NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
Jeffrey Ruggiero's Bid For Daughter Denied
New Hampshire Judge David G. LeFrancois has abetted the fraud and perjury of Kristin Ruggiero. Yesterday, LeFrancois dismissed the attempt by Kristin's ex-husband, Jeffrey Ruggiero, to get custody of his his daughter. New Hampshire Judge David G. LeFrancois has abetted the fraud and perjury of Kristin Ruggiero. Yesterday, LeFrancois dismissed the attempt by Kristin's ex-husband, Jeffrey Ruggiero, to get custody of his his daughter. I've written several times before about this case. Here's the last piece I did back in January. Jeffrey and Kristin were married and had a daughter, Meghan. During their acrimonious divorce, Kristin decided to get the upper hand by falsely accusing Jeff of threatening her. But she got a bit too creative for her own good. She went to the police with threatening text messages sent to her phone by Jeff, or so she claimed. The police arrested Jeff and charged him with three misdemeanor counts of criminal threatening. That was enough to get the family court judge to issue a restraining order against him. The order included the usual boilerplate language prohibiting him from carrying or possessing a firearm. No big deal? Not exactly. That's because Jeff is a Coast Guard chief petty officer and as such is required to carry a sidearm. At that point, Kristin presented him with a choice - lose your career or sign away your rights to your daughter. Jeff signed a termination of parental rights and Kristin dropped the TRO. But at Jeff's urging, the police figured out that Kristin had been lying all along. She'd sent the threatening messages herself to her own phone. She'd then lied about it to police and in court, which, unlike in so many cases, seems to have angered the local district attorney. Kristin was charged with 12 counts of perjury and related offenses. Last year, she was convicted on all counts and sentenced to serve 7 - 14 years in prison. But the DA isn't done with Kristin Ruggiero. You see, she's also charged with perjuring herself in her criminal case - you know, the one for perjury. So there are now 21 more charges against her. Who knows? Maybe she'll lie again in that trial and she can be indicted again. This could go on forever. Kristin seems to be a kind of charismatic figure; she easily attracts others to her cause. So she's not the only one facing indictment. Her former boyfriend, Brendan Bisbee, was just convicted last week on five of seven counts of lying to a grand jury that was investigating Kristin. He'll be sentenced soon. Then there's Kristin's mother, Elizabeth McDonald, who apparently was also in on Kristin's conspiracy. She's been indicted on three felony counts and one misdemeanor count alleging that she too lied under oath in Kristin's attempt to defraud Jeff of his parental rights. But throughout all that, Jeff still had no contact with Meghan. He'd been fraudulently induced to sign away his parental rights, and has spent all of the ensuing three years trying to convince Judge David G. LeFrancois to see the obvious and return his child to him. One of the salient features of his case is the length of time LeFrancois has taken to rule. Time and again, he's scheduled hearings, only to put off ruling each time. Well, now he's finally ruled. He dismissed Jeff's case. He not only dismissed the case, but he refused to say why. And that's no accident. Without findings of fact and conclusions of law, Jeff can't appeal the order. So, having unconscionably dragged his feet for years, LeFrancois is now dragging them some more. And that too is no accident. You see, Meghan has been in the care of certain people all this time and those people have indicated an intention to adopt her. And, as we've seen time and again, the longer a child remains with an adoptive couple, the greater the chance that the adoption will be approved by a court. The theory is that the child has "bonded" with her adoptive parents and the court won't disrupt that. Of course in Jeff's case, Meghan had bonded very nicely with him over many years, but Judge LeFrancois tossed that out in his ruling. You might ask who those people are who want to adopt Meghan? Well, one is Elisabeth McDonald, Kristin's mother. That's right, the same Elizabeth McDonald who's under indictment for perjury and who, if Kristin's and Bisbee's trials are any indication, likely faces jail time. She's the same Elizabeth McDonald who was herself such a sterling example of motherhood that her own daughter is a convicted felon looking at a long stretch in prison. Let's look carefully at exactly what Judge David G. LeFrancois has done. He's deprived a child of her father. That man is Jeffrey Ruggiero, a man about whom nothing bad can be said, a man who has done nothing wrong. That deprivation is part and parcel of an criminal plot hatched by Kristin Ruggiero. To be clear, it was her goal all along to deprive Jeffrey of his daughter and his daughter of her father. That's why Kristin sent herself fake text messages and then lied to the police and courts about it. She wanted to take Jeff's child from him and she succeeded. She succeeded, not because of the cleverness of her scheme that was uncovered by police quickly enough. (It can't be said that a scheme is terribly clever that lands the schemer behind bars for 7 - 14 years.) No, it succeeded because Judge David G. LeFrancois placed his judicial stamp of approval on it yesterday. In doing so he's come to look more like an unindicted co-conspirator in an illegal plan to steal a child from her father than like a judge. LeFrancois has approved the outright theft of a child from her father, a thoroughly upright and decent man. He's turned that child over to a woman who will probably be convicted of multiple felonies. Let's not forget one other thing. If Elizabeth McDonald succeeds in adopting Meghan, guess who will be part of her life. Kristin, that's who. Meghan will visit her in prison, talk to her on the telephone and, when Kristin gets out (doubtless paroled for good behavior), she'll become her little girl again. But her father, Jeff? She'll have no contact with him at all. And why? Judge David G. LeFrancois refuses to say. He's issued no written explanation and when I called his office I was told by his clerk "he won't talk to you about that." All in all, it's a case that would be impossible to believe if we didn't read every day about the many astonishing ways family courts have of separating children from their fathers. I've spoken with Jeff's wife about this latest turn of events. She tells me that Jeff is terribly distraught and downhearted, which is only to be expected. I can hear in her voice that she is too. For what it's worth, Jeff, our hearts go out to you. You're not alone. Fathers across the country experience the pain of loss you're feeling now. Eventually, they re-shape that pain into a firm resolve to bring equality and sanity into family law so that future fathers won't suffer as you are. It'll take time, but we shall prevail.