Poughkeepsie, Duchess County, New York
Yevgenia Shockome, Case No. 29594
On Friday, May 7, 2005, Yevgenia Shockome, a pro se battered mother seven months pregnant, who already had inexplicably lost custody of her children to her abuser three years before in Judge Damian J. Amodeo's Duchess County Courtroom, was jailed on Mother's Day weekend for objecting to Amodeo's order permitting her abuser to move with her children to Texas. [liznote]
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Honorable Damian J. Amodeo
Duchess County Family Court Judge
50 Market Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
Contact Sondra Miller, head of the New York State Matrimonial Commission, to express your outrage about Genia Shockome's case and to call for the removal from that commission of Judge Damian Amodeo, the judge who summarily threw this pregnant battered non-custodial mother into jail. Ms. Miller's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D.
Chair, Battered Mothers Custody Conference
May 7, 2005: Genia Shockome, 7 months pregnant, has appeared hundreds of times before Duchess County Family Court Judge Damian Amodeo during the past four years. Genia will be sitting in jail this Mothers Day after being incarcerated for 30 days on the order of Judge Amodeo.
Her crime was "contempt of court."
Genia, who appeared pro se before the judge on Thursday, May 5th, was held in contempt for too-vigorously objecting to Amodeo's decision to allow Genia's abusive husband to move their two children (ages around 7 and 9) to Texas -- thousands of miles away from Genia, who had been their primary caretaker since birth, until around three years ago, when Amodeo gave the father sole legal and physical custody.
Having lost supervised visitation rights and having not seen her children for around eight months now, Genia may never see them again. All of this has happened to Genia, a Russian immigrant, IBM engineer, and former "Mother of the Year," due to the rulings of Judge Amodeo, which consistently have favored the children's father, despite good evidence that he abused Genia throughout their marriage (and, of course, throughout the separation as well, through abusive family court processes).
One shocking twist to this sad tale is Judge Amodeo's own admission that he -- and not the father -- induced the post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks that Genia suffers from. Amodeo made this claim to justify his determination that Genia falsely claimed that her husband's abuse had caused her to develop PTSD falsely (which is estimated to develop in around 75% of battered wives).
If Genia were to happen to be in jail when she gives birth to this next child (whose father is not Genia's husband), she stands a high risk of losing custody of that child to the state.
If you're not outraged, you haven't read this carefully enough. Register your outrage with Judge Amodeo and the Duchess County Family Court.
Barry L. Goldstein, Esq.
Attorney at Law
486 Midland Avenue
Yonkers, New York 10704
At the first Battered Mothers' Custody Conference, Yevgenia Shockome received a standing ovation for her courage in seeking to protect her children in the face of her abusive husband and even more abusive judge.
She received the Mother of the Year Award in Dutchess County in 2003 for the love and caring she gave to her children and outstanding parenting skills.
She is spending Mother's Day, seven months pregnant and with medical complications in the Poughkeepsie City Jail. Her children are spending Mother's Day scared and frightened; alone with the abuser on their way to Texas.
They will never see their beloved mother again during their childhood unless the Appellate Division intervenes and stops deferring to the biased Judge Damian Amodeo.
Genia's husband abused her throughout the marriage. He had little to do with the children before the separation, but did engage in physical and sexual abuse of the children. When the mother decided to separate from her abuser, he threatened that he would take the children and destroy her life. It would be one of the few times that he told the truth.
The abuser used phone calls to harass the mother and to create an illusion that she was interfering with his ability to speak with the children. He would call her a few times harass and threaten her and then call back immediately when she was angry to tape her response.
Judge Amodeo called numerous conferences to attack and berate the mother for interfering with the phone calls and the father's relationship with the children.
In July of 2002 the judge, law guardian and Genia's attorney pressured her to accept joint custody with her abuser. Once her Order of Protection from criminal court expired a few weeks after the settlement, he stepped up his harassing phone calls and other abuse. He filed a new petition for sole custody and to deny her any contact with the children and she obtained a new Order of Protection from a different judge.
At the first hearing the judge permitted the father's attorney to speak at length making many representations that they never even tried to prove at the trial. Amodeo never gave Genia a chance to respond, but instead stated he was inclined to take the children from her. She was yelled at, talked over and threatened. The court had moved up the first appearance forcing her to appear without an attorney.
On January 17, 2003 without an evidentiary hearing or any written explanation, Judge Amodeo took the children from the mother who had raised them and sent them to the abuser.
The mother was denied anything but supervised visitation and has never had a meaningful visit with them since. Having made this error, Judge Amodeo refused to consider any evidence that contradicted his views and instead relied on his bias, ignorance and closed mind to determine the outcome.
The trial did not start until June of 2003 and the judge gave out trial days sparingly so that there would be no decision until May of 2004. All the while the children were denied a meaningful relationship with their mother while the father could suppress the children's ability to express their feelings. The trial itself was unbelievably one-sided. The abuser was the only witness he presented to support his case. Much of his testimony concerned the phone tapes he made. He didn't realize that the tapes demonstrated his abuse. He called his victim 15 and 20 times a day as late as 1 AM. Even the court's evaluator who favored the father called the calls excessive and harassing.
The mother had 11 witnesses including five experts. The experts included the son's therapist (who was not selected by the mother) and a therapist who treated both parties based on the judge's own order. One of the witnesses was the school nurse who was also neutral but very concerned about the harm to the children of the judge's order. She described the daughter before she was taken from her mother as skipping around school laughing and giggling while holding hands with a friend. After she lost her mother she would walk around school alone, head down very sad.
In the middle of the trial Amodeo decided to appoint a new evaluator because the old reports were useless. I asked that the evaluator be someone with expertise in domestic violence and child abuse. Judge Amodeo said he wanted someone who knew a little about domestic violence and child abuse, but not too much because such experts always find abuse.
All of the experts including the evaluator concluded that the mother suffers from panic attacks and PTSD as a result of the father's abuse. The evaluator even acknowledged that the father abused the mother physically, verbally and emotionally throughout the relationship. She also agreed that there was no alienation. Nevertheless she said the mother was too angry to have custody because she continued to complain that the father fed the children too much junk food, did not dress them appropriately for the weather and let them watch adult-oriented television.
The evaluator testified that she assumed the mother's complaints were exaggerated. She assumed this because she relied on biased witnesses who had no personal knowledge. Later in the trial the father was seen by a witness permitting the son to run around outside without a jacket on a bitter cold winter day. Knowing he had been observed the father admitted that the boy did this frequently.
The mother's PTSD was crucial to the case because if the father abused the mother even the judge admitted she should have custody. PTSD cannot occur without either an extremely traumatic event or a long series of traumatic events. In other words if the father's behavior caused the mother's PTSD as all the experts agreed, the mother would have to have custody. Judge Amodeo got around this in his decision by constructing a bizarre conclusion that he (the judge) had caused the mother's PTSD. In fact some of the experts had testified that the judge retraumatized the mother with his abusive and threatening manner.
If a judge could abuse a person so severely as to cause her PTSD clearly that judge should never be involved in her case and in fact should not be a judge.
Judge Amodeo's decision maintained it as a Custody-Visitation Scandal Case. The abuser was given custody and the mother had nothing but supervised visitation. The decision demanded that the mother stop therapy with her present therapist and instead use someone selected by the court.
The case was immediately appealed and motions for immediate relief were filed. The Appellate Division has refused to grant any temporary relief and even refused to consider an Amicus brief filed on behalf of Justice For Children. At one point it was discovered that the court had erased two of the transcripts further delaying the appeal.
At this point we are waiting for a new order from the Appellate Division to require the other side to submit their responding briefs.
While the appeal has been pending, the abuser and the court have sought to continue to harass and abuse Genia. I had to make a motion to withdraw from the case in front of Judge Amodeo for medical reasons. His abuse and threats were endangering my health (I had a heart attack several years ago). He demanded medical proof and my medical doctor and therapist sent affidavits saying it was unsafe and unhealthy for me to continue given the particular circumstances in Amodeo's courtroom.
The law requires that when a party loses an attorney for medical reasons that she is entitled to at least a 30 day stay to obtain another attorney. Instead Amodeo continued to make her come to court unrepresented to face more abuse. After the 30 days had passed (with no stay) he decided that she had enough time to find an attorney.
That supervised visitation was designed to protect children from abusive or unsafe parents. Even the evaluator admitted that Genia is a safe parent. Supervised visits are inappropriate for protective mothers like Ms. Shockome. She was kicked out of the first program for allowing her children to hug and kiss her.
The next program was run by an unethical individual who is facing a criminal investigation. The courts no longer use her program. Nevertheless there was an incident in which the mother was taping the children while they played an air hockey game. The supervisor fell asleep during the game and the tape caught her sleeping in the background. When she woke up, she created an incident seeking to destroy the tape because she was sleeping. In the course of the commotion the children made negative remarks about the judge and law guardian (although nothing about the father). Judge Amodeo used the incident to further interfere with the mother's relationship with the children.
Later there was another unscrupulous visitation agency that demanded over $200 for a visitation (the mother's finances have been destroyed by excessive child support and legal expenses). During the visitation, the supervisor lunged at Genia and her son and knocked them to the ground. The police were called and they found that the supervisor had attacked mother and child. Nevertheless, Judge Amodeo used this as an excuse to end all visitation.
On May 5, 2005 the mother was forced to again come to court without representation. Judge Amodeo sought to issue a decision permitting the father to move the children to Texas even before the Appellate Division could rule on the appeal. Genia sought to protect her right for an appeal by objecting. She also mentioned that the judge was lying (which he was). The judge treated this as if it was contempt and ordered the mother, seven months pregnant and with health complications, to jail.
Judge Amodeo's abuse has had a disastrous affect not only on the Shockome family, but on all battered women. Already we have heard that women and staying with their abusers and being beaten by them because that is safer than having the abuser and judge abuse her like they did to Genia.
Domestic violence advocates have to warn women in Dutchess County that it may not be safe to seek an Order of Protection. We are asking people to stand up for this courageous woman. We must rally around her and TAKE BACK THE COURTS.
No woman should ever again be abused by the court system like was done to Genia. We welcome suggestions and involvement to change this system. I wish I could say that Damian Amodeo is the worst judge in the world and all we have to do is get him off the bench. The reality is that there are all too many Damian Amodeos. Let us work together to create a GENIA'S LAW to make sure the courts are safe for battered women and their children.
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