“First Ms. Parks took a stand, and now it is Ms. Godboldo.” (Charles Wright)
“I am not going to let Missy and Massa take our children.” (Maryanne Godboldo)
By Diane Bukowski
Aug. 6, 2011
DETROIT – Testimony in the Ariana Godboldo-Hakim custody trial so far has painted a vivid picture of a loving family traumatized and torn apart by a web of inter-connected private institutions and state agencies. Many have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, while others are paid per head for treatment of children and adolescents on Medicaid, and removal of children from their homes.
Presiding over the jury trial is Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Lynne A. Pierce. She and her family have ties to some of these agencies and are active with organizations that sponsor foster care and adoption, frequently the ultimate fate for children taken by the state’s Child Protective Services (CPS) system. (See chart and story below for more information.)
CPS, aided by an army of Detroit police carrying assault weapons and manning tanks and helicopters, seized Ariana Godboldo, 13, from her home on Blaine near Linwood on Mar. 24 as her mother Maryanne Godboldo sought to protect her.
“First Ms. Parks took a stand, and now it is Ms. Godboldo,” VOD reader Charles Wright commented on the case.
Godboldo has garnered world-wide support for her defense of her daughter from CPS and their insistence that she take the dangerous psychotropic medication Risperdal. She has also received support from a large community that has questioned the safety of immunizations. Godboldo says Ariana had a severe reaction to multiple immunizations in 2009, causing her initial problems that led her to seek medical help at the places that referred her to CPS.
The Godboldo-Hakim custody trial began Aug. 2, with assistant state attorney general Deborah Carley as prosecutor. Wayne County is the only county in Michigan where the State Attorney General prosecutes child custody cases.
So far, employees of the New Oakland Child-Adolescent & Family Center, the Children’s Center, the Department of Human Services, and the Detroit police have testified for the prosecution. The health workers said they referred Godboldo to CPS because “the mother was not compliant with prescribed medications” (Lisa Kalinsky of New Oakland).
In her opening statement, Assistant Attorney General Deborah Carley said Ariana has mental health conditions and requires treatment for delusions, depression, aggression, and visual and auditory hallucinations, but that Godboldo has refused to help her. ** See reference at bottom.
In the most recent developments Aug. 5, Carley called Ariana’s parents Maryanne Godboldo and Mubarak Hakim to the stand over vehement objections by their attorneys Adam Shakoor, Wanda Evans, and Roger Farinha. Godboldo faces criminal charges over the March 24 stand-off with police.
“You are making a travesty of these proceedings,” Shakoor told Judge Pierce when she ruled in favor of Carley. “I do not believe [the prosecutor] can parade Ms. Godboldo in front of the jury and make her look foolish when she has to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights [not to incriminate herself] after every question related to March 24.”
Pierce would not limit questions to events prior to the police stand-off. Carley put both parents through grueling testimony. However, both managed to tell the story of their lifelong love and support for their daughter calmly, despite the prosecutor’s clearly hostile demeanor.
Carley hammered away at Godboldo over issues involving her employment, child support from Hakim, details of Ariana’s birth and resulting physical disability, and statements she allegedly made to CPS worker Mia Wenk likening CPS to a plantation. She demanded that Godboldo produce extensive medical and school records for Ariana although Godboldo had not been expecting to testify.
But Godboldo remained serene and dignified. Tears welled up only briefly in her eyes when Carley repeatedly questioned her on the details of the amputation of Ariana’s leg after her birth. Godboldo said the leg was infected due to a doctor’s mistake, while Carley insisted it was a congenital defect.
Carley also demanded to know why Ariana was named differently in the hospital. Godboldo responded that the hospital would not discharge her until she named her baby, although she had not yet made up her mind. She said she later legally changed Ariana’s name before the child’s first birthday, so the birth certificate could read accordingly.
“Her name is ARIANA GABRIELLA GODBOLDO-HAKIM,” she testified firmly, and later corrected Carley’s mispronunciation of the child’s first name.
“I have not worked since before my daughter was born,” Godboldo told the jury. “My daughter needed all my attention. She is an amputee below the right knee and was hurt many times in school. She was bruised and pushed down the stairs by other little children who don’t understand disabilities.” She also said that some of the schools she went to were not adequately equipped for disabled children.
Godboldo said she also cares for her 98-year-old mother, who lives with her. Previously, she was a concert dancer who studied in New York and later worked with her sister Penny Godboldo’s dance troupe.
She said she had a mutual agreement with Ariana’s father, both financial and emotional, for the support of their child. Carley demanded to know exact weekly cash details from Ariana’s first year of life onward and why he didn’t have health insurance for Ariana.
Godboldo said Hakim, who is a self-employed vendor and musician, has given both cash, in-kind and emotional support “regularly” throughout their daughter’s life, and that the two are in constant consultation over her care. She said Hakim drove her to her daughter’s early well-baby appointments, visits Ariana three to four times a week, has taught her to play the drums, and spent hours of time with her.
She said Ariana is covered by Medicaid. Godboldo later told this reporter that she has NEVER received cash assistance from the state, despite the prosecutor’s obvious attempts to paint her as a lazy “welfare mom.”
Carley demanded that Godboldo produce records of her daughter’s immunizations from years back, records of her injuries in school, and educational records from from kindergarten until the third grade, when Godboldo began home-schooling her, as she is legally permitted to do.
She kept demanding to know why Godboldo hadn’t put her in public schools instead of sending her to private and charter schools.
When Godboldo described Ariana’s reactions to vaccinations she received prior to entering the sixth grade at a Montessori school, Carley demanded to know the names of the doctors who had diagnosed her. Godboldo identified them, and explained calmly that her child received chelation therapy from a holistic practitioner who is also a medical doctor, who diagnosed her with encephalitis.
Godboldo said the chelation therapy “helped immensely.”
She said when she took her daughter first to New Oakland Child-Adolescent Family Center that she told them she did not favor giving psychotropic drugs to children, but they insisted on prescribing Risperdal. She said she would try it (per court records, the consent form she signed gave her the right to take the child off the drug at any time). She said New Oakland also wanted to hospitalize Ariana for mental illness, but she refused.
Godboldo said she thoroughly researched Risperdal online, and when Ariana got worse, the doctor who had diagnosed her with encephalitis said she was suffering from the side effects of the drug.. The doctor weaned Ariana off the drug over a six-month period. Godboldo said she had just finished when the police showed up at the door to take her child.
Carley then questioned Godboldo about alleged statements she made to Wenk about plantations.
“Don’t you know our history?” Godboldo asked Carley, who is white. “Don’t you know we were slaves on the plantation? That’s what it felt like. I am not a slave. I am not going to let Missy and Massa take our children. This is all about racism and power control.”
Every one of the mental health practitioners who have testified so far have been white. Mia Wenk, the CPS worker who called the police, is of indeterminate racial heritage, but lives in a 98 percent white community, as does Judge Lynne Pierce, also white. The police officers who first came to Godboldo’s door to take her child were white. A worker who accompanied Wenk during the seizure, who was Black but never got out of the car, testified that two police cars passed by after Wenk called 911, but said she did not summon them over. It wasn’t until a third car came an hour later that Wenk flagged them down.
Carley then questioned Godboldo about the events of Mar. 24. To most questions, she read a written statement given to her by her attorneys invoking the Fifth Amendment per her constitutional rights.
Godboldo did say she purchased a gun prior to her daughter’s birth, after she was robbed in front of her home while she was five months pregnant. She said she kept it secured in a closet that Ariana could not access. She said the gun was registered and that she had forgotten she had it.
Under Carley’s questioning, Hakim remained similarly composed.
He estimated that he has given Godboldo $75 to $100 a week out of his income, which varies, and that they are not under the jurisdiction of the Friend of the Court. He explained his work as a licensed street vendor and musician.
Then Carley delved into his early criminal record, which consisted of one conviction for armed robbery when he was 17. He detailed two other offenses for which he only paid fines or served probation, both more than 10 years ago.
“Ariana is very intelligent,” he said. “She was at the top of her class in school. She loved to read and write. She would bring her homework home and I would help her with it. I agreed with her mother’s decision to home school her, she was the captain of the ship and I trusted her. She kept me well-informed of what was happening with her. I’ve been there with her from day one, when she was born. I was there when she was born.”
He said police brought Ariana to Children’s Hospital after the March 24 stand-off, he went in to see her, that she was with her aunt Penny Godboldo and was calm. He said CPS told him to leave, which he did, thinking she had to go for some testing. He said, however, that when he came back, she was gone and it took the family two days to discover she had been sent to the Hawthorn psychiatric hospital in Northville without his or any relative’s consent. This was despite the fact that CHM has its own pediatric psychiatric division and consultants. (Click on http://www.childrensdmc.org/pediatric-psychiatry-and-psychology for further information.)
Hakim said he visited her every day at Hawthorn.
Prior to the parents’ testimony, details of how that hospitalization occurred came out in the testimony of Amber Kozlowski. She said she is employed by the Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO) as a “social worker/hospital liaison.” She said she has a master’s degree in social work, but she is not listed on the state’s website as a licensed social worker.
She said she works for NSO, and is a hospital liaison for Consumer Link. (See story below for connections among the organizations.)
Kozlowski testified that although she is not a psychiatrist or medical doctor, she authorized Ariana’s hospitalization at Hawthorn, after the hospital first rejected her attempts several times.
She said she met with Ariana at CHM for “15 minutes,” and with “the DHS worker and the hospital social worker” for the rest of the hour she was there. She said she viewed only the medical records compiled at CHM.
“She [Ariana] wouldn’t speak with me verbally,” Kozlowski said. “She appeared a little agitated, a little paranoid. She was moaning and covering her head with the blankets and looking at the wall around her.”
She said she visited Ariana about four times at Hawthorn, during which she continued to refuse to speak to her and was “paranoid” and “aggressive.”
“I came with the hospital social worker to her bedroom, and she lunged forward at me and attempted to hit and kick me. She grabbed her wheelchair and spun it around towards me and spit at me.” She claimed Ariana yelled and shouted curse words at her.
On cross-exam by Godboldo’s co-counsel Wanda Evans, Kozlowski said she was not supervised by a psychiatrist or doctor when she authorized Ariana’s admission to Hawthorn. She said she did not speak to any of Ariana’s relatives. She admitted that it might be reasonable that a child who had just been taken from her home by force might appear upset.
She said she never saw a psychiatric evaluation of Ariana, or a court document ordering her admission to a psychiatric institution.
“Are you familiar with the Mental Health Code?” Evans asked her. “You do know that a parent has the right to take a child off psychotropic medications. You do know that in the case of a child with a disability, the disability is the first priority in her treatment?”
(Ed. note: When Ariana was admitted to Hawthorn, they took away her prosthetis, which she had worn all her life, and put her in a wheelchair. They also re-medicated her with Risperdal and three other medications until her attorneys obtained a court order to take her off the drugs. Judge Lynne Pierce later vacated that order, although she would not vacate the original order, not even viewed or signed by a judge, which led to police taking Ariana.
During Ariana’s six-week stay at Hawthorn, the staff there took her to CHM for treatment of an STD. Godboldo filed a police complaint that Ariana was sexually abused at the hospital because no STD was present during CHM’s initial physical exam of her child. To this date, the state Department of Community Health has refused to provide records of complaints against Hawthorn, a state hospital not required to keep them on site as are private hospitals, despite VOD’s submission of a Freedom of Information Act request.)
**Click on Deborah Carley and other Oakland County Prosecutors sued for improper removal of autistic teen from home to read about 2007 case where prosecutors falsely alleged sexual abuse of autistic teen by father, using “facilitated communication,” where facilitator holds individual’s hand or arm as they type messages on a keyboard. (Carley previously worked for Oakland County Prosecutor Richard Gorcyca until her dismissal by current Prosecutor Jessica Cooper.) The parents, Thal and Julian Wendrow earlier won a $1.8 million settlement against West Bloomfield Township and its police, who arrested the father. All charges against him were later dismissed. The Detroit Free Press ran a six-part series on the false allegations.
It is nauseating and heartbreaking to read what was done to this family… but if there is any “bright side”, it is the fact that at least there is SOME media attention and pressure here.
For every Maryanne and Ariana in the news, there are thousands of families out there whose stories are never heard, never publicized. No help comes. No attorneys fight for you and your children. Innocent parents can do nothing but watch in horror as their lives and their children’s lives are forever damaged, destroyed.
The less resources you have to fight (namely money, for attorney fees), the more likely you are to be victimized by the CPS machine.
In our own personal story, no attorney meant no justice. The CPS bulldozer just laid our family flat and resulted in emotional damage that will never fully heal. Our daughter is permanently emotionally scarred. CPS workers carried out their deceptive practices, judges silenced parents in the courtroom, CASA workers had no interest in what was best for the child, the news wasn’t interested, the police threw up their hands, and we tried EVERYTHING but got nowhere for over a year. It took an entire year to find an attorney willing to help us pro-bono.
This sort of thing happens every day and crosses ethnic and racial boundaries. One thing that seems to be common, is socio-economic status. If you look at cases like this going back for decades nation wide, the common thread with those who successfully get CPS to BACK OFF is that there is money to fight the fight, or a HUGE amount of community support. If you are lacking in one or both, you are in for one hell of a tough journey.
Blessings to all who have lived through (or are living through) this horror, and strength to Ariana and her parents.
Why did Amber Kozlowski think she deserved the trust of a child she had kidnapped by force and kept a prisoner under inhumane circumstances.
There are crazy people in this case all right, but they aren’t members of the Godboldo-Hakim family.
It appears the social workers are the craziest of the lot, and their co-conspirators come in a close second. What a mess.
The torture inflicted on the Godbaldo family and the multi-level, compounded damages done both directly and indirectly to this child, Ariana, by ignorant, apathetic representatives of “the system” are absolutely horrific! The possibility that even further injustices may be visited upon them all as a result of conflicted interests on the part of judicial and custodial entities is unacceptable! The venue must be changed, repeatedly if necessary, until a truly impartial court can be found. IMO, everyone who hopes to salvage mercy and kindness as human traits ought to get involved in ending not only this victimizing prosecution, but ALL of modern society’s TRULY pathological “profits-before-people” practices, because until we take the payola out of the system, and put motherly/brotherly LOVE in its place, (perhaps by pledging to be “one nation under LOVE?”) we will all –regardless of race– continue to be disrespected targets for kidnapping and/or exploitation.