Friday, July 16, 2010

Richard Smothermon - A wrongful conviction under his watch

The following email is included in my book, The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn, and was authored by Kathie Briggs, the paternal grandmother of Kelsey Smith-Briggs. This email was written after the June, 2005 hearing during which the decision was made to place Kelsey back in the home of her mother, Raye Dawn Smith. Kathie Briggs distributed this email to many officials in the effort to clear her son's name from the list of possible perpetrators of Kelsey's abuse. She has claimed she emailed hundreds of people in order to get someone to save Kelsey. Read it for yourself and you be the judge.

At the time of this email, Kathie Briggs had given up her visitation of Kelsey because she didn't want to be supervised during her visits. As you can tell from the language, there is no worry that something will happen to Kelsey, she's only worried about supervised visits and parenting classes.

Also, Kathie has made the statement several times that 1) Her visits were taken from her, 2) she could not appeal the judge's decision, and 3) that Ashley stole money from Lance because he had thousands of dollars in his account. This email in her own words clears up all three of these lies among others.

You can read more evidence such as this in my book.

My question is, why would a district attorney like Richard Smothermon team up with a proven liar and convict someone that he told multiple people "She's innocent but I have to charge her with something"?

We need your help in clearing the name of a soldier fighting in Iraq.
My son, SPC Lance Briggs, was an IRR in the US Army and was called up and reported for duty on September 11, 2004. We took him to Ft Leonard Wood, MO, where he began additional training. He was injured and put on Medic Hold while he underwent two minor surgical procedures on his back. During this time he was able to come home on government holidays. In Feb. he was sent to Ft Dix, NJ for more intense training. He flew home for his last visit here in April 4th and left on April 11th. That following week he was flown to Ft Benning, GA, and on May 2nd he left Kuwait. He is stationed at Camp Arifjan with the 1864th Transportation Unit out of Nevada. His mission is to deliver supplies all over Iraq. We know his job is one of the most dangerous and pray for his safe return. In his six weeks there he has lost one of his fellow platoon members and was at the Baghdad Airport when it was hit with a mortar attack.
Now for the reason I’m writing. The story is long and complicated, but I will condense it as much as possible. My son has a 2 yr. old daughter, Kelsey, from his first marriage. We did not know that she was his until she was three months old and then asked for a DNA. He had moved on and was about to marry again. He then began his first legal battle for standard visitation. When he was called up for active duty I went to court and asked for his visitation and it was granted. We wanted Kelsey to have the opportunity to see videos of her Daddy while he was gone and to interact with his family so when he came home it would not be such an adjustment. We also have six other Grandchildren and we want her to feel as much a part of our family as they do. The natural mother contested this. She did not want the new wife to see Kelsey. My new daughter-in-law is the dream step-mom. Never have I seen someone so loving to all children and not just Kelsey. She is a natural born mother even at age 21. In our family we don’t use the word “step” unless absolutely necessary, we just love each other regardless of blood. The visits were going okay until Jan 8th when the mother did not show up with Kelsey. I tried to locate her, but calls were not returned. I knew it was possible the holidays had thrown her off schedule so the following weekend I went back to our exchange spot and she was there. She explained Kelsey had fallen off her bed and broke her clavicle. I took her to my house where we were having a birthday party. It was Jan 14th and my son was here because of ML King’s birthday. Two hours later he and his wife went to her mothers house and took Kelsey with them. When they got there and started to change her they noticed 29 bruises and multiple abrasions. The police were called and she was taken to the ER. The Meeker police were also called and they were to call DHS. They determined it was an accident and forced us to give her back. We contacted our attorney, [name withheld for privacy], of Stroud and got an emergency order. We went to court on Feb 4th and we received guardianship. The mother tried to point the finger at my son. It was determined he could not have done these injuries in the three hour window. The mother was ordered by DHS to take Anger Management, Parenting Classes, and Drug and Alcohol Assessment. She was given supervised visitation with her mother for three days per week until March 11th. At that time she was given unsupervised visitation on each Wed.-Thurs. and then from Fri-Mon. She actually had her more hours than we did. During this time the mother had a new boyfriend. We felt uncomfortable with him being present during the visit after some of the comments Kelsey had made. We asked for this to be put in the court order. We did not receive a copy of the court order for seven weeks so we did not know what our guidelines were.

[Something that Kathie Briggs and her group have highly criticized Raye for was marrying Mike Porter in April even though according to the court order he wasn’t to be around Kelsey. If this statement is true, the court order wouldn’t have been given to anyone until May of 2005, after Kelsey was removed from Kathie’s home after breaking her legs under Kathie's care.]

The mother said her attorney, [name withheld for privacy], would not sign off on the order because he wanted to see if I did anything wrong. Several times she came home with some bruises and we documented all of them and had people look her over for our protection. The mother had a history of accusing others and our attorney advised us to do this. In March she came home with a bruised nose. As the day went on it swelled up so I took her to the ER and they called DHS. I thought the computer must have Kelsey red flagged for any injury. The following morning DHS scolded me for not calling them sooner. They had previously told me not to call unless I suspected abuse. It is hard to know how to determine one bruise. We also asked the court order to be set up, so if Lance got any leave before shipping out he would get Kelsey during that time and it would take away from everyone else’s time. On Apr 4th when Lance home we had just picked Kelsey up and she had bruises so my daughter-in-law called DHS so they would not think Lance had done it. He left on Apr 11th and the mother called the following day wanting Kelsey to make up for missed days. I called my attorneys to see if I should and he was out so I called DHS and was told this was not a DHS case and I should not contact them unless Kelsey was hurt. So I let her go. I had been told by a caseworker that I needed to work with the mother to help reunite her with Kelsey. It was never a goal of mine to keep Kelsey indefinitely. I had hoped the mother would take her classes and get Kelsey back once it was determined she would be safe. The mother returned Kelsey to me on Apr 14th with a sprained ankle. She went to the zoo with an aunt and fell off her platform shoes. Sounded odd that after begging for more time she would go to work and let the aunt take her. I don’t think anyone contacted the school that sponsored this trip to see if the injury actually happened there. My daughter-in-law called the DHS hotline to report the injury and then DHS scolded us for calling. The mother picked her up the following morning to take her to DHS for an assessment and kept her for the weekend. She was returned on Apr 18th and we were told her foot was still bothering her. The mother had also married earlier that day. We had enrolled Kelsey in a Gymnastics class three weeks prior to this injury and the mother was not happy. We invited her to come to the classes, but she did not. She had a class that night, but we did not take her. The following day I took her to Wal-Mart and she wanted to walk, she took four steps and said, “can’t”. The next couple of days she would stand by furniture and put her weight on the good leg and would crawl or would want me to carry her. I babied her and knew sprained ankles take time to heal. I asked people what they thought, but really wasn’t that concerned. On Thurs the 21st I went to the school to pick up other children ad she took five or six steps and sat down on the sidewalk. Thirty minutes later her mother picked her up for her weekend. This is where the nightmare begins…On Mon the 25th the caseworker called and said the mother would be late bringing Kelsey home. She was in their office and both of Kelsey’s legs were swollen and hot to touch. The mother said that was how she was four days earlier when she picked her up. I had no idea what they were talking about and they just kept talking to me as if I knew she was injured more. Several teachers and the school nurse had seen Kelsey thirty minutes before she was picked up and I told them that to call them to verify she was fine. She stated they told the mother to take her to the doctor. Two hours later they called to say both of her legs were broken. The Doctor in Shawnee stated the first one must have been a missed diagnosis of the sprained ankle and the second one was as stress fracture from over compensation. They did not suspect abuse. I spoke to the Doctor myself and she assured me this was unusual. We found out later this Doctor was the sister of the Attorney for the mother. The DHS worker told the mother she could keep her another day and take her for the cast the following day. I questioned how they had the right to let her keep her when I was the legal guardian, but it did not matter. The casts were put on and we went back to our schedule. During this ordeal, Kelsey was having some hair loss. The mother took her for blood test and everything was normal. I discussed this with this same Doctor and she told me she was not concerned and in a month we would test further. Once again I did not know she was the Attorney’s sister. I did some research on hair loss and read stress could cause the air to fall out. I worried we could be the ones causing stress by keeping her from her Mom and the back and forth schedule. I even talked about petitioning the court to let her go home early. Then I realized after a comment Kelsey made the stress might be at the mother’s house and we were her safe place. The hair started growing back and I even showed it to the DHS workers, but later in court it became an issue. The casts were on and she was miserable. A healthcare professional that worked for a foot doctor stated we should get a second opinion. She stated it was unusual for a 2 yr old to have two broken legs. She also stated sometimes growth plates have not fully closed and they look like fractures. She had her office make a referral to Dr. S. at the OU Physicians Clinic. I asked the mother if she would like to take her. She said “yes”. That night she called and was concerned if the doctor in OKC suspected abuse they would take her into custody in OK County. I told her I couldn’t imagine abuse being suspected. The mother had a death in the family and could not make that appointment and wanted me to reschedule. They could not see us for two weeks so I took her. Dr. S. told us that Kelsey did not have toddler fractures, and they were not stress fractures, but that some one had broken Kelsey’s legs. I did not know at the time that he had already showed the x-rays that I had provided to two other Doctor’s for their opinion and they all agreed. I did not expect to hear this. I called Lincoln County DHS the following morning to tell them what the Doctor said. That afternoon they called and wanted us to bring Kelsey to them and were placing her in a foster home. At the same time they were telling me this, my son beeped in and I told them I need to talk to Lance and please call back in five minutes. I spoke to my son; he had just landed in Germany and was leaving for Kuwait. I did not tell him what was going on because at that moment I did not know myself. When DHS called back they wanted to know if I told him. I explained he was in a war situation and I only had a couple of minutes on the phone and I couldn’t tell him yet. They wanted his address or phone number, which I did not have at that time. My daughter drove Kelsey to Chandler, I just could not handle watching her go off with strangers. The next day after letting us worry all night we were told they gave her to the maternal Grandmother. We went for a just cause hearing and it was determined that the broken legs could have happened at either house and since the mother had pointed a finger at us she could not be left in our home. Even though the mother did not take her to the Doctor from Thurs until Mon. My husband and I were given 4 hours per week of supervised visitation at the DHS office for the next month. The mother was given the same thing. During this time DHS was conducting an investigation. We provided them with names of people who saw Kelsey the day she was at my house and they never contacted any of them. My grown daughter and her two children had moved in with us and she called them and asked to be interviewed. The school nurse finally contacted them, my aunt that had been at my house finally called them. They never contacted me for an interview, I finally called them and then she only asked me questions about the visitation schedule. They interviewed my husband after the just cause hearing for a few minutes. My daughter-in-law finally called them and so did her mother. They were spending time with the mother and her husband and I knew something was not quite right. During one of the visits Kelsey saw her step-dad go past the window and got hysterical and said she did not want to see him. She even told the worker she did not want to see “Daddy Mike”. They made her anyway. Two other times while in my visit she stated, “Daddy Mike hurt my legs”, but both times the worker was talking instead of listening. I always took Kelsey books and projects to work on and a video of her Daddy. It was a strange setting, but I made the best of it and tried to make each hour a quality hour. We went back to court on June 14th. The CASA worker had been on the job for six weeks. She said she got her child abuse training from Girl Scouts. She also stated she interviewed the mother, the step-dad, the day car provider, and one of the mother’s fellow employees, which happened to be her own sister. [This is one out of many false statements in the email. The CASA worker called the woman “sister.” She wasn’t actually her sister.]

She stated when I visited, Kelsey screamed, kicked, pinched, and bit me. [Read DHS visitation logs here.]

This was not all true. She also recommended that Kelsey be given back to the mother and we get one hour supervised visitation per month. She also recommended my son be given the same visitation when he returns. She also stated that Lance was allegedly in the Army because they did not have his address and she could not locate him through Government agencies. I really knew we were doomed at this moment. The DHS report was given to our attorney when court started. We were shocked at some of the things in it. There were many allegations made towards my son, his wife, and me that were unbelievable. The interviews from most of our family were either missing or partially reported. Dr. S. had done a deposition that the Judge was reviewing the following morning. Our attorney believed after he saw it he would have to rule in our favor. In the DHS report it stated I had broken a court order when I let the mother have Kelsey for the make-up visitation so I failed to protect. DHS also broke the court order as stated by the supervisor when they allowed the mother the extra day. The next morning the Judge came in and without explanation dissolved the guardianship and stated he over ruled anything the DHS recommended and he was returning the child to the mother and the grandparents would not be allowed to see her. The next court date is July 14th. The way I understand it that is when he will tell us if we have to take any classes. It is very difficult to not see our Granddaughter, but it is harder for my son to not have any contact with her either. At this time I’m fighting to clear his name from all of this. They have him listed as an alleged perpetrator. He was not even here during any of these injuries. I feel they are slandering his name while he off fighting another war and when he comes home he may not be able to see his child. We were also told he might have to take classes as well. When he and the mother were married they both drank too much and did drugs.

[This is different from the perjury the entire Briggs family committed in January by stating that Lance never did drugs or drank too much.]

They battled constantly and she states he was abusive and I cannot deny or confirm that.

[Witnesses and other evidence prove he was abusive with blackened eyes, a bloody nose, and bruises around her neck]

We did witness her out of control and hitting Lance on two occasions. After their divorce he went to rehab, attended anger management classes, and when he found out Kelsey has his child he on his own took the divorced parents class and he and his new wife took parenting classes. These are the same classes the mother took after Kelsey was injured and they think she is fit to raise her now. Lance has done nothing wrong since Kelsey was born. He had a steady job where he was drug tested; he purchased a house and was excited about being a father. When he was called up to serve our country he knew he would miss a lot with his wife and child, but we come from a long line of proud military family members and he was ready to do his part. Now he is fighting two wars. He has tried to call his daughter since she was returned to the mother, but they never answer. Our attorney says we can appeal this decision and is shocked at how the ruling went.

We could have provided more information to prove the mother and her husband have an abusive relationship as well, but we were stupid and did not want to get other people involved.

We want to appeal, but at this time our financial situation will not allow for that. My son knew while he was gone he could save money for his family and get his truck fixed. So far everything extra he would have had has gone to legal fees.

Then when he comes home he will have his name attached to a deprived child petition and have to fight to see his child all over again. I do not believe this is how our military should be treated and I’ve talked to DHS and was told there is no appeal process for their reports. How can this be fair? I have always told my son to do the right things in life and the system will work for you. Well something has gone terribly wrong in Lincoln County. We have heard that Lincoln County is one of the most corrupt counties in the state and now I believe it. I have contacted the State DHS and have had little response. You know the old saying, “the squeaky wheel get the grease”, well in Oklahoma the squeaky wheel get the shaft. My daughter-in-laws step-dad is [the governor’s wife’s] cousin and he is trying to contact her as well. The bottom line is we do not know where to turn. The mother has had an alcohol problem since high school, she has received one DUI and the Meeker Police testified to letting her off of another one. The alcohol assessment test states she has a low risk of using alcohol, but we just found out she has two bounced checks at the liquor store in Shawnee. One was five days before she got Kelsey back and the other was for seven days after she got her back. We are concerned for her safety. Raye Dawn has told the DHS many stories claiming abuse by Lance and even claimed he caused her to lose her first baby. I was with her at the hospital and this is not true. She is trying to get sympathy from these workers and it is working. She also claimed abuse by her boyfriend previous to her marriage to Lance. They have written these allegations as fact in this report, which seems like slander. We need help to clear my son’s name and would like to see Kelsey again. It is not easy to ask for help, but my son has given up his freedom to fight for us and someone needs to fight for him. I do not understand how a person in America can be tried in court when they were not only out of state when the abuse happened, but were not present in court and was never served papers and did not have council as well. Not to mention he was absent because our country called upon his services.

I have contacted almost every elected official in our area. Rep. S. and [name withheld for privacy] offices are the only ones in Oklahoma who shared any concerns. I had to get a Congressman from Nevada to give us any guidance and that is very sad. I feel it is time for the elected officials or someone, anyone in this state to help clear this soldier so that he may see his child when he returns home without restrictions.

[List of phone numbers removed for privacy]

Since I first wrote this letter DHS contacted my daughter-in-law and told her she could visit Kelsey at their office for 2 hours per month supervised. They also told her when Lance returns home he will get the same visit. Ashley has been given a service plan that she is more than willing to comply with. We were told Lance would have to have a service plan even though he was not here. That means if he gets a 15-day leave as some soldiers do he will see his 2-year-old child for one hour. We really feel she should be at the airport to see him arrive home. They need as much time together as possible to bond all over again. I still do not understand how this can be done to him. I do not know what DHS is telling people that justifies their actions. How can we fight what we do not know? How can a soldier do his job protecting the American people when his own rights have been violated? There is so much more to this story than I have written. This is just a summary.

Updated 8/3/05
Ashley saw Kelsey at the Lincoln County Office for one hour. My son was able to call her cell phone ad talk to Kelsey for the first time in six weeks. When shown a picture of her Daddy, Kelsey did not know who he was right away. How sad is this? That is why we asked for visitation in the first place. She stated Kelsey looked well and seemed well adjusted. We hope her Mother and her new stepfather are taking their parenting roles seriously and will give Kelsey a stable loving environment. I do feel as though the Lincoln County workers should be working with both families in building a common ground for Kelsey to live with for the rest of her life. It seems as though they have focused all of their resources on the mother and stepfather and have forgotten that we all need to get along. We cannot stay divided like this and expect Kelsey to have a well-rounded upbringing. She will always be stuck in the middle if someone does start to mend these problems now.

You can read more in my book, The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn.

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