Saturday, October 22, 2005

 

Law & Order: SVU, we're waiting!

Presumably their next episode "ripped from the headlines":
Officials Remove Newborn Over Father's Abuse Case

POTTSVILLE, Pa., Oct. 21 - County officials here in Eastern Pennsylvania left notes on Melissa WolfHawk's door, she said, warning her that they were monitoring her pregnancy. They told her they would try to take her child as soon as she gave birth.

She had the Caesarean section on Tuesday. Against her doctors' wishes, she left the hospital two days later to appear in court, but on Friday she lost her fight when a judge gave the boy to Schuylkill County.

At issue, officials say, is not so much Ms. WolfHawk's fitness as a mother as her choice of mates. The newborn's father, her husband, served a decade in prison as a sex offender in New York 22 years ago, convicted in the rape and sodomy of two teenage girls. The boy is the third child Ms. WolfHawk has lost for just that reason. The baby - lawyers are not disclosing his name - will be in temporary custody pending a hearing on longer term arrangements on Oct. 31, as well as an ongoing challenge that Ms. WolfHawk has filed in federal court.

The case illustrates the debate over how far the authorities should go in drawing boundaries between sexual offenders and their neighbors - or, in this case, their own families.

Officials say that their primary concern is the record of her husband, DaiShin John WolfHawk, although there is no evidence, they say, that he has abused children recently.

"He has a history of violent sexual abuse against kids," said Karen Rismiller, a lawyer for Schuylkill County Children and Youth Services. "Just because he served time doesn't allow someone to be around children. He's a sex offender registered in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland."

Ms. WolfHawk testified on her own behalf in the hearing Friday, which was closed to the public. She refused to say anything as she walked out of the courtroom, holding her abdomen with a hand still affixed with a hospital bracelet, and wearing a blue sweatshirt reading "Transport for Christ" and her long red hair in braids. Judge Charles M. Miller said she could have two hours of supervised visits with the baby before the next hearing. Her lawyer said she had been breastfeeding the child and would deliver frozen milk to the county. "She's hoping it gets to the baby," Ms. Roper said, "but that obviously isn't the same as holding and breastfeeding her baby."

"It's devastating to an infant to be stripped from his mother in the very first days of his life," Ms. Roper said.

Ms. Roper said that the two, who married in June 2002, have maintained separate residences for about two years, and that Ms. WolfHawk would be willing to sign an agreement to stay away from him if that would win her custody of her child.

The county, however, says that the baby is proof that she will not stay away from him. Mr. WolfHawk, now 53, was known as John Joseph Lentini when he pleaded guilty in 1983 to raping and sodomizing two teenage girls. He was sentenced to 5 to 15 years and served 10. Under state versions of Megan's Law, he is required to register with local police.

Mr. WolfHawk changed his name and declares himself chief of an Indian tribe called the Unole E Quoni, which he says has 175 families but is not recognized by any government. Ms. WolfHawk's lawyer said the two met 11 or 12 years ago; they are both members of the tribe.

Ms. WolfHawk had a son by a previous marriage, and Schuylkill County officials moved to take custody of him two weeks after the WolfHawks married, her lawyer said. The boy, now 8, remains in foster care. She became pregnant by Mr. WolfHawk and moved to nearby Lancaster County in 2003, because, a caseworker testified in federal court, she feared that Schuylkill County would take the child. Schuylkill County alerted Lancaster County, whose officials found her living in Schenectady, N.Y., and took the child back to Pennsylvania. By that time, a couple Ms. WolfHawk had lived with briefly in Maryland had filed for custody of the child, arguing that Mr. WolfHawk was unfit. That couple now has custody of the child.

The unusual case has raised some doubts even with groups that champion the rights of abused children.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said he respected the right of agencies to take custody of endangered children, but said that the standard for removing a child had to be set "very high."

"If somebody was convicted 20 years ago and has not reoffended, and the circumstances of the offense would not appear to make him a threat to young children, then this is troublesome," Mr. Allen said.

David L. Levy, the chief executive of the Children's Rights Council, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, said, "I am not aware of any case where a 20-year-old conviction, no matter how heinous, has been used to remove a child from the care of the perpetrator and from a mother who had nothing to do with that crime."

"The state may think that because they're married, the only way to make the child safe from the father is to remove him from the mother," he said. "But what about her due process and constitutional rights? If they can show a present danger, I'd be the first one to support removal, but they need to show a connection between 20 years ago and now."
Not to make light of this case, but how far can officials go to "protect" children? What's next - require Mrs WolfHawk to take contraceptives as long as she is married to her husband?
Comments:
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Comments: "
And on a lighter note than pure trial bike game , check out the funniest trial transcript ever! If it's not serious enough of a topic, well, just pretend it's the Brit's version of trial bike game !
 
" "
Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
I have a dial up connection speeddial up connection speed site/blog. It pretty much covers dial up connection speed Problems with your Windows Xp Computing !
Come and check it out if you get time :-)
 
" "
i was just browsing through the blog world searching for the keyword posters and it brought me to your site. You have a great site however it is not exactly what i was looking for. Good luck on your site. sincerely, antonio.
 
" "
i was just browsing through the blog world searching for the keyword posters and it brought me to your site. You have a great site however it is not exactly what i was looking for. Good luck on your site. sincerely, antonio.
 
" "
Hi

I've created a new resource for baby name bracelet you can with lots of information and links related to baby name bracelet
Now I've finished I thought I look around for other baby name bracelet sites and see what everyone else is talking about, you know get ome more baby name bracelet ideas etc...
This blog looks pretty good, though I'm not sure my baby name bracelet site will get this many visitors - ah well, can only but try ;)
If you have a spare moment please visit my baby name bracelet site and let me know what you think, I'll check back here again later.

Bye
Steward
 
" Post a Comment

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