When Surrogacy and Adoption Goes Wrong

DSC00258_1Several months ago we read about a couple from Australia who hired a Thai surrogate so she could bear the child they always wanted. During month three of the surrogate’s pregnancy the couple were informed that the 21 year-old surrogate was having twins, one of whom tested positive for Down’s syndrome. According to the surrogate, the parents-to-be implored her to have an abortion but she refused.

When the twins were born the agency who arranged the surrogacy delivered the “healthy” twin girl to the couple, leaving behind the baby boy who also had a congenital heart defect. Once the rejection of this little boy went viral, kind people around the world began donating monies, more than $150,000, to the surrogate mother who vowed to keep the baby and was surprised and heartened by the generosity of strangers.

The Australian couple were vilified and attempted to tell their side of the story, which was that they prayed fervently for their baby’s boy health when the twins were born two months premature, but were told the baby boy would not survive more than a day.

The media storm accelerated when it was publicly revealed that the biological father, an Australian, was a convicted pedophile and his Asian wife was aware of his sordid past. At the same time, the media released information that more than 65 babies born of surrogates in Thailand for gay couples from Israel were in the hands of Thai social services, because the Israeli government refused to grant immigration visas to the children.

These stories and others tell of the difficulties experienced by adoptive parents, surrogate mothers, and other players in the world of assisted reproduction and adoption.

A new story out of New York sheds further light on the frailties of international adoption. In the case of Matter of Adoption of Child A and Child C, a Long Island couple adopted two children from Russia in 2008. The children were described as “healthy and socially well-adjusted siblings”, but their adoptive parents had reason to doubt what they had been told when both children began to exhibit serious mental health problems. The couple also learned that the children were not related and both had been victims of sexual abuse. This truth began to explain the children’s bizarre behaviour including their threats to kill the parents.

Nassau County Judge Edward McCarty III will hear the parent’s application to void the adoption which will be heard in open court although the names of the parents and the children will be sealed. Judge McCarty explained that he wanted the proceedings to be public because 18 Russian children who were adopted by American families died violently in the last 20 years, most of them only residing in the US for six months.

The Long Island children, who are 12 and 14 years-old, are presently in state mental health facilities.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Hockey Pedophile Graham James Receives Longer Sentence From Appeal Court

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Canadian National Hockey League star Theo Fleury, winner of a Stanley Cup ring and an Olympic gold medal does not mince words. He says that Canada is a “Disneyland for pedophiles” and I think he’s right.

Fleury was yet another victim of Graham James, the now infamous hockey coach and mentor, who sexually abused young boys under his tutelage, ruining their lives in the process. Convicted in 1997 for sexually abusing professional hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, he was then sentenced to a mere three and a half years in prison for multiple criminal counts involving Mr. Kennedy and another young man. He served only eighteen months.

It was Sheldon Kennedy who encouraged Theo Fleury to report the abuse he suffered at the hands of James in the 1980′s. The police investigated and filed new charges against Graham James, who plead guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison in March 2012.

At the time of the new charges, it came to light that Mr. James had received a federal pardon in 2007, an event that shocked the Canadian public and led to federal legislation excluding sex offenders from receiving pardons, now called “record suspensions”.

But James foolishly appealed his two-year sentence, his lawyer arguing that he should have received no jail time at all. The Manitoba Court of Appeal heard the case on December 3, 2012 and fortunately, Mr. James’ appeal strategy backfired. Today the Appeal Court increased Mr. James’ jail term from two years to five years.

In my view, the initial two-year sentence was the revictimization of Mr. Fleury and impotent sentencing for pedophiles is abhorrent, given the aftermath of damaged victims who struggle with substance addictions and broken relationships, which can be directly linked to the shame and fear emanating from the physical, emotional and psychological consequences of sexual abuse.

Kudos to Mr. Fleury who recently announced that he has taken the sentencing of pedophiles as a project to champion a change in sentencing and support other victims of these atrocious crimes. His first recommendation? Minimum sentences of fifteen years in prison for each count of sexual abuse, additional counts to run consecutively, rather than concurrently, which is the situation today.

Mr. Fleury praised the Manitoba Court of Appeal for increasing sex predator James’ sentence, calling it a good day for survivors of sexual abuse.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Don’t Mess with Florida Judge Chet Tharpe

DSC00507 (2)Florida Judge Chet Tharpe, elected to the bench in 1990, with a recent mandate that will see him preside until at least 2015 is a no-nonsense, straight-talking, in-your-face kind of judge. Just the kind of judge that freely distributes “wake-up calls” to sex offenders and other miscreants in Tampa Florida.

Considered firm but fair, Judge Tharpe is not afraid to say what needs to be said, often times providing a reality check for offenders, victims, family members and others touched by criminal behavior in Florida.

Judge Tharpe rolled out his style of justice in a 2010 case where the offender, a 43 year-old father of two teenagers, who sexually molested them over a period of years, starting when they were 12-years-old, enlisted his victimized daughters, his wife and his 13-year-old son to plead to the court for mercy.

The family members begged the court to drop the charges and when that was unsuccessful they implored the judge to reject the State’s offer of a plea deal for a term of five years imprisonment.

The victims’ mother advised the Court that if her husband was imprisoned she would lose the family home and their beloved pets and further, that her husband had been away from the home for a year since he was arrested and charged. She said “I love my husband. I love my kids. I’m stuck in the middle.”

Judge Tharpe listened to her entreaties with a sense of outrage and asked her how she could simply accept her husband’s outrageous, perverted behavior. He then turned to the accused asking for an explanation as to why a prison term was not appropriate. The victims’ father was annoyingly unhelpful, advising Judge Tharpe that he was “at a loss for words”.

Judge Tharpe reserved his more cutting barbs for the child molestor, telling him that despite his protests, he was a pedophile, a sex offender, who would forever be listed on a sex offender registry and see his photograph on the internet identifying him for what he was.

With that said, Judge Tharpe sentenced him to 25 years probation, a term that requires him to live an unblemished life, subject to intense scrutiny, until he is in his mid-sixties.

Florida is known as a haven for sex offenders, possibly because the State has turned its enforcement attention to sex crimes. In 2011 the number of registered sex offenders increased by 74%. In the Greater Tampa area, where Judge Tharpe sits, there are 1,122 registered sex offenders or one for every 306 citizens in the area.

Offenders who appear before Judge Tharpe will not be coddled. Applause for Judge Tharpe!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Is Canada a Disneyland for Pedophiles?

DSC00280Canadian National Hockey League star Theo Fleury, winner of a Stanley Cup ring and an Olympic gold medal makes no bones about it. He says that Canada is a “Disneyland for pedophiles” and I think he’s right.

Fleury was yet another victim of Graham James, the now infamous hockey coach and mentor, who sexually abused young boys under his tutelage, ruining their lives in the process. Convicted in 1997 for sexually abusing professional hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, he was then sentenced to a mere three and a half years in prison for multiple criminal counts involving Mr. Kennedy and another young man. He served only eighteen months.

It was Sheldon Kennedy who encouraged Theo Fleury to report the abuse he suffered at the hands of James in the 1980’s. The police investigated and filed charges against Graham James, who plead guilty and was sentenced to two years in March of this year.

But he appealed his two-year sentence, his lawyer arguing that he should have received no jail time at all. The Manitoba Court of Appeal heard the case on December 3, 2012 and have yet to hand down their decision. The Crown originally sought a six-year sentence, but at the appeal hearing suggested a four-year sentence. Mr. James recently became eligible for parole, but has not made an application.

The lack of severity in the sentencing process is, in my view, the revictimization of young men whose messed-up lives and drug and alcohol addictions can be directly linked to the shame and fear of the physical, emotional and psychological aftermath of years of abuse. Abuse from a respected and trusted member of the community… a man who in hindsight deserved no respect, but rather condemnation and denunciation.

By sentencing Graham James to short prison terms, the message is loud and clear. It says “we don’t take pedophilia seriously in Canada”. To think that an offence like criminal negligence causing bodily harm in relation to a road crime can be almost equivalent in prison time to Mr. James’ two-year sentence is astounding.

Kudos to Mr. Fleury who announced this month that he has taken the sentencing of pedophiles as a project, to champion a change in sentencing and support other victims of these atrocious crimes. His first recommendation? Minimum sentences of fifteen years in prison for each count of sexual abuse, additional counts to run consecutively, rather than concurrently, which is the situation today.

One thing is for sure: If pedophiles know they will be locked away for fifteen years or more, the goal of specific deterrence will be achieved.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Warren Jeffs and the Tryanny at Bountiful, BC

From his shaved head and striped jumpsuit to his withering limbs, Warren Jeffs no longer resembles the exalted man and prophet who ruled the polygamous sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, including Canada’s FLDS community in Creston, British Columbia, called “Bountiful”.

However, looks are deceiving because Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence, plus 20 years, and teetering between martyrdom and self-delusion, has maintained control over his followers despite his confinement. Desperate to remain leader and prophet, Warren Jeffs’ tactics are diverse. In 2007 while imprisoned in Utah, a video surfaced that showed Jeffs in prison garb admitting he was a false prophet and had lied to his followers.

Yet several years later, he ordered his subordinates to spend thousands of dollars on newspaper ads across the United States which declared “Cease thy wicked attack ye government authorities against my people and my church”, an ad clearly designed to buttress his tarnished image with his followers.

Reports of suicide attempts, head banging and food and water deprivation have been replaced by ranting revelations and errant edicts meant to solidify his control.

Over the last year Jeffs has ex-communicated hundreds of younger fathers and husbands, including at least a dozen or more men from Bountiful, ripping families apart with no apparent concern. He has also ordered “rebellious” teenagers to be evicted from the community, for offences as innocuous as hairstyles and teen friendships. Several teenage girls from Bountiful have been caught by this edict.

Jeffs has also banned sexual relationships between spouses including kissing, hugging or any physical contact other than handshaking, a rule that will prevail until he is released from prison. He has declared that a group of fifteen men alone are worthy of procreating and they shall father all FLDS children.

Mothers and fathers have been ordered not to touch or hug their children and toys, recreation, and games are no longer permissible.

The Bountiful elementary and secondary schools have, for the first time, refused government funding, opting to run the programs they desire. Reports have surfaced that school hours are now filled with YouTube videos of Jeffs’ preaching.

But Jeffs’ new tactics are backfiring. At Bountiful, both fathers and mothers who have been banished by Jeffs or taken the brave step of leaving voluntarily, are fighting back, trying to regain control of their lives, and more importantly, taking steps to rescue their children, who are suffering terribly.

Recently, four young boys were ejected from Bountiful because their father was an “apostate”, one of the men who refused to accept Jeffs’ leadership. At least 40 children have been denied any contact with their fathers for many months, a situation that was partially remedied this week by Creston Provincial Court Judge Sheard who ordered immediate access. A further court hearing is scheduled in Creston on November 7, 2012.

The awakening in Bountiful may signal the beginning of the end of Warren Jeffs.