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.