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Fathers Protest Flaherty Jailing in Cambridge

Courthouse Protests to Escalate Statewide

By Mark Charalambous, Spokesman for Fatherhood Coalition, Massachusetts News, Nov 11, 2001

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Fathers demonstrate outisde Cambridge Courthouse over jailing of John Flaherty.

Over forty members of the Fatherhood Coalition, along with friends, family and supporters of John Flaherty, rallied early last week outside the Cambridge Probate & Family Court to show their solidarity with the jailed father of two who began serving a 150-day jail sentence for failure to pay an alleged child support arrearage on Nov. 5.

Using the jailing of one of their founding members as a catalyst, the Fatherhood Coalition are stepping up their statewide resistance movement. On Friday a smaller courthouse protest was staged by the North Central chapter at the Concord family court, and a contingent from the Hampden County chapter protested the pro-feminist, anti-father politics of State Senate Majority Leader Linda Melconian at her law office in West Springfield.

Event leader Earl Henry Sholley says the Cambridge protest focused on the state's bad laws as well as the bad adjudication of those laws by the state's judges.

According to Sholley: "The first maxim of law is that it should do no harm. Yet, fathers and other family members are being irreparably harmed by the egregious decisions of the family court and other courts. We must protest loud and clear that Judge Beverly Boorstein, in trying to extort questionable monies and to teach John Flaherty a lesson, is not only punishing Dr. Flaherty, but she is punishing his entire family as well."

The impact of Flaherty's jailing on his family is echoed by his sister, Suzanne Sargeant. "My mother and my children are heartbroken by this alienation, and my sadness is that these children still have love in their heart for all of us. The apparent snuffing out of these children's love for their dad, nana, aunt, uncle and the cousins they still love is an act which I as a mother cannot comprehend of another mother.

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Over forty fathers picketed last week to protest the jailing of John Flaherty for 150-days over his inability to pay a $10,000 arrearages in child support even though no one had ever complained about his payments over the last five years.

"John should be given back custody of his children. To be painted as an uncaring, not-wanting-to-pay dad is such a demoralizing shame because he has been in front of these judges for eight years begging to parent his children. Why isn't anyone looking into this crazy arrearage that came out-of-the-blue in one day from a difference in child support for the past 6 years prior?"

Flaherty and the Coalition maintain that the alleged child support arrearage was retroactively engineered at a hearing on August 20 when his ex-wife made unsubstantiated claims of his earning ability and "having all new furniture and summering down on the Cape."

The Coalition called for the immediate ending of jailing fathers for domestic non-crimes under the color of “contempt of court,” and that that incarceration for a debt -- especially without due process and a trial -- is antithetical to the principles of a free society.

According to Flaherty, the alleged $10,000 arrearage appeared at a court hearing in front of Middlesex Probate & Family Court judge Boorstein on August 20 this year, when she computed a $35/week child support deficit accrued over 5 years by erroneously interpreting the case history.

The alleged $35/week deficit had never been raised before this summer, which the fathers say makes no sense as it is alleged to have existed since 1996.

More information about the Flaherty case is available at


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