209A Reform sparks reprisal in Fall River

CPF director targeted with bogus violation

Fatherhood Coalition members have been referring to director Ray Saulnier as "Mr. Front Page" since his name landed on page one of the Fall River Herald News on November 3. Ray's new-found notoriety arose from a bogus violation of a no-contact 209A order his ex-wife Susan has annually renewed since October 1994. Ray refers to the bogus violations as "Elvis sightings."

Ray's claim to fame around the Fatherhood Coalition comes from several directions. He started the Bristol County chapter two years ago (since turned over to the able hands of Steve Bigos and Al Gauthier), and in so doing brought many good people into the movement. He lit a fire in the local press by consistent letter and opinion submissions, serving as a catalyst for dialogues about domestic violence, restraining order abuse, and fatherlessness that are still raging. Ray has earned a reputation for integrity and hard work, and he's also one of the nicest and straight-up guys you'd want to know.

But Ray's the first to admit to his faults - in fact he can be accused of wearing them on his sleeve. Four marriages and more than a few bumps on the road that have brought him to his current wife of five years, Karen, and their happy family. It's that last ex that really took him for a ride. Ray doesn't like to talk about it much. He admits to fault on his part, too, for that breakup. But Susan Saulnier was not satisfied to divorce Ray and alienate him from their children. No, she wanted to destroy Ray. And she's made quite a go of it.

July 4th argument leads to arrest

Ray's troubles began with an argument he and Susan had on July 4, 1992. A neighbor alerted the police. Ray, who never laid a hand upon his ex, was arrested. Susan lied to the police, saying he had a prior. The police took her word for it and set bail at $1,000. He spent July 4th weekend in jail. Susan saw to it that he never returned to that home.

Over the next two years, they came to terms with the intractability of the problems in their relationship and agreed to divorce. At the preliminary hearing, they were on good terms... considering. They drove to court together and even had lunch together. It seemed as if the finality of divorce was having a sobering affect.

Ray's happiness provokes ex-wife's 209A requests

In the spring of '94 the divorce judgment was issued. Ray became a non-custodial parent with shared legal custody of their three children, Christina, 9, Ryan, 7, and Michael, 6.

And some good things were also happening. Ray had entered in a relationship with Karen, who brought four children from a prior marriage. Ray's children enjoyed being with his new family; they liked the idea of having "two mommies." Ray and Karen announced plans to marry.

Evidently this didn't sit well with Susan. She and Karen had a fight on the Bristol Community College campus, where they were both studying.

On April 8, 1994, Susan decided that she was "abused" and needed protection from Ray. She chose to get her restraining order from Superior Court rather than in Probate and Family Court. Susan claimed to be "in fear" of Ray. From this point forward, Ray lost all contact with his children.

Not content, Susan then went to District Court on September 29 to get another 209A order - even though the one from Superior Court was still in effect! This time she claimed that Ray "caused her and the children harm." Ray had not seen Susan or the children since the April 209A was put in effect.

Still not feeling safe, Susan next went to Probate Court to get yet another 209A order on October 6 - while the two other 209As were still in effect. Upping the ante further, she checked the "placed me in fear, caused me physical harm, caused me unwillingly to engage in sexual relations by force, threat [or] duress" checkbox on the request form. Again, there had been no contact since the first order in April.

Ex-wife adds sexual abuse allegations

This last 209A order is the one that has been renewed yearly, and its third renewal is the one that Ray is now alleged to have violated. And it was this restraining where Susan crossed the line separating mere vindictiveness from sheer villainy.

Susan pulled out the tactical nukes and accused him of sexually abusing their children. Allegations of orgies with all the children were reported to the Department of Social Services. The court appointed Ms. Merrill Berger of Westwood as a guardian ad litem to investigate and file a report.

DA and DSS find no abuse

DSS intensively investigated Karen's children, and Ray assumes, his. Separate investigators were used for each of Karen's children. All concluded that there was no evidence of abuse and Ray was innocent.

Because the allegations were criminal, the district attorney's office stepped in. After completing their investigation, they chose not to press charges.

In her GAL report, Ms. Berger neglected to mention the findings of the DSS subcontractors who investigated Karen's children. She neglected to contact any of Ray's collaterals, social workers who corroborated Ray's claims that Susan was a fraud who was abusing the system. When she finally got around to it, they were no longer available, having moved on in their careers.

Berger concluded there was a possibility of sexual abuse, and recommended that Ray go through a batterers program and a program for sexual offenders.

Ray believes that his ex-wife will stop at nothing till he's put away. He believes that his children are being harmed by their mother's manipulations. Certainly they've been harmed by the brainwashing and examinations they've undergone.

The latest chapter in Ray's long and winding road started, ironically, with the Fatherhood Coalition's 209A Reform legislation (S1891). Representatives from CPF gave testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee at the bill's hearing October 8. The Associated Press' State House bureau picked up the story. The Herald News ran the state wire along with several other papers, on October 11.

The AP story contained an opposing statement by Nancy Scannell, a battered women's advocate, who "simply didn't believe that [209A restraining orders] are being used against fathers who are trying to obtain visitation rights or custody." On October 17, The Herald News ran a letter from Ray criticizing this comment.

Fast forward to Friday the 24th. Ray receives a visit from the Domestic Violence Unit of the Fall River PD, who arrests him on two charges of violating the restraining order. The timing certainly appears suspicious, especially so since the first alleged violation occurred four months earlier.

Susan Saulnier claims that on June 22 she sent her son Chris (from a prior marriage) to the convenience store. Supposedly, Chris was approached by Ray who disembarked from his car and followed Chris for some distance.

On the weekend of June 22, Ray was on Cape Cod camping with his family, and he can prove it.

The second "Elvis sighting" supposedly occurred October 22 around 7:30 PM. This time, Ray's nine-year old daughter Christina was accosted by Ray while she was walking home.

However, on this night at this hour, Ray was addressing a meeting of the Bristol County chapter of CPF, discussing the new excitement surrounding the CPF Media Team.

Based on these hearsay claims, Ray was treated like a common criminal, brought to criminal court in chains, and restricted to a protective compartment while in the courtroom, since he is dangerous. In this debilitating and dehumanizing environment, Ray was told by the Judge that another violation (not proven-just an accusation!) would be sufficient to put him in jail for 60 days pending trial. A pre-trial date of December 11 was set.

When Ray was first arrested and brought to the PD, Sergeant Rodrigues, head of the DV Unit, at one point motioned to the flashing message light on his phone and told Ray that the battered women's center had been calling incessantly asking if Ray had been picked up yet. Why were the battered women's center calling the PD about Ray?

On the following Monday, the 26th, Steve Bigos went to the PD and spoke directly with Gene Rodrigues. Rodrigues knows Ray and company because he and the other two officers in the unit had attended CPF meetings in the past. They were invited by Ray as part of an outreach attempt by the chapter to educate the PD about how 209As are abused.

At this meeting, Rodrigues assured Steve that he was going to interview Christina, the daughter, and then he was going to interview all witnesses who were at the CPF meeting that could confirm Ray's alibi.

One week went by and no witnesses were contacted. Then, on Monday November 3, the Herald News ran the front page story. The front page headline shouted "Fathers' rights activist arrested - Supporters call it matter of revenge."

The story reports CPF's allegation that this trumped-up allegation "looks like a reprisal" by the battered women advocates for Ray's letter in the paper debunking Nancy Scannell's denial of 209A abuse.

On the day that the story ran, all the witnesses got their calls from the PD.

Several weeks later, Rodrigues informed Ray that the time of the police log on the October 22 "sighting" was inconsistent with the time frame reported in the incident log. He claimed that the sighting actually happened two hours earlier. If this is the case, why wasn't it discovered when Rodrigues first interviews Christina?

Something's rotten in Fall River, and it's not just the Taunton river.

At the December 11 pre-trial, the district attorney made known her intention to prosecute. The trial date is set for February 19th, 9AM, at the 2nd District Court. The Fatherhood Coalition is going to make sure that it will not be business as usual for the battered women's advocates and their shills from the DA's office. A protest is planned.


News and Commentary from the New Guard of the Father's Rights Movement

Volume 1, Issue 4
January, 1998

PO Box 1146 Leominster, MA 01453

All Rights Reserved


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