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Wednesday, October 28, 2015
IF WE CONVICT TED TAUPIER FOR TRASH TALKING, WHY DON'T WE CONVICT ATTORNEYS AND JUDGES FOR THE SAME CONDUCT?
Last year, I spent a considerable amount of time observing meetings of the "Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care & Custody of Minor Children" which resulted in several reforms of the Guardian Ad Litem system.
At one point during these proceedings, I observed one member of the task force, Attorney Sue Cousineau, harshly and loudly say to her daughter, who was also observing the proceedings along with me,"Don't talk to a crazy person like that" or words to that effect, clearly indicating that she was referring to a fellow task force member, Ms. Jennifer Verraneault who was standing nearby.
As a result, Ms. Verraneault was so upset that she left the hearing room with Rep. Minnie Gonzalez and the proceedings were delayed for a considerable amount of time. I am not sure what they did--whether they reported the incident, or whether Ms. Verraneault merely spoke to Rep. Gonzalez out in the hallway to regain her composure. The bottom line is that Attorney Sue Cousineau's verbal attack was directly harmful and abusive to Jennifer Verraneault and resulted in the disruption of official business of the task force that had been authorized by the Connecticut General Assembly.
At the very least, I felt it was a demonstration of very poor character on the part of Attorney Sue Cousineau, which was particularly reprehensible since she acted in such a manner in front of her own daughter and showed a very poor example to the younger generation.
More to the point, in the light of the recent arrest and conviction of Ted Taupier for 1st and 2nd degree threat, disorderly conduct and breach of peace for an email that was never sent to his supposed victim, how come Attorney Sue Cousineau wasn't immediately arrested for face to face, directly using "fighting words" to her victim, a form of ""disorderly conduct" which ultimately resulted in a "breach of the peace" since it meant interference in Jennifer Verraneault's ability to continue to conduct business which she had been entrusted to carry out by the CT State Legislature.
How come there is one form of justice for legal professionals such as judges and attorneys and another, inferior, form of justice for Connecticut citizens like Ted Taupier or Jennifer Verraneault?
I would also hasten to add that I would characterize Attorney Sue Cousineau's statement as a form of hate speech because the word "crazy" in the sense that she used it, and I heard it, was intended to convey the same meaning that the N word would have if it were directed towards an African-American.
So why do I characterize Attorney Sue Cousineau's words as fighting words? Fighting words doctrine was first established in the United States as a limitation on freedom of speech in the 1942 case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. Here the Supreme Court held that the State has the authority to limit "insulting or 'fighting words" which are those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of peace." Calling a person "crazy" and implying that such a person should be silenced because they have been defined as such represents a direct infliction of injury.
Clearly, Attorney Sue Cousineau both created an injury and incited an immediate breach of peace when she made a statement indicating her contempt for people with mental health disabilities, one that she knew would upset Jennifer Verraneault and that indeed made it impossible for Ms. Verraneault to continue to participate in official proceedings she was a part of for a considerable period of time.
Further, under 8.4 "Introduction to Breach of Peace and Disorderly Conduct" published by the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, the charge of breach of peace includes conduct that includes "abusive or obscene language" I'd say calling someone "crazy" is absolutely abusive.
In regard to disorderly conduct, the statute says that it is "conduct that is grossly offensive, under contemporary community standards, to a person who actually overhears or sees it (for example me), [or] it impedes the lawful activity of that person." State v. Indrisano, supra, 228 Conn. 818. To repeat, Attorney Sue Cousineau's words interfered directly with Ms. Jennifer Verraneault's participation in the task force. Thus, Attorney Cousineau's actions met the standard for disorderly conduct.
Returning to the issue of how Attorney Sue Cousineau's remarks constituted a hate crime, here is how the law sees it. Connecticut hate crime statutes, according to Attorney Christopher Reinhart, are intended to "address certain actions that intimidate or harass another person because of his actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression." Under the hate crime statutes, any conduct that results in the deprivation of a citizen's legally guaranteed rights based upon disability is a crime.
I'd say that Ms. Jennifer Verraneault had the legally guaranteed right to carry out her official responsibilities on that task force without enduring the constant threat that she would be subjected to hate speech from Attorney Sue Cousineau in the course of her duties.
Again, keep in mind that the verbal abuse Attorney Sue Cousineau subjected Ms. Jennifer Verraneault to was face to face, not by email, and also verbalized directly to her, as opposed to arriving indirectly in the kind of whisper down the lane manner that took place in Ted Taupier's situation.
So again, my question is, if Mr. Ted Taupier is facing fines and many years in prison for braggadocio that he did not even intend Judge Elizabeth Bozzutto to know about, how come Attorney Sue Cousineau isn't held to account for what comes across to me as a direct verbal attack on a fellow official in a task force, carried out with the express intention of disrupting Ms. Verraneault's ability to contribute to that task force in a meaningful way.
What's with that double standard?
Going beyond this single incident which is so representative of the kind of discrimination against people with disabilities here in the State of Connecticut, what about the many litigants in family court who have had attorneys or judges falsely accuse them of mental illness with the express intention of denying them their fundamental constitutional and human rights?
How about those legal professionals who bring up litigants' disabilities and then ignore the fact that such litigants have rights under Title II and Title III of the American's With Disabilities Act? Those rights include protection from discrimination, protection from the deprivation of their rights, as well as reasonable modifications which they require in order to obtain access to those rights.
Jesus said in Mathew 7:2-4, For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4"Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?"
These are words that Judge Gold should seriously consider.
And Jennifer, if you are reading this, ten to one you still have the right to sue, so keep that in mind.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
On November 14, 1996, police in Canton, CT received a phone call from a Jean Eichelman of South Windsor. She was worried about her parents who had called her earlier stating that their son, Neil Cretney, and Jean's brother had been threatening them. Neil, who was 44 years old at the time, had an extensive history of schizophrenia and had not been taking his medication.
Eventually, Neil Cretney barricaded himself in his room with an axe and refused to come out. Canton Police who had already managed two earlier violent incidents with Mr. Cretney, instead of doing something personally, decided to hand the situation over to the North Central Regional Emergency Services Team--a 20 member SWAT team--that stormed Cretney's room and shot him dead after he swung at one officer with the axe, cutting through his bullet proof vest.
Subsequent to Neil Cretney's death there was a lot of soul searching. Why did Canton police decide to call the SWAT team? Would it have been better if the Canton police had tried to talk Neil Cretney down before storming his room? Could anything have been done to prevent the tragic outcome? I can recall feeling very saddened by this situation at the time and I am aware that everyone concerned--the police, Mr. Cretney's family, members of the community--felt devastated by what happened. I believe that after that incident, the Canton police voluntarily participated in additional training to learn how to deal more effectively with people who have mental illness who are in crisis.
Why I am telling this story now is to say that when Jean Eichelman, Neil Cretney's sister, called up the police in order to safeguard her parents, it was never her intention to get her brother killed. She was in an impossible situation where if she did nothing, her parents could end up being injured. However, if she made a phone call to police, there was a considerable risk that her brother could end up manhandled, handcuffed, and carted off to a psychiatric hospital as had happened before.
I'm sure it never crossed her mind that Neil Cretney would end up dead, but that is always a possibility in any encounter that a person with a disability has with police. According to statistics, over half of the incidents of deadly violence that take place between police and civilians occurs in cases where people with disabilities, particularly individuals with mental illness, are involved. As soon as you pick up the phone to call for assistance from police, the fire department, or ambulance services, etc., pretty much the situation is out of your hands and there is nothing you could do about it.
Should we blame Ms. Eichelman and call her a murderer? No, she was in an absolutely difficult position where anything she did had the potential for harm. In the end, she chose the better of the two evils which was to safeguard the wellbeing of her elderly parents.
Likewise, with Jennifer Verraneault, who made the difficult decision to report Ted Taupier to authorities, she was similarly in a very difficult position trying to decide between the better of two evils, and with no absolutely fool proof way of determining which was better.
There were aspects of Ted Taupier's statements in the email for which he was arrested that were laughable, i.e. the quotations from Charlton Heston and the comments about the space station on the moon, or whatever that was. On the other hand, Mr. Taupier's other remarks were very intense and potentially very upsetting to anyone who didn't know him that well.
Thus, Jennifer Verraneault's concern about Ted Taupier and his wellbeing and the Judge's safety, from her perspective, made absolute sense.
It also made sense within the heated and intense debate that has been going on in the state legislature, in the streets, and in our court houses regarding the corruption of CT Family Court.
As Jennifer stated, "Try to put yourself in my situation and understand how scared I was for this family and for others."
I believe Jennifer's expression of concern is absolutely genuine. The problem is that once Jennifer reported her concern to other people and the situation snowballed, she had no control over the outcome and no control over the outrageous and excessive manner in which the State of CT chose to handle the situation, any more than Jean Eichelman did when that SWAT team went after her brother.
Jennifer had real fears regarding Ted Taupier and his wellbeing and that of Judge Bozzuto that should be taken seriously. As she states, "At the time I was alarmed and felt a tremendous amount of sadness for a father trapped in this unjust system. I immediately replied to his email prior to contacting anyone. I sent him an email to say I am worried about you. Do you have your children this weekend? The goal I had at the time was for Jerry and I to meet him on our way back from Mass. But he didn't reply to me at all. I felt so sad for him, his children and his family. For anyone to write what he wrote was extremely alarming to me. I am not used to having anyone share that type of information with me."
That is the thing. Some people, depending on their background and experience, would find what Ted Taupier said alarming, but many would not have found it alarming. I read that email and read all that stuff about Charlton Heston and I was like, don't be silly. In my own life, I've spent a good deal of time with people who have mental health challenges or who have dealt with extremely difficult life circumstances, so my radar for violence has a much higher threshold than for most people.
So there is this continuum in terms of how people assess situations of this kind and when it comes to understanding how Jennifer responded, we should be charitable and keep that in mind. She just saw things differently than other people did who were copied on the email. As Jennifer stated, "I was torn about what to do with the email from day one." And she states further, "When I saw the video where Ted's kids were taken out of school. I didn't know all the details. I was unaware that Ted had taken the video himself and it was only a month later I found that out. I thought OMG a judge ordered the police to take the kids out of school? I didn't know it was the ex-wife who had brought in the police. I thought how horrible! I thought, if I was disturbed by this image, how will Ted feel? His kids are crying and being taken out by police...I thought in the light of the email he sent five days earlier, he might possibly carry out what he put in the email...You see reaching out to let others know what was going on with Ted was not a calculated and evil thing that I did. I was sincerely worried about everyone."
I believe Jennifer 100 percent when she says this.
As with Jean Eichelman, once the report had gone out, there was nothing Jennifer could do to prevent what happened with Ted. Who could anticipate the kind of vicious, vengeful and excessive response to Ted Taupier on the part of law enforcement and on the part of Judge Gold. At the most, I would have thought that Ted would have been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and to cooperate with a treatment program to address his anger issues. But six years of jail, fines, house arrest, major legal expenses, etc., etc. That would be far beyond my ability to imagine, and I'm sure the same is true for Jennifer.
When it comes to the Family Court Reform movement here in Connecticut, everyone brings something different to the table. It is remarkable the broad range of economic, cultural, religious, ethnic, gender, and disability based backgrounds we all have. It seems as though the Family Court Abuse has been an open opportunity for pretty much everyone--it's a very democratic experience! In my earlier blog regarding the Ted Taupier Case, I spoke about Jennifer as having mixed motives, and I'm sure people were like, "Yes, we know, she's such a terrible person!"
This, actually, was not on my mind.
In our movement, because of her experience on the Task Force last year regarding child custody, Jennifer has the unique perspective of understanding not only how we feel as victims of the corrupt family court system, Jennifer has also heard extensively from people who work within that system in regard to the frustrations they experience from their perspective. I know everyone wants to say, yeah, from their criminal perspective, but that would not be fair. There are many good people within the CT Family Court System who are working hard to ensure just and proper outcomes for the litigants who make their way through Family Court. These are the people we need to learn to connect with and work with in a productive way.
I am sure that with this recent situation, those who are responsible for the criminal activities within the CT Judicial Branch are feeling overjoyed. First of all, they are probably really thrilled they finally nailed Ted Taupier who was such a pain with his honest and incisive testimony regarding the abuses he and his family endured in family court. But most of all, they are probably as delighted as can be that Jennifer Verraneault, who has been such a dynamic part of the Family Court Reform movement, is now crippled and undercut by these attacks on her character and on her motivations for working in the Family Court Reform movement.
Ha ha, all the corrupt attorneys, GALS, judges, and court personnel are probably saying--we've killed two birds with one stone!
I have to say that I do not agree with Jennifer in a lot of areas, particularly in regard to her support of theories of Parental Alienation. I think everyone knows that I'm not everyone's favorite player in the battle for Family Court Reform. As a general rule, it is true that my focus is considerably more on supporting the welfare of women than men.
But if there is one thing I want to say emphatically, it is that we need to stop fighting among ourselves and stand together shoulder to shoulder to fight for justice within the Family Court system. Let's focus on what really matters.
Of course, we are not going to agree on everything, but if there is one thing I constantly hear about from pretty much everyone it is that we all believe in fairness, we believe in justice, we believe in due process; we protest lying, cheating, and stealing, and we all believe that we need to get the children out of the line of fire so that they can live happy and fulfilling lives devoid of trauma and heartbreak.
We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to the temptation that our opponents in the corrupt CT Judicial Branch dangle before us to fight among ourselves, to backstab one another, or to smear each other's reputations.
I also want to say that I personally saw members of the that task force attack Jennifer and attempt to undercut her success. There is no doubt that she suffered a lot and gave a lot while she was in that role. If she stumbles and falls. If she is not perfect all the time. If she makes mistakes, in that, I believe, that she is no different than any one of us.
Under the pressure of the abuse of family court, who cannot say that they haven't said or done things that they regret. So what I'm urging everyone to consider is that we need to support one another, no matter how flawed we are, and reserve our challenges, our criticisms, and our calls to arms for the real enemies, those within the Family Court System who have exploited and harmed family court victims. United we stand. Divided we fall.