Janet C. Phelan
San Bernardino Assistant District Attorney Tristan Svare has requested that the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department initiate an investigation concerning allegations of fraud surrounding the conservatorship and sixteen-month-long psychiatric detention of a Redlands man, Charlie Castle.
Castle was placed under a conservatorship by San Bernardino Court in June of 2011 and has allegedly never had a trial or seen a judge, both potential violations of conservatorship laws.
During a conversation with this reporter last week, Svare stated concern that Castle might be the victim of multiple acts of fraud. Svare requested that another report be initiated with the Yucca Valley police, which contracts with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s department, so that these concerns can be properly investigated.
Accordingly, Keith Phillips of Redlands lodged a report with Yucca Valley Deputy Garcia. Garcia went out to the facility, Braswell’s Desert Manor, where Charlie is being held in lockdown and reported back to Phillips that the facility told him Charlie was not allowed to use the phone because he was too “crazy.” Phillips states that Garcia told him that he did not attempt to speak with Charlie Castle nor did he check the paperwork to determine if he were legally conserved.
When Svare was informed of the nature and scope of Garcia’s visit, he contacted the Yucca Valley PD and within a few hours, an investigation was initiated by Deputy Helmick.
Charles Castle has reportedly never received aresponse to the writ of habeas corpus he filed in San Bernardino Superior court over a month ago. The Department of Public Health recently went out to Desert Manor to ensure that Charlie’s right to receive and make phone calls would be reinstituted. Castle is seeking independent legal counsel and several pro bono law firms had reported that they were denied access to Castle.
A prior report was filed with Yucca Valley PD in September when a friend, Scott Kennedy, attempted to visit Charlie and was turned away by Desert Manor. The staff at the facility called the police and the responding officers informed Kennedy that he could not visit his friend again, on orders of the conservator.
Both federal and California law guarantee the rights of individuals in facilities to make and receive phone calls and to receive visitors.
Castle’s writ of habeas corpus seeks relief on two grounds—inadequate representation by counsel (his lawyer, Bryan Hartnell, was representing the conservator, Melodie Scott, in the same case) and also deprivation of rights in the conservatorship proceedings.
Conservatorships constitute a grave potential threat to civil liberties. Upon the initiation of a conservatorship (in some states these are called adult guardianships), an individual often loses all rights and all access to funds and property. Due to this, an individual who has been conserved may not even hire a lawyer of his choosing and must accept a court appointed attorney. Several national and state-wide grassroots groups have sprung up in attempts to address the civil rights violations posed by conservatorships.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She currently resides abroad. You may browse through her articles (and poetry) at janetphelan.com