Coastal Post Online

 

DONATE TO US

SUBSCRIBE TO US

ADVERTISE WITH US

 

**** COASTALPOST'S LOGO ****

 

DONATE TO US

SUBSCRIBE TO US

ADVERTISE WITH US

 

MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

 

Mardeusz Recall Case Reemerges
Father Charged With Felony Child Abuse
By Jim Scanlon


   On November 3, 2004, Leo Allen Magers was charged in Solano County Superior Court, Vallejo Division, with two  counts of  criminal conduct, both felonies:  child abuse, and corporal injury to a child.
   Count I,  a violation of Section 273a(a), that he "... willfully and unlawfully, under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm and death, injure, cause and permit a child H.M. and L.M. to suffer and be inflicted with unjustifiable physical pain and mental suffering ...
   Count II charges that he did , "...inflict cruel and inhuman corporal punishment and injury , resulting in a traumatic condition upon a child, to wit, H.M.
   Also charged are unlisted aggravating circumstances under Court Rules 4.408 and 4.42 which are added to the crime(s) whether or not charged and can include from 1) The crime involved great violence, great bodily harm, threat of great bodily harm or other acts disclosing a high degree of cruelty, viciousness or callousness to 11) The defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the offense.
   Presumably H.M. is the daughter of Carol Mardeusz a mother who was embroiled with the Superior Courts of Sonoma,
Sacramento and Marin, with Child Protective Services and various police departments over her fears that her daughter was not safe with Leo Magers, her father. Magers was given full custody of their daughter  in August 1995 by a Sonoma judge under unusual, possibly illegal,  circumstances. In December 1996, another Sonoma County judge denied Carol and her extended family all contact with the child.
   Mardeusz failed twice in a futile attempt to gain custody of her daughter by misleading a judge in
Sacramento and later Judge Dufficy in Marin. In 1998 she was charged in Marin with felony "attempted child stealing" and contempt of court. She was tried and convicted by a jury.

The Trial
   The trial was long and difficult with an appeal, disqualification attempts, challenges under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the introduction of terms like "Legal Abuse Syndrome" and "Invisible Abuse Syndrome" a Writ of Habeus Corpus, Carol getting sick in court, Carol collapsing in court and being hospitalized.
   After an evaluation in a State Prison for women at
Corona, she was returned to Marin and sentenced by judge Verna Adams to 9 months in the county jail, payment of $600 in restitution and 5 years supervised probation. She has now completed 4 years probation without incident and a recent request to dismiss probation was denied.
   Carol has not seen or had contact with her youngest daughter in over 4 years. A court hearing was actually held in Marin County Superior Court in June 2004 as to whether an older sister could send a letter to her younger sister living with Leo Magers.

Uproar in Marin
   In the late 1990s Mardeusz became the center of an upwelling of anger and concern in Marin from a variety of sources. In 1999, the Grand Jury was so concerned over complaints about
Family Law Court that it attempted to investigate. District Attorney, Paula Kamena, blocked any investigation of  Superior Court and later began a criminal investigation of the Assistant Grand Jury Forman for violating secrecy rules. Nothing came of the investigation, other than the threat of criminal prosecution, but it has never been officially closed and is still open.
   An ad hoc citizens group concerned about favoritism and bias in
Family Law Court commissioned a study of that court by Karen Winner, a New York family and child advocate and author. The Winner Report's criticisms provoked print and broadcast coverage and was followed by the resignation and transfer of a Court Commissioner and the voluntary transfer of Michael Dufficy, the Family Law Judge, to Probate "for reasons of health."
   Simultaneously, Katherine Ballentine Shepherd, one of the so called Family Law Elite Attorneys (FLEAS),  and an intimate member of Judge Dufficy circle of close friends, apparently deeply upset over Dufficy's bias towards favored local attorneys, publicly revealed intimate details of social gatherings at Dufficy's
Sierra Nevada ranch which created the impression of sophomoric fraternity parties.
   Shepheard did not practice long in Marin after her disclosures. She left the state, or was forced to leave the state for lack of clients, and moved to the East Coast. It seems likely that Dufficy was secretly disciplined by the California Commission on Judicial Performance. (See Coastal Post April 2004, Did Judge Dufficy Lie and Deceive the Voters?)
   At that time Mardeusz, although extremely shy and retiring herself, unwillingly became the center of a citizens' campaign to recall Dufficy and several other judges. Although the recall group did not include the court critics that commissioned the Winner Report, this distinction was seldom recognized and the two were lumped together. With Mardeusz a kind of hostage, the recall campaign was taken over-hijacked-by a much larger, better funded group, local proponents of legalizing the medical use of marijuana. This shifted the focus of reform from Mardeusz, Dufficy and
Family Law Court to the District Attorney's policies toward possession and use of Marijuana.
   In addition, Mardeusz's brother ran against Kamena for District Attorney, which created the impression of political opportunism and certainly didn't gain any sympathy for her with the District Attorney's Office. (The legal community of Marin, in an unusual display of almost complete unanimity, supported  Dufficy  during the recall and later during his first election in March 2004. He was originally appointed by George Deukmejian.)
   The recall failed miserably, Mardeusz, was separated from her other daughter, sent to state prison for evaluation and finally sentenced to 9 months in Marin County Jail.

A Suspicious Death and Media Blackout
   In early December 2001 Carol's daughter H.M., now 11 years old, found her 33 year old step mother, Ana Cavazos Magers, unconscious and near death on the kitchen floor of the Magers' Sonoma County home. Cavazos died later in
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. The coroner's report lists "Cause of Death" as " Undetermined, Interval - Undetermined.
   It is not known what kind of police investigation, if any, was made or what, if any, action was taken by
Sonoma authorities regarding Cavazos' death. Aside from the unusual circumstance of a healthy, normal woman of 33 suddenly dying with only a few small bruises on her thighs and chest and a smashed index finger on one hand, there had to have been numerous police reports on file of alcohol and drug use and abuse, child abuse and family violence, since Carol had been making such reports for years, a fact that was held against her, and was perhaps the most important evidence used in an evaluation of her which was prepared by the Sonoma County Probation Department in 1995. It recommended that custody of H.M. be immediately transferred  to Leo Magers, basically because of Mardeusz's numerous complaints.
   Incidentally the probation report recommended that the child be preemptively seized before Carol could  read the recommendation and be  given an opportunity to flee with her child!
   The Mardeusz's trial in Marin, was extensively covered by major regional media: The Independent Journal, the Chronicle and the Pacific Sun all covered the case. Public Access TV submitted an 11 page legal brief requesting permission to broadcast the trial which was denied.
   How strange is it then that the death of Ana Cavazos Magers was not reported by the Peteluma Press Democrat or the Marin Independent Journal. Stranger yet, the felony arrest of Leo Magers for child abuse was not covered in the press or local television. Since Carol Mardeuz had been labeled a "vexatious litigant," a person who was "poisoning the mind" of her daughter, destroying the child's relationship with her father and an emotionally abusive, delusional person, could it perhaps be, that the felony child abuse arrest of Magers might be seen as an embarrassment to the Courts  and child welfare system in Marin and Sonoma?

Not Out of the Ordinary.
   Since June of 2004, the Coastal Post has examined four cases of women in Marin's
Family Law Court. They are all in many respects similar. All made official complaints about violence or threats of violence from the fathers of their child(en). All had limited financial resources and, at one point or other, were forced to represent themselves in court. (A very dangerous course for anyone thinking of it.) All the men had first rate legal representation.
   All the men lived with a parent, that is a grandparent, while the women cared for the children on their own. Three women had their children removed by a judge without a formal hearing with the children being placed with the accused parent, unconditionally without periodic official assistance or evaluation . Three women were jailed at high bail, one, Carol, was formally convicted and imprisoned, another is currently on trial and the third pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge in order to get out of jail. Only one of the three isolated mothers has seen her child, and that one, once, for 45 minutes-and she had to pay!

Bizarre Connections
   A nightmarish twist to this story is it's  connection with the abduction and murder of Polly Klass in Peteluma in 1993. Carol, who lived a few blocks from the Polly's home, reported to the Peteluma Police that a suspicious man had been in the neighborhood who appeared to be stalking her oldest daughter. This report was made two weeks before Polly's abduction and murder. For reasons that are not clear, she was never called as a witness in the trial of Richard Allen Davis who was sentenced to death in September 1996.
   Another unfortunate connection is that Marisa Mariposa Garcia, the young woman who admitted to suffocating her three year old child in a Mill Valley Hotel in 2002, was a member of the jury that convicted Carol two years previously. According to a newspaper article that quoted the woman's mother, she had been upset by what happened to Carol. Marissa was committed to a state mental hospital for from 15 years to life in a plea bargained agreement that avoided a trial.

Confidentiality, Privacy, Secrecy or Cover Up
   Virtually all the information in this report came from publicly accessible documents which although much appreciated and interesting, provide an incomplete account. There is no doubt that the functioning of State Courts in each
county of California is of great importance to citizens, most of whom never come into contact with the court system, except, perhaps to perform jury duty. It should be recognized that court confidentiality and secrecy serve not only to protect the privacy of those involved but to isolate those involved and can also obscure and therefore facilitate official negligence, bias and insensitivity.
   In response to a telephone call by the Coastal Post, a friend of Carol's left a message stating that Carol would not, under any circumstances, make any statement under advice of her lawyer. Considering what has happened to her, her position is certainly understandable.
   Unlike Marin, it is possible in
Solano County to get limited information on criminal court matters on the Internet. This is helpful but since it takes a several days to update the web page, it was impossible to determine what happened at Mager's readiness hearing on January 23, 2005. Something happened which vacated the start of the trial scheduled for the following day. Was there a plea, a continuance, if so, why? We will have to wait. Assistant  District Attorney in Fairfield handling the Mager's case did not answer repeated telephone calls.
   It seems reasonable however to deduce from public documents available that Sonoma County has terminated it's jurisdiction due to dependency proceedings in Solano County on behalf of H.M. and L.M. Dependency proceedings are strictly confidential and this is probably why Carol Mardeusz  will not speak. It would seem she has to be part of proceedings regarding her daughter, particularly since
Sonoma has withdrawn. She might also be called as a witness in the criminal case.
   In all likelihood the
Solano Juvenile Dependency Court will proceed slowly evaluating the family situation to its own satisfaction. There might even be a chance for Carol to visit her child.
   Dependency hearings are designed to protect parental rights consistent with the well being of the children involved. Social workers are available who monitor behavior. Proceedings are different from Divorce Court where two opposing lawyers present two versions; one states man is good, woman bad and the other man is bad, woman good with the judge paying lip service to children, deciding which fiction to promote.
    Carol has completed four years of supervised probation in Marin and is in good standing and in compliance. It appears that the
Sonoma Court is out of the picture. Solano Criminal Court will have to do something regarding the criminal charges against the father for whatever it is that he is alleged to have done to his children. It remains to be seen if, should he be convicted, his consequences will be as severe as the mother's punishment for what she did in resisting the courts in defense of her child.

Coastal Post Home Page