I can imagine that those of you following my series on this case must be shaking their heads going, he said, she said, who is telling the truth?
Finding out who is telling the truth should be the job of the judge in the case who is often referred to in legal commentary as "the Finder of Fact". According to this definition, this means that the Judge should be the person who reviews the evidence placed before him and determines what are the facts of the case. My question is, did this process of finding the facts take place when it came to the Wiegand case?
I will try to give you some sense of that, although I am sure that I can't be fully accurate since the majority of accounts of what went on have been written by those who support Linda Wiegand. I am aware that a story that appears full and complete can be entirely upended if you simply add another fact to the mix. So when you read this, understand that it could be I don't have that particular fact that upends my conclusions.
From what I understand, early in 1993, the Head of Family Court, Judge Herbert Barall, was put in charge of the case. In May 1993, the Vermont Prosecuting Attorney wrote a letter to Judge Barall asking him to stay all custody proceedings until criminal charges against Tom Wilkinson could be adjudicated. Judge Barall refused to do so.
Meanwhile, in June 1993, Judge Barall appointed Attorney Judith Benedict as Jon and Ben Wiegand's guardian ad litem and attorney, even though carrying out both those roles represents a conflict of interest for an attorney.
Not long after that, Linda Wiegand brought both Jonathan and Ben to the Simsbury, CT police department in order to have the police there investigate the charges of sexual abuse. After an investigation, the police concluded that the boys had been sexually abused. When Judge Barall heard of the investigation he ordered the police to close the investigation and turn over to him all materials from the case including tapes of interviews, drawings, notes, etc. Judge Barall later had this material handed over to Dr. Kenneth Robson for his custody evaluation of the children.
Then in July 1993, Judge Herbert Barall gave Karen Wilkinson Nutter, Tom Wilkinson's sister, legal custody of Ben Wiegand. For five months, Linda Wiegand drove from Connecticut to Vermont and back again participating in legal proceedings in both states in regard to the abuse accusations and the divorce.
At the end of that period, Dr. Kenneth Robson published his results indicating that in his professional opinion the children Ben and Jon Wiegand had not been abused. Of the people who investigated the sexual abuse, the Vermont Child Protective Services, Connecticut's DCF, McLean Hospital, the Simsbury police department, Attorney John H. Massomeno who wrote a full report of the case at the request of CT States Attorney, James E. Thomas, etc. Dr. Robson was the only one who stated that this abuse had not taken place.
Nonetheless, based upon this information from Dr. Robson, Judge Herbert Barall held a hearing that supporters of Linda Wiegand state took place in secret and without the presence of Linda's attorney. In this hearing, Judge Barall ordered that Tom Wilkinson's sister would have custody of Ben and Jon. In doing so the Judge was overstepping his jurisdiction since Jon is not related to either Tom or Karen Wilkinson and Mr. Wilkinson never adopted Jon. This was just around the point that Linda Wiegand went into hiding.
Subsequently, I am assuming while she was in hiding, Linda's attorney asked Judge Herbert Barall to recuse himself. He was then replaced by Judge Thelma Santos. Judge Santos, I assume in response to Linda Wiegand's disappearance, confiscated the entire contents of Linda's house, furniture and all, and gave them to Tom Wilkinson and required that Linda pay Tom Wilkinson $1,000 to cover the costs of Mr. Wilkinson obtaining them. The judge also ordered mail confiscated from Linda's post office box and seized Linda's cars. Then in April 1994, without notifying Linda's attorney, Judge Santos replaced Karen, Tom Wilkinson's sister as guardian of the two boys and appointed Tom Wilkinson instead. In May 1994, the GAL and Tom Wilkinson made a motion which would authorize them to take charge of the children's estate and the Judge sustained the motion.
In January 1995, when Linda Wiegand was still in hiding, Judge Thelma Santos provided a final divorce judgment which awarded 400% of Linda Wiegand's income to Tom Wilkinson for alimony and child support for both of Linda's children. Judge Santos also confiscated Linda's entire defense fund which was $500,000 plus 8% compound interest. Judge Santos also awarded $50,000 to Tom Wilkinson's attorney as well as $10,000 for the GAL. Furthermore, Judge Santos awarded Linda's house to Tom Wilkinson and ordered that the two children should have no contact with their mother at all.
In 1996 Linda Wiegand was discovered in Las Vegas with the children, jailed under very difficult circumstances and there continued a litany of what appear to be legal injustices until the year 2000 when the record goes silent. What happened after that, who can tell. If anyone has any information on that, don't hesitate to contact me regarding that.
What is my conclusion from this? If you take the law into your own hands in a custody dispute and disappear with your children, no matter how justified your reasons for doing so, you will pay in full once you are discovered. That is my best conclusion from this story.
Otherwise, let's get back to what I said from the beginning. What about the finding of facts? From what I see there was ample response to Linda Wiegand taking the law into her own hands--she was definitely punished enough--but did the court review the evidence of sexual abuse and determine what are the facts? I don't think so.
Was there ever a deposition of Dr. Kenneth Robson to determine the basis of his decision that the boys had not been sexually abused? Was he ever asked to take the stand? I mean, he was the only one saying the boys weren't abused; shouldn't he have been carefully examined before anyone acted on the basis of his conclusions? Were any scientific experts regarding sexual abuse brought in and required to testify in court regarding the technical aspects of determining whether or not sexual abuse has occurred with children? Did Dr. Robson or any of the others adhere to those techniques? Did Tom Wilkinson or Linda Wiegand have the opportunity to get on the stand and state their positions? I think the answer is "no" to all these questions.
So there never was a review of the evidence and a resulting determination of the facts as far as I can see. Instead there were a lot of legal tricks on the part of the lawyers and a lot of grandstanding by the court as a result of the outrage it felt about Linda going outside of the law.
This meant that without really taking the time and making the effort to allow the legal process to determine what were the facts, the Court handed everything over to Tom Wilkinson in a kind of "winner takes all" approach which the majority of people in the field of matrimonial law heartily deplore, and then assigned Dr. James C. Black to provide therapy for Jon and Ben to deal with how their mother "coached" them into making "false" claims of sexual abuse. I put the words coached and false in parentheses simply because I still don't know--were they or weren't they? But one thing I do know is that if the boys were sexually abused, after therapy with Dr. James C. Black, they would end up being confused and traumatized.
You know, I totally sympathize with the Court. Getting revenge is absolutely satisfying. Still, there are times when you have to put aside those primitive needs and act wisely, particularly on behalf of children. Bankrupting Linda Wiegand, cutting off all avenues for her redemption, depriving these children of a mother? Where is the sense of that? Can this in any way be in the best interests of the children? Let me know what you think!