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Contempt for Dad's Efforts to Save Daughter
February 19, 2014 permalink
Teenager Justina Pelletier was seized from her parents one year ago after Boston Children's Hospital decided she suffered not from mitochondrial disease but child abuse. After a year of protection from her parents, the formerly active girl is paralyzed from the waist down. The deterioration has driven father Lou Pelletier to breach a gag order in a desperate effort to save his daughter. He is now charged with contempt. If Massachusetts DCF get its way Lou will be behind bars soon and his daughter will continue to decline.
Justina's cause has its own Facebook page, Free Justina Pelletier From Boston Children's Hospital! and donation site.
Beck Begs Listeners to Help Family of 15-Year-Old at the Center of Boston Children’s Controversy Before She ‘Wastes Away and Dies’
Glenn Beck on Tuesday implored his listeners to speak up over the case of Justina Pelletier, a 15-year-old who has been at the center of a fierce battle between her parents, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Boston Children’s Hospital.
“I have been in this fight before, with Terri Schiavo,” Beck said. “That one we lost. We might lose Justina.”
For those not familiar with the case, a little more than one year ago, Justina’s parents lost custody after disagreeing with a Boston Children’s Hospital diagnosis that their daughter had somatoform disorder, a psychiatric condition. They believed she had mitochondrial disease, a condition she had been receiving treatment for by doctors at Tufts Medical Center.
The parents were accused of “over-medicalizing” their daughter, and are now restricted to 20-minute, monitored phone calls and weekly visits with their child at a DCF facility.
But while Justina’s condition would have presumably improved once she was removed from the care of her “over-medicalizing” parents, Lou Pelletier, the girl’s father, said her condition is rapidly worsening.
Breaking a court-imposed gag-order to speak with TheBlaze, Lou said his daughter was ice skating in February of last year, and she now has “no strength below the hips, [and] minimal strength above the hips.” He said she has been “tortured, physically and mentally, for over a year” and nothing has been done to stop it.
“The head games that have been played on Justina are worse than any Stephen King novel,” he claimed on Glenn Beck’s radio program Tuesday, adding that he fears his daughter is “dying.”
Lou explained that his daughter has colon issues because of mitochondrial disease, and doctors at Tufts performed surgery to insert a colostomy tube to be able to flush out her system.
Now, he claimed, “going for days or weeks at a time … [they will] not do the flush.” Rather, he added, they make Justina “sit on the toilet” for “hours,” saying it is “all in her head.”
“Why does your other daughter live with you if you’re so bad?” Beck asked, noting Lou has another daughter with mitochondrial disease. “If this is something that’s really sick, why haven’t they taken your other daughter?”
“And two others and a 93 year old mother-in-law,” Lou added, throwing up his hands.
Lou said that since Justina was moved to a “psychiatric residential facility in Framingham, Massachusetts” roughly one month ago, she is not getting any of the care she needs.
“The first time we saw her … it was 18 degrees out,” he recalled. “We met her outside the DCF facility … Her hair was soaking wet. She was shaking, scared. The next two weeks, either her hair was greasy as anything, along with the gum lines, along with you name it…”
“Remember, she’s in a wheelchair,” he added. “No strength below the hips, minimal strength above the hips, and … she’s getting no to minimal assistance. They are not [a medical facility]. They don’t want to deal with this.”
After his wife filed a complaint, Lou added, Justina’s hair was “blow dried,” but the girl said “under her breath” that the staff was “not happy” they had been asked to do it.
Lou said the authorities now want to move Justina to a farm called the “Shared Living Collaborative” on the New Hampshire border of Massachusetts.
“America, listen to me,” Beck said, his voice fraught with emotion. “Hear me carefully. This is not about his daughter. If you don’t treat his daughter like your daughter, we’re all toast.”
Beck said “they would’ve had to put [him] in handcuffs” if the same thing happened to him, and that the Pelletier family should bring Boston Children’s and the state of Massachusetts “to its knees” if Justina is returned to their custody and she is determined to have mitochondrial disease at the end of all this.
But Beck said he fears the issue is being swept under the rug, since that would be the most convenient solution for the state.
“If the problem just ‘goes away,’ whether it be it to a farm, where nobody thinks about it anymore, or God forbid, she just wastes away and dies, then we’re past this and we don’t ever have to admit anything,” Beck said. “And I think that’s what’s happening. And that can’t happen.”
He urged listeners to go to www.freejustina.com if they wish to help the family financially.
Contempt Charges Filed Against Dad Who Defied Gag Order to Tell Daughter’s Heartbreaking Story
Editor’s Note: Lou Pelletier confirmed the charges during an interview with Glenn Beck. You can read that update at the bottom of this story.
The Massachusetts Department of Children & Families filed for Lou Pelletier — the father of 15-year-old Justina Pelletier who is the center of a controversy and legal battle involving custody, parents’ rights and two medical diagnoses — to be held in contempt of court, a family source told TheBlaze.
When Pelletier spoke with TheBlaze this week about Justina and the controversy regarding her diagnosis that led custody to be taken away from her parents for the last year, he broke a gag order issued by a Massachusetts judge.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous fearing further legal repercussions, said Tuesday the state’s DCF filed that Pelletier be held in contempt of court for breaking the order, using stories on TheBlaze and one that appeared last week in the New York Daily News as evidence.
Pelletier admitted to TheBlaze earlier this week that he wasn’t sure if his speaking out would help his family or hurt it.
“Should I even be doing what I’m doing today?” Lou told TheBlaze Monday. “You’re scared. If I do this, is it going to make it worse for Justina? Is it going to make it better?”
“I need to save my daughter. It’s not this court house. It’s not the state of Massachusetts,” he said at another point in our interview. “If we don’t do something, she is going to die.”
The injunction preventing the Pelletiers from talking publicly about their daughter in the context of the case was issued on Nov. 7, 2013, according to WTIC-TV. The gag order was issued after the media investigation by WTIC’s Beau Berman.
Going against a gag order, if found in contempt of a court order, could be considered either civil or criminal. Civil contempt of court would involve a failure to obey a court order. Criminal contempt of court is often issued as punishment to prevent future acts of contempt.
Penalties for being found in contempt of court, depending on the type, range from being required to pay the legal fees to paying a fine to jail time.
Jim Ianiri, an attorney in the Boston area who has been involved in custody battles over medical issues since the 1990s but who is not involved in this case, shared his legal expertise with TheBlaze about this situation.
“The court is going to determine whether or not to hold [a person] in contempt of court, and then impose the appropriate penalties, if you will, on that,” Ianiri explained.
A party files a motion to find someone in contempt of court. Then a judge would have to grant the motion, or allow motion, and then find someone in contempt of court or not in contempt of court, Ianiri continued.
“What they’re looking for is a contempt order. An order finding [someone] is in contempt could result in a fine,” he said.
Ianiri also speculated that in this case it would be civil contempt of court, as he thought criminal “is a little more extreme.”
The Pelletiers lost custody, at least temporarily, of Justina to DCF on Feb. 14, 2013. After taking her to Boston Children’s Hospital a few days prior when she had the flu, they say doctors at the hospital wanted to change her treatment regimen. Those physicians believed Justina had somatoform disorder, a psychological disorder that said the symptoms she experienced were all in her head. The Pelletiers, however, disagreed and believed she should continue treatment for mitochondrial disease, a disease she was diagnosed with and had been treated for by doctors at Tufts Medical Center.
When the Pelletiers went to Boston Children’s Hospital on Valentine’s Day 2013 to have their daughter discharged and taken to Tufts, they were served with a 51A form instead — one that accused them of medical abuse. Essentially, they were accused of treating their daughter medically in a way that she didn’t need.
Since that day, the Pelletiers have had limited communication with their daughter and faced numerous court hearings as it is still being decided what will happen with regard to her custody and treatment. The next court date for this case is on Monday, Feb. 24.
TheBlaze reached out to the Suffolk County Family and Probate Court to confirm the filing and were told to contact juvenile court in this case instead. The Suffolk County Juvenile Court Division told TheBlaze it could neither confirm nor deny a contempt of court filing at the time because records within the division are confidential because they involve children.
TheBlaze also sought comment from the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families for comment but did not hear back at the time of this posting.
Update: Lou Pelletier, Justina’s father, called into the Glenn Beck Radio Program Wednesday morning and confirmed that DCF has filed contempt of court charges against him.
Pelletier said he doesn’t yet know if the contempt of court will be civil or criminal nor does he know of a special court hearing set for this case yet.
On the show, Pelletier pointed out that in April DCF and Boston Children’s Hospital were aware that a Massachusetts newspaper was working on a story involving Justina’s case but noted that it wasn’t until seven months later after WTIC in Connecticut investigated that the gag order was imposed.
“Those are the things that just make you shake your head among so many other things,” Pelletier said, questioning why a gag order was not imposed earlier then.
Pelletier, who called TheBlaze later Wednesday morning, said the filing from DCF was six pages long. It cited three news articles as violations of Pelletier breaking the gag order. Two of these articles he said didn’t speak with him directly at the time but were sourcing other media outlets about what he said.
“Our attorney said it’s not a surprise,” Pelleteir said. “He’s going to prepare a motion to lift the gag order.”
When asked if he regrets talking with the media, Pelletier said, “we’re all in” at this point.
While Pelletier said his deciding to speak out was a “double-edged sword,” Beck asked if anything good has come out of his telling the family’s story so far.
“People have been flooding us with donations,” Pelletier said, noting it would help his family in what he likened to the “ultimate David and Goliath” story. “Many, many thanks to everybody that has contributed.”
“The biggest thing is, as I said yesterday, there are people with the power to stop this now,” Pelletier said later. “The governor of both states, the attorney generals, the DCF commissioners all have the power, executive authority, to stop this.”
A Massachusetts DCF spokesperson said in an email to TheBlaze Wednesday morning that it doesn’t provide comment or information about children in its custody. The spokesperson also pointed out that the court-issued gag order prohibited any parties involved from discussing the case or the situation surrounding it.
Massachusetts DCF wants to place Justina in foster care and continue gagging her father.
Parents of Justina Pelletier upset after learning teenager will now be sent to DCF foster care, advocat says
Justina Pelletier’s mother collapsed and her father shouted in anger today after learning at a Boston courthouse that the Department of Children and Families wants to place their teenage daughter in foster care on Boston’s North Shore, according to a minister who represents the family.
The parents were also upset because they were told a gag order preventing them from talking to the media remains in place, said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian Defense Coalition, a group that is helping the family.
Linda Pelletier fainted in the corridor outside the Boston Juvenile Court and was taken away on a stretcher to a local hospital. Her husband, Lou Pelletier, occasionally erupted into angry shouts. Reporters were restricted from the fourth floor of the Brooke Courthouse, where a hearing on Justina’s case was held, but could see the Pelletiers from a fifth-floor balcony across the courthouse atrium.
Mahoney said the parents were reacting after emerging from the closed-door hearing, which had lasted about two hours.
Mahoney said late this afternoon that Linda Pelletier had recovered fairly well from her fainting episode, and was expected to be released from Massachusetts General Hospital sometime later today. Mahoney was spending the afternoon with the Pelletier family, who are from West Hartford, Conn.
Justina has been caught in the middle of a high-profile medical dispute and child custody battle involving two major Boston hospitals, the state’s child protection agency, and the Pelletiers, who want to bring their daughter home.
The Globe profiled the Pelletiers and the issues raised by the case in a two-part series.
One issue before the judge in today’s hearing was whether Lou Pelletier should be held in contempt of court for violating a gag order. The teen’s father has recently given media interviews in which he expressed frustration with the quality of care his daughter is getting while in DCF custody, care that he has asserted has been nearly fatal for her.
The Pelletiers’ primary attorney declined comment, citing the gag order.
Mahoney said the parents were deeply upset after being told Justina Pelletier would be sent into foster care, and away from a Framingham residential facility where she has been living for the past month.
Mahoney said he was working to help the Pelletiers win back custody of Justina.
Prior to the Framingham placement, Justina spent about a year in the locked psychiatric ward at Boston Children's Hospital despite the objections of her parents and in conflict with a diagnosis from Tufts Medical Center doctors that the teen suffered from mitochondrial disorder, the Globe has reported.
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a conservative nonprofit legal group, said he now represents the Pelletiers in their effort to end the gag order imposed by the judge. He said the DCF was given two days to tell the judge whether they oppose allowing Staver to enter the case.
Officials at MitoAction, a nonprofit group raising awareness about mitochondrial disease, a rare condition, released a statement saying they had heard that a Boston judge had ordered the teenager to go into a “non-medical” facility in Merrimac.
It remained unclear just what the judge proposed at the hearing. However, typically a teenager like Justina, if viewed as medically stable, might go to a private foster home while also being required to attend some nearby day treatment and educational program.
Source: Boston Globe