In the following account, Mr. Noyes vividly describes a family court hearing held last January.
In describing what happened in Mila’s case, he also describes what happens in most family court hearings after a mother discovers that the father of her child has abused her child.
This same hearing has been held Monday through Friday in most every state in the nation during the course of the last 30 years. Of course, each case has different names, different dates and different details – and each case is the same.
The following was on the website, Saving Mila, before a judge in Maine ordered a censoring of that site.
I didn’t see the following on your web page, it’s from last January’s hearing. Feel free to use it if you want, or not. … This account was taken from my handwritten notes made in court that day, and typed into an email a few days later.
The last paragraphs are the best I could write then or now about Mila’s situation and yours. I would only add that I am: Newbold Noyes, son of the late editor of the Washington Evening Star; I am a grand father, a retired independent documentary filmmaker and communications consultant; I am proud to say I am a neighbor and friend of Lori and Mila, and I ask God to bless and protect those whom we can not. I note that God isn’t doing well in that regard either.
I also note you do list court transcripts on your web page. Someday I’ll go through them, but one thing which I did not mention in the following account, is that I did not see the court reporter ever write anything down, not once. So the record was kept electronically; the transcripts may or may not be accurate. Be that as it may, the following is what I saw and heard and thought about during your hearing last January:
We all rise and Judge Moskowitz, black robe flowing around him, moves quickly to his seat. The witnesses are asked to leave, the three women who came to testify on Mila and Lori’s behalf will wait outside to be called later perhaps. So now its a male judge and two men, Igor and Waxman vs two women, Lori and Beth. With Lori on stand, Waxman directs the judge to emails he takes from one of several thick note books he has on his table, and submits one copy after the other; most are admitted, after hesitant objection by Beth, Lori’s young and shy lawyer, who is also seeking to withdraw from the case. We’re about to see why.
All the emails are written by Lori and sent out over the few days before this hearing, as she became increasingly concerned about losing her daughter. They were desperate attempts to get help from the new Governor, other lawyers and folk concerned with Mila’s safety and well being, to news media, etc., very critical of the judge, Waxman, Igor, DHHS, GALs, it is stuff I had seen and heard before. But how did Waxman get hold of them? I was amazed no objection raised by Beth. There was a whole fat note book full of emails, all from Lori.
Waxman states his intent, to reveal her very disturbed state of mind. He seems obsessed with her. She looks at the judge, I never see her look at Waxman or Igor. Waxman speaks crisply, persistently, his voice harsh and accusing, submitting email after email… he doesn’t care about the hesitant objections from Beth, or that some are denied. Most emails are accepted. He is degrading this witness and he likes this business. the emails are damning in that they show that Lori does not hold this judge in high regard, nor Waxman, and is increasingly desperate for her child’s safety. No objection or question raised re source? How Waxman got them? Relevance? Lori tells me later someone, maybe in the Maine Bar, forwarded them all to Waxman, who spends at least 30 min on them. There were other emails Waxman sent to Lori and to her various lawyers and witnesses, threatening, harassing, thousands of emails all in another fat book compiled by Lori, but her lawyer left the book at her office, didn’t think they’d be needed.
Judge admonishes both parties to be civil, says he is very understanding of Lori’s emotional state when she wrote emails, he is very familiar with her criticism, and looks at several before him, and then seems to look directly at me? I have a pen now instead of my pencil and am still taking notes. He doesn’t look at Lori, he rubs his eyes a lot and the bridge of his nose and looks at Beth, at us in back again, at the court reporter, closes his eyes, looks at Waxman and Igor. His language is straightforward, direct, admonishing, tired, flat. I get the impression he is not smart, perhaps simply confused. Lori looks straight at judge, who looks away. Waxman looks straight at Lori, focused on her but restlessly digging in his fat notebooks.
The court takes a break to look at the DVD of Mila talking to her cat, disclosing some very disturbing things about her father, which Waxman wants to submit, the reason escapes me. It is damning in its simplicity. I have heard and seen this tape before, and looked and listened closely. I heard no dropouts, no change or click of background noise indicating an audio edit. I listened for the whisper of another voice, coaching. I listened carefully, with good earphones. I was a professional sound recordist, editor, documentary director; I know the way edits sound. I heard neither edit nor coaching, nor saw any jump in frame, no sign of video edit. there are several jolts of camera when its bumped by Mila. She is not in frame. If i were going to make a coached video, I’d put the kid in frame for at least a bit… Lori said she heard Mila talking and just put camera down in record…
The tape is referred to by Waxman as being “produced” by Lori. The judge says he’s already ruled on it being inadmissible as evidence before, but seems to me to have admitted it in this hearing as evidence of Lori being unstable, of coaching her daughter, not as testimony from Mila . My notes say the judge “denied” the submission of the DVD, but as I recall he did not return it.
Lori is eventually questioned by her lawyer re her background, job and job search, why she wanted to move to DC, what preparations she had made for Mila’s school; what a “normal day” is like for them, how Lori might manage to have Mila visit with her father weekends, if the DC move is granted.
When Lori testifies her voice is very subdued. Igor and Waxman sitting with their backs to me, whisper and touch each other’s shoulders as they lean toward each other, Igor hands tissues to Waxman who seems to have a cold, he seems a bit hyper, doesn’t sit still, he fiddles with his notebooks. He sniffs a lot… Igor keeps running his hand through his long hair, which gleams and looks better than any woman’s hair I have seen this morning, Lori’s included. Igor is startlingly handsome, he looks like a bust of Alexander the Great. Lori talks about diet, bedtime books read; the judge rubs eyes, looks at watch, at emails; expressionless, the court reporter’s glasses gleam; the bailiff yawns sleepily… Igor and Waxman shake their heads sighing, whispering. The man in back of me, dressed in a gray suit, dull gray mustache, dull gray hair, comes to Waxman, bends over, whispers…
Waxman on redirect of Lori, goes over her employment, how she couldn’t/wouldn’t find a Maine job, critical of the contract jobs she did manage to get, and then goes after her income re Igor’s child support, over and over the same ground; this is confusing the judge, who occasionally tells wax to move on, which suggestion Waxman ignores. Questions are of Igor’s missed child support. These questions are clearly leading, Waxman’s questions begin “isn’t it true that…” He interrupts Lori’s answers, telling her she is not being responsive; the judge agrees, they go round and round, no objections raised by Beth, re badgering, relevance, redundant, already answered. Lori’s lawyer seems less than eager to defend herself, never mind her client.
Waxman calls Igor, who is in superb shape, in a skin-tight knitted shirt and fitted jeans, smiling, very casual, seems confident. Waxman begins by giving instructions to Igor, telling him to keep answers short, direct. He then takes Igor back to when he met Lori, why move to Maine, Lori’s parents, and why move to a small coastal town. Lori seems to be responsible for all their moves, their troubles, and their income. He establishes Igor as caring, even primary parent, not Lori, and notes Igor, not Lori filed for divorce, implying Lori was too unstable? Waxman badgers his own witness and client, when he doesn’t get the answers he wants, and asks very leading questions, one after another; everything seems to be Lori’s fault.
The level of detail is staggering. Waxman is careful and dainty with the notes in his note books, which he snaps open at one point, and pulls out a stack of 60 pages of photographs of Igor and Mila together, in their apartment, and at their new house, which is the first Lori heard of a “new” house, all photographs are submitted and accepted. Questions not asked: about new place or who took the pictures? especially the ones with both Igor and Mila. I suspect Waxman took them all around Portland, in parks etc., He takes Igor through every one. No objection, as picture after picture are passed to the judge, Igor drones on and on… He takes delight in turning Lori’s concerns for her girl back onto her: she becomes the abuser, aggressive, unstable, the flight risk, non-cooperative, rude, disdainful of legal process. Their move for primary custody being granted to Igor begins here.
Beth, Lori’s lawyer, questions Igor, who continues the patter set by Waxman’s questions, turning Lori into the unstable one. Igor is angry at one point, his smiling mask slips and its as if he is peaking out from inside, seeing if his show of emotion works. I realize his anger is as unreal as his smile. The person not here, Mila, the very-advanced-for-her-age 4 year old kid, considered so stable and intelligent, is an ambiguous commodity. She is described at the same time as being bright and articulate and as being completely unreliable as as witness; as being well cared for and neglected, as thriving but desperately in need of her father’s care, happy to be without her mother? Who is he kidding…
Igor suggests Lori seek therapy, and begins to badger Beth, speaking over her, and again she is intimidated, able to defend neither herself nor Lori nor go on any kind of attack. Waxman and Igor are making their case here, with Beth, Lori’s own lawyer, asking the questions. She, blushing, hesitant, is a bunny rabbit; Igor and Waxman are dogs hunting. She lets Igor ramble on about his work, income, difficulties caused by Lori; his expressions shift and slide across his face. Is he nervous? I think not. He enjoys this. At one point the man next to me whispers that Beth is like Bambi. I can’t think of her in any other way now.
Beth asks questions re school preparations Igor made, housing etc. Igor’s new house mentioned but how paid for, rent or own, gift? No questions asked. How is the school paid for? Not asked. Mila in daycare 8-5, at least twice/week, how paid for? When is she with Igor? Questions not asked. How Igor got his job, affords night school, who sits for Mila when Igor is working or at school? Questions not asked. Igor talks about gifts his friends have given, toys, clothes, loan of car… Who gives all these things and why? Questions not asked, neither by Lori’s lawyer nor by the court.
Beth does ask a question regarding Igor’s arrest for shop lifting of medicine from a drug store – as Igor explains, it seemed to be Lori’s fault he stole, and he didn’t steal, he sort of forgot…. he was concerned for his daughter’s health and all. Beth goes into Igor’s violation of the court ordered visitation agreement rather than focusing on the theft of sedatives and eventual plea or no contest, in effect Igor pled guilty. Igor blames his problems re visitation schedule, Mila’s health, and his arrest on Lori….
Waxman takes over, wants to submit transcripts and decision from his recent bar trial as evidence of Lori’s state of mind as being unstable. Beth objects and judge decides: he is very familiar with bar case, thought Judge Alexander provided “a good summing up of the matter,” but denies the submission. Waxman is persistent, then attempts to submit an “editorial” which was actually a letter by Lori in The Bangor Daily News and several other letters and emails, opening and closing his notebooks, very precise and dainty; is he obsessive compulsive or just careful? He attempts to submit pages from the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Illness regarding narcissism, which he reminds judge Lori was “diagnosed” with. The judge denies the submission but says as Lori has already been “diagnosed,” its a matter of record before the court or words to that effect. The diagnosis was by a guardian ad litem, not a qualified psychologist. There is no question, no objection. The judge, Waxman, and Beth don’t know what they are talking about, but it doesnt matter it seems to me now.
The expert witness Beth and Lori have, who flew in from Ohio, a child psychologist, is objected to by Waxman; sustained by judge, he has no interest in hearing from someone who actually does know what she is talking about. She will not testify. Lori’s two other witnesses are admitted, both professional women. One is a mother with a kid in Mila’s school in and a background as a social worker? The other who owns and runs the building where Mila is schooled. They both testify as to Lori’s character and caring skills as a mother. No questions are asked by Waxman, and the women are dismissed without a ripple. Its as if no one had spoken.
Lori is recalled by Beth, regarding the incident when Igor not bringing Mila for Lori to pick up; Igor took Mila to an emergency room, she was suddenly sick, etc. Questions asked by Beth are not precise, the situation left confused, Waxman’s objections are sustained, over and over. Lori’s account is clear: Igor was at fault, was intentionally late and kept the child knowing Lori had a new job she had to go to, a plane to catch, had arranged child care. But Beth’s continuing questions and Waxman’s objections leave things confused and Lori’s answers while complete, leave openings for Waxman to pick at and to unravel, and he proceeds. He focuses on detail after detail, approaches Lori, without asking permission to do so, leaning over her to show her stuff, crowding and jamming her up, interrupting answers, repeating questions, asking judge to rule her answers non-responsive, as she tries to answer. This is becoming like the trial in Alice in Wonderland.
Waxman asks a hypothetical question about health insurance Igor might have provided (but didn’t) and goes around and around again, trying to get Lori to admit she would rather have her own insurance for Mila than Igor’s even if Igor’s was better, cheaper. It is surreal, as there wasn’t any other insurance, in reality, there was no policy to compare, and yet the judge keeps telling Lori to be more responsive…
Waxman asks Lori to name one good thing about Igor, again he is badgering, sneering, “come on”, he says, “cant you name one thing?” Lori quietly speaks about Igor teaching Mila to swim. “Is that all?” Waxman taunts, demanding and whining at the same time, imitating Lori’s hushed voice. No objection. The judge is looking away, nodding at the wall. Lori is asked what she would like for Mila. “To be safe and secure, to have a good life, more than I had” she says, quietly. Waxman sneers at this, “Without her father?” he is almost shouting now… Badgering doesn’t begin to describe this.
Lori talks about how much she respects the law and the court, even if she disagrees with decisions, like whether there is or was abuse; she complies with court ordered visitation for which she must drive, for hours, hundreds of miles, she manages to make it almost every time, on time. Waxman turns this into how difficult this must be on Mila, how much easier it would be for her to be in her father’s care. Lori is portrayed as thoughtless again…. She can do nothing right, and again there is no objection.
Beth sums up: she begins with a statement re relocation of custodial parent and the fact that while not common in Maine, it is done often in NY, NJ, PA… The judge interrupts, saying Maine has relocation issues covered… he clearly takes offense. Waxman and Igor roll their eyes, whispering and shaking their heads, snickering like school boys, disagreeing with each point Beth tries to make. Beth speaks very quietly, very carefully. She ends requesting her dismissal. The judge says he will grant her dismissal from the case. She looks very relieved, like she just stepped out of a storm.
Waxman sums up: they want primary custody to be with Igor. Lori would have only supervised visitation, and that only pending her examination by a shrink. Lori can fly back and forth “enjoying her career…” to visit her daughter. He wants Mila’s passport, she should be permitted to leave the state…. Lori accused of making plans without consulting Igor; she is not cooperative. He is relentless about Lori’s state of mind. Finally he is done.
The judge says he will make his decision soon, not now, but later… well-being of child paramount, blah blah, but child cannot leave state with mother. We all rise, the tired bailiff holds the door for the judge, he gathers up DVD, emails, and files and vanishes into the shadows of his chambers, the black robe billowing behind him.
I realize I have witnessed an inquisition, four hours of inquisitors at work, not a hearing on a request for relocation. This was about as close to a burning as I want to get. Lori’s lawyer is too young, too inexperienced, and no match for a brash, aggressive, obsessive lawyer like Waxman. Lori’s answers, long, detailed, leave her open to Waxman’s niggling and repeated questions re her mental state. Her every decision and action are questioned. He is a pit bull, and does not hide his vicious side. But in the end it doesn’t matter what Lori says.
I know she feels that because she can speak and think logically, the judge, or some judge, will agree eventually: this is the data she was given: her child discloses; the assessment of her child by Dr Ricci, the state’s own expert in assessing child abuse told her that Mila was being abused by her father, that only supervised visits should be ordered for Igor. These factors are all clear in her mind and the judge should see reason: she has acted to protect her child, as any caring mother would, and Igor, threatening her, violating visitation orders, and various laws while driving, stealing stuff with the kid, lying for his green card, is an unfit parent and should be deported at a minimum. At least this whole thing should be looked into more carefully.
But this judge is not smart enough to follow logic, and cannot, will not, reverse himself on his earlier opinions, both of the child abuse and of Lori. He simply doesn’t believe abuse took place, and he clearly feels Lori is at fault if not unstable. My suspicion also is that the divorce of Lori and Igor was one of this judge’s first divorce cases, and three years later, his failure came back to haunt him, and he blames Lori. Like Igor and Waxman, he views this whole mess is all her fault, and has from the beginning, when she first appeared in his court for the divorce.
My impression… these people are all too careless with children’s lives and the state law which says explicitly where there is doubt, protect the child, investigate thoroughly. Too lazy or confused to think this thing through, too parochial to care much how this looks from outside the state, and too small-minded to comprehend the effects these rulings have on Mila or any other kid caught in similar circumstances, the wheels of justice in this court and in the relentless but inept bureaucracy that is DHHS grind on and on. In fact I am surprised they don’t blame Mila, too. They probably do blame her.
According to this court, she, any child, has no voice, no rights. She must remain silent. If she cannot afford a lawyer, one will not be appointed for her, nothing that she says will be used as evidence either for or against her or any body else. Nothing she says matters. Pedophiles have the right to an attorney, children do not. In this “judicial process” she was never here at all, mute and invisible. She never said anything about her father, nothing bad happened, and if it did, she is too young to talk about it. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
This is just pathetic, heartbreaking, and real and raw drama. It won’t end here, not for Mila and not for Lori, not for the thousands of children that are just like her, thousands of mothers just like Lori. The mothers are desperate and confused by the hostility of the system; there is little sympathy for them, a lot of sympathy for the fathers, none for the children. They are confused and weary, their complaints lead nowhere, they continue to disclose, and are sent, without further investigation, by court order back to their abusers. They are legally voiceless and powerless in court, their fates determined by perfect strangers who know not what they do, nor care.