COURT ORDER APPEARS, BUT WITHOUT A SOURCE
by Sharon Rondeau
The collision between the two vehicles caused some damage but no injuries. Mother Michelle Robinson* became very frightened because she perceived that her child’s father, Eric Crutchfield, had hit her car deliberately while she retained a permanent restraining order in place against him.
She asked that Crutchfield be prosecuted, but the city attorney declined to pursue it. Likewise, Crutchfield requested unsuccessfully that Robinson be prosecuted.
As a result of the year-long child-custody battle decided in Crutchfield’s favor last April, a temporary restraining order he secured against Robinson was made permanent by Judge Frank Menetrez on April 25, 2017, along with his full physical and legal custody of the child.
Prior to a December 20, 2015 physical altercation between the two parents, Robinson had had full legal and physical custody as ordered by the Torrance Superior Court after Robinson reported domestic violence and turned Crutchfield out of her home. A DVRO (domestic violence restraining order) had been issued by the court ten days before on December 10, 2015.
As The Post & Email and a number of other outlets have reported over a number of years, the involvement of child-protective agencies, and specifically, the Los Angeles DCFS, in parents’ affairs does not always stem from evidence of child abuse or neglect. Such has been the case with Robinson, the Henderson family, and currently the Williamses, whose first case was opened nearly six years ago.
Robinson has appealed the custody decision but has not yet had a hearing by the California Second District Court of Appeal, where it was assigned. In a new development on that front, Crutchfield has requested an attorney even though he is not the appealing party.
In July 2016, Crutchfield was arrested by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) for violating Robinson’s restraining order against him and spent a day in jail. The incident happened to occur during the custody trial for their daughter. The arresting CHP officer’s report states, “I recommend this report be forwarded to the City Attorney’s Office and Crutchfield be charged with PC 273.6(a), violation of a restraining order.”
In a January 2017 interview on the National Child Safe Show, Atty. Shawn McMillan, who has fought several high-profile cases involving civil rights violations of parents and children at the hands of Orange County, CA Child Protective Services (CPS), said that as a result of his work, he feared that CPS social workers would seek to remove his children from his care out of retaliation (37:32 in the video).
“My kids are older now, thank God,” McMillan told interviewer and show host Tammi Stefano. “We had open airplane tickets, passports, and about ten grand in cash in a box ready to go, and the plan was, if anything went down…my wife would take the kids and go back to Taiwan,” McMillan said.
The vehicle collision from last October took on greater significance when Robinson told The Post & Email on February 9 that she spotted Crutchfield at the transit station where she boards and exits a commuter train on her way to her place of employment.
Robinson reported both the vehicle incident and Crutchfield’s presence at the train station to the Hawthorne Police Department (HPD) because they occurred within its jurisdiction. In the more recent instance, according to Robinson, HPD did not wish to take a report and directed her to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, but after she contacted LASD from the lobby of the HPD and was directed to provide her information there, an HPD officer agreed to document an “incident report.”
On February 12, Robinson was told by HPD Lt. Jim Royer that the five-year restraining order issued by the Torrance Superior Court judge in 2015 was no longer in effect. In response, Robinson sent an email to Royer’s supervisor, Captain Catano, with the restraining order, the case number, and documentation that Crutchfield had been stopped on July 28, 2016 for reportedly “following” Robinson in violation of the order.
Catano responded that he was willing to assist Robinson but that the restraining order whose documentation she forwarded to the HPD had been canceled and was not present in the “CLETS” system. At the same time, Catano sent Robinson an order with a handwritten date of cancellation of 4/16/17 allegedly signed by Commissioner Steff Padilla, who recused herself from Robinson’s child-custody case in March of last year, the eve of the final hearing.
Catano told Robinson that his department’s “Court Liaison” provided the order of cancellation to him. Robinson told The Post & Email that if Catano’s information were correct, she was never notified by the Torrance Superior Court.
She further observed:
I believe Crutchfield gave it to the Hawthorne Police Department after the altercation with the vehicles. When I tried to have charges pressed, they referred to that and decided there was nothing there. When I said to Captain Catano that I believe Crutchfield lied by “scribbling” on the document, Catano said he didn’t get it from Crutchfield, but rather, from the Court Liaison for the HPD.
The document is called a “Termination of Order.” Even if the court had decided that the order were to be cancelled, it would have issued an official endorsement. After I saw the document, I thought, “That doesn’t make sense; a judge doesn’t just scribble on a piece of paper.” They enter a new document into the system.
I believe Padilla produced that document to protect Crutchfield. When he was arrested in the middle of the first trial, I think they thought it was something I orchestrated so that they said, “Let’s give him something so that when she tries this again, she won’t be successful.”
What really happened was that we had a hearing to see if, in fact, Padilla could alter the Torrance court order. There is, oddly, no record of the outcome of the hearing.
The Post & Email will report further on this story in a subsequent article.
*Not her real name