent responsible for the Inspector’s Social Security Administration Office. General, Field Division Atlanta. “I appreciate the investigative efforts of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Task Force and our law enforcement partners in dismantling this conspiracy and the US Attorney’s Office prosecuting this case.”

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Special Agent David Spilker of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General’s Southeast Field, and Special Agent Rodregas W. Owens, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General , made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez praised the investigative efforts of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, including our partners at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of the Inspector General, the United States Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations and the Office of the Social Security Administration of the Inspector General the Inspector General.

The case was pursued by US Assistant Attorneys Lois Foster-Steers and Sajjad Matin.

Combating elder abuse and financial fraud targeting seniors is a top priority of the Department of Justice. The mission of the Department’s Elder Justice Initiative is to support and coordinate the Department’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect, and financial fraud and scams targeting our nation’s seniors. For more information, visit The public is encouraged to report their victimization and suspected fraud. To find the right reporting agency, visit or call the Victim Connection Hotline at 1-855-484-2846.

Criminal complaints, information and charges are allegations only and defendants are innocent unless and until found guilty in a court of law.

Related court documents and information can be found on the District Court for the Southern District of Florida website at or at, under case number 19-cr-60313 .

US Attorney’s Office – District Court for the Southern District of Florida

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Could woman accused of murder be appointed disabled man’s guardian?

A therapist appointed by Riverside County claims he was 'used as a pawn by the Public Guardian's Office'

Identical twins Ryan and Ronald Moore about age 7. They liked to watch the trains together in San Clemente, (Photo courtesy of Monica Mazzei)

By Teri Sforza

Michelle Morris Kerin (Courtesy of Riverside County DA)
Just months before Michelle Morris was arrested for murder and lewd conduct, she gloated in an email.

Her letter to a county-appointed therapist for her adopted, profoundly disabled son, Ryan Morris, expressed deep thanks for his support of her legal fight to keep her son isolated from his biological family.

“I think you have really given the Court and Ryan’s attorneys what they need to eliminate the visits of Monica and Ronald although, of course, we know they will not go quietly,” Morris wrote. “We hope it is the gateway for Ryan to return to his home with Sean.”

Sean is Sean Spicer, the man that Morris allowed her son to marry, despite the young man’s inability to understand marriage. A judge removed Spicer as Ryan Morris’ legal guardian in 2019, saying the evidence showed Spicer was abusive. But a petition to make Spicer and Morris the disabled young man’s legal guardians is before a Riverside County judge nonetheless.

Ronald is Ronald Moore, Ryan Morris’ identical twin brother. The twins were separated, and the entire biological family cut off, shortly after Morris adopted Ryan, which the court approved over the biological family’s vehement objections. Twin Ronald, a healthy young man, has a petition pending to be his disabled brother’s legal guardian as well.

And Monica is Monica Mukai, Ryan Morris’ biological aunt, who has been fighting to “free” Ryan from Morris’s grasp long before Morris was accused of second-degree murder of one of her foster children, as well as sexual abuse of disabled people.

The plight of Brittany Spears focused attention on the abuses that can be attendant to conservatorships, California’s official parlance for legal guardianships. But the twists and turns in Ryan Morris’ highly unusual case raise profoundly larger questions, pitting two fundamental rights squarely against one another: the hard-won right for the disabled to marry and have sex lives, just like everyone else, and their right to be protected from abuse and undue influence.

The nettlesome issues were probed in a three-part series, “Twins, Divided,” by the Southern California News Group in 2017, but the twists keep coming.

Missing context

Morris, who operated a group foster home with her husband in Orange County before relocating it to Murrieta and finally shutting it down as her legal entanglements mounted, wrote her emails to licensed clinical social worker Richard Rowe in March. He had submitted a report to the court critical of Ryan Morris’ biological family members, and Morris expressed her hopes that they would be soon out of the picture once and for all.

Her emails do not reflect well on professionals in Riverside County and its Public Guardian’s Office, which the court appointed as Ryan Morris’ temporary conservator while the case wends its way through the courts.

“I spoke with the Court Investigator for Ryan and she was very open about the county’s disdain for Monica,” Morris wrote. “Ryan struggles to keep his cool with the ongoing visits with Ronald and Monica … we are praying for the end of that before Ryan just can’t take it any more (and Sean, too.)”

What Morris didn’t tell Rowe was that Spicer was ousted as Ryan Morris’ legal guardian because of what the judge called abusive behavior. Spicer would threaten to send Ryan Morris back to his adoptive mother when he misbehaved, threaten to take off his ring and end the marriage, threaten to send him for emergency mental health treatment, and punish him by restricting visits with his biological family and taking his phone away so he couldn’t contact them. Ryan Morris was told that his biological family was bad and wanted to end his marriage.

Ryan Morris has the intellectual capacity of a 5- to 6-year-old, psychological evaluations found, and is easily manipulated. In 2019, a psychologist asked him, “Why get married?” Ryan Morris first talked about his PlayStation Portable, then said, “Because it’s right. … It’s right for people to get married.” The psychologist pressed on: “Before you met Sean, were you thinking that you’d like to get married?” Ryan Morris answered, “We made a deal. That if I get married, I’d have a cellphone,” according to the report filed with the court.

Ryan Morris with his aunt Monica Mukai during a Christmas tree lightening in San Juan Capistrano. (Photo courtesy  Mukai)

The psychologist concluded that Ryan Morris lacked capacity to enter into a marriage based on his concrete thinking and limited understanding of the institution.

But Rowe, the social worker, didn’t know any of that when he wrote critical evaluations to the court. He had never even been given a copy of the judge’s order removing Spicer and placing the county public guardian in control. The vital background didn’t come to his attention until he was called for a deposition by the biological family’s attorney, Charles Krolikowski, a partner with Newmeyer Dillion in Newport Beach, Rowe said in a declaration that went before a judge on Nov. 17.

In his declaration, Rowe disavowed his earlier reports and blasted Riverside County officials for manipulation and bias.

‘Used as a pawn’

Around March 2020, Rowe was asked by Public Guardian Deputy Conservator Shirley Jackson to provide psychotherapy services in the conservatorship of Ryan Morris, Rowe said in the declaration. Jackson told him that, pursuant to a court order, his assignment would be to perform “relationship building services” among Ryan Morris, his adoptive mother, Spicer, Mukai and Moore.

“At the time, I asked Ms. Jackson several times for a copy of the order and any other background information that would be helpful, but she failed to provide this information to me,” he said.

Rowe was deposed on Oct. 8 by the biological family, and Krolikowski showed him the judge’s order “and the references to the many instances of abusive behavior inflicted by Spicer on Ryan,” the declaration says. “Despite my requests to Ms. Jackson to see the order, I had never seen these findings before, nor had I seen the actual directive from the court that Ryan was to visit with various persons in a ‘therapeutic setting.’ In my professional opinion, ‘visitation in a therapeutic setting’ is not the same as ‘relationship building’ (or psycho-therapy sessions), which was the instruction(s) I received from Ms. Jackson.”

Had Rowe known about the order and the actual directive from the court, he would have approached his assignment much differently, he said.

“(I)t was Spicer and Michelle that told me that Mukai, Moore, and even Mr. Krolikowski, were improperly using the legal process to abuse Ryan, but after reading the order, it appears to me that Moore (and his counsel, Mr. Krolikowski), were justified in proceeding to remove Spicer as Ryan’s conservator, and in fact, they prevailed.”

After reviewing the psychological evaluation that was ordered on Ryan, he came to understand  “that Ryan is easily influenced by others, and … I can see now that Spicer and possibly Michelle may have influenced Ryan’s negative attitudes, comments, and behaviors towards his biological family, including Mukai and Moore,” Rowe said. “I also now have a better understanding that much of the misinformation and negative comments I received about Mukai and Moore, were fed to me by Spicer and Michelle. … I was not given the full picture of Ryan’s situation by Ms. Jackson, Spicer or Michelle.”

Ronald Moore, left, and identical twin Ryan Morris embrace after seeing each for the first time in 13 years at a court hearing on Ryan’s conservatorship in July 2015. (Photo courtesy Monica Mukai)

Rowe sent an August email to Jackson expressing concern that the Public Guardian’s Office was overstepping its role, attempting to influence clinical interventions and violating its duties. “I came to the conclusion that I was being used as a pawn by the Public Guardian’s Office to render findings and recommendations without having all of the information I needed to do so,” he said.

After Rowe challenged Jackson, he was told his services were no longer needed, he said. In an email to Jackson, he said he was concerned that her decision to terminate his services was not in Ryan Morris’ best interest, and that she lacked neutrality regarding Spicer and Morris.

An emailed response from Riverside County to the Southern California News Group didn’t directly address Rowe’s assertions.

The mission of the public guardian is to safeguard the lives of people who can’t care for themselves with the least possible restriction of their liberties, and it must also protect the privacy and confidentiality of people under conservatorship, said Riverside County Behavioral Health Director Dr. Matthew Chang.

“Every member of the Public Guardian Program takes this mission seriously and has worked hard to address new and familiar issues pertaining to the program. Public trust is crucial for comprehensive conservatorship, and accountability is a vital component of that trust.”

Petitions to take over conservatorship from the public guardian — from Spicer and Morris on one hand, and from Mukai and Moore on the other — are on hold until the Court of Appeal weighs in on a challenge to the order removing Spicer as conservator.

The biological family also asked the court for permission to visit with Ryan Morris even if he decided he didn’t want to, in an attempt to get past the fear instilled in him. Officials say the Public Guardian’s Office will continue to use its own discretion and honor Ryan Morris’ wishes on visitation.

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