Parent Released After Serving 18 Years In Prison on False Child Abuse Allegations Related to Custody and Divorce

The below are edited excerpts and my own contributions from the original article by Glenda Anderson The Press Democrat June 29, 2016. 

February 2016, a Lake County man convicted of sexually abusing a child was released from prison after his alleged victim, his daughter, recanted the testimony she gave when she was 10 years old. The man, Luther Jones, spent 18 years behind bars. A judge set him free after his daughter told Lake County District Attorney’s Office investigators she had lied at the behest of her mother, who at the time was battling Jones over custody of their  daughter.

The state awarded Jones $936,880 for wrongful imprisonment. The largest known compensation payment ever made to someone cleared of a crime after being incarcerated in California’s state prison system — if he lives long enough to collect. Luther Jones, 71, slipped into a coma Thursday, the third one since he was released from prison in February. Luther Jones has diabetes, kidney and liver failure and Hepatitis C.

Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson says he’s fed up with liars who fib under oath. In a novel offensive against what many say is a rampant problem in the court system, he’s assigned an attorney in his office to investigate and prosecute incidents of perjury. “I’ve always had a pet peeve about people lying in court. It’s just so very common, especially in the family law arena, for people to come in and just lie their asses off,” Anderson said.

He said he hopes the new program will make people think twice about committing perjury. His office already is examining three cases for possible prosecution. He declined to provide details about the cases.

Perjury is rarely prosecuted, said Ronald Huff, professor emeritus of the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at UC, Irvine. Thousands of people are wrongly convicted of serious crimes each year, many because of faulty testimony where perjury is responsible both for innocent people being imprisoned and guilty people remaining at large, free to commit more crimes, Huff noted.

Some notable exceptions for perjury include home decorating maven Martha Stewart, who was convicted of lying under oath about insider trading in 2004, and Mark Fuhrman, the Los Angeles detective charged with lying about having used racial slurs in the years prior to the 1995 O.J. Simpson case.

The punishment in typical perjury cases includes potential sentences of between two and four years, Anderson said. But in particularly egregious cases, the penalties can be much higher. A California law allows liars whose testimony causes someone to wrongly be put to death to be charged with a death penalty perjury case, he said. Anderson said he’s unaware of any cases in which the death penalty was pursued for perjury.

While wrongful imprisonment cases can be horrific, Fitzpatrick said the courts should also closely examine recantations. “Recantations are very suspect,” he said. Family law cases, in which money and child custody are at stake, in particular are rife with lies, Anderson said. He estimated half of those case files probably include lies.

Perjury goes largely ignored for several reasons, including that they’re difficult to prosecute, the attorneys said. Success depends on having material proof that the person who was untruthful knowingly lied.

“How do you prove, at the moment somebody did something, they did it intentionally?” asked Pasadena attorney Mark Baer, who has written about perjury for the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association’s publication. One of his website’s blog postings asks: “Does anyone tell the truth any longer?

The article went on to say that perjury is one of the most under reported crimes, Fitzpatrick said. My two cents is that the writer says nothing about the fact that perjury is rarely a report taken by law enforcement agencies. In fact in my 32 years of dealing with Family Law, I have never heard of a report being taken for perjury. Significant because as a retired law enforcement officer for 24 years with the Los Angeles Police Department I never took a report for perjury nor did any officer or detective that I know ever take or investigate a report for perjury. I am not even sure the Department would have allowed me to take such a report.

I have watched as false child abuse allegations have increased over the years in Family Law cases to law enforcement and social services after years of failed litigation to wrestle or keep custody to the first step in the battle for custody after the initial filing. Now seen as the silver bullet and the fastest, least expensive and shortest route to full custody of the children.

A family and criminal law attorney I am familiar with has defended parents accused of false allegations where attorney fees can be as much as $400,000 to $600,000 to defend against allegations. These were middle income families. Not wealthy parents. They didn’t have the money and were able to pay for their defense because of the assistance of their families who mortgaged, sold property or closed out retirement accounts in addition to the accused parent. And it is getting worse every year. Making it likely this story will be repeated in every city and state in this country without the proactive solutions of this DA which I support whole heartily. I hope it results in other offices following his leadership role on this issue.

To read the full article unedited and without my contributions click here.


Catherine MacWillie is the CEO of Custody Calculations and a Child Custody and Divorce Coach. She has 32 years experience dealing with Family Law. 24 years as a law enforcement officer responding to radio calls dealing with divorce and custody issues and a first responder to child abuse investigations in addition to other related assignments. She spent ten years researching Family Law and divorce including cause, effect, impact, solutions to the many issues that arise during divorce and custody proceedings. The last eight years as a Coach.

She is the past president of Stop Parental Alienation of Children (SPAC). A prior board member of Parental Alienation Awareness Organization with Sarvy Emo (PAAO). An advisory board member of International Support Network of Alienated Families ISNAF). A member of Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG). A member of the 2014 Parental Alienation Colloquium, Long Beach, California. A member of the 2016 Parental Alienation Think Tank, Beverly Hills, California.

In 2017 her research on divorce, crime and parental alienation will be presented in Prague, Czechoslovakia at the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH) a prestigious event with participants coming from around the globe to present.

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