Attorney Alexander Cuda of the Needle Cuda law firm guided newly-appointed Judge Thomas J. O’Neill to interpret Jennifer’s Law in an entirely novel way.
Jennifer’s Law is a law in Connecticut that expands the definition of domestic violence to include “coercive control.” The law is named for two women, both murder victims by their husbands: Jennifer Farber Dulos and Jennifer Magnano.
On August 8, Judge O’Neill granted disgraced Hollywood writer Christopher Ambrose’s petition for Restraining Orders in Bridgeport Family Court.
Judge O’Neill, a former corporate litigation partner at Day Pitney LLP, became a judge in May this year.
Judge O’Neill barred Ambrose’s ex-wife Karen Riordan from seeing her children, Mia, 16, Matthew, 16, and Sawyer, 13, for one year. The teens were residing with her. They fled out-of-state to their grandfather, rather than reside with their father, Ambrose.
To obtain the TRO, Cuda shopped judges until he found Judge O’Neill, who ably twisted Jennifer’s Law to separate the mother and three teenage children who sought a safe haven with her from their allegedly abusive father.
Judge O’Neill based his Jennifer’s Law rulings on the basis that Riordan, a 110-pound special education teacher, was coercive controlling the teens to want to live with her. His fact-finding was based on Ambrose’s word alone. Judge O’Neill refused to listen to the teenagers.
It was not the teens who sought the protective order against their mother. Ambrose brought the m0tion on behalf of his teenage children.
This week, Attorney Cuda served Riordan with a contempt petition, blaming her for the teens’ unwillingness to live with Ambrose after the court barred them from living with her.
Peter Szymonik is a Constitutional activist who has taken an interest in this bizarre case. He originally opposed Jennifer’s Law for the very reason it was misused today.
By Peter Szymonik
Constitutional and Civil Rights Activist; Autism Advocate
Nothing in law or statute allows a parent to file a complaint in ‘family’ court against another parent on behalf of their child.
Christopher Ambrose didn’t file the TRO on his own behalf, he filed it “speaking for his accusers.”
The teenage children effectively had their mouths duct-trapped shut and their hands tied behind their backs — as Ambrose, the parent they have accused of harming them, is speaking for them — while the mother is endlessly harassed at all hours of the day and night and silenced.
Judge O’Neill has now prevented her from having any interaction with her own children. Based on – nothing.
Nothing but what Judge O’Neill made up off the top of his head.
Imagine the can of worms he opens up.
Now any time a parent is accused of criminally harming a child, all they have to do is run to “family” court and file a motion on “behalf of their child” to dismiss the criminal claims and complaints.
The “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
This is weaponizing “Jennifer’s Law.”
When I and others testified against Jennifer’s Law, we predicted this would happen. Now it has.
Scenario: Three teenage kids, 13, 16, and 16, each independently and of their own accord, ran away from their father’s home, bringing claims and evidence of abuse.
Father has sole custody (under appeal).
Kids run away to mom’s home in the same town. Kids get their own attorneys and file petitions in juvenile court.
Father has the local police constantly (follow!) and harasses the kids. DCF ignores everything, but also harasses mom.
When DCF and police knock on the door, mom does not allow them in. But each kid talks to the police and tells them they seek safe harbor in their mother’s home and will not return to their father.
No interference on mom’s part. Dad is free to come parent and get his kids at any time – if they want to go with him – and she will stand aside. But they don’t want to live with their father!
Police submit criminal charges of custodial interference to a state prosecutor to arrest the mother. The state prosecutor refuses, seeing no evidence to support a criminal charge.
Father inundates the family court with a barrage of contempt motions. The court decides to stall, delay, etc., probably having enough of the case.
The Juvenile Court case remains active, with the three children alleging abuse against their father.
In Family Court, the judge asks dad what he wants. His answer?
Not that he wants his kids back. Instead, he wants mom jailed.
Father continues to file – his attorney, Chris Goulden, withdraws.
Now the sick part.
Father gets a new attorney (former head of the CT Bar Family Law Section), Alexander Cuda.
Ambrose’s Strategy: Filing a TRO ‘Speaking for Accusers’
Cuda files a PPA TRO. In other words, he files a restraining order against mom, NOT on Ambrose’s behalf, but on behalf of his 13-year-old son, who ran away to be — with his mother.
The basis? Jennifer’s Law.
Mom somehow engages in “coercive control” to dominate and control the kids. That’s why they ran away and didn’t want to return to their father’s.
Think about this from a purely legal perspective.
Muzzled Voices: Teenagers Bound by Father’s Words
Technically, the accuser of the mother is 13-year-old Sawyer, who Ambrose claims to be speaking for, and the mother, Riordan, has no opportunity to question her accuser, Sawyer.
Legal Boundaries and the Mind of the Court
Now Ambrose seeks Riordan’s arrest, because the kids fled to their relative to prevent the court forcing their return to their father.
It is a fundamental tenet of law that courts cannot issue orders which cannot be enforced, nor may a court issue orders which require litigants to read the court’s mind.
On August 8th, the court issued a one-year order of protection against Riordan. The order was issued on behalf of Riordan’s three teenage children, each of whom independently and of their own accord, fled from their father’s home and sought safe harbor in her home.
Judge O’Neill refused to allow the children to be heard, even though they were represented by counsel, and Judge O’Neill was aware they had active petitions before the juvenile court (a court of evidence and law).
The Impact of O’Neill’s Orders
The record reflects that while Judge O’Neill issued an order of protection, he did not order that Riordan remove the teenage children from her home (denying them safe harbor).
He did not order that she be responsible for effecting the children’s return to their father. Or how she could even do so without violating the order of protection.
Judge O’Neill did not order or explain how Riordan, or other parties, would, or even could, force the return of the three teenage children to their father’s home, against their wishes.
Any parental authority Riordan may have once held over the children has been thwarted by the orders and actions of Judge O’Neill.
She may not be reasonably, logically, or legally faulted or held accountable for what the teenagers do.
To find otherwise would support a claim of deliberate and intentional state entrapment and deliberate infliction of harm.
A gofundme account is active and solicits donations for Karen Riordan’s unequal fight against her well-funded ex-husband, Christopher Ambrose. Please consider donating.