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May 16, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

There’s more good news out of Missouri, at least I think there is. After 25 years of imprisonment, Earnest Leap may soon be a free man (ABC 17, 5/10/16). What did Leap do to get himself into prison for so long? Not a thing. Or, to be more precise, what he did was to contest custody of his son Brodie.

Leap and his wife were embroiled in a bitter divorce and custody case when his she shot what lawyers have come to call her “silver bullet,” i.e. allegations not merely of child abuse, but of child sexual abuse. The ploy worked. She got custody of Brodie and her claims sent Leap to prison for what may be the worst possible offense in the eyes of inmates. Of course he also had to register as a sex offender.

The catch is that none of it was true. Leap lost his freedom and custody of his child because Brodie, who was then a little boy, backed up his mother’s claim. Ever since, Brodie’s gone to bat trying to get his dad released. He’s an adult now and hopes his efforts may finally bear fruit. They’ve sent a petition for a pardon to Governor Jay Nixon signed by 50 state legislators. So far the governor’s office hasn’t indicated whether he’ll grant the pardon or not, but Leap has an additional arrow in his quiver. State Representative Jim Neely is backing Leap’s bid for justice.

If the name Jim Neely is familiar to readers, it’s because he was the driving force behind the National Parents Organization’s parenting time bill that just passed both houses of Missouri’s legislature. Clearly, when it comes to justice for parents, Neely’s your man in Missouri.

The larger picture here is parental alienation. Brodie Leap was just a kid when he found himself caught between the demands of his mother and his father’s need for the truth. Today he says he was “weaponized” in their divorce battle, an apt term. We don’t know what his mother did to convince him to turn on his dad, but surely the prospect of losing her love and protection played into a decision that has haunted the young man ever since.

Kudos to Brodie for admitting the truth. The reality of his life with a mother who would do such a thing not only to her ex-husband, but to her son, can only be imagined. It’s a story I’d love to write.

As brutal as Earnest’s life behind bars has been, we shouldn’t forget what Brodie’s endured. He’s spent his life burdened by the impossibly heavy weight of guilt. His lie sent his father to prison and branded him a sex offender. Imagine living with that.

And what we know about parental alienation tells us that, growing up, Brodie was down to one parent – his mother. No one else could protect him, no one else could provide. No one else could offer love, caring, nurturing. He was stuck with a mother who gladly lied to courts, the police and prosecutors. That meant he was forced to live the lie he’d told when he was little. To do otherwise would have jeopardized his relationship with his only remaining parent, and few kids are willing to risk that.

In other words – irony of ironies – Brodie Leap was an abused child. Parental alienation is child abuse because it forces a child to reject one parent in favor of another. The targeted parent must be shunned and what the child is left with is a relationship with the remaining parent. Moreover, that remaining parent has already demonstrated a willingness to abandon a loved one if that person doesn’t toe the necessary line. So every alienated child knows that, to stand up to the alienator may mean disaster – the loss of the only remaining parent.

If Brodie’s petition is successful and his father is pardoned, will the story end? Of course it won’t for Earnest and Brodie. No pardon will give Earnest back his lost 25 years or Brodie a childhood with his father. But what about his Brodie’s mother? Will she walk away from her despicable wrongdoing as if nothing amiss had occurred? My guess is that she will. At this point, there’s no talk of prosecution, no condemnation of a person who chose to lie and whose lie so terribly damaged two innocent people. She’s not even named in the linked-to video.

Parental alienation must be recognized for what it is and punished accordingly. It is not good enough to pretend that, because a man is out of prison all is well, that wrongs have been righted. A pardon is a good idea. Earnest Leap deserves that and more. But every parent and every child needs to know that parental alienation isn’t a free pass for the alienator.

To wink at parental alienation is to ensure that the practice will go on and on, that other children and other parents will suffer just what Earnest Leap has.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#parentalalienation, #falseclaims, #childabuse, #EarnestLeap

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