By Janet Phelan
While the West, and the United States in particular, has repeatedly voiced criticism over human rights abuses in other countries, the US’s own record in terms of detaining and incarcerating dissidents is now becoming conspicuous.
In presenting a recent report on human rights issues, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated:
Here is the truth, we believe: A government that fails to respect human rights, no matter how lofty its pretentions, has very little to boast about, to teach, and very little indeed in the way of reaching its full potential.
This report itself is heavily weighted in terms of naming Asian and Middle Eastern countries as human rights abusers. Kerry reports that,
In every part of the world, we see an accelerating trend by both state and non-state actors to close the space for civil society, to stifle media and Internet freedom, to marginalize opposition voices, and in the most extreme cases, to kill people or drive them from their homes.
The United States is not named in the report.
However, the US is itself a major culpable actor in such abuses. Despite its continuing and increasingly strained efforts to self-promote as a defender of human rights, the US is now inhibiting media and Internet freedom as well as regularly imprisoning activists – often without trial.
The world is already aware of the use of the Espionage Act to imprison and otherwise intimidate whistleblowers. The cases of Bradley Manning, Jeffrey Sterline, James Hitselberger, John Kiriakou, and others have hit the mainstream press.
What the world may not be aware of is that non-CIA connected individuals, who are merely attempting to correct and/ or broadcast injustices, are now facing jail time.
You Mean I Forgot to Tell You About Your Trial?
Tim Lahrman is a name well known to disability rights activists. A trained paralegal, Tim has been volunteering his paralegal skills to a growing list of people who are engaged in legal battles against guardians and lawyers.
For those unacquainted with the issues concerning adult guardianships, an overview reveals that these guardianships constitute a legal loophole through which an individual may be declared incompetent and then stripped of all his assets and the lion’s share of his rights. In fact, upon the initiation of such a guardianship, the alleged incapacitated person may not even be allowed to hire a lawyer to defend against the guardianship. The National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse’s website has a compelling summary of what rights are lost when one goes under a guardianship.
Robin Gibson, a Los Angeles woman, attributes Tim Lahrman’s legal expertise to the successful resolution of an ongoing legal conflict with the guardian for her mother. Recently, the mother was released from a guardianship which Gibson states was draining her mother’s estate and wherein the guardian, Frumeh Labow, had virtually sequestered the older woman from contact with the outside world.
“I owe this all to Tim,” pronounced an exhilarated Robin Gibson in a recent interview. “I have finally got my mother back.”
Gibson is only one of many who have benefited from Lahrman’s legal acumen and skills. And she may be one of the last. For Tim Lahrman now sits in an Indiana jail cell, held without bail on two seventeen year- old misdemeanor charges.
Candice Schwager, an attorney from Texas, has this to say about Lahrman’s incarceration:
There is an entirely different agenda behind this seventeen year old persecution. It’s not even reasonable to think that Goshen keeps misdemeanor cold case files and this was bad luck. This arrest was retribution because Tim has brought up the crimes of a clouted political figure.
Tim Lahrman was himself placed under a guardianship in 1987. He was at that point in time in his twenties and an owner of a thriving automotive business which was subsequently ravaged through the guardianship proceedings.
Lahrman’s guardianship was never legally terminated. After sacking his business, the guardian, Kenneth Scheibenberger, “just sort of wandered off,” according to Lahrman.
This left Tim Lahrman in legal limbo. Neither his rights nor his property were ever restored to him. He was left, in essence, as a legal zero.
As the law states, Lahrman thus could not have had the “legal capacity” to commit the two misdemeanors with which he was charged in 1999 —driving with a suspended license and possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Tim filed legal notice in the misdemeanor case of his stated “lack of capacity.” The court took no notice and, after oddly failing in its legal mandate to summon him for his trial, held the trial without him present, found him guilty and sentenced him to two years. He was not present at the hearing and was not subsequently apprehended.
Fast forward to 2016. Tim is not only assisting others in their guardianship cases but has now filed a number of lawsuits in his own matter.
Filed on January 20, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division, Tim Lahrman also sued Elkhart County Superior Court No. 2 (Stephen R. Bowers, Judge), the Chief Judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals, the State of Indiana, the Office of Indiana Attorney General and the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration. Lahrman was picked up in March of this year on the seventeen year- old stale and expired warrant, and is being held in Elkhart County Jail without bail. His writ of Habeas Corpus, filed with the court this past week, was reportedly denied by Judge Bodie Stegelmann. According to reports, Judge Stegelmann has ordered Lahrman into a psychiatric evaluation.
Attorney Schwager, who has filed notice in this case, states that Tim was put into “the hole”—solitary confinement—this past week after asking his public defender for her name and also requesting the court file. The request apparently frightened her. Schwager has more on the case.
The public defender subsequently withdrew and the judge has ordered Tim to appear pro se—without legal counsel.
I Don’t Know You But I Am Sure You Are Incompetent
Another disability rights activist, Cary Andrew Crittenden, is now being held in Santa Clara County Jail, in Northern California, after being arrested on Christmas Eve on “secret charges.”
We can only term the charges “secret” because the Santa Clara County Prosecutor’s office has consistently refused to honor its legal responsibility to release the records containing the factual circumstances surrounding Crittenden’s arrest. The California Public Records Act, clarified by the court case known as “Kusar” mandates the release of these records.
Crittenden, who has launched an internet campaign against corruption in Santa Clara County was previously arrested in Santa Clara County for making online statements about public officials which were deemed to be “harassment.”
An internal affairs complaint was filed on February 11 with the Prosecutor’s office concerning the refusal of Assistant District Attorney David Angel to comply with the records disclosure law, which is in place in order to guard against “secret arrests.” This IA complaint appears to have gone the way of the public’s rights to know — into the garbage can. No action has been taken on the complaint.
The recipient of the complaint, a Lt. Jorge Perez, who states he is an investigator with the DA’s office, has refused to even release the name of the individual who has been assigned to investigate the complaint concerning ADA David Angel’s refusal to comply with the law.
Recently, there was an attempt to have Crittenden declared incompetent to stand trial. If an individual is so deemed, he may be incarcerated indefinitely without ever having his day in court. Sniffing this rat, Crittenden refused to attend the psychiatric evaluation which the court had set up for him.
In a bizarre, Kafkaesque effort, a “doctor” – who never saw or evaluated Cary Andrew Crittenden–trotted himself into court. In a declaration that would have made any surrealist proud, Dr. Burke, the “doc-in the pocket” of the court, intoned that in his professional opinion, Crittenden, a man he had never seen, was “incompetent to stand trial.”
The fact that Burke had never evaluated Crittenden did not escape the attention of the court, however. Crittenden was ordered into another evaluation, and the subsequent medical professional reportedly determined that Crittenden was indeed competent.
The propensity for courts now to order activists and dissidents into psychiatric evaluation is something that deserves special attention. A person adjudicated incompetent by a court may, in fact, never get a trial. He can be locked up indefinitely on minor and potentially bogus charges and also be court- ordered to be forcibly medicated with anti- psychotics, which constitute a chemical strait jacket.
If you think that the cases involving Lahrman and Crittenden are the exception, you may rest assured that, for cases involving guardianship activists, this is standard court operating procedure. Rosanna Miller, who was attempting to protect her father’s interests while he was under guardianship, was arrested in 2014 for failure to pay court costs. The Ohio Supreme Court, however, had issued a memo stating that an individual cannot be arrested for failure to pay court costs.
Questions were raised about the possibility that the Bellafontaine judge, Ann Beck, was involved in a number of financial improprieties. Beck then quickly released Miller from custody. Barbara Stone, a NY attorney whose mother, Helen, was under a questionable guardianship in Florida, was arrested and charged with “custody interference”—which mandates a potential sentence of five years in prison — for allegedly taking her mother to lunch.
If I Can’t Get You, I’ll Get Your Kid
The psychiatric incarceration of John Rohrer raises further questions about motives to detain this young man, and detain him possibly indefinitely. Rohrer, who apparently wandered into the wrong house while under the influence of a hallucinogen, has now been detained over ten years, the last six and a half years as an in-patient in a state psychiatric facility. The case has been fraught with illegal maneuvers by the prosecutors and judge, including denying him his right multiple times to hearings to determine whether he meets the state’s definition of being “mentally ill.” In fact, Rohrer has never been deemed incompetent. Rohrer is now being held at Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, a State psychiatric hospital, where he was forcibly drugged for years.
It should be noted that the Ohio Supreme Court has determined that a judge may not order forced drugging unless he makes a finding that the individual lacks capacity to consent. The forced drugging must also be in the patient’s “best interests” and there must not be any alternatives deemed to be as effective as the drugging. In the Rohrer case, Judge Corzine made none of these findings, and in fact stated on the record that Rohrer appeared “pretty lucid today.”
Nevertheless, Corzine ordered the forced drugging of John Rohrer.
According to reports, during a brief 2007 exposure to Risperdal, Rohrer, who was at that time 27 years old, suffered a cardiac event, but this did not stop it from being chosen as the primary drug to forcibly inject.
Medical and legal malpractice complaints were filed November 24, 2014 in the Ohio Court of Claims and November 28, 2014 in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court by the attorney for John Rohrer. The complaint states that Rohrer was forcibly injected with Risperdal for more than 3 ½ years although the drug is known to cause irreversible brain damage. In addition, the complaint states that Rohrer’s rights to a fair hearing have been repeatedly violated.
The activist in the Rohrer case is actually his mother. Attorney and talk show host Katherine Hine founded the advocacy group Stop Child Abuse Now in Oklahoma and advised a group of foster mothers who were outraged at the involvement of judges and lawyers in the murder of 2-year-old Ryan Luke in 1995. She is the Executive Director of the Ross County Network for Children in Ohio, an organization with a strong history of conflict with the Ross County Prosecutors, surrounding two child murderers that the County had not wanted prosecuted back in the 1990s.
Hine is now with WJLA radio hosting a two weekly broadcasts—one exposing illegalities of forced psychiatry and another exposing the consequences of the lack of judicial accountability. She also is a contributor to The Columbus Free Press.
The Ross County Prosecutor’s office has made it clear that they despise her. Now, they are the ones making sure John Rohrer stays locked up.
Hine has faced three disciplinary actions. She writes, “My first discipline was in Oklahoma in like 1981 or 1982 when my soon to be ex grabbed by children in violation of an Oklahoma custody order giving their temporary custody to me.” According to Hine, “He claimed he wasn’t served.” She reports that “I got a private reprimand – where you go into an office and they yell at you about 15 minutes. Told me what a disgrace to the profession I was and how ashamed they all were of being in the bar association with me.”
She was subsequently reprimanded by the Oklahoma Bar in 1997 for communicating with a judge concerning a matter involving a suspected case of child abuse, in which she did not represent a party. In fact, Hine had signed a letter along with seven other individuals who were concerned that the judge had authorized supervised visitation of a child with a sexual predator and that the supervision stipulation was being ignored. In other words, the child was allowed to be alone with the predator. There was another attempt at discipline when she was accused of ghost writing for a pro se litigant, but Hine invoked confidentiality and the complaint evaporated.
Concerning the lengthy incarceration of her son, Katherine Hine has this to say: “These people are like the Cosa Nostra. They launch intergenerational vendettas and will go after your family.”
According to Hine, John Rohrer is no longer allowed online. He had previously set up websites with his music and poetry but the public awareness of his situation had launched protests among his readers and as a result, he is now barred by the hospital from going onto the Internet.
Recent articles have discussed the increasing incidence of suspension and disciplinary actions taken against attorneys who are attempting to protect the rights of individuals. If the current trend continues, we may see anyone standing up for the rights of another individual escorted into jail and, from there, potentially into a rubber room.
Janet C. Phelan, investigative journalist and human rights defender that has traveled pretty extensively over the Asian region, an author of a tell-all book EXILE, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.