I’ve griped a lot about Kristen Ruggiero and with good reason. She’s currently serving 7 – 14 years in prison for lying to police and courts about her ex-husband, Jeffrey Ruggiero, all in an attempt to keep him out of his daughter’s life and destroy his.
Kristen’s been recently charged with 21 more felonies mostly alleging perjury and evidence tampering in her original criminal trial. It’s beginning to look like prosecutors want her behind bars for a long, long time.
But as bad as Kristen Ruggiero is, New Zealander Kay Skelton may have her beat. You be the judge. Here’s a blog posting from 2007 that summarizes her case pretty well and links to court documents that become more infuriating the further one reads.
The case stretches back all the way to 2001. Skelton and Chris Jones had a son, Jayden. They divorced and Skelton, being the mom, got primary custody. Jones never sought primary custody, but he’s had it since 2007 and that should give you an idea of what a bad actor Kay Skelton is.
Like Kristen Ruggiero, she’s now in prison, having been sentenced to 2 years and eight months for perjury. But that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Skelton started out by denying or restricting Jones’s court-ordered visitation with his son. So he asked the court for help, but Skelton dug in her heels. Skelton’s tactics throughout the case have been to delay. She’s done that by changing lawyers every time there’s a hearing in court. The author of the article counts 20 lawyers representing Skelton over the years.
But eventually, the court gave Jones another order presumably saying it really, really meant it about the visitation thing. That was in 2002 and Skelton responded by absconding with Jayden to Australia.
Soon enough she was forced to return by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. (Unlike in so many countries like Mexico and Brazil, the Convention can really work the way it’s supposed to when signatory countries simply abide by its terms.)
But by that time she was raising doubts about Jones’s paternity of Jayden. She was also turning the boy against his father. Jayden expressed the opinion that he didn’t like Jones or want to be with him and that Jones wasn’t his daddy anyway. I wonder where he got those ideas.
By September 2005, the court had upped Jones’s visitation to twice a week. By then, most people would have noticed a pattern; every court order resulted in defiance of it by Skelton which in turn resulted in greater rights for Jones.
But apparently the obvious escaped Skelton’s notice. In June of 2006, she went to the mattresses. She managed to provide a fake DNA sample to the company the court ordered to determine if Jayden had been fathered by Jones. Sure enough, the results came back showing that Jones wasn’t the dad.
Then Skelton refused to be tested herself and refused her consent for the testing laboratory to release the original specimens. Why she thought the court wouldn’t figure that one out, I’m sure I’ll never know, and of course it did. The court ordered new testing that showed that Jones was indeed Jayden’s dad.
Then she played the domestic violence card against Jones which the court found to not be credible.
Having apparently had enough of Kay Skelton’s abuse of the judicial process, the court gave primary custody to Jones who for years had never asked for it. Skelton and her father Dick Headley, responded to that by kidnapping Jayden. It took six months for him to be recovered.
By giving the lab false swabs, Skelton had committed perjury and last February, she was sentenced to jail time for her trouble. Her recent request for bail, based on the fact that she’s 9-months pregnant, was denied.
She and her father were also charged with kidnapping that apparently resulted in home detention for the pair. Here’s an article about her appeal of the perjury conviction (Voxy, 2/8/11). And here’s another about the perjury case (Stuff, 2/10/10).
Obviously, this case is exceptional. Most people don’t behave the way Kay Skelton did. And most courts don’t take nine years to discipline offenders of her ilk. Still, the case seems to exemplify one thing – that family courts can enforce their own orders if they choose to.
It’s long been one of fathers’ many complaints about family courts that, when it comes to visitation rights of non-custodial parents, courts routinely just punt. As Australian academic John Hirst pointed out in his long essay, “Kangaroo Courts,” the same courts that zealously enforce their orders of child support with fines and jail for contempt, pretend that they have no such powers when it comes to their orders of visitation.
But of course they do have the power to enforce those orders and the Skelton/Jones case shows the fact very clearly. Again, the court was far too slow in responding to Skelton’s patent abuse of the system, but it eventually did so and, in the process ended up doing the right thing – giving custody to the honest, trustworthy, responsible parent, Chris Jones.
Other courts should take notice and as well that they needn’t be confronted with as frank an abuser as Kay Skelton to behave the way all other courts behave, i.e. to enforce their own orders via the contempt process.