Father Jailed for Buying Airline Ticket
After Third Attempt, Mother Finds A Nasty Judge
By Mark Charalambous, Massachusetts News, September, 2000
See also Was Father Foolish
to Move to Massachusetts?
Same Court That Advised Ken Newell to Leave Massachusetts
Bill Leisk was released last month after thirty days in jail for buying an airline ticket to Hawaii for his 16-year-old daughter.
The ex-wife, who had legal custody, could merely have told the child she could not go to Hawaii if she didn't want her to do so.
That's what Judge Robert W. Langlois apparently thought on May 28 because he dismissed the matter on a technicality.
That's what Judge Christina Harms apparently decided on June 12. After asking the ex-wife, "Why not tell her she can't go?" Harms stated, "I'm going to dismiss this." But the father did not have a lawyer and the judge apparently didn't make the proper notation in the file.
So the father was forced back to court for the third time by the ex-wife on July 6. And she found the judge she had been looking for. Judge David H. Kopelman displayed no concern at the frivolity of the complaint. The same arguments were given by both sides, but Leisk's testimony (who once again, could not afford an attorney) was cut short by Kopelman:
"I don't care...
"You say you bought this ticket. That's enough for me to find you guilty of contempt. Take him into custody."
More disturbing than the cavalier treatment of Leisk's attempts to defend himself without a lawyer against the ridiculous and previously dismissed charge was Judge Kopelman's admonition to the ex-wife before Leisk was given his turn:
"If you send him to jail, your daughter's going to hate you for this."
This judge acknowledged, as they do many times in courts throughout the state, that the wife was the one who has the power to send the man to jail in the state of Massachusetts.
And many of the judges will send any man to jail without any thought whatsoever. They "don't have enough time" to listen to "all of that."
Leisk has 50% parenting time of his three children, including July 23 to August 24 this year. He planned the trip to Hawaii for him and his daughters to visit their family and friends there. The oldest daughter asked him to get a separate ticket for her to go earlier because she wished to continue in a summer drama program that she had done twice before. The father promised her on her birthday in December 1999 that he would buy the ticket for her as a belated present. So the plan was for the eldest daughter to leave in June right after school got out, then the father and the other two daughters would leave on July 23. All four would return on August 23, when his half of the summer's shared-parenting time would end.
In April, when he bought all the tickets, his eldest daughter asked for an additional ticket that would allow her to spend some time in San Diego with her paternal grandparents before coming back to Massachusetts. So she had a ticket for an August 23 departure from Hawaii to San Diego and another ticket for an August 29 departure from San Diego to Massachusetts.
The total cost to the father for all nine non-refundable tickets was $2095. It turns out that only five of the tickets would be used.
Since the eldest daughter had attended the drama program before, the father foresaw no reason that the mother would not agree to it again. But it turned out that for some reason the mother did not approve of it this year.
The teen drama program began two days before the school year ended, but because the daughter was in good standing with the program, they allowed her to start a couple of days late. Her plane ticket was purchased for a departure date of June 14, the last day of school. On that day, the daughter came to the father's home after school, got out and took a cab to T.F. Green airport in Providence, bound for Hawaii. Against her mother's wishes, the daughter went to Hawaii, visited her maternal uncle and stayed with family friends. The mother took the other daughters to the airport on July 23 for the beginning of their Hawaiian vacation (without their father).
While the father was in jail, the mother decided she wanted the two daughters back earlier and she bought two new tickets for them. Despite being in jail, the father had looked forward to flying to Hawaii immediately upon his release, so that he could spend three weeks with his daughters in Hawaii. This pleasure was denied him. The mother bought tickets for the daughters for a flight that departed Hawaii on August 5th, the date of the father's expected release from prison.
Wouldn't that put her in contempt of court?
The mother brought contempt charges against Leisk because she said he had violated the court agreement on summer visitation. Leisk argued that the disagreement was between the mother and the daughter, and he, no longer having even shared legal custody, should not be held responsible for his daughter's decision to go without the mother's permission.
The eldest daughter has written affidavits stating that she wants to live with her father, and this may be the real source of the mother's irritation.
The couple's custody litigation is still an open matter in the Dedham Court. Under existing temporary orders, the mother has both sole physical and legal custody (see sidebar). But two judges have already stated that they will not make a ruling on physical custody because of the existing "shared parenting-time" agreement. The only open issue is legal custody. Leisk is seeking to enforce the provisions of the couple's original divorce decree: shared physical and legal custody.
However, in an attempt to finalize and formalize her complete control, the mother has recently filed papers for sole physical custody and to restrict the father's parenting time to standard visitation which is two weekends a month and one weekday visit.
Leisk has filed a Notice of Appeal to overturn his Contempt of Court conviction.
The court that sent Bill Leisk to jail is the same one in Dedham that advised Ken Newell that he had better just leave the state.
The therapist there advised Newell to leave the state and his children. "Ken, you have to understand one thing. You will never win," he says that Dr. Krock warned him.
According to Newell, when his wife went back on drugs and started being angry again in 1999, he went to Dr. Krock and told her, "It's not going to work, my wife and I just had another tiff. I don't know what the heck to do."
After the psychologist told him he should just leave, he retorted, "What are you talking about? It's not something I want to win. I'm trying to get back with my wife and I want to help the kids as much as I can."
The therapist replied, "The best thing for you to do is let your wife have everything she wants. Give the kids to your wife and leave the state for a few years. Then come back and everything will be calm."
"This is the probate court therapist!" exclaims Newell. "She's the one that does all the reports to the judge. The judge listens to her and does what she says. I said, 'Let me tell you something. I've been fighting hard and long to try to get back the family and try to help my kids. Those kids are my responsibilities and those kids are my life!'"
Newell says she replied: "No, you're wrong. Your life is your life and those kids have their own life."
To which he responded, "Until those kids are old enough to leave the home and go on their own, I will still fight for those kids."
"I couldn't believe what she was saying. I told her, 'I tell you this much. I will never, ever leave those kids. I will try to the end.' Then she said, 'Then, what will probably happen is you're going to end up in jail.' I said, 'If that's what I have to do to let people know what's going on and to help those two kids and the situation we're in, then I guess I'm going to have to do this. That's what I'll have to do.'"
That is exactly what happened to Bill Leisk.
Portions of this sidebar first appeared in the March edition of Massachusetts News.
Bill Leisk met and married Camille Morin in Hawaii in 1984. Camille was pregnant with their first child at the time of their marriage. They had two more daughters. Trouble started brewing soon after their last child was born.
In 1992, Camille left and took the three children to Michigan, where her mother lived. According to Leisk, her intentions were somewhat ambiguous. He eventually flew to Michigan to "make it work." They worked out their differences enough to agree that all would move to Maine in the fall of that year. Plans for divorce initiated by Camille were not followed through.
For the remainder of 1992 and through 1994 the Leisks lived in Maine. Camille got her teaching credentials and started student teaching. By the end of the year they decided to move back to Hawaii.
The rapprochement was not destined to last, however. In 1995, Camille again took the children and moved, this time to an apartment in Hawaii. They divorced soon after in April 1996. They avoided a protracted divorce/custody battle, electing a do-it-yourself divorce at minimal cost. As they both had similar incomes, they decided to share physical and legal custody of their children, with no child support obligation to either party. Their home was to be sold and the proceeds split between them. By mutual agreement, Camille was the plaintiff; the grounds were "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage."
Three months later, Camille stopped working and went on AFDC. She had been working as a substitute teacher and a shopkeeper. A child support order was later established for Bill at an administrative hearing at which Leisk was not present. Child support was backdated to June, when Camille went on welfare. According to Leisk, he has never been delinquent in his child support obligation.
The trouble for Leisk started in earnest the following year, in June 1997, when the family moved to this state. Camille took their youngest daughter and left Hawaii for Attleboro, where she had family. For several reasons, including the drama program that the elder daughter enjoyed, Bill and Camille agreed to leave the other two daughters with him. At the time, the two daughters wanted to stay in Hawaii, but by August they wanted to be reunited with their mom and younger sibling.
In August, Bill sent the two daughters to Massachusetts. At this point things got sticky. Leisk filed a complaint in Hawaii court to "enforce the divorce decree," that is, to enforce his rights to shared custody and access to his daughters. Meanwhile, Camille filed a separate complaint in Massachusetts Probate Court seeking sole custody. Camille hired an attorney in Hawaii to represent her in Leisk's complaint. Her attorney was successful in getting the complaint thrown out on a technicality (incorrect legal service of the Complaint).
Camille had more success in Hawaii's court. Because the divorce judge knew Camille's sister, he recused himself. The succeeding judge agreed to Camille's request, giving her sole physical custody on a temporary basis. He suggested that Bill move to Massachusetts.
Realizing it was necessary that if he was to have any future with his children, Leisk reluctantly made the decision to once again uproot himself and move to Massachusetts. He first came to Massachusetts for Easter vacation. Later, the children spent seven weeks in the summer in Hawaii. Once again, the elder daughter participated in the drama program.
In September, 1997, Leisk made the permanent move to Massachusetts, renting an apartment in Sharon. Immediately upon arrival, he secured the weekend for a trip with his daughters. Upon returning them, Camille wasn't home. He decided to leave the two elder daughters but keep the younger with him in a local hotel until he could return her.
The next day was a school day, but the daughter wanted to stay with Bill. He kept her with him for the day, returning her to Camille's after school. Apparently enraged, Camille flew off the handle and left Bill to mind the children while she went to court to get a court order against him.
According to Bill, she told the court that she feared he would abscond to Hawaii with the children. He says he expected the court to laugh at her request, since leaving the children with the man she claimed was going to abduct the children was obviously absurd. He was surprised when later that day Camille greeted him in the park with the court order restraining him from seeing his children except in Camille's presence and ordering him to immediately return them to her.
The order was to be followed up by the customary 10-day hearing, at which Leisk would have opportunity to oppose a permanent order.
Having been in Massachusetts for less than a week, Leisk was unable to get a lawyer for the 10-day hearing held on December 3, 1998. He met with Camille and her attorney and a Family Services officer. Unprepared for the hearing and for the treatment typically accorded fathers in the Massachusetts Probate Court, Leisk was coerced into signing an agreement. He ceded his remaining parental right, legal custody, in order to get back his unsupervised visitation "privileges" with his daughters, which were to be established as one Saturday and no overnights. Under the existing temporary order, Camille already had sole physical custody.
Later on, Leisk was to regain his full visitation privileges, including one-half of the summer. Early this year, Leisk arranged for the summer vacation back to Hawaii, which led directly to his incarceration.
The custody case is still open. Two judges have stated that they will make no ruling on
physical custody, only on legal custody. However the mother has recently filed a new
complaint for sole physical custody and a decrease in the father's visitation time to two
weekends a month and one weekday visit.
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