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Category: The Jail for Justice Series

Who goes to jail as part of a divorce?

Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media VI

As I’ve expressed, bullpens are typically barren of most human comforts. Northampton County Prison’s bullpen offers nothing, and I mean nothing, to stimulate mind or body and it’s relatively small. Inmates have the options of sitting on a concrete slab, pacing a concrete floor, looking through bars at passing guards or using the absolutely vile metal commode/sink unit in full view of a literally captive audience.

Anybody can wind up in a bullpen for any reason. An addict can find himself sitting next to a drug counselor or a burglar next to a cop. Out of sheer boredom, some people strike up conversations. Once guys get to talking, there is no telling where the conversations might go. On July 22, 2016, I spent about 6 hours chatting with as eclectic a cross-section of people as can be found in New York City’s Washington Square Park on any sun-drenched Saturday afternoon.

Speaking of New York City, I acted as if I were there during my first couple of hours in stir. Like any old school knickerbocker in unfamiliar surroundings, I kept my mind blank and my mouth shut while my eyes surveyed all behind a vacant stare. In a detention facility setting, it’s wise to get a read on the surrounding company before trying to get chummy with anyone. Fortunately for our group, one of the cell’s early inhabitants proved a real wit.

It might have been sweltering in the jail’s main corridor, but it was downright frigid in the bullpen. I was too busy suppressing a torrent of thought to notice the chill, but as more guys joined the party, many shrouded themselves under the wool blankets provided as part of our facility-issued personal kits. Those dudes had to be cold, I thought; the blankets offered all the comfort of a roll of fiberglass insulation. I guess the jail’s laundry had run out of fabric softener.

Under one of these shrouds, our jailhouse Katt Williams slept fitfully on the concrete slab, periodically sitting up to demand coffee from passing, notably disinterested C.O.s. It bears mentioning that C.O.s hear and see it all behind the gates. They are likely instructed from the day they are hired to ignore 99.99% of what they hear from inmates and maybe even more of what they see. They were as likely to bring this man coffee as toss him a spare key to the cell. Even now, I chuckle at the thought of this guy shouting and gesturing at the passing C.O.s who gave him as much consideration as a moisture stain on the concrete floor. Eventually, my audacious celly began to remind me of an X-rated jack-in-the-box. In the absence of even a sales circular to peruse just for laughs, I found his outbursts increasingly amusing.

The Coffee Man definitely broke the ice. His clowning led to each of us discussing why he was there. Some pretty good stories worked their way up from the depths of secrecy. Were they all true? Who knows? Who cares? Swapping tales helped us forget that we were stuck in a cell for what seemed like forever…and gave us insight into those with whom we would be sharing close quarters indefinitely.

Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media V

The kids know all about me getting locked up, so I’ll dispense with the euphemisms. I’ll pick up the story from July 22, 2016 in Room 8 of the Northampton County courthouse. I forget the name of the “jurist” presiding, but for purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter. It took His Honor all of 10 minutes to sentence me to two months in the county jail, which is referred to in Northampton County as a prison for whatever reasons. His Honor’s obvious goal was to use the power of the state to collect a fee for opposing counsel, a rather curious circumstance discussed here.

Once sentence was imposed, a sheriff’s deputy asked with evident courtesy that I place my hands behind my back so that my wrists could be cuffed. I did so and with a final glance at His Honor, I asked if his decision is subject to appeal. He replied that it is and it was exit stage right for the deputy and me.

We walked through a long corridor to an elevator. On the trip down to the bowels of the court complex, the deputy asked me about the origin of my first name. With reciprocal courtesy, I told him it was Brazilian.

The doors of the elevator opened to yet more corridors that led to a station manned by a county corrections officer. He opened a gate leading to a kind of holding corridor with an identical gate at the other end. A bleacher type bench lined one side of the hall and short, frosted windows situated near the ceiling lined the other. I was walked into this corridor and patted down by the deputy. Once it was established that I carried no contraband, the escorting deputy bade me farewell. I was now in the custody of the Northampton County Department of Corrections.

After a short wait, the corrections officer (“C.O.”) who opened the near gate walked me down the corridor to the far gate. Through still another gate, we entered the main concourse of the Northampton County Prison.

The place is at least as old as Alcatraz, maybe older. The ceiling is perhaps 40 feet up and each side of the concourse is lined with 2-man cells stacked 2 tiers high. The hall is about 20 feet wide and bisected by a traversing corridor that leads to the main gate at one end and parts unknown at the other. The decor is strictly 19th century institutional, the walls painted a soul-numbing gray. Despite the presence of two large, functioning fans that could double as airplane propellers on either side of the hall, no one had to hit up to know it was hot outside.

Yet another gate led us from the concourse to central booking, which is to a county detention center what a triage desk is to a hospital’s emergency room. After a second, more thorough pat down, including the old squat-and-cough, I was stripped of all personal property and issued a jumpsuit and a large, plastic kind of overnight bag. My next stop was a seat on a concrete slab in the “bullpen”, a relatively large, temporary holding cell.

It was 11:30 AM by the clock in the hallway. As it was early AND hot (triple-digit heat slows down even the most dedicated felons), only 3 guys were there before me. Two were sleeping and the third was visibly resigned to our shared fate. As is generally the case in a bullpen, there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation going on at first, but boredom has a way of loosening lips. Within two hours of staring at the same pair of C.O.s walking back and forth in the unadorned hallway beyond the cell door, the lumps of sullen flesh to my left and right evolved into Homo sapiens capable of at least rudimentary communication. Good thing, too. Those guys turned out to be real characters…

Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media IV

Yesterday, my daughter announced that she had read my latest post. She asked me why I had not discussed the issue of my incarceration with her and my son. I told her that I saw no need to worry them with such a thing. She told me that they already knew, but declined to mention the topic for fear that it might upset me. I chuckled and explained that if I were to be upset about anything, it would be the circumstances leading up to my five days in stir and certainly not answering any questions that my favorite 2 kids might ask. I assured her that not everyone behind bars belongs there and that the experience had not been traumatic for me. This seemed to allay her concerns.

Long after our discussion, however, I did consider the motives of the cowards behind my commitment, persons of privilege who lead what I assume are decent lives, persons with children, homes and some level of financial security. That such persons would use their influence to deprive me of the same in a pathetic attempt to show me who’s boss speaks so little of them as to render them beneath the contempt with which they had the gall to charge me. They don’t get that we’re not made of the same stuff. They couldn’t walk 100 yards in my shoes. I took the worst they could legally dish out without breaking a sweat. Now, it’s my turn.

Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. Who am I to argue? Rather than engage in some dopey revenge fantasy, I choose to help others who might suffer a fate similar to that they tried to hang on me. I choose to partner with organizations that are fully staffed, funded and empowered to fight the injustices I’ve heard of and experienced. I choose to turn what these saps thought would be a negative into a positive for good people facing what seem to be insurmountable obstacles. I choose to do my part to rip apart a tattered, medieval system that few have dared to challenge.

My children are pretty much my life. That three well-educated idiots prone to abusing their authority and their enablers would try to separate me from my kids or hinder me from doing what I must for them is motivation enough for me to shine a klieg light on the histories of my would-be tormentors. But each of them has been active for years in the Lehigh Valley. That means that somewhere out there, or likely IN there, as in the Northampton County Prison, there are any number of people subjected to some level of injustice at their hands. Bet I can’t flip a coin without hitting one of these victims square on the forehead.

Yes, I have emerged from a 4-year nightmare a stronger, smarter, more determined, motivated and organized man than before. I am grateful to family, friends, God and my children for all they’ve done to see me through. I am and will continue to be what you all expect. It’s the best way I know to say “thank you.”

Next up, a detailed discussion of my stay at the Northampton County Prison.

Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media III

Imagine going into a court of law in the United States in response to a petition secure in the knowledge that opposing counsel was in collusion with the sitting judge.

Imagine court officials of such a base nature, they would play God with the life of a person about whom they know only what they might have heard from a biased attorney and what they’ve surmised after skimming over a case file riddled with lies.

Imagine that such persons were so intent on teaching you a lesson, they had little to no consideration for the peripheral damage their actions might cause.

Imagine being advised by your own attorney, who did not attend the hearing, to make a show of being respectful of, even awestruck with people you would avoid like the HIV virus under any other circumstance.

That’s what I faced Friday, July 22, 2016.

I don’t care what any God-awful lawyer or pompous county judges think of me, nor do my children or the people who know me. I do care that I am only one of many casually shafted by such people who make snap judgments not out of any sense of justice, but as the result of shameless, rampant cronyism within a government agency. It’s wrong and it needs to be addressed.

For your consideration:

  • The hearing held July 22, 2016 was the culmination of a petition for contempt of court originally filed March of this year alleging that I failed to comply with a property settlement agreement entered into July of 2015, to wit, I did not sign paperwork related to the division of my retirement plan;
  • It was known to all involved parties that I was not represented when presented with said paperwork;
  • I advised all involved parties that, prior to retaining new counsel, I would not sign any paperwork pending review by said counsel;
  • Regardless, opposing parties filed a petition for contempt of court on the grounds cited above and advised me of same;
  • Acting pro se, I communicated to opposing counsel my unvarnished observations of him, his behavior and my utter relief that he would soon be a distant memory to me;
  • Upon securing counsel, at a subsequent hearing which I did not attend, I was not found in contempt of court, however, the presiding judge still imposed upon me a $600.00 fine;
  • Already under considerable financial strain, I could not pay such fine;
  • Opposing counsel, whose implications that I had been less than a loving, devoted and supportive husband despite abundant evidence to the contrary absolutely litter the case file, seemed to take offense to my calling him out, here and via direct communication;
  • When I failed to remit payment within the time prescribed in the standing order, opposing counsel renewed his petition for contempt of court, demanding even more money though he was well aware of my financial responsibilities and that I was no longer employed;
  • At the July 22, 2016 hearing, acting de facto pro se, I offered valid arguments to which the presiding judge demonstrably turned a deaf ear; and
  • I was found to be in contempt of court, opposing counsel was granted his fee and I was ordered incarcerated for 2 months or until such time that the imposed fee was remitted to the county court’s administrator’s office.

For your further consideration:

  • The considerable financial demands made of divorced middle class fathers, including child support, car payments, auto insurance, mortgages, groceries, kids’ activities, entertainment and sundries, render absurd any order that I pay opposing counsel $600.00 for a petition that was denied;
  • Opposing counsel, while adept at smearing my name to suit his nefarious purposes, is paradoxically thin-skinned;
  • I have never seen a government agency act as a bill collector for an attorney in private practice;
  • Had I remained incarcerated for the duration of the two-month term imposed, I would not have been able to earn the money to meet critical financial obligations (I could have lost my home and car) including the fee imposed by the court; and
  • The psychological impact on my children of yet another unwarranted, court-imposed separation would have been cruel, unfair, incalculable, and for those responsible for such a circumstance, unconscionable.

The only conclusions to be reached are that opposing counsel and an elected county judge, both members of the Pennsylvania Bar Association expected to uphold the standards of that organization not to mention honor the public trust, were of the conviction that collecting $2,400.00 from an unemployed father of two was of far greater importance than anything going on in my life or those of my children, and failing that, I should spend two months in jail.


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Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media II

Bodhan Zelechiwsky and his cronies at the Northampton County, Pennsylvania courthouse are about as predictable — and interesting — as a bus route. I appeared there for a hearing July 22, 2016, a week ago today. As expected, the narcissistic Zelechiwsky flitted about the courtroom like a peacock, so desperate for attention, I thought he might trip over his own feet. As the presiding judge was clearly working by his own clock, we peons waiting for hearings scheduled for as early as 9:00 AM had to endure a 2-hour delay before he appeared. That a person so inconsiderate of the time of others could be either fair or impartial was a dubious prospect. When His Honor at last deigned to grace us with his magnificent presence, I could tell by the way he walked out of chambers how the day would go for me. I was prepared.

When I was finally called to stand before the judge, things went as I knew they would with two notable exceptions: (1) though I was visibly trembling with revulsion at having to play a role in that farce, I was able to make valid and coherent arguments (which were, of course, dismissed out of hand by His Honor) and (2) I was awarded an all-expenses-paid, all-inclusive weekend getaway to commence immediately!

It was all so convenient: A deputy opened a side door in the courtroom and escorted me through a labyrinth leading to the spa. At the front desk, I was asked to check in my street clothes and issued a fashionable jumpsuit of the finest fabric. I wish I had pictures, but possession or use of electronic devices by guests was against resort policy. Fortunately, there was a photographer on duty. She took three pictures of me, forward facing and both profiles. Apparently, the shots were so good, the resort elected to keep them.

Once settled in, I took a group tour of the grounds. There wasn’t much to see and the food wasn’t fit for sale at a truck stop, but the conversation was fantastic! I was enthralled with the backgrounds of and tales told by my tour mates. The last time I learned so much, I was in a classroom. The most important lessons were that the challenges I face dealing with Northampton County’s courts are staggeringly common and that short-sighted, desensitized divorce attorneys are merely a symptom of larger, systemic problems.

The prevailing sentiment among my tour mates is that the laws governing divorce and child support in the state of Pennsylvania are needlessly punitive and unfavorable to working class men inexorably dragged into the system by thoughtless, vindictive and/or self-centered spouses. As hostile as these laws are, those charged with enforcing them apparently do so with a heavy hand, destroying the quality of life for men who had the temerity to marry and father children.

Then, there were discussions of certain lawyers and judges so high off their own vapors that they seem to think themselves above the law. I heard many stories of men gifted vacation packages like mine, but for longer durations and under more absurd circumstances.

When my sojourn was over, any doubts I may have had about the course of action I’m taking were gone. Families are being demolished and the lives of hard-working, dedicated fathers are being ruined. How is this beneficial to the innocent kids caught up in post-divorce dystopia?

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Jail for Justice — An Open Letter to the Media

I have forwarded versions of this letter to several media outlets. Please share if you care to.

To Whom it may Concern:

It is time for divorce law reform in the state of Pennsylvania. To bring attention to the clear bias the courts show against fathers, I am surrendering myself to the Northampton County Sherriff tomorrow before I pay another nickel to my ex-wife’s attorney, Bohdan Zelechiwsky.

Opposing counsel has a documented history of employing sleazy bait-and-switch tactics to not only separate me from my children for over a year, force the sale of a marital property at an irresponsible loss, but to evict me from my home on four days notice, all with impunity. Regardless of this scandalous behavior, the like of which might otherwise earn him a profile on American Greed, each time he files a motion, the court orders me to pay him.

I am already reeling from the costs associated with divorce and must continue to support my children. How does bankrupting and jailing a single father benefit the kids? If I feed, tutor, clothe and nurture them, provide them with a good home, make support payments and never once stood in the way of my ex-wife living as she pleases, why am I being punished?

In the end, my kids pay the price to boost the self-esteem of a bully who tries to do with paper what he could never do with character. Opposing counsel has done everything he could to defame me, dismantle what I tried to build for my children, plunder their college fund and haul me into court any time he knows I am not represented. Once we are in his playpen, he is free to say and do as he pleases. The judges, with whom he likely lunches on occasion, rubber stamp the boiler plate motions he files whenever he sees a sliver of opportunity to make a quick buck. Meanwhile, I have to stand mute as he lies, pontificates and pretends to be an esteemed officer of the court. If I so much as roll my eyes, I’ve found myself rebuked, insulted and even shouted at by the bench, then stared down by a team of deputies. Bohdan Zelechiwsky is nothing but a well-connected, long-entrenched shyster. Before I cleaned up my life in service to my family, I was a crook. I know one when I see one.

It is high time the media brings to light the plight of fathers routinely raked over the coals by unethical divorce lawyers such as he: Those who abuse the system, those who do the least to earn their fees and the judges who allow these shameful practices to continue. No responsible father, regardless of his past, should be forced to watch a slug hiding behind a law degree and connections destroy the dream he has for his children.

I have bent over backwards to support my family. Despite living for a time in another state, I have been active in my children’s lives. I never abused my ex-wife or broke my marriage vows. This is expected of me as a man and I have accepted those responsibilities, but I am truly perplexed that Northampton County courts seem determined that I end up bankrupt and in jail for refusing to be party to a corrupt system. It is time for change.

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