Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Passing of Gary E. Harvey

Our hearts are heavy with sadness as we mourn the passing of Gary E. Harvey this past Sunday, April 23, 2017 and we pray for peace and strength for his loving wife, Sara, who was only permitted to see her husband for only 20 minutes in the last four years.

Gary committed no crime but was kept in isolation as if he were a prisoner and he was denied the comfort and love of his wife when he needed her most.

For 11 long and torturous years, Sara never stopped fighting for Gary; he couldn't have picked a more loving and dedicated wife. 

Godspeed, Gary Harvey.

See Also:
NASGA:  Gary E. Harvey, NY Victim

High court’s guardianship panel plans first meeting

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The public on Friday will get its first chance to address a new state Supreme Court committee that will dive into the complex issue of whether the state’s adult guardian/conservator system is in need of reform.

The 16-member guardianship study commission will take public comment from 9:30 a.m. to noon on suggested changes and improvement to the state guardianship system. The meeting is expected to run until 4 p.m.

Barry Massey, a Supreme Court spokesman, said the guardianship commission has not yet mapped out the full scope of its work, but there have been preliminary discussions about reviewing the efforts of other states to improve their guardianship systems.

One noted program is in Palm Beach County, Fla., where court clerk and comptroller Sharon R. Bock, who is elected, has made guardianship fraud enforcement a priority. She oversees a staff of guardianship auditors who look for fraud, waste and financial mismanagement despite office budget cuts of 36 percent since 2009.

Bock, in a recent interview with the Journal, said her agency has been asked to provide information on best practices to groups around the country, from Portland, Ore., to Tennessee. Last May, she and her staff spent several hours speaking with the Nevada Supreme Court commission studying guardianship reform.

In March of this year, a former court-ordered financial guardian from a private firm in Las Vegas, Nev., was arrested and charged in an exploitation scheme involving more than $550,000 allegedly stolen from 150 people.

Bock’s agency, which runs a guardian fraud hotline, has identified more than $5.1 million in missing assets and fraud involving guardianships since 2011.

The Palm Beach County program last fall was recognized at the 4th Congress for Adult Guardianship in Berlin.

“We know there are honorable, hardworking guardians out there, but when you have a $270 billion industry that is unregulated, you’re always going to be getting your bad apples,” Bock told the Journal. “This is literally taking us by surprise, and we’re not prepared as a society for this.”

District courts in New Mexico oversee thousands of cases in which relatives or nonrelatives, including for-profit companies, are appointed as guardians or conservators for a adults deemed incapacitated or for those who lack the capacity to manage some or all of their personal or financial affairs.

The state Supreme Court earlier this month decided to appoint the commission, which includes current and former judges, to recommend changes in state statutes, funding, administrative practices or other proposals to improve the guardianship system. Wendy York, an Albuquerque attorney and a former state district judge, is chairwoman of the commission.

The commission is to submit an initial status report to the Supreme Court by Oct. 1 and continue its work until completing a final report and recommendations.

The commission’s creation comes amid an ongoing Journal investigation into criticism from family members whose relatives have been placed with for-profit guardians and conservators whose fees typically are deducted from the incapacitated person’s assets.

Some families complain their relatives have been neglected by court-appointed guardians; they question expenses that have drained their loved ones’ estates, and they say they’ve been stymied by confidentiality provisions in the law from learning about their relatives’ living status and finances.

Those who defend the current system say that the secrecy is designed to protect the privacy of the incapacitated persons and that guardians and conservators appointed by the courts serve an important role, particularly in cases involving feuding family members.

Full Article & Source:
High court’s guardianship panel plans first meeting

Cook County Judge Removed From Bench Amid Federal Fraud Charges

Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien
CHICAGO (CBS) — A highly regarded Cook County judge has been removed from hearing cases after being charged by federal authorities with fraud for providing false information to obtain loans for properties on the South Side.

Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien, 49, was charged last week with one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution, and one count of bank fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago.

On Wednesday, Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced that O’Brien has been “reassigned to administrative duties in the office of the Presiding Judge of the First Municipal District, Judge E. Kenneth Wright Jr.” The action followed a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Circuit Court of Cook County on Tuesday.

Administrative duties can include performing marriage ceremonies and reviewing petitions for reduced court-filing fees for indigent parties, a statement from Evans’ office said. The action is effective immediately and until further notice.

“The committee is aware that a federal grand jury indicted Judge O’Brien on April 12, and she is accused of fraudulently obtaining loans related to the purchase, maintenance and sale of properties in Chicago,” the statement said. “That same day, on April 12, Judge Wright reassigned Judge O’Brien to administrative duties until the Executive Committee could consider the matter.”

Evans said last week that he was unable to comment further on the matter, citing Supreme Court Rule 63, which states, “A judge should abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court…”

The alleged crimes occurred before O’Brien was elected the first female Filipino-American judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County in 2012.

Federal prosecutors allege O’Brien got lenders to provide loans “by making false representations and concealing material facts in documents submitted to the lenders.” An attorney at the time, she used the loans to buy and refinance about $1.4 million in mortgage and commercial loans, including the purchase of an investment property in the 600 block of West 54th Street in the Back of the Yards, prosecutors said.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Cook County Judge Removed From Bench Amid Federal Fraud Charges

Disabled man forced to crawl out of store after being denied electric cart

MASON CITY, IA (RNN) - A handicapped man was denied the use of a store-owned electric cart and forced to walk out of the establishment on his hands and knees.

The incident occurred at Mills Fleet Farm on Monday.

Customer Shane Zahn said that he was told he couldn't ride the electric cart into the store's parking lot, despite his handicap.

A Facebook post that shows Zahn leaving the store has accrued more than 20,000 Reactions and almost 5 million views.  (Click to Continue)

Source:
Disabled man forced to crawl out of store after being denied electric cart

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ohio among worst states for nursing home inspections, report says

CLEVELAND -- Ohio is among the U.S. states with the worst records for keeping up with nursing home inspections, according to a report out Sunday.

The Plain Dealer cites records it obtained showing that a key deadline for inspecting nursing homes hasn't been met since fiscal year 2011. It says Ohio is the fourth-worst state nationally in inspection intervals.

Advocates say inspectors offer important checks on the industry, detecting patient care issues.

The agency that provides inspectors is understaffed. Ohio has one inspector for every six nursing homes, the Plain Dealer reported. Meanwhile, nearby states Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois have one for every four facilities.

The Ohio Department of Health says officials are working hard to improve time intervals and there has been progress in the last two years.

Full Article & Source:
Ohio among worst states for nursing home inspections, report says

Dramatic body cam video shows officer save man from jumping off roof

Click to Watch Video of man being saved
HAMDEN, Conn. -- Video captured by a Connecticut police officer's body cam shows the officer saving a man who was attempting to jump off a six-story building last week.

Police said they were called to the Whitney Center retirement community in Hamden for a report of a resident fighting with people the afternoon of April 21.

Officer Justin Martin was meeting with staff members and an elderly male resident on the third floor, when the resident ran upstairs away from staff members.

The officer found the resident going through a 6th floor doorway, leading to a terrace on the roof.

As officer Martin got closer, he saw the man dive head first over a railing. He grabbed the resident by his feet and pulled him to safety. The man continued to fight with the officer during the rescue but was eventually taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for evaluation.

Source:
Dramatic body cam video shows officer save man from jumping off roof

State Launches New Program to Help Low-Income Elderly Iowans with Establishing a Guardianship

The Iowa Department on Aging recently announced the launch of the Iowa Guardianship Establishment Program, which will award one-time grants to assist low-income Iowans with a documented medical condition establish substitute decision-making services to protect their personal health, safety, assets and dignity.

Under the program, which is administered by the Office of Substitute Decision Maker, eligible individuals may qualify to receive a one-time grant of up to $1,000 to pay the legal fees associated with establishing a guardianship or conservatorship in the state of Iowa. To address this need, the Iowa Department on Aging has allocated $35,000 in state dollars for the IAGE Program in State Fiscal Year 2017. Marion County Senior Nutrition Director Dawn Allspach-Kline tells KNIA/KRLS News this funding is beneficial for older adults or family members who may have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other documented Medical condition. There are end of life legal issues that have been very difficult to get through for older adults, those reaching the end of life, and their caregivers when the affairs are not in order. Kline adds, the Knoxville Senior Center and Marion County Senior Nutrition are the local level contacts that can help with aging issues.

Full Article & Source:
State Launches New Program to Help Low-Income Elderly Iowans with Establishing a Guardianship

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Indicted Nashville Judge To Receive $4,500 Monthly Pension: Report

NASHVILLE, TN — Former Davidson County General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland is in line to receive a $4,588 monthly pension, plus insurance benefits, despite being under federal indictment, The Tennessean reports.

Even though he faces trial on three counts of obstruction of justice and witness tampering related to allegations he paid a woman $6,000 in an effort to get her to recant public allegations against him, Moreland could still receive taxpayer-funded benefits. Moreland resigned as one of the county's 11 General Sessions judges as part of a pre-trial release agreement.

Moreland — who can also receive medical insurance coverage and a $10,000 life insurance policy in addition to the pension — would, under state law, forfeit his retirement benefits upon conviction of "a felony arising out of that person's employment or official capacity, constituting malfeasance in office." Metro Law Director Jon Cooper told The Tennessean that Metro's employment benefits board could revoke those benefits even without a conviction.

Full Article & Source:
Indicted Nashville Judge To Receive $4,500 Monthly Pension: Report

Supporters hold rally for suspended Goodsprings judge

Goodsprings residents rallied Saturday in support of longtime judge Dawn Haviland, who is suspended with pay after state disciplinary investigators slapped her with a laundry list of ethics charges.

“Come out and show your support for our friend and neighbor who is fighting false and malicious charges before the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission,” read fliers distributed ahead of the afternoon event.

The rally was held at Sandy Valley Ranch near Goodsprings. Attendees were offered free food, beer and wine. They were asked to bring a check to donate to Haviland’s defense fund.

Haviland has served as Goodsprings justice of the peace since 1999. She is accused of sweeping ethics violations that include sealing her then-son-in-law’s criminal records, ordering staff to run background checks on her friend’s boyfriend, and using vulgar language to bully employees.

Haviland, in a 14-page response to the charges, answered in detail to each allegation. She blames the charges on a disgruntled employee whose testimony is cited in the state judicial discipline commission’s formal statement of charges.

A disciplinary hearing is scheduled for August. Haviland faces anything from a private reprimand to removal from office, or the charges could be dismissed.

“I would say that Dawn Haviland is the most respected person in Sandy Valley,” said Haviland’s defense attorney, Al Marquis. “She has done so much for the community without ever having asked for anything in return.”

Marquis said Haviland was instrumental in getting a charter school in Sandy Valley so that students did not need to be bused to and from Las Vegas.

“People in the community just want to rally together … to show that they’re behind her,” Marquis said.

The defense lawyer said roughly 100 people responded that they plan to attend the event.

Full Article & Source:
Supporters hold rally for suspended Goodsprings judge

Elder abuse and poor care: The real issue (Guest opinion)

Marian Ewins and her daughter Sue Crawford
At the Department of Human Services, Aging & People with Disabilities program, we work tirelessly to protect Oregonians and to work with providers to ensure compliance and a high quality of care. We are the first to admit we make mistakes. Our data systems are outdated and don't always function properly - we also realize our websites are often not user-friendly. In response to The Oregonian/OregonLive report, "Selling senior care" (April 21), we acknowledge that a decision, made almost a decade ago, to limit the complaints made available online to a specific type (facility abuse), was a poor decision. That is why we are working toward ensuring that the public has easy access to all records about long-term care facilities moving forward.

In Oregon every year, approximately 1,000 individuals living in long-term care settings experience elder abuse. This is unacceptable. These Oregonians are our grandmothers, grandfathers, parents, siblings, friends, partners and spouses. Aside from abuse, other serious issues - such as violations of licensing regulations - regularly occur. It is infuriating that individuals experience poor quality of care, inattention and sometimes abuse at the very time they are reliant upon a facility, and its caregivers, to assist them with their most basic needs. Often times the fines for these types of abuses and violations are less than $500 (an amount set in the 1970s), hardly sufficient to change the behavior of a non-compliant or abusive long-term care facility.

It is disappointing that we spent a year freely cooperating, providing copious amounts of data, answering hundreds of questions, and participating in hours of interviews, only to be characterized as "concealing, whitewashing, misleading, and keeping people in the dark." Those are outright false characterizations. We supported The Oregonian's research and questions for all this time and never charged a fee.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Elder abuse and poor care: The real issue (Guest opinion)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Complaint Details FBI Investigation Timeline

Here is how the FBI investigation of Davidson County General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland unfolded, according to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court:

Jan. 25, 2017: FBI opens a federal criminal investigation into Moreland

Jan. 26, 2017: FBI interviews Natalie Amos, who said she began a sexual relationship with the judge in April 2016

Feb. 1, 2017: FBI attempts to interview Moreland. He declines and refers FBI agents to his attorney.

Feb. 3, 2017: Moreland resigns from General Sessions Drug Treatment Court and Cherished H.E.A.R.T.S program.

Feb. 15, 2017: Federal grand jury issues its first subpoena.

Mar. 1, 2017: Moreland meets Confidential Source 1 (CS1) at his sister’s house, asking that he enlist a mutual friend (CS2) to offer money to Natalie Amos to sign an affidavit recounting her allegations. Moreland also asks if CS1 knows an officer who might plant drugs on Amos to discredit her.

Mar. 2, 2017: Moreland tells CS1 he is concerned his phone are being monitored, discusses getting a “burner phone.”

Mar. 3, 2017: CS1 purchases a “burner phone” for Moreland in the name of "Raul Rodriguez."

Mar. 6, 2017: CS2 offers Amos money to sign an affidavit recanting her allegations. Amos reports the offer to the FBI.

Mar. 9, 2017: Moreland sends CS1 a photo of a large pile of cash to show the money was ready.

Mar. 10, 2017: FBI confronts CS1. In hopes of leniency, he places a recorded call to Moreland. The judge urges CS1 to go out with CS2 and Amos in an attempt to get the affidavit signed.

Mar. 11, 2017: Working with the FBI, CS1 meets with Moreland. The judge gives $5,100 to CS1, along with an affidavit for Amos to sign. He advises CS1 to get Amos “liquored up real good before you bring it up.”

Mar. 11, 2017: Moreland provides CS1 with an additional $1,000 for Amos.

Mar. 16, 2017: CS1 tells Moreland he has a law enforcement officer who can assist in planting drugs on Amos and initiating a traffic stop.


Related stories and documents:


Full Article & Source:
Complaint Details FBI Investigation Timeline

Drug court founded by Judge Moreland criticized

WSMV Channel 4

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
If someone you care about has a problem with drugs and breaks the law, you'd want them to get help and a second chance.

But some are becoming skeptical about Davidson County’s General Sessions Drug Court, which, until recently, was run by Judge Casey Moreland.

Judge Michael Mondelli told Channel 4 he has lost confidence in drug court.

On Feb. 10, Mondelli sent an email to the district attorney’s office and the public defender’s office saying he has not approving any cases where a referral to drug court is involved.

The Channel 4 I-Team’s Nancy Amons recently went to sit in on a session of drug court, without a camera. Within a few minutes, drug court officials told all the defendants in the courtroom they could go home.

“These are trying times,” Nan Casey told the defendants before dismissing everyone from the courtroom.

Full Article & Source:
Drug court founded by Judge Moreland criticized

I-Team explores connection between Judge Moreland and halfway houses

WSMV Channel 4

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
The Channel 4 I-Team has learned that a member of the Davidson County General Sessions Drug Court treatment team also runs eight halfway houses where judges send defendants for court-ordered treatment.

The halfway houses are owned by a non-profit, which on paper, is exceeding its projected budget thanks in part to rent paid by clients sent by the court.

The eight halfway houses are on Harrington Avenue in Madison.

Most houses have eight residents each. The clients are primarily people with drug or alcohol charges who were sent there by a judge.

Before Judge Casey Moreland stepped aside from his duties as general sessions’ drug court judge, this is where some of the people he sentenced ended up.

The houses are owned or operated by a non-profit called Recovery Community, Inc. Lyn Noland is the executive director.

Full Article & Source:
I-Team explores connection between Judge Moreland and halfway houses

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tonight on T. S. Radio: Updates: Sandra Grazzini-Rucki & Mike Volpe then, Sharmian Worely


5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

HOUR 1: Federal Marshals involved in a divorce case?
Join us this evening as Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and nationally known reporter and journalist, Mike Volpe, as they discuss the curious interference of federal marshals in the Rucki divorce case.

Sandra Grazzini-Rucki is just one example of the notoriously infamous Dakota County, Minnesota legal system which appears to be joined at the hip with local law enforcement for purposes of harassing and intimidating some individuals unfortunate enough to come in contact with either of them. The Rucki case is just one example of money and connections overriding the law.

At issue this evening is, the interference of federal marshals in a domestic divorce case. Federal marshals are claimed to be an administrative officer of a U.S. judicial district who performs duties similar to those of a sheriff. So how were their services secured against Sandra when the divorce is not a federal issue?

“The duties of the U.S. Marshals Service include protecting the federal judiciary, apprehending federal fugitives, managing and selling seized assets acquired by criminals through illegal activities, housing and transporting federal prisoners and operating the Witness Security Program.”

HOUR 2: What Would You Do?

Sharmian Worely will be updating us on the attempt to compromise her legal standing by the courts. Sharmian has been in a monumental battle for the protection of her mother from a known predator guardian/attorney. Tune in to hear the latest updates in this story which highlights the egregious abuse of the system by a known predator who has made it clear that she controls the system and the courts no matter whom it harms. Sharmian is refusing to back down in her efforts to protect her mother from the abuse of the system even as they attempt to use the system to compromise her efforts.

Sharmian lost her Mom AKA Record promoter for Sharmians Records label, Wanda Worley in Detroit Michigan, to guardianship fraud. After accidentally uncovering her mother’s location while searching public records, Sharmian felt the need to do a welfare check on her mother. To her surprise, her mother was expecting her after being assured by the predatory guardian that a visit would be allowed. Of course Sharmian had never been informed that a visit could happen. It was simply a cruel joke being played on her mother; the guardian knowing that Sharmian would never be notified of the potential for a visit. Sharmian did take her mother from the facility that day without interference of the staff who were also under the impression that the visit had been approved.

Once in the safety of her home with her mother, a few strange things started happening…….strange enough that Sharmian and her mother hid for five hours in a closet until the danger passed. This is a story about how Sharmian and her mother came out of the closet and are doing everything they can to expose the trafficking, kidnapping and cruel treatment of the elderly in America.

Sharmian was also a featured guest on F.A.C.E.U.S. with Robin and LuLu on March 1, 2017

LISTEN TO THE SHOW LIVE or listen to the archive later

Trial date set as twin challenges disabled brother’s husband for guardianship

RIVERSIDE – Ryan Morris – the 23-year-old disabled man at the center of a novel and bitter battle between his identical twin brother and his husband – was not in court again Tuesday even as a judge set a February trial date to decide who should be entrusted as Morris’ legal guardian.

Right now, the legal guardian job falls to Morris’ husband, Sean Spicer, 41, of Romoland. But Morris’ biological family is seeking to change that relationship and take over legal responsibility for Morris.

As part of their argument, the family offered into evidence a video clip of the couple’s 2014 wedding. The grooms wore matching tuxedos, with white roses in their lapels, but as the official asked Morris to repeat his vows Morris appeared confused and “did not even understand that he was getting married to another man almost twice his age, thinking he was at a baptism,” according to Morris’ twin, Ronald Moore, in a court filing. Moore and others in his family asked again for the Riverside Public Guardian to be appointed as Morris’ temporary guardian – or “conservator,” in California parlance – while the broader custody battle wends its way through the justice system.

Judge Daniel A. Ottolia made no decision on that question, as both sides are in mediation in hopes of forging an acceptable compromise. They’re to wrap up talks in May and report back to the court June 9.

The case raises questions that go beyond whether identical twins should be raised together or apart, or even how much power the state can wield over families. Can a man with cognitive disabilities so serious that he can’t think abstractly, manage money or care for himself, give informed consent to a marriage and intimate relationship? And does the equation change if that disabled person marries someone of normal intelligence, who then becomes empowered to make the most fundamental life decisions?

Morris suffers from a long list of maladies requiring powerful medications. He has the intellectual capacity of a kindergartner. He can’t think abstractly, manage money or make his own medical decisions, according to court documents.

Morris’ identical twin brother, Moore, of San Clemente, and two aunts seeking to oust Spicer as conservator, have “grave concerns” that Spicer “may be sexually abusing and controlling” Ryan, causing irreparable harm, they said in court filings.

Spicer has said that he and Morris love each other and that he’s taking good care of Morris. A publicly-appointed attorney said Morris doesn’t want a change in conservators, and fears his biological family is trying to break up his marriage.

The fate of the identical twins has been in court before. The brothers were swept into state custody shortly after their birth in 1994; their mother had a history of mental illness and had not received prenatal care. Ronald was healthy; Ryan was not. Their grandmother sought custody of both boys, but got only Ronald. Ryan was kept in foster care because of his many special needs, which social workers said were beyond his grandmother’s ability to address.

Foster mother Michelle Morris decided to adopt Ryan, and despite the biological family’s vehement protests, the state approved the adoption in 2002. Michelle Morris cut off communication with the biological family soon after. Ryan Morris’ biological family was stunned, in 2015, to learn that Morris was married, despite having the intellectual capacity of a kindergartner.

Last month, Judge Thomas Cahraman noted that the unusual case involves complex issues of psychology and sociology, and is fraught with strong emotion. The saga was captured in “Twins Divided,” a three-part series by the Southern California News Group. Readers reacted passionately.

Part 1: Twins, divided: Is one man happily married or a victim of sexual abuse?
Part 2: Twins, divided: Confusion, concern and ‘I do’
Part 3: Twins, divided: Brothers will see each other in court

“None of us know how the Ryan Morris case will turn out but it appears to me that once again, a system designed to protect the most innocent and vulnerable citizens of our society has failed,” said Jerry Villanueva, a retired investigator with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

“I am terribly sad for the family of Ryan and Ronald, sad for the twins, and angry at those who did so much harm to a family, and to brothers, for years,” said Pat Colin of Orange. “Ryan clearly did not, and does not, have the capacity to enter into a marriage contract, or any other contract, on his own. I pray he gets the help he will need for the rest of his life, with his brother leading the way looking out for him.”

Full Article & Source: 
Trial date set as twin challenges disabled brother’s husband for guardianship

Part 1: Twins, divided: Is one man happily married or a victim of sexual abuse?

Ryan Morris & Grandmother
Ryan Morris and Ronald Moore began life as one.

Identical twins start as a single embryo that collapses in on itself, creating two balls of cells where once there was one. They grow into two genetically identical human beings.

Twenty-three years later, Ryan and Ronald could scarcely be more different.

Consigned to separate childhoods by the state of California shortly after their birth, their disparate lives stand in stark contrast to their identical genes.

Ronald drives a pickup, works as a client-relations and facility manager for an imaging company and practices mixed martial arts. He enjoys making art in different mediums and says family is No. 1.

Ryan suffers from a long list of maladies requiring powerful medications. He has the intellectual capacity of a kindergartener. He can’t make his own medical decisions and requires a legal guardian to protect him.

Ryan also is married to that guardian, Sean Spicer. He is a truck driver 18 years Ryan’s senior.

Despite their differences, one piece of twin lore seems to hold true for Ryan and Ronald. After long separations, reunited twins often report a profound and intense intimacy that one researcher described as being as close to “the coordinated, harmonious relations for which we all strive” as two human beings are likely to get.

When Ryan and Ronald finally saw one another at a Temecula courthouse after more than a dozen years apart, they threw their arms around one another in a powerful embrace captured in family photos and video. Onlookers wept as the twins clung to one another, rocking slowly from side to side. In court, Ryan refused to let go of Ronald’s hand.

“All I know, and have ever known, is that I love my identical twin brother and want so much to see him,” Ronald would later argue in a petition to Riverside Superior Court, seeking to be appointed one of Ryan’s legal guardians.

“I want to hug him, talk to him, play with him, and let him know that he matters to me and the rest of the family. I want a stable relationship with my twin brother, and to be involved and active in his life, as a brother and friend.”

It’s a battle Ronald and his biological family have been waging for nearly two decades – one that has made headlines in years past and is scheduled for a hearing this week that could force a pivotal legal decision in a case that raises uncomfortable questions.

Those questions go beyond whether identical twins should be raised together or apart, or even how much power the state can wield over families.

Can a man with cognitive disabilities so serious that he can’t think abstractly, manage money or care for himself, give informed consent to a marriage and intimate relationship?

And does the equation change if that disabled person marries someone of normal intelligence, who then becomes his court-appointed caretaker, empowered to make the most fundamental life decisions?

Disability-rights advocates approached such questions cautiously. Relationships between the cognitively disabled and those of regular intelligence are rare, but activists have fought to secure the rights of disabled people to marry and fully express their sexuality. The goal has been to give individuals more freedom, not less.

“People with developmental disabilities – particularly intellectual disabilities – have been marginalized,” said Katie Hornberger, director of Clients’ Rights Advocacy for the nonprofit Disability Rights California. “People treat them as giant children. If they have the intellectual capacity of a 5-year-old, well, that’s how they scored on a test.

“But there’s a lot of knowledge that comes from existing in this world,” Hornberger said. “I need help to ride a city bus, but my clients with intellectual disabilities do that every day of their lives. Who’s smarter?

“The right to control marriage and sexual contact are just such fundamental human rights,” she added. “They should not be proscribed.”

Robert D. Dinerstein, director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., said a person under a full conservatorship can consent to a marriage or a sexual relationship, but court tests might be necessary.

The decision is contextual and requires examining a number of factors, including whether the person has “a sufficient understanding, perhaps with the support of others, of the relationship he or she is about to enter,” Dinerstein said. Also important is determining whether he or she can weigh the pros and cons of the choice involved, and “somewhat more controversially whether he or she can appreciate the nature of the decision (and its broader implications).”

And, of course, one would want to make sure that no one was coercing the person to engage in the relationship against the person’s will, Dinerstein said.

Something in the balance of power between Ryan and his husband profoundly disturbs his twin brother, sister, aunts and grandmother. They have “grave concerns,” voiced in court filings, that Ryan’s husband “may be sexually abusing and controlling” him, causing irreparable harm.

Spicer, Ryan’s husband and legal conservator, said that’s untrue. He’s doing his best to take good care of Ryan, he told the court, and Ryan wants him to remain as conservator. “Does he get a say in this matter?” the husband asked.

Indeed, Ryan does have a say, a Riverside County judge said. But the judge ordered the Public Guardian’s office to investigate the situation nonetheless, and explain why a neutral party, such as the Public Guardian’s office itself, shouldn’t step in as Ryan’s guardian.

The unusual case has complex legal and emotional crosscurrents, and those officially charged with assessing Ryan’s well-being have come to opposite conclusions.

The publicly funded attorney appointed to represent Ryan says Ryan is happy living with his husband, and favors the status quo. Under no circumstances does Ryan want his family members as conservators, because he believes they are trying to break up his marriage and are engaged in “heavy-handed harassment against his chosen life partner,” Ryan’s attorney argued in court documents.

The state investigator who recently conducted the judge’s court-ordered review questioned Ryan’s comprehension of his wedding, and gave a positive review to Ryan’s biological family, concluding it could offer “a genuinely viable alternative” to naming the state as Ryan’s legal guardian.

Indeed, every person and every agency that has ever had influence over Ryan’s life – government social workers, the court system, his biological family, the foster mother who adopted him and now Ryan’s husband – insist that they only want what’s best for Ryan, and are striving to give him the freedom he deserves.

But they have very different ideas about what that means.

TWO BIRTHDAYS

Ronald and Ryan were born three months early at Huntington Beach Hospital, as tiny and frail as baby birds. Ronald, the healthy twin, came late in the evening on Jan. 9, 1994; Ryan followed 2½ hours later, after midnight on Jan. 10.

The infants were swept immediately into county custody. Their mother had a history of mental illness and had not received prenatal care, according to a social worker’s report at the time. Grandmother Tamara Mukai Mazzei said she sat vigil most every night for six months as the babies struggled in intensive care, heading to work at a San Clemente beauty salon the next day, bleary-eyed. Mukai Mazzei had been in similar circumstances before: She was raising her troubled daughter’s two older children, and intended to take the boys as soon as they were strong enough to come home.

Mukai Mazzei, an intense Italian immigrant with startling green eyes and shimmering red hair, thought it was only logical that the twins grow up with their big sisters, Jamie and Krystal, and all the aunts and uncles and cousins in their big, extended family.

When the twins were about 16 months old, Mukai Mazzei got half her wish. Ronald was healthy enough to come home. Ryan wasn’t.

Ryan had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, asthma and other maladies, according to court records.

 His motor skills and speech were impaired. He was prone to seizures. He required care 24/7, much more specialized care than Mukai Mazzei could give, officials told her. Mukai Mazzei told social workers that she’d be happy to learn whatever skills were necessary. But Ryan was placed in one specialized foster home after another for the first few years of his life – care that cost the county some $5,000 per month. At the time, the state would only provide such financial support to foster care and institutional programs, not to families of patients.

Mukai Mazzei, Ronald and the sisters visited Ryan weekly and often took him home for overnight visits. Ronald’s bedroom was yellow, brimming with books and toys, and optimistically furnished with two beds – one for each twin. “We used to play, go to the beach, sing songs and watch the trains pass in San Clemente,” sister Jamie Moore said in court documents. “I always remembered how Ryan loved the train … he would smile, point and say, ‘CHOO CHOO!’”

The bond between the brothers was obvious, Jamie said. “Sometimes they would just go on and on, mimicking each other and laughing, that they forgot anyone else was even there.”

Family members never gave up hope they’d bring Ryan home for good. Then, as the twins approached their fourth birthday, Ryan was transferred to a foster home in the Tustin foothills that catered to severely disabled children. Most could not walk or speak. Mukai Mazzei worried Ryan would become isolated and lonely, living with children so much more disabled than he.

“Who will he play with?” Mukai Mazzei wondered.

‘IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE’

The Tustin foster home was run by Michelle Morris, who’d worked in the past for Los Angeles County as an adoption social worker. She’d also written “If I Should Die Before I Wake,” a disturbing 1982 novel about father-daughter incest. It was based on a friend’s experience, she said, and she hoped to raise awareness about sexual abuse.

The book evolved into an off-Broadway play, and Morris became a regular at benefits for abused children, she told the Register more than a decade ago. At a Costa Mesa home for medically fragile children, she met a lanky 7-year-old with cerebral palsy who stole her heart. Learning to love the child taught Morris a great deal: “If you’re a religious person … you feel closer to God,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. “These children call out the best in us.”

Morris declined to be interviewed for this story. But in a 2004 interview with the Register, she said that as disabled children in foster care grow up, they’re often moved to different homes. “You need a home all your life, not just when you’re little and cute,” she said.

Morris and her husband, Larry Kerin, formed the Lifeplan Children’s Services nonprofit in the 1990s and opened the Michelle Morris Family Home for disabled children. She was licensed by the state to care for six severely disabled children. The beds filled up quickly.

“Clean, good condition,” concluded the first annual review conducted by the Orange County Regional Center, a quasi-governmental organization that contracts with the state to provide services for the disabled. “Pass with flying colors. Additional staff are on board to provide services above and beyond the call of duty. Good job!”

Some parents who placed disabled children in Morris and Kerin’s home praised the couple as a godsend, saying they finally had peace of mind that their children were being well cared-for.

But there were complaints, too, ranging from neglect and lack of supervision to improper record-keeping, according to state records. In 1997 – the year that Ryan arrived – state investigators said Morris’ husband left a 9-year-old, nonverbal child at a Social Services office in frustration after the state failed to pay for the child’s care for two consecutive months. Kerin apologized, according to state records, but regulators declared his presence “a threat to the health and safety” of the children.

He was forbidden to enter Morris’ foster home. No charges were filed, and he was later granted permission to return.

ADOPTED

Ryan’s grandmother and Morris quickly clashed. Mukai Mazzei feared Ryan wasn’t getting enough positive role models in a home with such severely disabled children. She felt Morris was motivated by the $5,000 a month she received for his care, and that Morris overstated Ryan’s problems to get more money, according to court documents filed in 2000 by Mukai Mazzei as part of the custody fight over Ryan.

Morris argued that Mukai Mazzei was in denial about Ryan’s disabilities and didn’t supervise him adequately when he spent nights at Mukai Mazzei’s house. Morris also alleged that Mukai Mazzei didn’t follow Ryan’s medical regimen correctly and that he would return to Morris’ foster home with scrapes and bruises. Visits with his siblings overstimulated him and made him prone to dangerous seizures, Morris said in court documents.

Mukai Mazzei said that scrapes and bruises happen when children are finally free to run and play, but officials concluded that she was in denial about the severity of Ryan’s disabilities. The biological family’s visits with Ryan were curtailed. When Ryan was 5, Morris declared her intention to adopt him, prompting an all-out war over the little boy with the wire-rim glasses.

“There are so many children out there that need a loving home, why are you going to steal a child from a family that wants him, especially a twin?” asked the twins’ aunt, Monica Mukai.

Generally, the law awards custody to family members, but not when a child has been in long-term foster care. Then, the burden is on the biological family to prove that the foster placement – the stable thing in his life – is harmful.

In Juvenile Court, county social workers again sided with Morris. Grandmother Mukai didn’t have an adequate understanding of Ryan’s special needs and couldn’t provide the level of one-on-one, 24-hour supervision that Morris could, a social worker’s report said. Ryan also had forged a strong bond with Morris and made great developmental strides in her care, Morris’ attorney argued – progress that would be jeopardized if Ryan went to his biological family.

“They said I did it for the money,” Morris told the Register at the time. “That’s a joke. I did it because we love him.”

The adoption was finalized in 2002. Ryan’s biological family had visitation rights as long as it was in Ryan’s best interest.

Morris concluded it wasn’t, claiming Ryan’s biological relatives were trying to turn him against his adoptive family. Communication ceased.

“I was not even allowed to say goodbye,” Mukai Mazzei said. “To him, Grandma just disappeared.”

The twins were 8 that first Christmas after the adoption, when Ronald wrote a letter to Ryan that was turned away by Morris, according to the grandmother. Two smiling stick figures stood tall on a hill.

“I miss you,” the letter said. “I would like to see you again. I love you. We are brothers forever and ever.”

Ronald did not see Ryan again until 2015, after their 22nd birthday. Ronald would be surprised to learn he had a brother-in-law.

Full Article & Source:
Part 1: Twins, divided: Is one man happily married or a victim of sexual abuse?

Part 2: Twins, divided: Confusion, concern and ‘I do’

The wedding was held near Murrieta, in the majestic backyard of Michelle Morris’ home.

Video shows two grooms in matching gray tuxedos with white roses on their lapels. They clasped hands beneath a white gazebo festooned with white bunting on that warm fall afternoon in 2014.

“With this ring, I take you as my husband, for as long as we both shall live,” said Sean Spicer, in response to prompts from officiator Susan Bird-Santo, one of Ryan Morris’ legal guardians at the time.

The other groom, Ryan, who state evaluators have concluded has the intellectual capacity of a kindergartener, mumbled and made noises, then stared silently at his hand as Spicer slipped a ring on his finger. Bird-Santo then asked Ryan to repeat the wedding vows.

Ryan hesitated. “I’ve never done this before,” he said in a thick, quiet voice.

“Well, I know,” Bird-Santo said. “Hopefully it’s the last time you’ll do it. … Do you want to just put the ring on Sean’s finger? Are you promising to be his husband forever and love him no matter what?

Until you’re not alive anymore, until you die and even after that probably? Yeah?”

There was some confusion.

“Baptize in the name of Jesus,” Ryan said.

“It’s not a baptism,” Spicer said. “It’s a wedding.”

There was laughter, and Bird-Santo coached Ryan again.

“If you want to take Sean as your husband for the rest of your life, you need to give a symbol so he’ll know that, and he’ll remember it, like you have this ring on your hand,” she said. “So, now you put that ring on his hand.”

Ryan concentrated, trying his best, but the ring wouldn’t slip over Spicer’s knuckle. “It’s hard to get on – push it on there,” Bird-Santo said.

Finally, the ring slid onto Spicer’s finger.

Ryan Morris, 20, and Sean Spicer, 38, were married.

SEPARATION

Ryan’s identical twin brother, Ronald Moore, and their biological family, did not know the wedding took place until four months later.

They had been kept at a distance by Ryan’s adoptive mother for most of Ryan’s life. Ronald only saw the wedding video after the fact. Ryan’s apparent confusion – which Spicer later said was just Ryan joking around – alarmed his blood relatives, and the video later would become a cornerstone of their challenge to oust Ryan’s legal guardian.

Their battle to be part of Ryan’s life had been long and bitter. The twins were taken from their troubled parents shortly after birth in 1994. Ronald — who is not mentally or physically challenged — was allowed to go home with his grandmother, but officials kept Ryan in specialized foster care homes, despite his biological family’s objections. Such homes could better deal with Ryan’s many disabilities, officials said.

When Ryan was an infant, the payment for his day-to-day care – a state-funded stipend of $5,000 a month – could, by law, go to a licensed foster home but not to his relatives. By the time those restrictions were lifted, about six years later, state officials said Ryan had formed a bond with his foster mother and would be harmed if that bond was broken. His grandmother fought for custody, but in 2002 Ryan’s foster mother, Michelle Morris, legally adopted the boy.

Morris cut off contact soon after, saying in court filings and Register interviews at the time that Ryan’s blood relatives didn’t accept his disabilities and were trying to undermine his adoptive family.

His sisters and brother and aunts and grandmother sent Ryan Christmas presents, birthday presents, letters declaring their love and sorrow – but the offerings were never accepted and turned away, his grandmother said.

Until a hearing in a Temecula court, in 2015, the identical twins hadn’t seen each other since they were 8 years old.

PAPER WINDOW

For many years, Ryan’s biological family could only glimpse into his life by reading the public files kept on Morris’ foster home. They watched from afar, and worried.

Between 1998 and 2003, while Ryan was living with Morris, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department received five calls involving reports of possible child abuse, rape, sex crimes and lewd conduct at Morris’ home, then in the Tustin foothills, according to call logs. State records showed that in May 2001, a male staff member was allegedly found naked in bed with a female child.

The Sheriff’s Department investigated the allegations, but made no arrests, officials said.

During the same time frame, the Orange County Regional Center – the quasi-public agency that funds services for the disabled with public dollars – also voiced serious concerns about “the quality of care and health and safety of the consumers residing at the Michelle Morris Home,” according to documents provided to the Register.

Morris denied there were any serious problems. She also fought back, suing the center and accusing officials there of slander, defamation and violations of child-abuse reporting laws. Officials wrongly accused Morris of suffering from “Munchhausen-By-Proxy” – a behavior disorder where caretakers exaggerate children’s health problems to gain attention and sympathy – and of subjecting children to unnecessary or inappropriate medical treatment, among other things, Morris’ suit said.

Lawyers for the Regional Center called her suit “convoluted.” But the agency’s insurer ultimately agreed to settle the case and pay Morris $750,000, with no admission of wrongdoing, rather than face a jury trial where disabled children could take the stand. At the time, Morris’ comment was simple: “We are being persecuted.”

Morris also clashed with the Tustin Unified School District, accusing employees there of harassment and abuse in court paperwork. She staged sit-ins, claimed the district “baby-sits” children with special needs, and subsequently opened a state-funded school in her home run by her husband, Larry Kerin.

The state revoked the school’s license three years later. Kerin was “not found fully competent or credible,” administrative law judge Jaime René Román wrote in 2007. Kerin was manipulative, blamed others for the school’s deficiencies and did not shy from threats of litigation to compel others’ actions, Román wrote.

Morris and Kerin had passionate defenders.

Hogan Hilling, an author and father’s rights advocate in Orange who placed his severely disabled son in their care, called them saints and said he would trust them with his life. An administrative law judge overseeing the placement of a teen accused of physical violence and sexually molesting children praised Morris for exemplary service to the disabled.

Ryan’s blood family fumed. Adopting disabled children had become part of the business model for Morris, they argued, claiming that each time Morris adopted one of her foster-care children she opened an additional foster bed as a source of new revenue. That process, they said, essentially doubled her payments from the state, as she received adoption assistance for her legal children in addition to foster-care payments for her foster children.

At its height, Morris had 10 children in her home, with payments of some $50,000 per month for their care, records show.

Morris at that time told the Register she was sick of the harassment in Orange County. She moved her foster home to Murrieta in Riverside County in 2007.

Ryan’s biological family was crushed.

“My only hope is God,” his grandmother Tamara Mukai Mazzei said that year. “I question him. ‘How can this happen?’

“But I should not start questioning God.”

‘MY BOYFRIEND’

The new $1.57-million, 7,000-square-foot Murrieta house was twice as big as the one in Tustin and sat on more than four acres of scrubby hills. Ryan shared a room with his adoptive brother. There he grew from an awkward ’tween to a young man.

In San Clemente, surrounded by a bustling extended family, Ryan’s identical twin, Ronald, also grew up, missing his brother. “Mentally, emotionally and spiritually – his absence affects me,” Ronald said by email. “Not having contact with him and getting the opportunity to know him affects me. It’s a constant enigma – it’s emotionally walking in the dark.”

Did Ryan feel Ronald’s absence as acutely – or at all? Those were among the questions haunting his biological family.

While Ronald was learning to drive, practicing martial arts and graduating from high school in San Clemente, Ryan was becoming a regular at the Corona house of Morris’ brother, Gregory Morris. It was there that Ryan, then 17, met Sean Spicer, who was 35.

Spicer was the ex-boyfriend of a man who rented a room from Gregory Morris. Spicer installed and serviced automatic doors for a Riverside firm, and stopped by Morris’ place when he had jobs nearby. His email address invoked a Bible verse that speaks to appreciating what you have: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” A graduate of Riverside’s Ramona High School, Spicer seemed to acquaintances to be warm and self-deprecating, joking about taking college classes and computer courses he didn’t understand.
Ryan was soon smitten.

The relationship was Ryan’s idea, not his, Spicer said in a sworn deposition taken as part of the legal guardian battle.

“I was actually one of the last people to find out. … I told Ryan, ‘Not until you’re 18, kid.’ Those were my specific words. My thought there was, first of all, let’s keep this legal; 17 (and) 35 is illegal on so many levels.”

Ryan, however, was impatient, constantly asking, “‘How many days until I turn 18? That’s when I can have my boyfriend,’” Spicer said.

Two important things happened in early 2012.

While the state’s legal responsibility for young Ryan ended when Morris became his legal mother, the state returned to the picture when he turned 18. When disabled children become disabled adults deemed unable to make major decisions about such things as finance and health care, the court appoints conservators to make those decisions for them. In Ryan’s case, Michelle Morris, his mother, and her brother Gregory, stepped into the role of “co-conservators,” and were granted all the powers a parent has over a child: where Ryan would live, what medical treatments he would receive, and whether he could have intimate relationships. His biological family wasn’t notified about conservatorship proceedings, according to court records.

After Ryan reached legal adulthood, Michelle and Gregory Morris allowed Ryan and Spicer to start dating. Spicer was Ryan’s first and only boyfriend, Spicer said at his deposition, and it was Ryan who decided they should get married.

“I only agreed to it after several times of meetings with his teachers and everybody to make sure that – teachers, therapists, parents – to make sure that he understood exactly what we were getting into,” Spicer said.

Asked if he believed Ryan had the capacity to consent to marriage even though his cognitive skills are akin to a kindergartener’s, Spicer said, “Yes, because Ryan knows who he loves.”

An investigator from the Riverside County Public Guardian’s office, however, wasn’t so sure Ryan knew what he was getting into.

Full Article & Source:
Part 2: Twins, divided: Confusion, concern and ‘I do’

Part 3: Twins, divided: Brothers will see each other in court

Ronald Moore & Ryan Morris
Tamara Mukai Mazzei knew she wasn’t welcome at Michelle Morris’ home, but she trudged up the steep driveway nonetheless.

In her arms were gifts for her grandson, Ryan Morris. He was turning 21 and Mukai Mazzei brought a new winter jacket and several slick new shirts. As she walked the drive that day, in 2015, Mukai Mazzei hadn’t been allowed to see Ryan for nearly 13 years, but she still knew which sizes he wore: After all, she had raised Ryan’s identical twin brother, Ronald, since he was a baby.

Mukai Mazzei had fought bitterly for the right to raise Ryan as well, but the state separated the identical twins and allowed Morris, a foster care provider and former social worker, to adopt Ryan.

Through years of court battles, Morris painted Mukai Mazzei as a bit off, saying she refused to acknowledge her grandson’s disabilities, wanted to take him off his medications, didn’t watch him properly.

All untrue, said Mukai Mazzei. She still can’t fathom how the state could take Ryan away, how Morris could refuse to let Ryan’s biological family see him, talk to him or even give him a birthday present for 13 years.

Mukai Mazzei had never been this close to Morris’ Murrieta house, a sprawling 7,000-square foot building on more than 4 hilly acres. It’s Morris’ home and her business, where she operates a state-licensed foster care facility for disabled children. She is licensed to care for five foster children, and she is legally the parent of five adopted disabled children of her own.

Morris’ husband, Larry Kerin, came to the door, Mukai Mazzei said.

She demanded to see Ryan.

Kerin told her to leave, or he’d call the police, she said.

Words were exchanged, but it ended the way her efforts to connect with Ryan usually did: Mukai Mazzei left in tears, still clutching the gifts she hoped to give her grandson.

Through her attorney, Morris declined to comment for this story, citing “multiple and complex” privacy concerns and pending litigation. In court documents and past interviews with the Register, Morris said she eliminated visits with Ryan’s biological relatives because the encounters left him agitated and prone to dangerous seizures.

AN OPENING

After Mukai Mazzei’s abortive visit to Morris’ home, the biological family began researching Ryan’s status now that he was a legal adult. They learned California law provides court-appointed conservatorships, or legal guardianships, to protect disabled adults. Those guardianships are reviewed every two years by a judge.

Michelle Morris and her brother Gregory were appointed Ryan’s conservators when he turned 18.

Morris later asked the court to remove her brother and replace him with a long-time caregiver in her home, Susan Bird-Santo. Ryan’s biological family decided to challenge Ryan’s conservatorship in court in 2015. When they approached Gregory Morris, hoping to secure a statement for their case, they learned Ryan was married and living with his husband, Sean Spicer, in a double-wide mobile home in Romoland, in Riverside County between Perris and Menifee.

News of the marriage stunned Ryan’s biological relatives. Court-ordered assessments of Ryan described him as having the intellectual capacity of a kindergartener and the verbal abilities of a 4-year-old. He was unable to think abstractly, manage money or give informed medical consent. He struggled to keep track of the day, date, season or year, and understand where he was, or why he was there. He was also “substantially unable” to resist fraud or undue influence, the assessments said
.
And yet he was legally married.

Ryan’s biological relatives reached out to Spicer and welcomed him to the family. Spicer received them warmly, and said he was open to having them in Ryan’s life.

But that decision belonged to Ryan’s conservators, Michelle Morris and Bird-Santo.

IN-LAWS

Spicer’s own relationship with Morris was complicated. She was both his employer and, legally, his mother-in-law.

Spicer met Ryan years earlier, through Morris’ brother Gregory, and they started dating after Ryan’s 18th birthday, according to court documents. At times, Morris forbade them from seeing one another. But she also hired Spicer in the summer of 2014 to help care for the disabled residents in her home, Spicer said in a deposition for the conservator battle. She approved of their union, and hosted their wedding in her yard, Spicer said.

But just months into the marriage, Morris accused Spicer of being emotionally unstable, Spicer said in the deposition. Tensions increased when Ronald Moore, Ryan’s identical twin, filed a legal petition in March 2015 seeking to oust Morris and Bird-Santo as Ryan’s legal guardians, and appoint Spicer instead. Morris objected, arguing that conservatorship was not the proper role for a spouse, Spicer said in the deposition.

Ryan confronted Morris, saying he wanted Spicer to be his conservator, according to Spicer.

In July 2015, Ryan for the first time attended a court hearing on his conservatorship at the Temecula courthouse. Ryan’s biological family descended en masse: They hadn’t seen Ryan, now 21, since he was 8.

In court, the judge asked Ryan what he wanted. Ryan said he wanted Spicer as his conservator, and to visit his twin brother. Ryan could visit with whomever he wished, the judge said.

Afterward, his biological relatives poured into the courtyard, weeping, laughing and swarming around Ryan. “I was waiting for this day for so long, bello,” Maukai Mazzei said, stroking Ryan’s cheek. “We didn’t even see a picture of you.”

Morris and Bird-Santo resigned as conservators in the fall of 2015 and were replaced by Spicer. Ryan’s biological relatives felt he was finally free, and they were eager to rekindle a relationship with him.

LOST TIME

Initially, Spicer wanted Ryan’s biological family to be part of their lives. They “all seem like kind, loving people that care about Ryan and myself,” Spicer wrote in an email that became an exhibit at his deposition. “They are supportive of our marriage and are happy that he has found someone to spend forever with.”

The family visited Ryan and Spicer in Romoland. Ryan and Spicer made overnight trips to visit the family in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. They traded frequent phone calls. Ryan took to chanting his brother’s name over and over, according to the deposition.

Ryan’s relatives soon grew concerned. Ryan struggled with basic self-care tasks, such as buttoning his shirt and brushing his teeth. He had bouts of violence and didn’t seem to grasp social boundaries, sometimes touching people inappropriately, according to court paperwork. Ryan said he had been sexually abused as a child, Spicer said at his deposition, allegedly involving a man working the night shift in Morris’ home. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigated the allegations, but no arrests were made.

The biological family wanted to do more for Ryan, including paying for specialized therapy and training. They worried about Spicer’s emphasis on gaining Ryan’s compliance by withholding electronics or visits with his relatives when he acted out. They argued that Ryan is allowed to see who he wants, without needing permission from Spicer or Spicer’s parents, who lived together in the Romoland mobile home.

Spicer countered that Ryan’s biological relatives had become domineering and difficult.

A NEW SPLIT

“Sean is breaking down here,” Spicer’s mother, Theresa Spicer, said in recorded voice messages left for Ryan’s aunt in December 2015, entered as exhibits at Spicer’s deposition. “He feels you’re giving him absolutely no control over Ryan’s life…. If Sean divorces Ryan, he’s taking him back to Michelle. And if he does that, you’re never going to see him again, you know that.”

Ryan was treated well, she said. When he misbehaved, he was simply grounded for a couple days, “like you would with a normal kid.”

Visits and communication essentially ceased. Last March, Ryan’s brother, Ronald, filed a new court petition, this time seeking to remove Spicer as conservator.

Ryan did not have the capacity to enter into a marriage, the petition argues, “as demonstrated by their wedding video, which clearly shows that Ryan was coaxed into marrying the Conservator and did not understand what was happening at the wedding ceremony, thinking instead that it was a baptism.”

Based on this “obvious lack of informed consent,” as well as the fact that Spicer was nearly two decades older, the petition says, Ryan’s family “has grave concerns that the Conservator may be sexually abusing and controlling him.”

“Do you believe this is a matter of mutual understanding, adult love?” Spicer was asked at his deposition.

“Yes,” Spicer said.

“Although his cognition is significantly less than a 22-year-old, you don’t see it as a matter of sexual opportunism?”

“No,” Spicer said. “Ryan is the one that initiates sexual contact. Ryan knows what he wants in that regard.”

Ryan’s court-appointed attorney said that Ryan objects to his family members being appointed as his conservators, and is angry and resentful over the litigation. He believes his family’s efforts “are designed to break up his marriage…against his express wishes, and serves as heavy-handed harassment against his life partner,” Ryan’s attorney said in court papers.

Spicer did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story, and Ryan’s attorney declined to make him available for comment.

Spicer entered a new line of work in 2016: long-distance trucking. He was on the road for weeks at a stretch – about 25 days of every 30 – and Ryan went with him, according to the deposition.

His biological family worried Ryan was no longer receiving regular education or therapy services, instead spending long days and nights inside a big rig cab. Was that what he wanted?

Spicer argued Ryan was better off, getting to see America, rather than attending repetitive and dull work programs for the disabled.

But the conflict took its toll: Fearing big legal bills, Spicer resigned as Ryan’s conservator in August, then rescinded that resignation days later, according to court documents.

NEUTRAL EYES

The arguments have piled up for months in the conservatorship battle in Riverside County probate court. A judge ordered the Riverside Public Guardian’s office – the county agency charged with handling the affairs of people who can’t care for themselves – to evaluate Ryan’s situation and report back on whether the state should take over as his conservator.

Investigator Barbara J. Burkhart visited with Ryan and Spicer at the Romoland mobile home. A lock and chain secured the front gate, and she was greeted by several barking dogs. “Initial impression of the property was that it was cluttered with junk and neglected,” Burkhart wrote in a report reviewed by the Register. “The home had minor housekeeping concerns, but overall unremarkable.”

Ryan was alert to his name and partial birthdate, Burkhart wrote, but had difficulty holding his head upright, recalling his address, knowing the date. He rocked back and forth and had “severe difficulty” answering complex questions requiring critical thinking, the report said. He said he liked where he lived, and did not like court hearings. Sean Spicer’s parents, Theresa and Frank Spicer, appeared to have genuine concern for Ryan, “but their knowledge of the needs of persons with intellectual disabilities appears limited. Mrs. Spicer also stated that since Ryan hit her, she no longer will do things for him.”

The Spicers said that Ryan’s aunt, Monica Mukai, wanted to gain conservatorship because she doesn’t feel Ryan is gay, wants to break up the marriage and take Ryan off his medications.

Burkhart asked who was involved in the marriage decision. Spicer said marriage was Ryan’s idea, and was approved by his mother Morris, and by Ryan’s therapist.

Burkhart tried three times to schedule a follow-up visit with Ryan to ask more questions. Her calls were not returned, the report says.

Then Burkhart visited with the relatives seeking to become Ryan’s conservators: twin Ronald and his two aunts. They met at aunt Monica Mukai’s cottage on San Juan Capistrano’s historic Los Rios Street. “The tree-lined street is filled with boutique shops and restaurants,” Burkhart wrote. “The area was bustling with community activities and tourists. The home was clean, nicely decorated with antiques and furnishings.”

The family expressed concern for Ryan’s overall health and welfare, but “at no time whatsoever did they express a desire to break up the marriage of Ryan and Sean Spicer, nor did they desire to discontinue Ryan’s medications.”

The family felt that Spicer, at first, appeared to have Ryan’s best interest at heart, but their concerns over Spicer’s mental stability grew. They felt Spicer became upset when he saw Ryan enjoying his family so much, Burkhart wrote. Ronald said he desperately wants to spend time with Ryan, and feels he can provide him with opportunities and the quality of life he deserves, her report says.

Then the family played the two-minute clip of Ryan and Spicer’s wedding video. “(I)t was evident that Ryan Morris had no comprehension of the marriage ceremony and what he was really getting himself into,” Burkhart wrote.

Ryan lacks the ability to manage his person and estate or resist fraud and undue influence, and “it was a concern that Ryan Morris contracted into a marriage of which he did not have the capacity, nor awareness of his contract,” Burkhart wrote. Ryan spent weeks at a time on a long-distance truck driver schedule, was not enrolled in school, provided “optimum healthcare services,” or activities compelling him to academic growth, she added.

“His family members are requesting an opportunity to provide the stability and resources which they feel Ryan needs and deserves. Family members Ronald Moore, Monica Mukai and Olivia Mukai-Lechner appear to be a genuinely viable alternative” to naming the Riverside County Public Guardian as Ryan’s conservator, Burkhart concluded.

This week, the tangled, emotional odyssey over what’s best for Ryan, and who should be trusted to ensure his welfare, reaches key legal juncture.

After a year of preliminary proceedings, a trial on the biological family’s petition to have blood relatives named as Ryan’s conservators is scheduled to begin Thursday, March 16. A newly assigned judge, Thomas Cahraman, will hear evidence in Department 8 of Riverside Superior Court and decide whether to preserve the status quo of Ryan’s guardianship or change it – for at least the next two years, until the next court review.

The family will ask the judge to appoint the Public Guardian as Ryan’s conservator while the case is heard. They want an outside set of eyes looking at Ryan’s welfare, they said.

Regardless of the outcome, Ryan’s grandmother, Mukai Mazzei, said she’ll never stop trying to bring Ryan back into her family.

“We have lost too much time.”

Full Article & Source:
Part 3: Twins, divided: Brothers will see each other in court

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Disabled woman denied food, water, and healthcare in a nursing home

ANNANDALE, Virginia, April 20, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A disabled Virginia woman who was being starved at a nursing home there is now getting food and water, but her family and attorneys are sounding the alarm because she is still at risk and not receiving adequate care.

Yolanda Bell, sister of Anastasia Adams, contacted Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) on behalf of Adams.

Adams was denied treatment for a blood clot and had her guardianship filched away before she was then clandestinely taken to an undisclosed facility. After several questionable injuries in a short time there, Adams was moved back to the hospital and put into hospice care, where she had been denied nutrition. Treatment is still being withheld.

“The family is Catholic and Anastasia has communicated that she wants to live,” said LLDF Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. “Anastasia does not have a terminal disease — the hospital is simply refusing to treat her and instead wants to put her to death.” 

Snyder told LifeSiteNews that Adams is now receiving food and water, though only because more people were beginning to take note of the case. But in lieu of needed treatment, she’s only getting palliative care.

“This woman has family who loves her and wants to care for her,” said Snyder. “But they (hospital officials) have her on a death track.”

Adams was wheelchair bound after suffering a brain injury over 10 years ago, but she was able to speak and interact with family. Bell was the legal durable and healthcare power of attorney for over 12 years while Adams was in a nursing home. 

Several months ago, Adams developed a large blood clot while in INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital, Snyder explained. The hospital refused to treat her and ordered that Adams be discharged. 

When Bell refused to move her sister out of INOVA, the hospital took her to court and had its own guardians appointed to oversee Adams’ care. 

Snyder told LifeSiteNews, “The hospital said, ‘Instead of treating her, we’re just going to take you to court.’”

“It’s horrible,” she continued. “They don’t like her questioning their protocol. She just wanted her sister treated and released and home.” 

The guardians sent Adams to a nursing home without notifying the family, forcing Bell to have to track her down hours later because the nursing staff had been advised not to disclose any information. While in the nursing home, Adams suffered four injuries in two weeks, including a broken hip.

“To have two complete strangers come and just take her is just outrageous,” Snyder said. “They just dumped her in the facility.”

Bell has established a Change.org petition and Facebook page, where she’s telling her sister’s story. The petition is addressed to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and others. The objective is to prevent hospitals from seeking guardianship as a means to override patient rights.

“I am heartbroken beyond words,” Bell posted on Easter Sunday. “I fear for my sister’s life every minute of every day.”

“To have strangers come in and forcibly tear you from your loved ones, to abduct your person, because that is exactly what this is — an abduction — is terrifying for a person with a brain injury and other such patients,” Bell wrote in the petition. “It is terrifying for an incapacitated person who has relied heavily on and whose life, happiness and well-being has depended on a family member.”

She told of how she has watched her sister “whimper and cry out in fear since guardianship of her was awarded to Inova Fairfax Hospital appointed guardians.”

“I have had to watch the expression of fear on her face while being told lawyers would now be her guardians and that I no longer had control over where she lived, who would be caring for her, what medications she could or could not be given, or treatments she would or would receive,” Bell stated.

When Adams was transferred back to INOVA in March because of the broken hip, the guardians refused to authorize any treatment, said Snyder. Instead, they put her in hospice care at a Golden LivingCenter nursing facility in Annandale.

Snyder told LifeSiteNews that as a result of the court action before LLDF involvement, not only has the hospital seized power over Adams’ treatment decisions, Bell is not permitted to visit her sister. 

“Yolanda lost all contact,” Snyder stated.

"I miss my sister terribly,” said Bell. “I can only imagine what she is going through. She must think I have abandoned her. I have trouble sleeping. I close my eyes and see her being beaten and abused. I hear her crying out in pain begging me to help her." 

Adams now has a fever, Snyder told LifeSiteNews, but treatment is still being refused.

“Even though they’re not starving her, they’re just waiting for her to die,” said Snyder.

LLDF has release two videos, one taken prior to her being admitted to the hospital and the second taken at the nursing facility on April 8 showing Adams’ shocking decline.

LLDF is currently assisting the family in securing an attorney to recover Adams’ guardianship back to another sibling. 

“Tragically, we are seeing an exponential increase in cases where patients are intentionally starved to death because someone has determined that their lives no longer have value,” Snyder stated. 

“Anastasia was targeted for death simply because she is disabled. But she can speak, feel pain, and fully understands what is happening to her. She is being tortured to death by healthcare professionals who have it in their capacity to provide care and treatment.”

Full Article & Source:
Disabled woman denied food, water, and healthcare in a nursing home

Assisted Suicide Activist Pushing to Euthanize Mentally Ill Patients

Euthanasia/assisted suicide is NOT about terminal illness. The issue is about normalizing killing as a response to human suffering.
Sure, the initial sales pitch would restrict doctor-administered or prescribed death to the dying. But that’s just to get people comfortable with the concept. Once a society accepts the principle, logic quickly takes it to a broad euthanasia license.

Canada is a prime example. Before the Supreme Court imposed a national euthanasia right on the country, the debate was all about terminal illness. But now that euthanasia is the law throughout the country, the push is on to allow doctors to kill the mentally ill who ask to die.

The Globe and Mail’s pro-euthanasia health columnist, André Picard André Picard uses the suicide of a mentally ill person to push that agenda. From, “The Mentally Ill Must Be Part of the Assisted Suicide Debate:”
We should not discriminate or deny people rights because it makes us queasy or because of our prejudices. This case reminds us just how severe mental illness can be.
“Non-existence is better than this,” Mr. Maier-Clayton said. “Once there’s no quality of life, life is akin to a meaningless existence.”
Opponents of assisted death argue that those who suffer from mental illness cannot make rational decisions, that they need to be protected from themselves.
But we’re not talking about granting assisted death to someone who is delusional, or suffering from psychosis or someone who is depressed and treatable. The suffering has to be persistent and painful, though not necessarily imminently lethal.
I would hasten to add, as defined by the suicidal person and regardless of ameliorating treatments that could be administered. But anyone who is suicidal believes his or her suffering is unbearable. Otherwise, they wouldn’t want to die.

This ever-broadening death license is only logical. If killing is indeed an acceptable answer to suffering, how can it be strictly limited to people diagnosed with a terminal illness? After all, many people suffer far more severely and for a far longer time than the imminently dying.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and now Canada, demonstrate that over time, it won’t be.

Meanwhile, California has a regulation requiring state mental hospitals to cooperate with assisted suicide for their involuntarily committed patients with terminal illnesses–despite supposed protections in the law for those with mental conditions that could affect their decisions.

Meant to be compassionate, assisted suicide is actually abandonment most foul. Compassion means to “suffer with.” Euthanasia is about eliminating suffering by eliminating the sufferer.

Or, to put it another way, euthanasia endorses suicide. It’s not choice, it is the end of all choices.

In any event, this is the debate we should be having. Whether one agrees or disagrees with my take, surely as we in the USA should debate the issue with intellectual integrity and honesty.

But we won’t because pro-euthanasia forces know they would lose. The obfuscating claim that assisted suicide will only be about the terminally ill for whom nothing else but death can eliminate suffering is just the spoonful of honey to help the hemlock go down.

LifeNews.com Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Secondhand Smoke.

Full Article & Source:
Assisted Suicide Activist Pushing to Euthanize Mentally Ill Patients