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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Montgomery County mother was held in contempt of court on Tuesday while she had a full-blown seizure during her child custody proceeding. Deputies appeared to think she was faking it, according to a witness.
The woman has a valid and documented seizure disorder, KYW Newsradio confirmed, and even brought a medical advocate to court to help her. However, when the woman seized in court in front of Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy, deputies picked her up mid-seizure and arrested her.
The woman’s advocate made the judge aware of her disorder.
“She said ‘OK’ and then proceeded to rule based on contempt of court that she’s finding (her) … under arrest immediately,” said the witness, who preferred not to be named, “at which time all the deputies in the courtroom swarmed us.”
She said deputies cuffed the mother while she was unresponsive in her seat.
“(They) raised her to her feet, which you can’t do when someone’s having a seizure; they can’t support themselves,” she continued. “She just crumbled to the ground. It’s a concrete floor.”
She was concerned the woman hit her head on the floor.
“I couldn’t see completely what happened; didn’t look like anyone attempted to break her fall,” she added. “I heard the one deputy say, ‘Oh, come on. Stop messing around.’”
She could not recall if deputies read the mother her rights. Regardless, she said it would have been impossible for her to understand or respond to them mid-seizure.
KYW Newsradio’s Brian McDonough gives his opinion on why it’s important to take someone’s symptoms seriously.
Cross said the DCFS first entered his world about 30 days ago. But that month has felt like a year – and one specific night felt like an eternity.
“Seven o’clock, the people come,” he said.
The people in question are two DCFS contracted drivers in a large van, who pulled up in the back of a youth home on the South Side. The date was Oct. 1, and Cross was being moved.
“They put me in handcuffs. I was wondering why. I was asking, like, why do I got to get in handcuffs?” Cross said. “And they didn’t say nothing. They just said they got to do it.”
Handcuffs, though, were just the half of it. Cross said he was locked in the shackles with his wrists crossed in front of him, and then a chain going down to his feet – forcing him to walk in lock-step.
“It was messed up,” Cross said.
When youth home staff called DCFS headquarters to ask if such treatment was really necessary, headquarters said yes.
“They just said it’s over their powers – that’s all they told the lady,” Cross said.
So Cross was locked down and moved to the suburbs.
“I kind of knew I wasn’t getting locked up because these are regular people,” Cross said. “They weren’t even the police.”
Until CBS 2 stepped in, DCFS made no comment on the shackling. In the days since our report, the organization has acknowledged it was “totally unacceptable” and “against policy.”
”One thing is that they have affirmatively put out there that they’re not going to be using shackles or mechanical restraints,” said Alpa Patel, Chief Deputy for the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office.
But Cross has his doubts.
“They’re just talking. They’re just talking,” he said.
A judge on Thursday did rule that the process of shackling must stop for good. So-called soft restraints – which are made of cloth – can only be used when a judge or a psychiatrist orders it, and two senior staffers from the DCFS green-light it.
Jawan, who just turned 18, said he can’t wait for the DCFS to be out of his life for good.
Kane County Judges involved: Judge John Dalton (gave custody to a dangerous psychopath and refused to hear Kara say TB was a violent rapist and abuser and Judge Renee Cruz who got the case after Dalton recused himself in late October and she put off all of Kara’s motions to vacate the gag orders, return her kids to her and dismiss the parentage order) Call them and demand they return custody to Kara and tell them what you think about handing 2 precious angels over to a dangerous psychopath just because mom blogged about the case because the court was doing the wrong thing and failing her.
Kane county court system: 630-232-5820
Summary of facts: Kara Witkowski was abused by her ex partner for years. His name is Thomas Biel. Earlier in 2019, after being thrown out by Kara for his abuse, he told Kara it was his birthday and he raped her. She filed for a Protective Order and went to police. In retaliation, he filed a Parentage Order. She told the court about all TB’s abuse and how he had raped her in the past and how he was violent and abusive. The court ordered psych evals. Kara’s came back she had PTSD from the rapes and abuse and nothing else. TB’s psych eval came back he was a psychopath and very dangerous person (I do not have a copy of that, this is from Kara).
Kara blogged about her case and the judge, litigants and GAL got mad and gave TB more and more parenting time, until she was left with just a few hours per week with an agency that would cost her $1800 per month to see her 2 kids.
TB admitted to raping Kara in text messages. He also possessed tons of child porn. This was turned over to Kane County police and they have done nothing.
Her rape test came back last week. TB told her numerous times in the past he would kill her. He also said in the past he would kill the kids, or implied it.
Some months ago, the 2yo boy had a prolapsed rectum. Kara reported to the court and they said it was constipation. Later it was found out the 4yo girl saw the grandfather (this is a family of abusers), put a toothbrush up the 2yo’s rectum and she begged the grandfather to take it out.
The 4yo is at risk of also being killed.
Kara’s calls to DCFS and the police have gone no where, but they say the 2yo’s death is under investigation.
Please, please call DCFS and demand that they return the 4yo girl right away to Kara.
You can friend Kara on FB Kara Witkowski and leave messages there after you call the police and DCFS to demand an apology and the child’s return.
This is just horrible. I will be publishing the pleadings as proof of this mess.
I have 3 attorneys working on this case now, but if you know of more that will put the safety of a mother and 4 yo girl over being paid, please email me at email@example.com.
It will likely take a team of attorneys to get this mother and 4yo safe.
Many 911 calls are for overdoses, severe drunkeness, mental health crises, family disputes, and other emergencies that should not involve police. Thank heavens that some communities recognize this and are assembling mental health teams to de escalate heated situations which do not involve real crimes, just families and people out of control in a safe secure manner that helps people and families.
An alternative to police: Mental health team responds to emergencies in Oregon
For immediate help if you are in a crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential.
Eugene, Oregon — When a mental health-related 911 call comes in, a specialized team in Eugene, Oregon, rolls out.
“Pretty much everybody we see is for one reason or another is in a state of crisis,” said Manning Walker.
Walker is a medic and Laurel Lisovskis is a mental health crisis manager. The pair are members of a mobile mental health crisis intervention team called CAHOOTS, which stands for Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets. They answer calls like suicide interventions and overdoses. They’re unarmed and most of the time, without police backup.
“We always move as a team,” Lisovskis said.
They took CBS News on an exclusive ride along. Their first call was for a woman they’ve met before, who they believe is schizophrenic. She said her name was Kayla.
“I like CAHOOTS. They help you in your time of need. When you are hungry and certain things like that,” she said.
CAHOOTS was founded in 1989. Last year, they responded to nearly 23,000 calls in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon. Denver is starting its own version of CAHOOTS. City leaders from Oakland, Olympia, Washington and even New York City are all considering similar pilot programs.
“We handle almost 20% of the entire public safety call volume for our area,” said Tim Black, Eugene’s CAHOOTS program manager. “But there was such a dramatic need coming in through the 911 and non-emergency lines that there was a need for there to be this kind of behavioral health first response.”
CAHOTOS team members are trained to de-escalate when responding to a mental health crisis. A recent study found 25 to 50% of fatal officer-involved shootings involved someone with a severe mental illness.
“They don’t need jail. What they need is they need to be able to be de-escalated from their crisis, they need a ride to a mental-health facility or to a medical-care facility or wrapped around with services. That’s what the people need. They don’t need to be going to jail every time,” said Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner.
It’s a new way to protect and serve — and maybe save a life.
If you or a member of your family have experienced elder abuse in a highly flawed guardianship system, you should be aware that you’re not an isolated case or a helpless victim.
Elder abuse by opportunistic court guardians is one of those issues in American society that has reached critical mass in recent years, and some statistics indicate that it might soon achieve a dubious parity with child abuse.
In 2016, the General Accountability Office in Washington examined the state-based guardianship system and found hundreds of cases of physical and financial abuse, and negligence throughout the country. According to The New York Times, the GAO reported that “in eight cases examined in six states, guardians were found to have stolen more than $600, from their elderly wards.” And from 1990 to 2010, the GAO reported, guardians in 20 cases stole $5.4 million.
But it took a New Yorker piece in 2017 to define the scourge of elder abuse in a way that got the public attention it deserved. How did the magazine accomplish that? By focusing on a Las Vegas, Nevada guardian named April Parks who’s attained a sad distinction: she’s become a poster child for elder abuse in this country, and last January she drew a long and deserved prison sentence for her systematic criminality.
Parks’ predatory strategy was exemplified in the case of a Las Vegas couple in their late 70’s named Rudy and Rennie North. The Norths had some health problems, but were comfortable in their home in an adult community. They’d been married 57 years. But Parks learned of their apparent vulnerability and got herself appointed as their guardian. She had the Norths declared incompetent, moved them into an assisted living facility not nearly as nice as their home, and took over management of their assets as a profit-making legal maneuver. She spent all their money (an unknown amount) and the Norths became totally dependent on their daughter, who had fought hard against Parks’ machinations.
Parks’ conviction brought her the maximum sentence possible: 16-40 years. Victims testified at her trial about losing their life savings and feeling like victims under Parks’ care. Said one victim: “April Parks is a predator of the worst kind.”
Parks claimed in her own testimony that she always had a passion for guardianship and cared about her clients. But, said Judge Tierra Jones, “you told us you never meant any harm. But after hearing stories of people Scotch-taping their shoes, people being charged for Christmas gifts, how is that no harm?”
A good question. And if you find yourself or someone you know in a guardianship situation that leads you to ask the same question, don’t hesitate to go to the authorities and/or seek legal counsel immediately. The Department of Justice has an elder justice coordinator in each of its 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, in accordance with the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act—enacted in October 2017. The guardianship system is now on trial and you need to take advantage of that.
It was only a matter of time before President Donald Trump made headlines again over periods.
Just four years ago, in August 2015, he accused then–Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly after the first presidential debate of having “blood coming out of her wherever.” The charge landed the once-taboo topic of menstruation smack in the middle of election coverage—and on the front page of nearly every major national and small-town newspaper in between. It even generated its own viral hashtag, #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult.
Now, 19 states filed a lawsuit in California this week against the Trump administration for the indefinite detention of and conditions endured by migrant children and their families. Among the charges of hygiene deprivation for children detained at the border—including the alleged lack of basics like toothpaste and bars of soap—is insufficient access to menstrual products and care. Testimony in the lawsuit included that: “Girl(s) at the facility…were each given one sanitary pad per day. Although the guards knew they had their periods, they were not offered showers or a change of clothes, even when the other girl visibly bled through her pants.”
For over a year now, the news of babies torn from parents has been devastating to absorb. And the detailed accounts of children’s days and nights in detention—of stench and filth, teens tending to toddlers, preschoolers appearing solo in court—have revealed the situation to be even worse.
Period shame is real, it is harmful, and it exists in every corner of the world. A global cohort of activists is working to counter that stigma and the damage it does. Here in the U.S., it has been dubbed the fight for menstrual equity. Access to products—as well as toilets, education and safe and accurate care—is an essential part of that agenda.
And, encouragingly, considerable progress has been made. For example, in an effort to ensure that menstruation doesn’t hinder students’ ability to succeed in school, four U.S. states recently passed laws requiring that pads and tampons be freely provided in school restrooms. Fourteen states now require a similar provision for incarcerated women—in county jails, state prisons and juvenile detention centers. Even Congress voted to do the same in 2018, passing a bipartisan prison reform package, the FIRST STEP Act that mandates menstrual access in federal correction facilities. (And, yes, Trump signed it into law.) Since 2016, another six states have passed laws exempting menstrual products from sales tax—eliminating the notorious “tampon tax” and making the case that menstrual products should be affordable for all.
But at the border right now, there’s no solace for young teens who might know little about what’s happening to their bodies—yet have to summon the courage to tell a male guard and ask for pads, only to be denied or given too few to matter. Or have to manage their periods in over-crowded rooms where privacy is scant. And aren’t even able to shower or wash hands or scrub clean stained underwear.
The harm extends beyond all surface cruelty too. There are serious potential health risks, some fatal, that come from using a pad or tampon for too long, ranging from infection to toxic shock.
As a matter of policy, compassion and common sense, menstrual equity should be a no-brainer. But we are far from a nationwide mandate.
Which is where the courts come in. And why it is heartening to see this testimony—horrifying as it is—featured as part of the formal court record. For as a matter of law, there are viable, though still untested, arguments to support the case for menstrual equity: namely, that deprivation of basic needs like safe, affordable tampons and pads may amount to a violation of due process, sex-based discrimination under the equal protection clause, or both.
Last year, California criminal defense attorney Paula Canny filed a class-action lawsuit in Sacramento arguing that denying free tampons to people held in county jails is unconstitutional. Her action prompted numerous counties to ensure the provision of menstrual products. And a new legal campaign launched this summer—Tax Free. Period.—to mobilize lawyers to challenge the tampon tax in court. Constitutional law scholar and Dean of U.C. Berkeley Law Erwin Chemerinsky made the case for the illegality of the tampon tax in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed. And the director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, Katherine Franke, told The New York Times that these legal claims, overall, “highlight a day-to-day way in which women experience discrimination in one of their most basic bodily functions.”
Fighting to have menstrual equity enshrined into our jurisprudence is a key step toward permanent, meaningful change. And a way to ensure that no one—especially a child in crisis—is shamed or harmed simply because they menstruate.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is vice president and women and democracy fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, and author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.