The Court of Appeals has just ruled: A 5-year-old girl whose father was convicted of sexually molesting kindergarten boys in his care must be transported to the maximum security prison in Dannemora four times a year to visit him.
The court thus upheld a decision by the Appellate Division and dismissed an appeal by the mother.
The father is Christopher Culver, former kindergarten teacher in the Okte Elementary School of the Shenendehowa school district, who in 2007 pleaded guilty to 49 counts of sexual abuse and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. (There was no allegation that he had molested his own child.)
His wife promptly divorced him and went on with her life with their then-18-month-old daughter. The father, from his prison cell, applied for visitation with the little girl, and two years ago Judge Courtenay Hall in Saratoga County Family Court, after hearing from psychologists for both sides, agreed.
He not only ordered the visitation, plus weekly telephone calls, he also ordered that the mother pay for the girl’s transportation to Dannemora by some third party, like Culver family members, and pay also for counseling for the little girl to help her handle the situation and counseling for whoever transports her too.
Which was quite a blow to a mother who is understandably bitter at her ex-husband and protective of their daughter. (The mother has changed her and daughter’s last name, and I do not disclose their identity; they live in Saratoga County.)
In a 3-2 decision a couple of months ago, the Appellate Division upheld the local ruling, which was on hold pending the appeal, but did say costs should be born by the father, assuming he has any resources.
The Court of Appeals in its latest batch of rulings declined to review the matter on the grounds that the two dissenting votes in the Appellate Division were not on matters of law. So the decision stands.
In case you’re wondering about the wisdom of trucking a little girl three hours north to a grim maximum-security prison to visit a convicted child-molester of a father, I can only point you to the testimony of the psychologist who testified on his behalf before Judge Hall, that being one Jerold Grodin.
After interviewing the little girl, he said, “This is a girl who is bonded with her dad. This is a girl who misses her dad. This is a girl who wants to have contact with her dad, and it was up front on her mind.”
As for visiting in the forbidding environment of a prison, “There’s nothing traumatic about it,” he told the court. It happens all the time, all across the country. “If it is a way to keep a child and a father connected, then it should be utilized.”
This was in opposition to the testimony of another psychologist, Steven Wood, who testified on behalf of the mother and said the experience would be traumatizing to the child. Alas, he had no experience with prisons and nothing to back up his assessment, and the judge went with psychologist No. 1.
So that matter is settled, for good or ill.
Oh boy, oh boy. Now the great national fun begins — a year and a half of it — with the announcement by Newt Gingrich of his candidacy for president, an announcement not by old-fashioned press conference means but by Facebook and Twitter, looking hip and up-to-date.
Yes, the same Newt Gingrich who found it a “stunning insight” that President Obama is a vehicle for the Kenyan, anti-colonial worldview of the father he never knew. “The most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama,” he declared last year after reading an article in Forbes magazine by Dinesh D’Souza. “That is the most accurate predictive model for his behavior,” he said, implying that Obama is sort of a stealth agent of the Luo tribe, embedded in the White House.
Oh, it will be jolly. The great conservative Newt Gingrich, author of “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular, Socialist Machine,” and defender of family values, making his very own run for the White House.
Family values? They are indispensable to a conservative. Let the libs have gay marriage and abortion.
Who could know more about marriage than Newt? He got married for the first time at age 19 to his high school geometry teacher, who was 26. Left her after 18 years while having an affair with another lady and may or may not have visited his cancer-stricken wife in the hospital to discuss a divorce with her — accounts vary. Married the second lady and then while married to her struck up an affair with a young congressional staffer, which he conducted even as he inveighed against President Clinton’s entanglement with Monica Lewinsky. Divorced his second wife and married the congressional staffer, who is his current platinum-blonde mannequin-wife, Callista, 23 years younger than he is.
Nobody can do outdo him on the conservative side except Rush Limbaugh, with four marriages.
I absolutely love these guys.
I do not get into religion — Gingrich forsaking his Southern Baptism for Catholicism, the faith of his latest wife — except to note that it’s an essential for any serious candidate.
It will be fun, though, to see how an old-time Baptist preacher like Mike Huckabee dances around the Mormonism of the other top contender, Mitt Romney, since evangelicals in general take a dim view of that religion, which they regard as something less than real Christianity.
They like their own tales and fables, but they don’t like Joseph Smith being led to a pile of golden tablets by an angel named Moroni and translating them from “reformed Egyptian” into something that reads like a parody of King James English. They think that’s un-Christian.
Romney sat out the Vietnam War in France, as a missionary trying to convert French persons to his interesting religion, and that’s OK, but when he became governor of Massachusetts he got a universal health plan adopted that is similar to what conservatives always call Obamacare, and that is definitely not OK. He won’t have to explain one, but he will have to explain the other.
Then there is the libertarian Ron Paul, down on government in any shape or form, not only when it’s levying taxes and passing environmental regulations but also when it’s eavesdropping on suspected terrorists and torturing prisoners, which will be a hard sell to the conservative base, which is fond of torture and enthusiastic about the police powers of government.
Not to mention Donald Trump, with his fabulous hairdo and his newfound interest in the forensic study of birth documents.
Or Sarah Palin — dear Sarah — with her endearing attempts to be worldly while still keeping the moose-hunter, snowmobiling image intact and make the whole package marketable.
A year and a half of it to come. Gingrich out of the gate first, the rest of the field champing at the bit.