VAWA facilitated and funded the illegal abduction of Madison Tenn
Fathers 4 Justice daddy activist Donald Tenn opens up about his own child custody case as he faces 18 months in prison for an Ohio crane protest, in this exclusive three-part interview.
On May 25, 2006 Madison Tenn was illegally moved six states away from her Sacramento, California home by her mother, says dad Donald Tenn. Since that time Shannon Phillips has committed fraud and perjury in two states, wasted thousands of tax-payer dollars and kept a little girl from her loving, stay-at-home, primary caretaker daddy, he adds.
Tenn is speaking out about his own case he says, because he’s facing 18 months in prison for a peaceful protest for parents rights. He wants people to know the truth; that he and Shannon were happily married, “We never had domestic problems. I’m not a violent person. I believe in communication. The police were never called to our home.”
My wife told me she was taking Madison to visit her relatives in Illinois . After she arrived she said she wasn’t coming back. She wanted me to follow her. I told her a decision like that should be made together. I asked her to come home and take six months to talk it over. She refused.
Tenn says a friend who is an Illinois real estate agent called and told him Phillips and her mother had been looking at houses for sale. Tenn explained to Phillips that she could stay in Illinois, but she needed to return Madison. He says she refused. What he did next, it seems, caused Phillips to set into motion the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) machinery that removes innocent parents, usually fathers, from the lives of their children.
I told her the law says she has to return Madison to California; that there are move-away laws that protect children from this sort of thing.
Tenn filed for an emergency ex-parte hearing. It was a Friday. By the Monday morning hearing Phillips had declared to people at WEAVE in CA and DOVE in IL, and attorney Tony Nevarez that she feared Tenn. Phillips was given a restraining order and returned to IL with Madison.
Wanting to keep their close bond, Tenn started sending Madison packages every few days with books, snacks, stickers and small toys. At first he was allowed phone conversations with Madison by Phillips and her mother Kathy Waseen, but that didn’t last.
Fifteen months later, on October 19, 2007 Judge Peter J. McBrien had a hearing in Sacramento on Phillip’s request to extend the restraining order. (case #06fl05871)
Judge McBrien stated that he did not believe Shannon. He chastised her for illegally removing Madison from California. He did not believe any of her testimony or renew the order. He told Shannon to come to an agreement on parenting time or he would make a ruling that she wouldn’t like.
I wanted an equal parenting plan but agreed to every other weekend and 2 days a week. I remember Judge O’Brien said, ‘This father will be immediately reunited with his daughter. I am ordering his first visitation for 2 days from today, Sunday the 21st of October.’ He asked if I could be in Illinois on that date and I stated I certainly would be.
Tenn flew to Illinois and was at Phillip’s mother Kathy Waseen’s house in Bethany for the prearranged exchange. It didn’t go smoothly.
Shannon kept pulling Madison away from me in order to instill fear in her, as if Madison should be concerned. Her mother Kathy Waseen interfered by taking Madison away from the car for as many as 10 minutes. Finally, I stated that this parenting time belonged to Madison and I and that we needed to go as our time was limited.
Then Phillips said something that no one expected from the woman who had claimed so much fear of Tenn that she couldn’t return to California.
Shannon suggested that she come along with Madison and I and we all visit together. I was shocked. I told her that would not be possible.
What Phillips and Waseen didn’t realize was that with two cameras rolling, Tenn got the entire incident on tape.
- “I was a stay-at-home daddy. Then my wife illegally took our daughter Madison six states away” – Donald Tenn, Sacramento, CA
- “I can’t return to California because I fear my husband.” – Shannon Phillips
- “We’ve given Shannon Phillips thousands of dollars in services. Donald Tenn is with Fathers 4 Justice, men who claim they are victims because they can’t see their children. He is a huge danger. We all need to fear him.” – Mary Hughes, DOVE, VAWA-funded Illinois domestic violence agency
- “I do not believe that Mr. Tenn is a danger. This father will be immediately reunited with his daughter and I am ordering his first visitation for 2 days from today.” – Sacramento County, CA Judge Peter J. McBrien
- “Shannon Phillips was the victim of ongoing abuse by Donald Tenn.” – unnamed IL attorney
- “I have grave concern over the truth and veracity of [Phillips,]” – Moultrie County, IL Judge Dan Flannel
- I didn’t enforce Tenn’s visitation order in 2007 because it was illegal. Now I’m following the divorce order Phillips received that has visitation on hold.” – Moultrie County State’s Attorney Marvin Hansen
- “My daughter was illegally abducted by her mother, but I am the one treated like a criminal. I told Madison I would always be there for her and protect her. But I’ve only been allowed to parent her during one 5-hour visit in the last 41 months. I know what truly is in Madison’s best interest. Both, fit and willing parents sharing equally in their child’s life.” – Tenn
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- Equal parenting rally slideshow
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- Family law reform information
Tenn’s next visit with Madison was scheduled for Oct. 27 and 28, 2007. Tenn decided it would be best to have future exchanges at the Sheriff’s Dept in Sulliven. When he spoke with the Sheriff he learned Waseen had called them, stating they would not allow Tenn to visit with Madison. He immediately called Phillips.
Shannon’s step father Bob Waseen answered and told me that I would not be seeing Madison that weekend. He stated that Shannon’s attorney Priscilla Ebdon had told them not to allow me visitation.
Tenn continued on to the Sheriff’s Dept. and filed the first of several reports of contempt based on Shannon’s unwillingness to honor the court ordered visitation. The four hour drive back to his mother’s house in Braidwood was full of heartache and shock, he says
In a recent telephone call, an attorney associated with the case vehemently stated that Phillips had been a victim of ongoing abuse at the hands of Tenn. When asked to detail the alleged abuse the attorney said she didn’t have that information, that it had been handled in California. After being reminded that Judge Peter J. O’Brien in Sacramento, California had chastised Phillips for lying about Tenn, the attorney angrily ordered this reporter not to use her name in this article or to ever call her office again.
The next day Tenn returned to Sulliven for his visitation, but the Sheriff wasn’t able to locate Phillips. He filed another contempt complaint and was told that all documentation would be filed with the local State’s Attorney Marvin Hanson for prosecution. On Oct. 29 Tenn began calling Hanson’s office, and met with him the next day.
On Tuesday, October 30, 2007 I met with State’s Attorney Marvin Hanson in his office at the Moultrie County Courthouse. During this meeting he told me that Shannon had been in their courtroom just yesterday [it was actually the Friday before] trying to get a restraining order against me based on fear. Mr. Hanson told me that Judge Dan Flannel had denied Shannon’s request because the Sacramento County Court had denied her request just days earlier stating it was false.
Marvin Hanson further told me that he full well intended to prosecute Shannon for contempt of a court order. He stated that he knew what she was trying to do because his own brother’s ex-wife took their four daughter’s out of his life.
According to the Oct. 26, 2007 transcript, in Moultrie County Judge Dan Flannel’s chambers he stated during a conversation with Mary Hughes, a representative for DOVE, an Illinois domestic violence agency, “I have grave concern over the truth and veracity of this petitioner,” [Shannon Phillips.]
Hughes said under oath that she had given Phillips and her mother thousands of dollars for travel, as well as retained the services of local domestic violence attorney Priscilla Ebdon. Hughes stated that I am a member of Fathers for Justice and therefore am a huge danger and risk for the mother, the child, herself and the judge.
Phillips missed several more guardianship exchanges resulting in Tenn filing additional contempt reports on Nov. 9, 10 and 13.
Madison is victim to one of 200,000 parental child abductions that happen in our country every year, by far the most common form of child abduction. And the numbers are growing. According to the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey,when children 17 and under were surveyed in 2008, “three times as many respondents reported being victims of a kidnapping over their lifetimes as did in the past year.”
Some parents go into hiding, like Shannon Wilfong of southern IL. See Boy captive two years by mother avoiding custody change. While Tenn was happy for Mike Chekevdia and his son Richard when they were reunited, he said he wondered why IL law enforcement would reunite them but not he and Madison. He says in late Nov. or early Dec. 2007 he was shown an order deputies had received from Hansen stating they were to no longer assist Tenn.
In a recent article Glenn Sacks, Exec. Dir. of Fathers & Families wrote, “The controversy over parental alienation is largely political. Children are vulnerable and impressionable, and parents in emotionally charged divorces are quite capable of using them as tools of their anger. It is true that family courts must weed out false claims of PA made by abusive or manipulative parents. It is also true that courts must act decisively to protect children from the emotional abuse inflicted by alienating ones.”
Sharon Murch knows what it’s like to grieve for a missing child. Her daughter Michaela was kidnapped by a stranger off a Hayward, CA street on November 19, 1988. “We as women can have children with men … we can hand them a newborn baby and say, ‘Here is your child.’ We allow that man to fall deeply in love with his son or daughter, and then one day we can say, ‘”Well, I don’t want to be with you anymore.’ We can not only leave them, but we can take that child with us and turn them into visitors,” she said, adding that she had been guilty of this herself, not realizing the error of her ways until her son became a father. She adds, “However you lose a child, or a spouse, or a parent, it hurts.”
When asked by phone recently why he didn’t enforce Tenn’s visitation or prosecute Phillips for interference in 2007, Moultrie County State’s Attorney Marvin Hansen said he didn’t remember the case. Then he claimed Tenn’s court order from Judge O’Brien was illegal. Upon further questioning, he said he is following the divorce Phillips received in IL in April, 2008 which has visitation on hold.
I had no notice of a divorce until a California family court judge told me that Shannon got one in Illinois months earlier. It isn’t valid. I filed in a California court originally and according to the UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act) California still has jurisdiction.
I told Madison I would always be there for her and protect her. But I’ve only been allowed to parent her during one 5-hour visit in the last 41 months. Who is protecting her now? What about her best interest?
Amy J. L. Baker, director of research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection in New York told U.S.News and World Report that in a study culminating in her 2007 book, Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome, she interviewed 40 “survivors” and found that many were depressed, guilt ridden, and self-loathing. She said, “The long-term implications [of alienation] are pretty severe. Kids develop identity through relationships with both their parents. When they are told one is no good, they believe, ‘I’m half no good.’”
RADAR, (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting) reports: “The way protective orders are issued is one example of the erosion of civil rights and due process protections in cases alleging domestic violence. In no other area of the law have civil rights and due process been so weakened. Domestic violence laws lead to politically driven justice instead of the impartial rule of law guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions.”
Two recent court wins show positive reform starting to happen. See Crespo Case Unwarranted DV Restraining Order Case – Granted Appealand Domestic Violence Suspects Get Another Day In Court.
Tenn, who has since become President of the gender-neutral equal parenting advocacy group Fathers 4 Justice has done a couple of high-profile peaceful civil rights protests. On Nov. 9 Tenn will appear at 9 am at the Franklin County Courthouse, 373 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio with Paul Fisher of Ohio to face vandalism charges for their protest 175′ above ground on a crane at OSU.
When asked why they risked “life, limb and liberty” for parents’ rights Tenn replied, “I have a moral conscience. I cannot sit by and not do something when I see the devastation that is happening to parents and children all across the country.”
After climbing down from the crane Fisher said, “I made the sign saying ‘STOP THE WAR ON FATHERHOOD.’ I believe there is a war in this country against fathers. In my case the judge was biased.” Fisher clarified, “What drove me to go up on a crane was the obligation as an American to defend the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees us due process.”
Tenn says it’s about the children’s right to both parents.
Even though as a law-abiding citizen I am not there with her now, I will never go away. I will always be campaigning for Madison’s right to share equally in her father’s life. Because I know what truly is in Madison’s best interest. Both, fit and willing parents sharing equally in their child’s life.