January 16, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
It’s not unusual to find the criminal justice system utilized against one parent or another in family court. After all, criminal courts often adjudicate claims of domestic violence that are then used to come between a parent and a child.
Even now the State of Florida seems poised to settle a civil suit brought by a father who claims a Tallahassee Police Department officer threatened to arrest him if he didn’t give up his daughter to her maternal aunt (Tallahassee Democrat, 1/13/15). The child’s mother was serving five years in prison for a drug offense and had relinquished her rights to the child, but apparently sought to keep the girl from her father. That involved forging a document supposedly giving custody to the aunt. The sheriff’s deputy was then engaged to help the aunt take the girl from her father, allegedly using threats of arrest and imprisonment. Eventually the father was able to have the girl returned to his care. If the settlement goes through, that little exercise in extra-legal child custody legerdemain will cost the taxpayers of the state $104,000.
Now comes Vladek Filler. His legal troubles with two counties in Maine, a couple of sheriffs, at least three prosecutors and various and sundry law enforcement officials are behind him, albeit not without a long fight. Way back in 2009, Filler was embroiled in custody battle with his then-wife Ligia over their two children. Ligia played the abuse card, including the claim that Vladek had raped her. Despite there being overwhelming evidence of her extreme emotional disturbance and his complete innocence, the criminal justice system swung into action against him.
That included, among many other things, suborning perjury, various violations of the code of ethics for prosecutors, various violations of the code of criminal procedure, falsified documents and the like. So egregious were the attempts by local prosecutors and law enforcement to convict Filler and deprive his children of his love and protection from their mother that ADA Mary Kellett became the first prosecutor in the history of the state to have her license to practice temporarily suspended.
And so dubious were Ligia Filler’s allegations that, in the middle of the criminal proceedings against Vladek, he was given sole custody of his children. Remember, at the time he was accused of rape and battery. The family court saw through Ligia’s claims and that she was far too disturbed to be trusted with children, but Kellett and the police were undaunted.
Despite the combined forces of two counties being deployed against him, Vladek eventually prevailed in court. He was acquitted of both major charges and convicted only of throwing water on his wife, a charge that was itself utterly without support except of course for Ligia’s say-so. All the while maintaining custody of his children, he brought the state bar complaint that resulted in Kellett’s temporary suspension. This past fall, Kellett’s boss, District Attorney Carletta Bossano lost her bid for re-election likely in part because of the behavior of Kellett and others in her office in the Filler case. Kellett departed with her.
Now Filler is suing some 18 separate parties in the law enforcement community and prosecutors’ offices, counties and townships for what he alleges to be their violations of his civil rights. Read about it here (Ellsworth American, 1/15/15).
The 103-page document alleges that prosecutors and law enforcement officers withheld evidence during the discovery process preceding the trial despite repeated requests for that information by Filler’s defense attorney. Filler additionally alleges that video and audio evidence was mishandled and, in some cases, was fraudulent or edited in ways favorable to the prosecution.
The complaint lists 18 defendants. Among them are Hancock and Washington counties, their respective former sheriffs William Clark and Donnie Smith; the city of Ellsworth and former Police Chief John DeLeo; and the town of Gouldsboro and former Police Chief Guy Wycoff as well as former District Attorney Michael Povich and members of his prosecutorial staff…
In the lawsuit, Filler, through his attorney, Thomas Hallett of Hallett, Zerillo and Whipple, alleges Povich, while in office, established a policy of requiring defendants and their attorneys to obtain discovery through law enforcement officers instead of through the District Attorney’s Office. Filler maintains this “policy or custom” violated state and federal law as well as his constitutional rights.
Filler further alleges that “as part of an ongoing conspiracy,” Kellett released false information to a media organization and directed two police officers to not produce documents subpoenaed by Filler’s attorney.
During their investigation of Filler, Kellett, “together with police, conspired to withhold exculpatory information, and falsified evidence, so that Filler could be wrongfully charged and wrongfully convicted of sexual assault,” the complaint states.
The allegations of falsified evidence involve photographs of the Filler home and information stored on the defendant’s computer.
Filler contends photographs of his home, where the alleged assaults occurred, that were presented during his 2009 trial were staged, illegally obtained and did not accurately depict the alleged crime scene.
Filler’s computer was seized in 2007 and sent to the Maine Computer Crime Task Force for analysis. According to the lawsuit, the task force found no pornography, violent images or anything illegal.
Despite the task force report, Detective Steve McFarland of the District Attorney’s Office began his own search of the computer using “invalid hidden files to browse the Internet from one webpage to another webpage until he managed to find violent or pornographic material” that never was viewed on Filler’s computer, the complaint alleges.
“Detective McFarland then printed out a stack of the most obscene and vulgar images he could find and Kellett submitted this fabricated evidence in to discovery as if it came from plaintiff’s computer,” the complaint states.
The complaint also names a friend of Filler’s ex-wife as a defendant. Linda Gleason, a registered nurse, is alleged to have “concocted” a plan along with the ex-wife where Filler would be falsely accused of sexual assault in an attempt to prevent Filler from gaining custody of their children during divorce proceedings.
Those of course are just the allegations. What’s actually proven in court remains to be seen. But whatever the outcome, Vladek Filler is clearly not a man to be trifled with. He’s continuing to stand up to a juggernaut and at every turn, when the dust has settled, it’s been Filler who remains standing.
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