March 31st, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
“Cop’s Son Jailed in Custody Case,” “Bridgeport Police Sgt. Arrested in Georgia-CT Custody Battle,” “Cop on Leave After State Police Kidnap Claim.” These headlines and more fairly scream out the news. According to the articles, John Devone, 28 and his father Johnny Devone who’s a 63-year-old police sergeant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, kidnapped Devone’s son away from his mother, Brittany Finley of Georgia. Both men have been arrested and charged with custodial interference and the outrage in the community is palpable. Here’s one typical comment on the news of Sgt. Devone’s arrest.
and he on paid leave for breaking the law !! You have to love the police unions and their contracts !!
Meanwhile, the articles continue to report the breaking news. Here’s one (CT Post.com, 3/29/13).
A Bridgeport cop’s son, charged with hiding his 2-year-old son from the boy’s mother, was jailed Thursday to await a trip to Georgia to face charges.
During a hearing Thursday afternoon in state Superior Court, John M. Devone, 28, was given a choice by Judge Earl Richards of waiving extradition or sitting in the Bridgeport Correctional Center until his appeal could be heard. He chose to waive.
Devone was handcuffed and taken away to the North Avenue prison anyway, but only to wait until police from Georgia come to get him.
Devone is charged with second-degree custodial interference after State Police said he and his father, Police Sgt. Johnny Devone, refused to return the boy to his mother, Brittany Finley, who lives in Georgia. John Devone had initially taken the boy to Bridgeport for a one-month visit.
On March 12, state police returned the boy to Finley after they raided two homes in Bridgeport and one in Shelton to find him. Sgt. Devone has been charged with second-degree custodial interference and is scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court on April 4.
Devone’s lawyer, Josephine Miller, declined comment as she left the courtroom after Thursday’s hearing.
In short, it’s a pretty clear case of yet another Dad Behaving Badly. And, if true, the Devones’ behavior would be pretty shocking. After all, we here at Fathers and Families are all about equal parenting. We carp and complain when mothers deny access to children by fathers, so why shouldn’t we do the same when a father/grandfather team does the same. Fighting with the ex and using a little boy as the rope in the tug-o-war is bad behavior regardless of who does it, right?
But then, there’s that caveat in the preceding paragraph, “if true.” As it turns out, that’s a very big “if.” That’s because, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Connecticut, the story of John Devone, Sgt. Johnny Devone, little John-Michael Devone, Jr. and mom Brittany Finley is pretty much the opposite of what the press has reported.
Now, we all know that anyone can file a lawsuit; anyone can claim anything and nothing in the case of John Devone vs. Brittany Finley has yet been proven. But three things we know to be true: (1) the lawsuit is very specific and clear in its statement of facts, (2) the facts stated can be proven by documentary and other evidence and (3) the press has ignored it completely.
The latter must be called an odd oversight by reporters. When I typed “John Devone Brittany Finley” into my search engine of choice, about two seconds later, a list of references popped up and second among them was the entire text of the federal complaint filed by Sgt. Johnny Devone against Brittany Finley. It makes for some interesting reading. At least it’s interesting to me; the reporters on the custody case have shown no interest at all.
Basically, Sgt. Devone is alleging defamation of character by Finley, but it’s the details of the alleged kidnapping that make the most interesting reading.
1. Plaintiff in this matter is Johnny Devone, a resident of the City of Bridgeport, and citizen of the State of Connecticut. 2. Plaintiff has been a member of the Bridgeport Police Department for twenty-nine (29) years and currently serves as a Detective. 3. Brittany Finley is a citizen of the State of Georgia and is the mother of Plaintiff’s three year old grandson. Finley has never been married to Plaintiff’s son. 4. On or about June 2011 Finley, Plaintiff’s son and the child came to Plaintiff’s home in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 5. Plaintiff offered Finley the courtesy of staying at the home with her child and Plaintiff’s son if she chose. 6. Finley chose to leave after approximately two to three weeks. She returned to Georgia leaving her child with Plaintiff, his son, and Plaintiff’s wife. Upon information and belief, Finley left because of criminal charges for larceny that she had pending against her in Georgia. Finley gave no indication regarding whether or not she intended to return for her child. 7. From June 2011 until on or about March 11, 2013 Finley’s minor son was in the care and custody of Plaintiff, his son and Plaintiff’s wife. 8. Plaintiff single-handedly provided all financial care, and support for his grandson until on or about December 2012 when the boy’s father was able to obtain employment. 9. During the entire time from June 2011 until March 11, 2013 Finley provided absolutely no financial support for her child, provided no clothing, gifts, food or any other care for the child that she had left behind. 10. During the entire time from June 2011 until March 11, 2013 the child visited with and was in the care and control of Finley during two occasions; (a) when he went with his father to Georgia from on or about November 28, 2011 until January 26, 2012; and (b) from late June 2012 until mid-September 2012 when he visited with his mother for the summer. 11. On January 23, 2013 Plaintiff’s son filed a complaint for sole custody of his son who had been living with him since June 2011. 12. An initial hearing on the child custody matter was set for February 11. Defendant was served at her home in Georgia with notice of the hearing in sufficient time for her to attend. 13. As a consequence of the blizzard on February 11, the custody hearing did not go forward. 14. On or about February 25 Finley caused a notice of a hearing to be served on Plaintiff’s son regarding a hearing in Cobb County Georgia the next day on February 26, 2013 regarding the custody of her son.
In short, Brittany Finley had custody of her and John Devone’s son. But she got in trouble with the law in Georgia and fled to Connecticut to take advantage of John and Johnny Devone’s hospitality. They fed and housed her and little John, Jr. for two – three weeks. She apparently returned to Georgia, perhaps to face her larceny charge, leaving the child in the care of his father and grandfather. She left him there for almost two years, never paying a cent to help support him, never sending a card or letter, never sending a toy. She never called, she never Skyped so the boy could see his mommy’s face.
But then John made a mistake. He asked Finley to start acting like a parent. That means he filed suit to get custody of his son. After all, he’d had the child for almost two years with no assistance or even input from Finley. Her only contact with the boy had come because Devone had taken the child to her.
Now to me, it’s clear that it wasn’t John’s asking for custody that sent Finley into a tizzy. He’d had the boy for months and she’d paid the situation no mind. Finley did nothing to indicate she cared in the least about her son or had any intention of ever again playing the part of mother to him. But a legal change of custody would have meant her paying child support, and my guess is that’s what spurred the loving mom to action.
Of course to do so, Finley had to engage in some creative lying. The federal complaint explains.
15. In a proceeding on February 26, 2013 Finley falsely testified under oath before a judge of the Cobb County Georgia Superior Court that her son had resided exclusively in Georgia until January 26, 2012. 16. On February 28, 2013 Finley falsely testified under oath before a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court that her son had never been in Connecticut for any reason prior to November 2011. 17. Plaintiff testified truthfully on February 28, 2013 that the child had resided in his home in Bridgeport Connecticut since June 2011. 18. Plaintiff’s son, father of the child, testified truthfully on February 28, 2013 that the child had resided at his father’s home along with him since June 2011. 19. Plaintiff and his son presented documentary evidence at the hearing on February 28 that established inter alia, emergency room treatment for the child at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport on October 29, 2011; well baby care for the child at Saint Vincent’s Hospital on November 8, 2011; podiatrist treatment for club feet of the child on November 8 and 16, 2011; Connecticut HUSKY insurance coverage for the child since September 2011; purchases of necessary items for a baby during the months of July, August, September and October 2011. 20. On or about March 11, 2013 Finley caused a false report to be made to the Connecticut State’s Attorney resulting in the issuance of a search warrant for the Plaintiff’s home. 21. On or about March 11, 2013 Finley falsely claimed to staff of the Connecticut Post that her son, John Devone, Jr., was “missing.” 22. On or about March 11, 2013 Finley claimed that the minor child was being held at the home of his grandfather, Johnny Devone, against her will. 23. On or about March 11, 2013 Finley falsely claimed that the boy’s father, Plaintiff’s son, had tricked her into letting him take the boy from her Georgia home in August 2012. 24. On or about March 11, 2013Finley falsely claimed that Bridgeport police blocked her and City Sheriff David Goodman from retrieving the boy. 25. On or about March 11, 2013Finley falsely claimed that the Bridgeport police were “protecting one of their own” by not assisting her to retrieve her son.
None of this has been of the slightest interest to the press covering the case. To them it’s just another Bad Dad. As I said earlier, none of the allegations in the federal complaint have been proven, but my guess is they can be. Sgt. Devone has much documentary evidence to prove the boy’s presence in his home and life. Unstated, but just as certain, countless people can testify that they saw the little boy in granddad’s home, saw him cared for by father and grandfather, saw him taken to daycare, to the store, to the doctor’s office, etc. And of course Brittany Finley’s words, stated under oath, were taken down by a court reporter, a transcript of which will soon be available to all.
It’s true that the federal complaint is just words on a piece of paper right now. But if I were a betting man, I know which horse I’d put my money on in this race. My guess is that, the more we see of John and Johnny Devone, the better they’ll look. Finley? Not so much.
What will be most interesting is the outcome of the custody case. If I read this one correctly, here’s a woman who abandoned her child to his father’s care, made no effort to keep contact with the boy, paid nothing to support him and only acted – perjuriously and in violation of other laws – when faced with the prospect of paying child support. On the other hand, there are the two Devones who cared for the child well and who in fact have done nothing wrong.
By the standards of family courts in custody cases, that makes it a horse race.
Let’s see how it turns out.
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