Harry Stewart Seeking to Get His Children
Totally Exonerated on All Charges of Abuse
By Mark Charalambous, Massachusetts News, April 13, 2001
The father who was sent to jail for six months in 1999 for refusing to sign a false statement that he had abused his wife is now seeking to recover his children after being totally vindicated earlier this year of all charges of abuse by a probate judge.
The ordeal is not yet over for Harry Stewart, however. He says the greatest tragedy has been to his children. His former wife has had custody of their two boys during the six years that she fraudulently tormented him.
He says its so bad for his boys that a court-appointed guardian ad litem, Dr. William Meadows, has filed a 51A-child abuse petition with the DSS against the wife. Ironically, Dr. Meadows was appointed at the request of the wife after Stewart was released from his six-month jail sentence, in an attempt to further frustrate his ongoing custody bid.
A pre-trial hearing concerning custody has been set for May 16. Stewart claims that his wife, June, in addition to lying about abuse, is unfit to have custody.No Evidence of Abuse
Judge Eileen Shaevel made the ruling which vindicated Stewart after a trial in the Dedham court. She found there was "no evidence" at all that Harry Stewart ever threatened or harmed his wife since their separation in 1995.
The jail sentence against Stewart was imposed on August 19, 1999 by Judge Mark Coven because the father refused to sign a pledge at a "batterers intervention program" known as Common Purpose. He was denied admission to their program unless he admitted that he had abused his wife. His choice was to sign the false statement or go to jail.
The jury was told at that time by trial judge that "there is no abuse in this case" and the jurors were allowed to rule only whether Stewart had violated the order when he got out of his car, which he had admitted.
There was attention given to the failure of the Massachusetts courts at the time, including an episode on the television news program Chronicle in February 2000 and national columns by Cathy Young and Kathleen Parker.
Stewart had previously appeared incognito on an ABC News story on battered men in which he related how he had left the marital home because of his wife s abuse, which included death threats and physical attacks with a knife and kitchen cookware. Within five months, he had been slapped with a 209A "No-Contact Abuse Prevention Order" and listed on the states Domestic Abuse Registry.
The founder of the Common Purpose program, David Douglas, has since been charged with corruption by another father, Edward McLarnon, who says that Douglas edited tapes of court hearings and changed the official records in the Cambridge court in order to maliciously prosecute him after Douglas married McLarnons former wife.Restraining Order Since 1995
Stewarts wife had had a restraining order against him since 1995 which she renewed many times. She was seeking to make the order permanent. Stewart had gotten a restraining order against her in 1998 in order to stop her from placing false charges against him.
Judge Shaevel found "...no evidence that [Stewarts] behavior is or has been threatening or that he has tried to harm her following their separation in 1995."
The judge continued, "Harold was convicted on a technical violation of the restraining order, rather than for an overt act of threats or violence. June [the wife] may believe that Harold is a threat to her based on what she perceives as odd behavior, but the Court finds no evidence that his behavior is or has been threatening or that he has tried to harm her following their separation in 1995.
"The Court finds Harold's testimony credible regarding the abusive behavior of June toward him during their marriage. The evidence of Harold's abusive behavior toward June is far less credible especially relative to ongoing abuse. There was no evidence of any abusive behavior after 1995."
The culmination of the charge that got Stewart into trouble and into jail occurred on June 21, 1999, when he was found guilty by a Quincy jury of violating the 209A restraining order. He had left his car to help his son, who had to go to the bathroom, open a heavy outer door to his ex-wife's building following a scheduled visitation. He had honked the horn and waited for ten minutes before he felt he must act on the little boys pleas.Foley, Hoag & Elliot Represents Wife
The full text of Judge Shaevel's ruling left no doubt that this was not a rebuke of both parties for irresponsible behavior. The wife was found to have been abusive in the marriage and Stewart was clearly exonerated.
This is all the more remarkable considering that the wife was represented by a battery of attorneys from the elite Boston law firm of Foley, Hoag & Eliot, which was provided free-of-charge. Stewart had neither the money nor the state-sanctioned 'victim-status' to obtain even one attorney. He did, however, have the benefit of taking the Liberty Bell Union Pro-Se course, recommended by the Fatherhood Coalition to its members.
Foley, Hoag & Eliot occupies five floors of the prestigious One Post Office Square building. They assigned two attorneys each to the restraining order and the custody dispute. The attorneys are Colin Zick, Sarah Foster, Kevin Currid and Rebecca Cazabon. A fifth attorney, Stephen Warnick, was also on the case, apparently in an advisory capacity. Stewart alleges that the attorneys violated standard procedures with impunity, filing motions on the day of the hearings, and even in the courtroom during the hearing. They also communicated with the wife when she was being questioned on the witness stand by Stewart. After the father objected to this behavior and Judge Shaevel observed it, she reprimanded the attorneys. The attorneys had earlier sought to impose a gag rule on the hearings, which was rejected.
It should be noted that Judge Shaevel's fair behavior toward the father was a new development, according to Stewart. In an earlier hearing in June 1999 to extend the restraining order against him, Stewart claims that Shaevel announced that she was going to extend the restraining order immediately following the wife s testimony - before giving him an opportunity to even speak. The father recounts that each time he attempted to begin to explain why the request for the protection order was unnecessary and invalid, Shaevel intoned, "But she's afraid of you. That's all I need to hear! I'm going to extend the order." Stewart did, nonetheless, insist on telling the judge that he had had no contact or communication with the former wife in four-and-a-half years. At that hearing, Shaevel granted the wifes request for the extension of the abuse protection order. This however, was before the Chronicle broadcast and subsequent publicity given to the case.
Many lawyers commented that this is another example of the rich, liberal lawyers of the Boston Bar Association in their walnut paneled offices giving their assistance to the wrong people.
###Sidebar 209A Reform Bills - How They Would Eliminate Abuse
Advocates of a reform of the system that has been damaging so many children have filed two bills, S952 and S953. The first, S952 is a shorter version of S953, and contains the three most important provisions of the comprehensive longer bill.
Mark Charalambous is spokesman for The Fatherhood Coalition. More about this case is available on their website at www.fatherhoodcoalition.org/cpf/FHindex.html.
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