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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
December 27, 2003 - Press Release
What Has Happened to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?"
The Luttrell Family - Mykal, Alex and Sami
Imagine, if you will, dear citizens of the United States of America, a country where you have no civil rights. A country where you are not considered a sovereign (your own king) with rights equal to all others.
Imagine living in a country where government agents are free to burst into your home, without a warrant, and drag you out in handcuffs, at gunpoint, because you tried to report a crime perpetrated against you by a government official. Imagine sitting at home during dinner with your family, and having someone show up and say, "You aren't keeping your house clean enough. I'm taking your children away from you," and you can do nothing to stop them. Imagine being charged with imaginary crimes in a court of law, and being denied the opportunity to defend your self, or even have legal representation.
Wake up, America! This nightmare is real, this is our country, and it happens all around us every day. Our "government" ... those elected officials, who we trust will do as we, the people, ask them to do, have no more authority than we give them, and they are running rampant over our civil rights, because we are not demanding our civil rights.
We are becoming a nation of ostriches. We put our heads in the sand and pretend that the government will protect us from the evils of the world, known or unknown, while our collective behinds are exposed to those evils. The truth is that the most frightening evil is sneaking up on us from within our own country.
This nation, this republic, was founded on the Constitution of the United States of America. That document is what all other law is based on. It is the basic principles of that document that the Supreme Court looks to when they make their rulings. Any law which contradicts the Constitution is, by definition, an invalid law.
That stated, let me explain why I am personally so outraged at the condition of this country. This is a true story, and only the basic facts of the situation.
My children were removed from my home (in Tennessee) by DCS (Dept. of Children's Services) caseworkers in June of 2002. There was no "emergent nature" and in fact, no specific reasons were ever cited in writing. The only excuse they gave us, verbally, was that my apartment was a mess (we were in the middle of moving to a new home we'd just bought) and that the children had been allowed to play outside without me being right there with them (they were 5 and 7 years old...not toddlers). There was never an allegation of abuse against me or my husband.
They did not have a court order, and they never got one. They placed the children with the biological father (who had no custodial rights, but who no longer wanted to pay child support and who did not want my new husband raising his children. Oddly enough, he was conveniently "right there" to take them, too, which raises a lot of other questions). They never petitioned the court for a hearing, and instead, they just "investigated" my new husband for almost two months, trying to find some reason to keep my children from me.
When they could not find any reason, they continued to mislead me, my husband and my family into thinking that this was an open DCS case, and that I could not legally get my children back, when in truth, they had no reason to take them in the first place, and did not legally have the right to do so. They kidnapped my children, under both the spirit and the letter of the law.
They stalled us, creating untold stress and financial hardship on my family, causing my husband to lose his job, and even the home we had just purchased, and eventually forcing us to move to my home state of Iowa just to have some family support. (We had already been mysteriously robbed twice by that time, and no longer felt safe in Tennessee.)
Meanwhile, the "safety placement"...the biological father, went before a court and declared that he now had custody of the children (this was clearly not true, and we still don't know how he managed to do this) and had child support terminated after having the children in his care for 23 days. He then waited till we had established a residence in my home state, and 48-hours later, filed a private party petition for temporary custody of the children. This was a month after he'd claimed to already have custody of the children, and caused child support to be terminated on that basis...perjuring himself in a court of law.
I went to court in August for the hearing, (keep in mind, this was a private party petition filed by the father, not by DCS) and was given a court appointed attorney after I disagreed with the father's petition.
The referee in the case treated it as if it were a DCS pre-removal hearing. I was coerced into signing a re-dated "safety agreement" by the court appointed attorney, leaving my children in the hands of the non-custodial father for another 3-months, awaiting a trial date. (I can't swear to this, but I suspect this attorney was told by DCS that the father had joint custody, which was a bald-faced lie.)
Once I started doing research and talking to other social service workers who pointed out to me the illegality of what DCS in Tennessee had done, I sent my attorney an 18-page statement, pointing out the actual facts of the situation, and making him aware that I knew the children had not been removed from my care legally.
He then accused me of "bad-mouthing him" and went before the court and withdrew from the case, leaving me without representation, outside the state of Tennessee, financially destitute and unable to retain my own attorney. The referee also denied a continuance in the case 10-days before it even came to trial.
The day of the trial, on a private party petition, filed by the biological father, DCS and an attorney for DCS (assistant general counsel for DCS) represented "The State" against me, in a petition they did not file.
I was not permitted to present any evidence to the court. I was denied the right to an attorney, my motion for dismissal denied, and my motion for a continuance denied. The referee then "granted the father's petition" for custody, but did not grant any of the premises of the petition... one of which was that the father asked that the children be placed in the care of the state. He didn't even want his own children. He wanted the state to have custody.
She also added "sexual abuse" charges to the allegations made against me, based on allegations (hearsay, twice removed) of abuse against the paternal grandfather. The paternal grandfather has never even been formally charged with sexual abuse, let alone convicted of the charges, and yet "the state" and the court used those allegations against me in court as a reason to give the children to the son of the man they alleged to have abused the children.
Following this "trial" I was not even given a temporary order of the court, or any other paperwork concerning the case. I did not receive a schedule of visitation, and interestingly, the subject of child support never came up. I assume that was hushed up so what the father had done illegally did not come to light.
I immediately tried to file for an appeal of the decision, and found out through the clerk of court's office that a week later, there was no court order on file, to appeal. It was not until I had made 3 attempts to request a copy of the order, and had requested an investigation of the situation by the Tennessee Ombudsman's Office of Families and Children that a court order finally materialized.
The order had been amended, 11-days after the fact, because the first order filed stripped me of custody and awarded custody of the children to no one. The amended order of the court was not filed until December 6th, 2002. Until that date, I was the sole, legal custodial parent, and in the entire previous 6-months, I had given no one my consent to do anything with the children. My signature was not ever given for consent to have the children medically examined, put in therapy or even registered for school...all of which was done, either by the father, or by the state. All of which was done illegally.
It has already been proven, by both the Ombudsman's office, and by an internal investigation by the Dept. of Children's Services that the children were never in the care of the state. There was never an open case; there were never any court orders, hearings or judgments in the matter.
We recently received a letter from DCS saying "this is a private matter between you and the father" and they have stated they cannot be involved in the judicial process. This statement came after 6-months of their constant involvement, even to the point of representing themselves in court on a petition they did not file.
Even after making another phone call to the special ops investigator at DCS, and being told, "I can make no further comment on this matter," the case workers and the DCS attorney once again showed up in court at my appeal on February 4th, representing "the state."
This time, the father himself failed to appear in court, and he was the only person on the docket as the respondent to my petition for appeal. At this point, the case should have been thrown out of court, the judgment overturned, and my children returned to me.
We were allowed all of about 30-seconds to make any sort of statement, which was barely enough time to convey to the judge that DCS had no business being in the courtroom. This momentarily took the wind out of the sails of the DCS attorney, but then she tried to claim that I had not filed my appeal "in a timely fashion"... which was ludicrous, since my notice of appeal was filed before the court order was even filed after the trial in November. She then claimed to have filed a petition "in conjunction with the father's" and even without seeing said petition, or any docket numbers that related to it.
The judge gave them the benefit of the doubt that this was true, and continued the matter to March 19th, telling us to bring all our evidence and documentation to court at that time. My husband then asked that I be appointed counsel, at which point the DCS attorney piped up with, "Your honor, she can't have an attorney! She badmouthed her last attorney!"
The judge almost snickered, and replied, "I'm sorry, but this case is at the appeal stage, and she most assuredly is allowed to have counsel."
Of course, I was given a state-paid, court appointed attorney, who we met with briefly after court, and tried to convey the gist of the situation to him. He was distracted and clearly not paying much attention to anything we told him. He merely looked over a couple of the court documents, asked me why my last attorney had withdrawn from the case, and then rushed off to handle other business.
Since then, I have repeatedly tried to make this attorney aware of the real facts of the situation, but his best advice to me has been "drop your appeal, I don't think you can win."
Yes, he certainly seems to be working in my best interests. *rolling eyes* He also keeps telling me that I need to do what's required of me in a non-existent "case plan."
There has never been a case plan, and there has never been a single court order, which specifies anything I'm supposed to do. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you cannot cooperate if they give you anything to cooperate with.
In the meantime, my children want to come home, and every time we talk, my 8-year-old cries and tells me how much she wishes she had a time machine, so things could just go back to the way they were, and they could be home with me and their stepfather. They are not happy where they are, and nobody will even listen to what they want.
My 8-year-old is very outspoken and strong-willed, and she has said repeatedly that she wants to be in court, so she can tell the judge and everybody else involved, exactly what she thinks of this situation, but of course, nobody wants to let the children have their say in this.
All these "best interests of the children" people who kidnapped mine from me, have no desire to find out what my children want, or what would make them happy. All they care about is making sure they keep getting that federal funding for all this unnecessary court crap, and state paid counseling, and keeping the social workers employed.
The sad part about this is even the biological father is being led around by the nose by DCS. They are still forcing him to go to counseling, and showing up for home inspections and they keep grilling the children, even though they still claim to "not be involved."
He thinks he's won, because at the moment, he has the children with him, and isn't paying child support. What he doesn't realize is that they are setting him up. That much is clear, even from caseworker's notes.
(Notations about him physically disciplining the children, losing his temper, being depressed, losing his job, missing appointments with counselors, etc.)
All they are waiting for is the matter to be out of court, and then they will use whatever they can fabricate against him to take the children from him as well, and finally be able to put them in the care of "the state."
This is all so completely incomprehensible to people, they generally don't even believe it when we tell them. Even most of the attorneys we've spoken to, trying to get *someone* to represent me in this case, are disbelieving of the facts. I even called the FBI about this case and tried to get them to press charges for custodial interference and when I informed them that DCS took my children without a court order and never returned them, I was told on the phone, "Ma'am, they can't do that." I know they legally cannot do what they did, but that does not change the fact that they did do it. Is this not the same as having a stranger kidnap your child from a shopping mall, and calling the FBI and being told, "that's illegal, they can't do that... but sorry, we can't help you?"
We have made hundreds of phone calls and written hundreds of letters, and sent copies of the documentation to many, many people, including politicians, and other state agencies, all of whom tell us, "the children were never in the care of the state, this isn't a DCS matter, it's out of our jurisdiction, we can't help you." What I want to know is.... if this isn't a DCS matter, and they (and the father) did not legally have the right to take my children in the first place, let alone hold them against their will for 6-months.... Why do I not have my children back?
So far, the only person in a position of authority to respond to us at all is the new Governor of Tennessee, and though he seems to want to help, all he basically did was forward our message to the commissioner of DCS. We are still waiting for some word from the commissioner on why this has been allowed to continue.
If I, as a private citizen, did what they did, I would be in prison for kidnapping right now. They acted as private citizens, since they did not do any of the things required of them by their job as state government agents. They had no more right to take my children, than the police have to arrest someone on no charges and with no warrant. Yet, whenever we bring up the fact that they kidnapped my children, everyone gets very nervous, and insists that isn't *really* what they did.
How is this not kidnapping?
To add insult to injury in this matter, the weekend before I was to be in court for the travesty of a trial on November 25th, another appalling incident took place. My husband was home alone while I went to Tennessee, where I thought I was going to spend the weekend with my children, and was confident I would be bringing them home with me after court.
We had already realized that the children had been illegally taken from me, and it was planned and agreed upon in August that the children would be placed in my care and custody when I returned to Tennessee. I had already been told on the phone by the FBI that if the children were not released to me when I returned to Tennessee, that I had cause to be concerned and reason to believe that kidnapping charges did, in fact, exist.
When my husband found out that the children were not in my care for the weekend (because the father and DCS had become aware that I knew the facts, and they refused to release the children to me), he became very upset. We do not have a long-distance carrier on our home phone, and he went to a neighbor to ask if he could use the telephone.
He was told no, so he went home and decided to call 911 to see if they could connect him to the FBI. The dispatcher apparently took him for a prank caller and refused. Since when is it up to the 911 operator to decide who can be connected to the FBI and who can't?
Within minutes, the entire police force was outside our home like a SWAT team. My husband, confused and afraid for his life, since they were all carrying guns, refused to let them in and tried again to call 911.
In retrospect, this may seem a little silly ... calling the police to report that the police are trying to break into your home, but what else would one do? Who else dO you call when armed men are trying to break into your home and you don't know why? Who does one call to protect you from the very people who are supposed to protect you?
The police kicked in our back door with guns drawn, and dragged my husband from our home in handcuffs. They put him in jail overnight, preventing him from making any further attempts to contact the FBI.
Unfortunately, the actions of the local police may be partly to blame for what happened in court in Tennessee the following Monday, since they prevented my husband from reporting a crime, and would not even allow him to leave the state so he could go to Tennessee and try to help me. They also told him that his driver's license was suspended, which we have since found was completely untrue.
Keep in mind, the police had no warrant for my husband's arrest, and the charge they imagined (and then swore under oath "the children are in the custody of their mother" which was not the case) he was guilty of was only a simple misdemeanor. The most they could do, legally, was ticket him and make him pay a fine. Why then, was he forcibly dragged from his own home at gunpoint, as if he were a violent criminal?
My biggest questions concerning both of these stories are these: When it is so blatantly obvious that we did nothing illegal, and it is very clear that the government agents DID violate dozens of laws, including multiple civil rights violations, why are we being made to pay the price?
Our Constitutional Rights as citizens have been violated, in horrifying ways. And the people guilty of the crimes are suffering no consequences. Where is the justice?
If you think this can't happen to you, think again. It can, and is, happening all over the country.
The only way to stop this kind of behavior from our public servants (yes, we are paying them to trample our rights) is to arm yourself with knowledge. Be aware of your Constitutional Rights and assert them. It is time that we, the people, took back this country and demanded to be treated as the sovereign citizens that we are.
Updated August 23, 2006