By Janet Phelan
The plea offer was clear: Give up the names of your fellow internet activists who are blogging about guardianship abuse and you get a “Get out of Jail Now” card.
The plea offer, which embattled litigant and guardianship reform activist Barbara Stone refused on January 8 in a hearing in Miami Dade Court, reflected the idea that, according to her attorney AJ Amoroso, the prosecution believes that there is a “Mafia” of unknown bloggers who are putting up websites and otherwise engaged in social media efforts to expose problematic guardianships.
“I don’t think there are secret meetings or like a secret society engaged in this,” said a somewhat puzzled Amoroso, who as a criminal defense attorney confessed little knowledge of the machinations going on in probate court, machinations which bloggers, unidentified as well as named, are calling a “holocaust ” on the elderly and disabled.
The “Mafia” simile was scoffed at by a guardianship activist from Tucson. “The Mafia has money,” she said. “We don’t have any money. We just have dead relatives.”
In refusing to give up the names of the partisans, oops, I mean the other individuals who are regularly posting about how adult guardianships have resulted in the wholesale liquidation of estates as well as — all too often — the untimely death of the elderly or disabled ward, Barbara Stone lost any mitigation in sentencing and was then sentenced to thirty months in prison by Judge Tim Bailey. Following release from prison, she must then serve six months of a contempt of court sentence levied by the guardianship court judge, Michael Genden.
Stone’s saga began in 2013, when, alarmed at the condition of her mother in a facility into which she had been remanded by her court-appointed guardian, Jacqueline Hertz, Barbara took Helen Stone out of the facility and to lunch at a nearby Denny’s. Barbara was then arrested and charged with a multitude of crimes, including custody interference, elder abuse and kidnapping.
Only the custody interference stuck, a felony which carries a potential five year prison sentence. Barbara was offered a plea agreement but something went wrong in the mix and in August of 2016 she was apparently hit with a contempt of court charge by Judge Michael Genden. At that point Barbara Stone, who had already served substantial time in jail for feeding her mother, jumped probation and took off.
She ended up in Tucson, where she was living under an assumed name and reportedly continuing on in her activism concerning corruption in the guardianship courts. Stone was subsequently arrested as a fugitive from justice in June of 2017 and in the course of the arrest, picked up another criminal charge when she reportedly maced the arresting officer. She was extradited from Arizona to Florida in November of 2017.
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Stone, who was a real estate attorney in New York, had no prior criminal history before she took her Mom to lunch and has accumulated over 500 in-jail days since the “Denny’s debacle.”
Prior to leaving Florida, Stone filed a number of lawsuits against Genden and the guardian. In the recent proceedings following her extradition back to Florida, the court heard from at least ten individuals, including Judge Genden and the guardian’s attorney, Roy Lustig, how she “ruined their lives.”
“Barbara refused to show any remorse,” said Amoroso, which he states may have contributed to the stiff sentence.
Amoroso, who is her criminal defense lawyer representing her only for the past couple of weeks, has said that he plans to file for a mitigation of sentence. “I have no doubts at this point in time that the probate courts are corrupt,” he stated in an interview this week.
Speaking from Florida, Dr. Sam Sugar, who is the head of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianships, a grassroots advocacy group, had this to say about the recent actions in the Stone case:
If accurate, the reports that a defendant in a criminal pleading was offered a reduction in sentence in return for unmasking the identities of Americans exercising their First Amendment Rights online with comments about abusive guardianship courts are a chilling reminder that the Gestapo tactics of Nazi Germany have found a new home in Miami Dade courts–the real secret society!
Scott Warfman, the prosecutor from the State Attorney’s office, could not be reached for comment on the “turn over everyone you know” plea offer.
On the initiation of a guardianship, an individual loses all control over his own assets and property as well as the right to have any say about his personal life and associations. A recent article in Forbes estimated that there are approximately 1.5 million Americans under guardianship, with roughly $273 billion in assets that have been transferred out of reach of the wards and into the bank accounts of the guardians.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking , EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad.