“I’m happy now” – Mailauni
“I WUV YOU” — Holly
“Her mother is the woman she loves above all others”—Judge Keith
“When is the corruption of our probate courts going to end?”—Lennette Williams
By Diane Bukowski
November 23, 2014
“I just can’t believe it’s so, and though it seems strange to say I never been laid so low, in such a mysterious way. And the course of a lifetime runs over and over again. But I would not give you false hope on this strange and mournful day. When the mother and child reunion is only a motion away, Oh, the mother and child reunion is only a moment away.” Mother and child re-union, by Paul Simon
DETROIT – Mailauni Williams, 33, was back home with her mother Lennette Williams Nov. 21, in time for the holidays, after being viciously kidnapped and disappeared for six months by Grosse Pointe Farms police, former visiting Probate Judge Kathryn George, who was appointed by Wayne County Probate Court Chief Judge Milton Mack, and Mailauni’s former “guardian” Mary Rowan.
“I’m happy now,” Mailauni, who her mother calls “Pookie,” said during a visit to their home. Mother and daughter, reunited, sat together on their living room sofa with Mailauni’s dog Holly, better known as “Mutt” to Lennette, grinning from ear to ear. They were dressed comfortably for home, in matching pink and blue pajamas.
Lennette was in the process of cooking dinner for them.
Mailauni told the little dog, “I wuv you, I wuv you,” and tiny Holly responded with a loud yowl that sounded much like “I love you,” as Mailauni had trained her.
Mailauni said she misses her sister Monique and was looking forward to Monique visiting the next day to bring her bookbag. She stayed with Monique at Rowan’s direction, without a court order, for part of the six months, unbeknownst to her mother and friends, who were frantic to know her whereabouts.
Williams had just returned from trying to get Mailauni’s Blue Cross Blue Shield reinstated. Estate trustee Walter Sakowski allowed it to lapse during the kidnapping, meaning medications she needs must be paid for out-of-pocket. At Judge George’s order, Sakowski also ceased mortgage and utility payments on their home, as well as on Lennette’s car insurance, while getting fees approved for yet another attorney on the case.
“They didn’t care if she lived or died,” Williams said. Mailauni suffers from cerebal palsy and a seizure disorder that nearly killed her previously, caused by admitted malpractice during her birth at Henry Ford Hospital. She has other permanent ailments as well.
Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith, newly assigned to Mailauni’s case, declared during a court hearing Nov. 19 that Lennette Williams is “the woman Mailauni loves beyond all others,” and that she should immediately go back to the only home she has ever known.
“Attorney [Allison] Folmar and I were in tears when Mailauni finally got home,” Williams said. “When is the corruption of probate courts in Wayne County and everywhere going to end? Jail the judges! They kidnapped my daughter to make me sign over the malpractice money in her case. No one should be allowed to get away with the thieving and plundering of estates they are guilty of.”
Grosse Pointe Farms police broke down the door to the Williams home May 22 with no valid court order, held her at gunpoint outside, and seized Mailauni, as she kept crying, “Is my mother going to be OK?”
During a subsequent, chaotic court “hearing” June 13, Judge George, acting erratically and with obvious malice, jailed Lennette Williams for five days for contempt of court, barred Attorney Folmar from presenting her case or cross-examining witnesses, and then threatened to jail her as well.
VOD ran a story on that hearing, including an expose of George’s well-publicized removal as Macomb County Probate Court Chief Judge in Jan. 2008 by the Michigan Supreme Court.
The high court cited her appointment of a high number of cases to one agency, ADDMS Guardianship Services, among other factors. After reviewing an audit of the Macomb Court, former State Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver wrote, “the Report confirms not only Judge George’s apparent inappropriate involvement with ADDMS guardian services, but also her apparent failure to properly oversee numerous guardianship cases.”
Despite Mack’s appointment of this shady judge, Williams kept fighting on her own until she finally retained Folmar with the assistance of her well-known friends Arnetta Grable and Anita Peeks and Elaine Steele from the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute. Growing up, Mailauni and her mother frequently visited the civil rights heroine, who considered her her godchild.
With the help of the VOD expose, Attorney Folmar, working with attorney Vanessa Fluker, who appeared in court Nov. 19, successfully got the Williams case re-assigned.
Judge Keith then removed Rowan from the case and temporarily assigned her to stay with her sister.
Curt Guyette said in a 2002 Metro Times story that records he reviewed showed that “Calculated over a life span of 73 years for Mailauni, the entire settlement was valued at $30.5 million, according to the settlement agreement.” Williams says the agreement covered both mother and daughter, since she also suffered permanent physical injuries during prolonged labor.
At the time, doctors expected Mailauni to survive only several years. But, as Keith himself declared, it was her mother’s constant love and nurturing that brought her to adulthood, along the way earning a high school diploma. Keith has also lauded Lennette Williams’ legal skills.
Since Mailauni’s birth, Williams, a strong, feisty, articulate, well-read and legally well-versed woman, has had to battle a legion of judges and court-appointed attorneys who progressively stripped the family’s estate with outrageous fees. Also in the mix were the Grosse Pointe Farms police, who invaded her home several times, and the school district, which falsely accused her of child abuse after stripping Mailauni naked in an exam at the school. No charges were ever brought.
Judge Keith issued his ruling for Mailauni’s return Nov. 19 on the recommendation of Mailauni’s guardian ad litem John Sullivan, who toured her Grosse Pointe Farms home with attorney Folmar the night before. Keith also terminated the guardianship in her case, restoring the central mother-daughter relationship which has never died.
Sullivan testified that even though the home’s original built-in appliances had not yet been replaced, Williams kept a well-stocked refrigerator and freezer in the home’s connected garage, and a wide array of cooking appliances sufficient to feed her family.
Frequently, Williams also caters.
The greedy nature of the probate court system came to light at the hearing after Judge Keith’s order returning Mailauni home immediately. Trustee Sakowski began quibbling about the amounts needed for replacement appliances and renovations for the 30-year-old home.
He said that even he didn’t have a $10,000 refrigerator in his home. A friend of Lennette’s told VOD, “They want her to live like a welfare mom.” Sakowski and other attorneys involved financially in the case are white, as is Chief Judge Mack.
Attorney Fluker and Williams explained that the refrigerator, stove and cook-top were built into the home, and that quotes included the cost of stripping out the original installment, replacing power lines, and other matters. Judge Keith ordered Fluker to get two additional quotes and prepare a petition for funds release, including mortgage and other home-related payments as well as the monthly allowance Williams has received for other necessities of life.
Trustee Sakowski sits on the Wayne County Probate Board with Mack, who battled Williams for years over the settlement, apparently outraged that a Black woman would have the gall and intelligence to speak her mind in court. Sakowski and Mack apparently socialize together as well, as seen in a photo from a holiday party at Attorney Geoffrey Fieger’s law offices.
Williams has contended all along that she is perfectly capable of handling her own financial affairs. She says she needs no trustee, and no guardian for her own daughter. Until George’s ruling June 13, Williams was her daughter’s guardian, a victory she won. Williams keeps volumes of documents from her 30 years of battle with the courts in pristine covers, well-organized and at her fingertips and is able to argue toe-to-toe with the best legal minds.
“Mailauni is my heart, I would die for her,” she says, explaining her decades long fortitude in the battle.