The best way to show the problems with jury-less family courts, where judges rule as potentates and rapacious lawyers control proceedings behind the scenes, is to publish stories of its victims.
The case is Robert Emert and Andrea Schuck. The fight centers on their 16 and a half year-old son, Bryce.
This story adds a dimension of a potentially corrupt criminal prosecution by the Dan Diego DA’s office.
The key to this story is the desire of the son to live with his father, but the mother, backed by family money, has the financial spending advantage.
The story of Rob Emert is similar to many in family court. It begins as a tale of a family torn apart by divorce and swiftly morphs into a Kafkaesque narrative, where truth and justice are subordinate to profits.
Granted 60% custody initially, for Rob, the situation seemed hopeful. But as time passed, the family court tilted inexplicably against Rob. The son, Bryce, consistently says he prefers to live with his father.
The mother’s attorney, David Schulman, knew that the obscure currents of monetary gain and courtroom politics trump a teenager’s preferences in family court.
With no evidence of unfitness as a parent and no substantive change in circumstances, Judge Patti C Ratekin suddenly revoked Rob’s custody rights, awarding the mother full legal and physical custody of Bryce.
Bryce spent nearly a year under his mother’s care. Then Bryce left his mother and went to his father for 14 months. Bryce describes it as a period of growth and stability.
Fueled by the mother’s money and her well-connected attorney Schulman, the DA began an investigation to bring criminal charges against Rob for violating the family court custody orders.
The DA’s investigation revealed extensive email communications between Rob and Luis Pena, the investigator from the DA.
Audio records show a conflicted investigator, Pena, who is heard on tape repeatedly saying family court should handle the case, not criminal court, since Bryce was over age 14 – when the DA typically lets family court take custody matters.
It took over a year for the DA’s office to arrest Rob, claiming he held Bryce hostage and forced him to stay against his will.
The DA charged Rob with felony child abduction under Penal Code 278.5(a), custodial interference [PC 278.5(a)] with “malicious intent” – a felony.
The court denied Rob bail.
The DA suppressed audio recordings between Deputy District Attorney Balerio and Bryce, 16 that reveal
- His desire to live with his father,
- He chose to leave his mother and stay with his dad.
- He could have left anytime.
- His life was going great when he lived with his dad.
- If he could live with his dad, it would solve all his problems.
- Bryce asks for a chance to speak in court to testify he needs his dad.
- Bryce appears mature, articulate, and competent in presenting his views.
In the suppressed recording, Balerio compliments Bryce on advocating for himself and promises she will help Bryce testify.
DA withheld evidence that contradicts DDA Balerio’s statements in support of the abduction charges that alleged Rob held Bryce hostage.
Rob claims the DA’s office promised him that if he took a felony plea, Bryce could return to his home, provided he helped repair Bryce’s strained relationship with his mother, who the boy said emotionally abused him.
Rob agreed, claiming the promised delivery of his son from his abusive mother was one of the decisive factors in his acceptance of the plea deal.
After the court released Rob from jail, he sought the return of his son.
The DA claimed Bryce’s return was never part of the deal.
For the record, Bryce wants to return to his dad and has published videos clarifying his desire and the abusive tactics of his mother.
Rob has audio recordings of calls, which demonstrate the DA promised Bryce could return to his father as part of the plea bargain.
The primary legal issue now revolves around the integrity of the plea agreement and whether the DA breached it.
The DA’s office wants the court to ignore Rob’s evidence and sentence Rob for felony abduction.
Rob wants to present evidence to set aside the plea agreement, clear himself of the criminal charge, and resume his role as an active parent.
The case warrants a fuller investigation.
Here is some evidence.