Friday, April 24, 2015

"Cameronomics" - Child Support - Custody Issues in California v. Brown

On day 19 of the third trial of Cameron Brown, a couple of witnesses testified to the state of Brown's finances (which I merrily dub "Cameronomics") that indicated he was broke. Brown was never particularly good with money before or after the child support award was part of his financial obligations. I have extensive experience with the way in which child support is calculated, and I appreciate how a father who has very little time with his child (by choice or court order) could resent having to pay almost half his net income in child support.

The best solution is to obtain joint custody (or "shared parenting") where both parents share similar blocks of time with the child(ren) and they commute back and forth between houses. This would, of course, require the parents to have a mature relationship, live in the same school district (or within a manageable distance), and decide who pays health insurance, who gets the tax exemption, etc.

In the case of Brown and Key, the child support was calculated based on the usual factors: income of each parent, time spent with the child, and arrears when the child support award was finalized. Brown owed back child support, a percentage of which was added to his monthly payment. Brown's child support was a substantial amount, and I agree it was debilitating. But, we don't make the rules. It wasn't Sarah's decision, and it's not based on how much of that money is spent on the child.

Mr. Laub's cross examination of the financial expert witnesses attempted to demonstrate that Sarah was getting too much money, that she couldn't have needed it, that she didn't account for what she spent on Lauren, and other accusations that she was immoral somehow in taking this money.

This is a preposterous and irrelevant issue. Whether or not Sarah spent the child support she received from Brown exclusively on Lauren's needs (and demonstrated this with a spreadsheet every week) or on mink furs is moot. The idea behind child support is to provide the child with a lifestyle he/she would have enjoyed had the parents lived together. Unless Brown could show that Lauren was neglected, malnourished, poorly dressed, or smelled like a meth lab, he had no choice but to pay what the court ordered. That's just the way it works. I'm not saying it's fair, but that's the law.

As a single mother who has received a wide range of child support (from Zero to $600/month, depending on the income or deadbeat level of the father), there are innumerable issues that a non-custodial parent doesn't face. A non-custodial parent with no other children (or step-children) buys a lot of freedom with that child support. He/she generally has visitation for 4 to 10 days a month. That leaves over 20 days of freedom from the demands of full-time parenting. The non-custodial parent misses less work because of a sick child, avoids babysitting costs, medical issues, transportation to extracurricular activities, hosting the child's friends, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, nightmares at the shoe store, the list goes on and on.

Brown wanted more time with Lauren, yet he failed to present at any time (from all accounts) a shared parenting agreement where he spelled out how he was going to accommodate her lifestyle. It was unrealistic to keep Lauren 50% of the time from the distance he and Patty lived from Sarah. It was even less likely (testified to in the link above) that the court would grant the Browns full custody unless Sarah had "turned into a monster."

I gave that rationale to Ted Kaldis many years ago, and he insisted that I was out to lunch. This recent testimony vindicates me (not that I needed it), and shows that either Patty Brown was woefully ignorant about how custody matters were decided (and her lame attempt to accuse Sarah of child abuse was only the first of many attempts she made to create a case), or she was bluffing.

Yes, Brown wanted a reduction in child support. He tried to obtain this in many ways: working less, declaring less income, and asking for more custody. He failed in those attempts. However, it was never shown that he wanted full custody. I believe that was Patty's idea, and I would not be surprised if she was drilling this idea into Brown's feeble mind for months. Maybe....just maybe....Brown killed two birds with one stone when he went to Inspiration Point that day: eliminate the child support obligation and his obsessed wife's warped notion that they take that child from her mother and raise her as their own.

It's an ugly thought, but I can't help entertaining it.

Jon Hans' Change of Heart

Jon Hans appeared as a witness for the prosecution (again) in the current trial of California v. Brown, and repeated the story that refreshed my memory about how we were inadvertently involved in this case through my former blog. For those of you too busy to cull the archives here, allow me to summarize what occurred.

CountryGirl obtained a copy of the Grand Jury transcript back in the early days of the case, and we made it available to anyone who wanted it. Jon Hans emailed me requesting a copy, as did dozens of others. Apparently, Hans was one of the people who wrote a support letter for Brown that was published on Ted Kaldis's "Free Cam Brown" website. After reading the transcript, researching the area of Inspiration Point, and exchanging emails with me (and perhaps other people), Hans had a change of heart regarding Brown's innocence. He requested on numerous occasions for Kaldis to remove his letter from the website.

Kaldis refused. He was such a nice guy. (/sarcasm) If Kaldis had removed the letter right away, perhaps that would have been enough for Hans. He may never have pursued a more damaging remedy.

When Hans described to me the story that Patty Brown was the instigator of the child abuse accusations and plans to obtain full custody of Lauren, while Cam Brown seemed indifferent to the idea, we encouraged him to contact Detective Leslie. Hans had other experiences with the defendant that seemed valuable to the case. Eventually, he was called as a witness in the second trial and has now appeared in the third.

In the second trial, then defense attorney Pat Harris made quite a big deal out of Hans using the internet (and my blog) to sway his opinion. Harris never actually mentioned me by name (thank goodness), but I know he and Geragos and their associates were no strangers to my work.

Hans was very close to Brown for many years, and it was difficult for him to accept that Brown was capable of murdering his child. From his testimony in the third trial, he seems even more adamant in his belief and probably did a lot of damage to Brown's case. We have Kaldis to thank.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Observations of Third Trial - Days 1-8 Prosecution Case

I've spent quite a bit of time catching up with the third trial details of California v. Brown. Many, many thanks to "Sprocket" (Betsy Ross), who is chronicling the trial on her blog. She's doing a great job, and we're lucky to have her.

After reading up to day 8 of the prosecution's case against Brown, so far a familiar lineup of witnesses is appearing in this trial, but we now get to read their actual testimonies instead of summaries or news reports. It's at once fascinating, poignant and heartbreaking.

We learn nothing new about the defendant's behavior, reluctance to be a father, spiteful actions and drama between him and Sarah Key, but we do get some new details from Sarah's former roommates and friends, and it's not particularly flattering. In the past, some of our community suggested Brown had a type of autism. I think he just has a very low IQ and poor coping skills.

Brown's acrimonious relationship with his mother was once again introduced as testimony through Sarah and others. It occurred to me that Craig Hum is planting the idea that Brown killed Lauren to spite his mother as well. It wouldn't be much of a stretch; Brown's relationship with his mother is a deep factor. I wonder if the suggestion is too subtle for the jury.

We also learn that Brown gave Lauren some creepy, faceless Amish dolls from his grandmother's collection, with which Lauren didn't play and, according to Sarah, rejected. Sarah eventually threw them away, much to Brown's dismay. He was extremely petty about the monetary value of things, but we already knew that. We were reminded that he constantly accused Sarah of wanting him for his "money" and he begrudged her a quarter she took from his car. Anyone who is that concerned he's being "taken" is a guy who is on the take, himself. This paranoia is almost always projection. Yeah, Brown must have been a lot of fun to date. (/sarcasm)

Probably the most difficult and disturbing testimony to read has come from the teachers and friends of Lauren from the Montessori school she attended. They describe Lauren's bizarre behavior on the days leading up to, and the day of her death. Lauren appeared to have a premonition of something terrible about to happen. She kept asking to go home, to see her mother, to not attend school, and was alarmingly averse to leaving with her dad that day. It's devastating, and I do not exaggerate at all when I say that.

Mr. Laub, Brown's attorney, is cross-examining the witnesses and tends to meander with his points. I think his strategy is to demonstrate that Ms. Key had financial motives for her actions (getting pregnant, obtaining child support, subsequent lawsuits, raising money). I love it when men accuse the mothers of their children of getting pregnant and collecting child support as a kind of "racket" or scheme. It's hilarious. They really have no clue.

Laub tried to show Sarah as using the pregnancy to stay in the USA and to extort financial support from Brown. It's a tough sell, and even if it were true, it has no bearing on what Brown is accused of doing. Are we supposed to sympathize with Brown if we think he was trapped into fatherhood or financial responsibility? Sure, you poor guy. I don't blame ya! Throw that kid off a cliff.

Laub tries to portray Sarah Key as immoral for using child support funds for Lauren's burial. According to Ms. Key, she saved much of the child support in a separate account (which is more than I ever did - heck I used to to feed and clothe my child), and when Lauren died, she failed to report the death to the county and continued to receive child support for a couple more months.

I know a little about child support and emancipation issues, and last I checked, Mr. Brown could have reported the child's death to the county and they would have stopped taking the money. That he did not (and it is one form you fill out) and Sarah failed to do it does not make her a thief. It's a very weak point. I think the defense will be hard pressed to show Key as a money-grubbing, promiscuous opportunist. It's tricky territory for the defense to try and impeach a very sympathetic mother of a dead child. This strategy could backfire.

Meanwhile, much of the cross seems aimed at petty inconsistencies among the witnesses who have testified in the now THREE trials over this case. The witnesses have to refresh their memories of their first or second appearances, and in some cases, their grand jury testimony. It's a lot to ask. Sarah kept a diary, which was a very smart thing to do, but her friends and the other witnesses have to rely on transcripts. It's difficult for any of us to tell the same story twice without some small changes.This does not make us liars, merely human.

Several witnesses who were hiking on the same trail that day observed that Brown was always walking way ahead of Lauren from 5 to 20 feet, which contradicts his story that she was skipping ahead of him and he couldn't keep up. I recall there may still be a witness for the defense that saw Lauren ahead of Brown and he may appear later. It's also weak tea, and I doubt any juror will believe Brown's ludicrous story.

A great deal of cross has been focused on attempting to show Lauren as adventurous, active, athletic, or at least willing to be these things with her father, when she was a little lazy, shy, reticent and prissy with everyone else in her life. Laub is saying, "Could she not be this way with her father, to impress him or please him?" The psychologist seemed dubious. As the mother of 3 once 4-year old daughters who had visitation with their father, I do accept that they enjoyed activities with him that were very different from those at home, and they ate things with him they would not eat at home. However, this case involves a long, difficult hike up steep and rocky terrain, after an exhausting morning of crying and half an hour on a playground. It's just not credible that Lauren made that trek willingly.

Frankly, I think Laub is a very weak attorney and Craig Hum is pretty much having him for lunch. Stay tuned.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Third Trial for Cameron Brown

After six  years of inactivity, former ski bum, surfer and baggage handler Cameron Brown is standing trial for the third time for the alleged intentional murder of his then four-year-old daughter, Lauren Key by throwing her off a cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes back in November 2000; what seems like a hundred years ago.

If you are just discovering this site from a search engine like Google, please look at the archives. We have documented this case from the beginning, and none of the facts have changed.

If Crag Hum can't convince a jury this time, Brown will (finally) walk. But not without having served significantly more time than he would have if he had plead to involuntary manslaughter. Whoever advised him to take this case to trial (Mark Geragos? Ted Kaldis? Beuhler?) should perhaps open a restaurant or write a screenplay.

I will follow the trial with CountryGirl and post my observations, for whoever is interested.

TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS BLOG

LA TIMES


An article from November 2014 I found on HuffPost, clearly instigated by Patty and Ted Kaldis (who obviously supplied the photos), was a sympathetic and fair chronology of the trial. However, it still smacks of the narcissistic paranoia prevalent in this case, as it implies that a Superior Court Judge and an entire justice system would conspire to keep Cam Brown in jail. It's just absurd. Brown's legal representation has done him a disservice (at best). It should have plead him out long ago.

Stay tuned.

HuffPost Article

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Third Time's The Charm (I hope)

Thinking of you Sarah.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy Birthday ~ Sweet Sixteen

We haven't forgotten Lauren.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Sweet Lauren


Never forgotten.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Second Trial: Hung Jury #2

The second trial of The People of California v. Cameron John Brown ended with another hung jury that reportedly voted 6-6 for second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. It remains to be seen whether Craig Hum will try the case a third (and final) time or if the People will offer Brown a plea - a common action taken at this stage. If Brown refuses to plead to involuntary manslaughter (a felony where his six years in L.A. County jail would be considered time served), he will likely be released on bail and retried for the higher of the two charges.

See HERE for last Daily Breeze report.

Details from the jury deliberations and notes from the courtroom are yet to be posted at Denise Nix's blog or elsewhere. It would be interesting if someone got an interview with the jury foreman.

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PARENTS ON TRIAL ~ Editorial

Much of the discussion surrounding the Brown case had to do with Brown's intent - did he plan or hope for Lauren to fall off the cliff or was he simply reckless? Was it really Brown's parenting skills on trial? Would any of us survive the merciless scrutiny under which Brown's fathering was measured? Perhaps not, but while no parent is perfect, Brown showed a pattern of disregard for Lauren's safety throughout their short time together and both he and his wife acted with spite and cruelty toward Lauren's mother without considering the effect of that behavior on a small child.

Yet, being a spiteful non-custodial father or a jealous new wife isn't a crime; otherwise, our jails would not be full of small-time drug dealers, but middle-class working parents that swear at each other in court, threatent violence, file false abuse charges against their exes, publish blogs and "tweets" and Facebook entries defaming their children's mother (or father), and behave in the most incivilized and harmful manner.

Clearly, domestic issues bring out the very worst in some otherwise good people. If nothing else positive comes of this case, maybe it can bring attention to the damage that can be done to children by this kind of behavior. A beautiful little girl died as a direct result of the adversarial relationship between her biological parents. Some of us believe it was murder, some are convinced it was a "terrible accident"; either way, she is gone because of choices that were made outside her control, because people she depended on to guard her safety (in this case, her father), failed to protect her, and in his willing disregard for her and her mother, caused this tragedy.

We have yet to hear any remorse expressed by Brown or his supporters for their responsibility.