Bryce Lemmons, of Kelso, Washington, is suing the county he lives in for false arrest and possibly malicious prosecution. It all stems from an acrimonious divorce and custody case in which his ex-wife levelled charges at him of sexual abuse and rape of their four-year-old daughter. Read about it here (The Daily News, 3/22/12).
That all happened back in October, 2010. Nine months later, prosecutors dropped all charges due to the fact that, as Lemmons’ lawyer says, “they didn’t have anything.” Indeed, Lemmons voluntarily took and passed two separate lie detector tests administered by two separate polygraph examiners.
In what by now is a familiar pattern, the child’s mother, Jessica Lemmons, claimed the daughter said her father had touched her inappropriately. The child was then taken to a forensic examiner who questioned her for 55 minutes.
During the interview, the girl “was extremely reluctant to implicate (her father), but the interviewer was relentless and succeeded in producing a series of improbable and almost magical statements of abuse at the hands of (Lemmons),” according to the suit.I wasn’t there, but that’s an altogether too familiar description of how not to question a child. It’s a good description of how those who want to get a child to accuse an adult go about obtaining that result. But of course, since the scandalous abuses of children and adults in the “child sexual abuse” witch hunts of the 80s, we’ve developed protocols for questioning children, so wasn’t that done here? At this point, we don’t know, but we’ll soon find out.
What we do know is the dubious nature of the organization that did the questioning of Lemmons’ daughter. It’s something called the Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center. Strangely, it has no website and, according to one source, is not a member of the state’s network of child advocates. Although its Facebook page calls it a non-profit organization, Guidestar, the organization with more information about non-profits than any other I know of, has no record of it.
That’s all backed up by Lemmons’ lawyer who originally sued the CJAC only to find that, for legal purposes, the organization didn’t exist.
[Attorney Duane] Crandall said his client initially sued CJAC, but dropped the complaint because the group amounts to an “amorphous” non-entity that proved impossible to sue.Whatever CJAC is, was or claims to be, it’s the brainchild, not of some disinterested third party, but of Sue Baur who just happens to be the county prosecutor who brought charges against Lemmons. Internet searches of Sue Baur and CJAC’s child forensic interviewer, Kristen Mendez, suggest the two work hand-in-glove on a number of cases in the past. Oddly, information about Mendez comes from a web address for the Kelso, Washington Housing Authority.
“It’s a ghost,” Crandall said.
So what we seem to have is a prosecutor who set up her own organization, raised money, hired a forensic investigator who may have violated the protocols for questioning children and then attempted to channel the phony interview into criminal charges against the child’s father.
You may ask, “why not just let the county interview the girl and take it from there?” There are two possible answers. The first is that the county may well take the protocols for questioning children seriously, and my guess is that, in Sue Baur’s opinion, that approach results in too few charges against too few men. Her solution to that nagging little matter of due process of law was to simply open her own shop and hire a like-minded forensic examiner and, presto!, you have more men charged with more offenses. I don’t know for certain that’s true, but my intuition tells me it is.
The second answer is “the Duke Lacrosse frame-up.” What does that have to do with this? Possibly a lot. If you remember, one of (now disgraced and disbarred) prosecutor Mike Nifong’s many unethical acts in the Duke case was to refuse to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense as required by law. Of course there was plenty of evidence proving that the three accused had done nothing wrong, principally the entire absence of their DNA. So why didn’t Nifong turn over the results of the state’s DNA tests? For one thing, the state hadn’t officially performed any such tests. That’s because Nifong had gotten a private laboratory to do the testing. Not surprisingly, Nifong knew the guy who owned the lab. So when the results came back negative, the private lab avoided turning over the evidence to Nifong who could then say “I don’t have any exculpatory evidence.” Of course, if the results had suggested guilt, I’m sure Nifong would have gotten possession of them and gladly shown same to the defense.
My guess is that’s what’s at work in Lemmons’ case. To the extent that it’s anything, CJAC is a private entity that can give or withhold evidence as it chooses. I’d say that’s one of its main purposes. CJAC has so far not responded to my multiple efforts to contact it by telephone and email.
Now, although the criminal charges against Lemmons were dropped almost a year ago, he still doesn’t get to see either his daughter or his infant son about whom there have never been allegations of abuse. That’s because there, as in so many other cases, family courts play by different rules than do criminal courts. Is there no evidence of abuse or violence against a father? Too bad for him, mere allegations will do for a restraining order to be issued.
And that’s just what happened to Lemmons. Mom said it happened and so, despite the evidence that he’s entirely innocent, despite the fact that it all happened in the context of a custody case, despite the actions of CJAC that Crandall characterizes as displaying “a stunning level of incompetence,” Lemmons will remain separated from his children indefinitely.
So far, much of this consists of allegations only; Lemmons has yet to prove anything in court and CJAC denies wrongdoing. But if my nose is any guide, this is another case in which a family court believes the mother with little or no evidence and removes the father from his childrens’ lives. Into the bargain, it’s all done with the aid of a public employee and her front organization. Put simply, this one stinks.
We’ll see what happens.