Tennessee Mother Regains Custody of Daughter after Nearly Three-Year Struggle, Part 2

“I HAVE TO KEEP FIGHTING”

by Sharon Rondeau

Karen Caldwell’s two daughters, Andi Faye and Jozie

(Sep. 18, 2012) — In the first part of this series, The Post & Email reported that Karen Caldwell, a young Tennessee mother who had lost custody of both of her young daughters through deceit, manipulation, betrayal, and judicial corruption, has regained full custody of the elder daughter after almost three years.

Judge Christy Little, who sits on the newly-formed Board of Judicial Conduct in the capacity of reviewing complaints made against Tennessee judges, awarded custody of the girl to her father despite the Tennessee statute which says that if a child is born out of wedlock, which Jozie was, custody will go to the mother.  Caldwell explained that because the child’s father had not been listed on her birth certificate, Judge Little had allowed the equivalent of a “stranger” to take custody of her daughter.

After her children were taken from her, Caldwell had narrowly avoided jail time after she cashed out an IRA account to pay court-ordered child support which exceeded her weekly earnings.

The TBI has been asked to investigate corrupt judges but has failed to do so, citing a non-existent state law which allegedly precludes them from opening an investigation without an order from a district attorney general.  However, an article published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 27, 2012 indicated that the TBI has become involved in an investigation into prosecutors in the Tenth Judicial District, who Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III has identified as “criminal” for the last three years.  Caldwell said that two people within the TBI had “conspired” against her by promising to investigate Judge Little and then agreeing with one another not to do it.

Caldwell went to several state legislators about Little’s behavior on the bench during a hearing, when she threatened Caldwell and told her to “sit there and do what I tell you.”  After Caldwell testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Representatives Jim Coley, Rick Womick and Mike Stewart had promised to subpoena the child custody file, and Caldwell had believed that they would follow through.  However, after months of waiting and at substantial personal risk, Caldwell discovered why and how the legislators had ceased to investigate and refused to even communicate with her:  “the Godfather.”

Karen calls the judges’ actions “organized crime.”

Caldwell had appealed the custody order for her older daughter, Jozie, but the appeal was dismissed.  During a visit with her in July, Jozie had asked her mother, “When am I coming back home?  You told me I was going to come back. Why can’t I come back?” to which Caldwell had responded, “Well, honey, for you to come back to Jackson, we’re going to have to go to court again.”  Fearfully, Jozie said, “Court was terrible.  It was bad.  I don’t want to go to court.”  Caldwell said, “We don’t have the same judge.  Christy Little is not going to be there, and if we go to court this time, I can promise you that you are coming home.”  “I’ve never promised her anything that I couldn’t follow through on,” Caldwell told us.  She also explained to her daughter, “If I file in court, it may be a couple months before I can get a hearing, and your dad might not let me see you and talk to you.  Are you going to be OK with that?” to which Jozie said, “Mom, if you can promise me if we go to court, I’m going to come home, I can handle that.”  Caldwell filed a motion for a change in custody on July 20 and asked for an expedited hearing.

Caldwell continued:

The new judge sent me a notice of a hearing on August 8.  I had never gotten a hearing that fast.  When I got that letter, I knew they were ready to give me back my child.  I was just elated.  I did not have an attorney; I had done the case pro se, but I did have an attorney for the case with Andi Faye because I had a criminal contempt filed on me; I had an attorney appointed to me, and then Tim’s attorney threatened her while she was there, so she took my whole case for free.  I called her and said, “I know you can’t work pro bono, but can you at least come to court with me on August 8?  She had a few commitments, but I told her that I needed an attorney sitting there next to me that day, that I would pay her whatever I had to pay her, and I knew I could get my child back.  She said, “How do you know it?” and I said, “Because I know.  I know that she’s coming back to me.  He’s not even on her birth certificate, and he’s not even raising her; her grandparents are raising her.”  So she said, “Alright.”  So she went with me, and we had a four or five-hour hearing.  The judge said that she was going to take it under advisement and give me a ruling in a couple of days.  She said a material change had occurred and she had to review the “best interest” factor.  My ex-husband had also come, which he does every single time, and testified for Jozie’s dad, and said that I was a bad mom and had done this and that.  Well, the judge said to him, “I don’t find you credible I’ve already caught you lying; be done with you.”  The hearing went so well.  I could hardly pick myself out of the chair, because I felt like, “I’m going to get my daughter back!”  It had been almost three years.

Twelve days later, on August 20, I got a call from the Juvenile Court clerk, who absolutely hates me and is in Judge Christy Little’s pocket, and she said, “Karen, there’s a ruling here for you to pick up whenever you’d like to pick it up.”  Well, before I even got in the door, the bailiffs had their thumbs up and were smiling real big, and I picked up the ruling which said that in the best interests of the child, a transfer of full custody to the mother was being made.

So I’ve gotten her in school, and she had her birthday, and it was the best birthday ever.

Jozie and her mother, Karen Caldwell

The Post & Email asked Caldwell, “Why do you think the decision was made to return Jozie to you?”

I think it was an unbiased judge who heard the facts.  I really feel like if they could get away with keeping my children from me forever, I think they thought that they were just about to wear me down and that I would go away.  I don’t think they wanted to give her back to me.  Because now, I can say, “Do you see how wrong she was?  We went 969 days without each other at her hands.  I have my daughter back now.  Now, it’s harder for her to say, “Oh, well, she’s crazy.  Her kids have been taken from her.  I fought for two and a half years, and I have my daughter back.   I’ve suffered for two and a half years, and my child has suffered for two and a half years at the hands of Christy Little.

What was the reaction of your daughter’s grandparents about the change in custody?

They have hired an attorney and are going to file an appeal.  The first or second day that Jozie was home, I let her call her dad.  She said, “Dad, I have ballet on Thursday,” and he said, “You’ve got choir on Thursday,”and she said, “Well, mom said that I’m not going to be doing that choir, that there’s a choir here.”  And he said, “Well, what about your play?  You’re coming back to Cedar Grove.  We’ve hired an attorney and you’re going to come back.”  And she burst into tears, and I said, “Honey, don’t worry about it.”  He shouldn’t have said that to her, and I went off on him after that.  I put her to bed, and we got on the phone, and I said, “If you’re going to hire an attorney, fine.  Hire a team of attorneys, but do not tell Jozie that.”  I later told Jozie, “Don’t worry about it; your daddy loves you and wants you to be with him, but you are not going to go back there.  Everything is fine.”  And she said, “Do you promise?” and I said, “I promise,” and she never said anything more about it.

I’ve had a couple of people tell me that Christy was a brilliant student in law school, but she has an addiction.  The only difference between Judge Baumgartner in Knoxville and Christy Little is that Christy Little is destroying families and children.  She exhibits every single characteristic of a substance abuser.  She wants to thrust her own opinion into people’s lives, and it’s become obvious that she’s looking for control.  I’ve heard she has exhibited paranoid behavior.  But I’m not leaving her alone; she either needs to be impeached or indicted.  I’ve had so many mothers and fathers call me and  say, “I just got out of Christy Little’s court, and this is what she did…”

One woman came up to me last Friday and said, “I just got out of Christy Little’s courtroom, and she has just destroyed my family.  My son is a drug addict; he’s in and out of rehab.  But so is the woman.  I’ve been involved in my grandchildren’s lives their whole entire lives, and now Christy just gave full custody to the mother’s brother, who has never had any involvement with them.  He’s never lived anywhere near them.  She said, “I can’t do anything; now my poor little grandson has nobody, and he’s over there living with his uncle who’s never been a part of his life.  But that’s what Christy said would be best for him because  I would be more willing to let my son actually see his son.  When did that become a problem?  I don’t have any alcohol or drug abuse!  But Christy’s excuse for not giving me custody was that I might let my son see him.”

How would you say Jozie has adjusted?

Oh, my gosh, Jozie is the happiest child ever.  She sleeps late; she doesn’t worry.  She used to get up very early every morning asking me when she was going to go back to her dad’s.  She’s opened up. She’s going to be fine, but it’s hard because she has to go back and forth.  There was no physical abuse, but I feel like mentally and emotionally, there was.

Ms. Caldwell is also attempting to regain custody of her younger daughter, Andi Faye, from whom she was separated when the child was 20 months old.  She filed a motion to transfer custody in February, and a hearing is scheduled for September 26.  “I have to keep fighting,” Caldwell said.

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