By Tilahun Yilma
I made the greatest blunder of my life when I followed the advice of my dear friend, Professor Martha West of the UC Davis Law School, and reported to the District Attorney’s Office of Yolo County that my son was going to be abducted by his mother (who suffers from bipolar syndrome) and be taken to her brother, a convicted thief and a pedophile on Megan’s list on Tuesday, December 26, 2006.
When we were asked to appear in court the following day by Ms. Angela Smith of the Child Abduction Unit and an assistant DA, I presumed that the whole problem would be resolved in no more than 30 minutes. Instead the case has dragged on for more than 8 years. As a result, my son has suffered his entire life and much of my productive life was wasted. The laboratory that I established and directed at UC Davis has closed.
More than 20 highly productive scientists, postdocs, graduate students, and staff lost their employment and research projects were left unfinished in which millions of dollars had been invested. This laboratory brought highly prestigious local, national, and international awards and resulted in my election to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the first and only such election of a faculty member of UCD School of Veterinary Medicine since its establishment in 1948.
What I did not realize at first, is that the court is run by a criminal cottage industry consisting of judges, lawyers, psychologists, and mediators for the sole purpose of using children as hostages in order to extract every last penny from their vulnerable parents. In the process, parents often lose their entire life savings, retirement funds, and homes while their children are abused, molested, and even killed. Some parents incur huge debts in the false hopes of saving their child. Another glaring example of a horrible abuse of judicial power was when Judge Samuel T. McAdam facilitated the death of a five year old girl in the Talamantes case by giving sole custody to the mother that the psychiatrist diagnosed with serious mental illness. Even the father pleaded, to no avail, and warned the Judge that his daughter could be harmed seriously with his decision.
After the first few court dates I realized that the whole agenda of the court appeared to boil down to one and only one issue: Money! The threats given to me were very clear and unambiguous: You either pay up or we will hurt your child and prevent you from having time with him. I refused to cooperate and pay $50-100,000 and to sign off my home.
As a consequence, my son was prevented from living with me and from getting appropriate nutrition and medical care. In addition to the mental anguish and frustration caused by being allowed to have only minimal time with his father, he ended up developing 10 cavities before the age of five. When I brought two independent dental reports that the child has suffered from lack of dental hygiene and neglect, Judge McAdam further reduced my time with my son and ridiculed me by claiming that my son was suffering from defective genes.
Never have I experienced this level of racism, degradation, extortion, legalized robbery, in addition to the endangerment of the health and welfare of my child. I am a Distinguished Professor of UC Davis, a NAS member, and I have received the highest awards for outstanding teaching, Distinguished Public Service, and the Faculty Research Award. Yet, Judge McAdam found me unqualified to participate in making decision what elementary school my son should be attending in Davis.
Even though I was Chair of the Board of International Science of the National Academies and a member of the Board for Science for Peace of Italy, Judge McAdam did not deem me fit to take my son with me to Venice and Rome, Italy. Similarly, Judge Kathleen White prevented my son from traveling with me to New Zealand when I was asked by the President of the NAS to lead the US delegation to the International Council of Science meeting last September.
Further, Judge McAdam totally disregarded recommendations from our son’s physician and the preschool teachers who gave me the “Best Dad Award” at Russell Park Preschool. Instead, a mother who suffers from bipolar syndrome, has been unable to maintain a job since arriving in Davis 9 years ago, and who was dragged to court by the DA for attempting to take our son to a convicted thief and a pedophile was given more than 70% custody and sole decision making power regarding the health and education of our son.
Judge McAdam also squashed my subpoena to obtain the mother’s medical records, further subjecting our son to her cycles of depression. Her mental illness was protected as an asset to be used for the extortion process.
In addition to the abuses by the court, my son’s mother and her attorney attempted to get me arrested by claiming that I physically abused my son during a bike ride. My son’s mother picked him up at the end of his school day, told him that his testicles hurt, and took him to the hospital. Although he protested that he was fine, he was subjected to a battery of unnecessary and potentially damaging tests on his testicles to determine if he had injuries. I had to hire a criminal defense attorney at great expense to save me from going to prison based on these false charges.
The doctors could not find any injury on our son; however, they found that it was only the mother who complained about the pain and not the child. Child Protective Services (CPS) and the Davis City Police investigated this claim by interviewing our son at school without the knowledge of either parent. This was deemed appropriate in order to avoid parental influence on the testimony of the child. Both CPS and the detective testified in court that the mother had fabricated the whole story and that the child had begged them to help him live with his father.
Judge Kathleen White agreed with the testimony of the CPS and the police that the accusation was false; however, I was told that I should pay $40,000 of the mother’s legal expenses in addition to more than $100,000 that I had already paid. Her attorney was instructed to give the $10,000 to the mother. Literally, the Judge was rewarding both for falsely accusing me with felony and bringing me to court. I am not privy to the type of arrangements made between Judge White and the mother’s attorney for the execution of this sweetheart deal.
Although the mother is the one brought to court by the DA for violating the law, many reasons were given in court why I should pay all expenses: my salary was too large, I had retirement funds with UC Davis, and thus I can afford to pay it. According to the law, the mother should have been penalized or sent to prison for false accusation (Cal Fam. Code § 3027.1) and for attempting to take a child to a convicted thief and a pedophile (Cal Penal Code 288). This is another glaring example of how these corrupt judges reward those that break the law to ensure a lengthy litigation process to maximize court and legal fees. In the process the welfare of the child is ignored, frequently at great risk to the child, and the innocent parent is often reduced to bankruptcy.
I used to be dismayed and wonder why our society would tolerate the fact that about 33% of black males serve time in prison at a much higher rate than their counterparts in South Africa during the heights of Apartheid. After what my son and I experienced in Yolo County Family Court, now I ask the question how the remaining 67% of people of color manage to escape prison. Even a gifted black child like my son who asked what brings down the plum from the tree to the ground at the age of three, performed fifth grade level math in first grade, asked a cosmologist if there is an end to space and time or does space and time die just like his horse Woody when he was six, and an excellent athlete (biker, skier, swimmer, etc.) since the age of three, could not escape the wrath of the injustice system of the Yolo County Family Court. Is there any wonder that judges send 33% African American boys to prison and police shoot unarmed black boys?
I was featured as a role model in Visions (career guidance/life management workbook for African American males) by the California Department of Education in May 1996. I was also a recipient of “Mentor Award” from the Teachers Association of the State of California during their annual meeting in San Diego for volunteering and successfully mentoring disadvantaged youngsters, especially African Americans and women. I provided jobs in my lab to these youngsters and helped them get accepted into medical, veterinary, law, graduate schools, etc.
Today, many of these youngsters are successful professionals including one who was an associate dean of a medical school. Yet, the Yolo County Family Court made sure that my son does not benefit from his father’s success and resources as other youngsters have done. Every penny that I saved for his education was stripped from me using the judicial power of the court. It is ironic that while my civil rights and that of my son are being violated by Yolo County Family Court, I was serving as a board member on the Committee on Human Rights of the National Academies. Thus, I came to the conclusion that there is nothing the courts will not do to destroy the lives of black boys and black men.
As a result of my experiences with Yolo County Family Court, I have made numerous attempts to bring our plight to a number of local officials and print media including assembly members Marico Yamada and Bill Monning, Senator Lois Wolk, Superintendent Don Saylor, and former Presiding Judge David Rosenberg to no avail. I joined the Human Relations Commission of the City of Davis and made numerous attempts to shed light on the sufferings of children and their parents in Yolo County Family Court. I was one of many who testified at the State Capital in support of AB 2475 on May 4, 2010.
The goal of this bill was to modify the current law that gives blanket immunity to members of the cottage industry in family courts who inflict crimes on children and their parents for financial gain. The lobby of the criminal cottage industry succeeded in defeating the bill. However, I learned at the hearing that even the Mafia does not like to involve children in its criminal activities under normal circumstances. I never thought that anything in this world would make me see the Mafia in a better light let alone the family courts that are supposedly established and funded by the State to protect the welfare of children and their parents.
During her interview by Mike Krasny of KQED (Fri, Jul 22, 2011 — 9:00 AM), Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye claimed that justice is going to be denied or delayed as a result of budget cuts to the courts by the State of California. In light of this background, I seriously question the accuracy of her claim before she should first account for the hundreds of millions of tax dollars that are wasted on inflicting injustice and crimes against children in family courts. I made an effort and succeeded in testifying at the meeting of the Judicial Council of the State of California chaired by the Chief Justice in Sacramento on Thursday, January 22, 2015. The audio cast of the testimony is given below.
I am still waiting to hear if the Chief Justice’s Office will make any attempt to contact parents who are victims of crimes committed in family courts let alone receive justice from the “Criminal Cottage Industry” masquerading as a place of justice. In conclusion, I am dismayed by the heights of hypocrisy shown by the leaders of our country when they lecture the rest of the world on human rights while children (our future) and minorities are routinely abused by courts supposedly established to defend and protect them. It is essential that citizens should rally and campaign to demand that legislators should address this perversion of family courts into a criminal joint for holding children as hostages in order to rob their parents, especially people of color. I will continue to fight for our children to attain, especially African American boys, the same level of rights enjoyed by dogs through the animal rights laws. I know because I am both a parent and a veterinarian.
Tilahun Yilma, DVM, PhD is a Distinguished Professor of Virology at UC Davis and a member, US National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow at the American Academy of Microbiology
PROFESSOR YILMA will be a panelist at the Vanguard Court Watch Event on Saturday at 6 pm at the Davis Community Church – to purchase tickets, please go to: https://