Commentary: Why is Yolo DA Backing the Predator Rather Than the Victim in the Benoit Case?

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YoloCourt-22

A common complaint in the Family Court system is that the system often ends up putting children in harm’s way, by failing to assess the risk of putting children into custody and visitation arrangements with predators – physical and sexual abusers.

The speakers I have seen want these situations to be treated and investigated more as criminal matters than custody battles.  And they argue that the safety of the children must be the highest priority of the system.

A month ago it seemed like the custody battle between Claire Benoit and Eric Gilson was headed in the right direction.  Judge Kathleen White seemed to indicate her intention was to allow Mr. Gilson to have his due process rights, but at the same time she was bending over backwards to allow Ms. Benoit to protect her children by remaining abroad.

This month saw the troubling development of a visiting Judge, Arvid Johnson, throwing the case into turmoil by entertaining a motion, that clearly went against the wishes of Judge White in resolving this matter by getting it to a fall trial.

More disturbing, however, is the intervention of Deputy DA Tiffany Susz.  She is now seeking an arrest warrant for Ms. Benoit, but, more interestingly, she is acting as de facto counsel for Mr. Gilson, who cannot afford counsel of his own.  The Vanguard has received a copy of a transmission that shows the Yolo County DA’s office letterhead sending copies of Mr. Gilson’s ex-parte motion and request for a hearing to other parties.

She then reportedly accompanied Mr. Gilson to a July 19 ex-parte hearing that had no representation from Ms. Benoit or her attorneys.  So, in effect, Judge Johnson changed the orders from Judge White with Ms. Benoit and her counsel in absentia, and set a hearing for next week on the arrest warrant.

This case is increasingly becoming reminiscent of last year’s Nan Hui trial.  In fact, this case is actually far worse.  While Nan Hui was arrested and separate from her child following a five-year period where she fled to South Korea, the father in that case, while young and somewhat irresponsible, at least had a legitimate interest in having contact with his daughter.

While he admitted to an incident in which he physically assaulted Nan Hui, it appeared from the description to be in the heat of a very tense moment and not an ongoing pattern.  That is not to defend or excuse his actions, but rather to put them in proper perspective.

Mr. Gilson is another matter altogether.  Mr. Gilson is currently on probation for felony domestic violence and a judge in Contra Costa County in mid-July denied him access to two children there, ordering him instead into therapy for control and abuse issues.

As the court order reads: “No later than 8-14-16, Father shall begin on-going weekly psychotherapeutic counseling for the purpose of addressing power and control dynamics.”

According to some sources, the felony domestic violence was actually a brutal stabbing and assault in which Mr. Gilson allegedly attempted to murder his spouse in front of their two daughters.

In one county, he has a 2007 conviction for corporal injury to a spouse.  He has a 2008 conviction for battery on a non-cohabitating spouse.  He has faced a series of charges in the last few years, including stalking, criminal threats and unauthorized wiretapping, as well as a violation in 2012 of a domestic violence restraining order.

The Vanguard also received a copy of a June 2014 Clinical Social Work Assessment from Sutter Hospital which indicated “Suspected Child Abuse” and “concern regarding the  safety of pts. Children to FOC’s mental illness and abusive behaviors.”  It goes on to note, “Due to concerns about the safety of pts. Children, LCSW [Licensed Clinical Social Worker] reported to Yolo County CPS.”

It goes on to note, “Pt. reports that CPS report was made earlier in the pregnancy due to the forced sexual encounter that resulted in this pregnancy.”

Ms. Benoit has told the Vanguard, “The rape that conceived my son is also medically documented and was reported by two third parties. Eric raped me in a room next to my children, knowing they were awake and my eldest daughter overheard everything.”

It is not that Ms. Susz is unaware of Mr. Gilson’s extensive criminal record – indeed, she told Judge Thomas Warriner in January that “some of the allegations by mom have been corroborated but we are still investigating this case.”

Under the law, Mr. Gilson has certain due process rights when he petitions for visitation or some sort of custody agreement for his children.  Judge White explained this at the June hearing.  Judge White has a difficult task of balancing the rights of Mr. Gilson against the safety and well-being of their children.

Judge White seemed to have the situation well in hand in June, only to have the order upset by the ex-parte motion from Mr. Gilson and then the intervention by Deputy DA Susz.  Why Ms. Susz seems to be going out of her way to provide legal assistance for Mr. Gilson, who is not her client, is baffling.

The victim in this case is Ms. Benoit.  Clearly, her decision to flee the country was based on a legitimate fear not only of Mr. Gilson but also of the system’s inability to protect her and her kids from this predator.

Ms. Benoit notes that the head of the DV classes that Mr. Gilson attends has noted that Mr. Gilson is “very good at playing the game but most likely has a very serious personality disorder.”  Ms. Benoit believes “the guy is a loud ticking bomb.”

And yet, instead of protecting Ms. Benoit, Tiffany Susz continues to act on behalf of Mr. Gilson.  The question no one seems to understand is why.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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32 thoughts on “Commentary: Why is Yolo DA Backing the Predator Rather Than the Victim in the Benoit Case?”

      1. quielo

        An individual judge may be OK with someone ignoring a court order but other judges and the DA may think that people should comply and not negotiate around it.

        1. MamaBear

          Therein lies my lack of faith in our system – such that I would volunteer my children and I to so much vulnerability.

          If other judges and the DA think negotiating arrangements in a case where there is NO doubt of serious domestic violence, trauma, fear is less important than adhering to the last letter of bureaucracy

          … Then what other misguided priorities might trump the well being of my children and me when we are standing in the courtroom…

          Inhumane.

        2. MamaBear

          Also – on the court paperwork there is an option for DV victims to opt NOT to appear in court when there is  a history of DV. Whoever drafted the forms everyone uses seems to have a streak of humanity. (I did check that box)

        3. quielo

          I have no idea of the merits of the case and there are certainly people who know more about this than I do. However in my limited experience when a court orders someone to appear they want that person to appear.

           

          “there is an option for DV victims to opt NOT to appear in court when there is  a history of DV.” And you believe they intended that to mean hiding out in North Korea?

        4. MamaBear

          Quielo, some merits of the case could be reduced to my word against his EXCEPT for these:

          *He is on probation for felony DV
          *He has a lengthy history convictions including stalking, corporal injury, death threats, wire tapping, fraud (stealing hundreds of thousands from the US military via forged checks), and more
          *He has a chronic history of being suicidal with multiple attempts to take his own life
          *He is classified as permanently disabled for his mental disorders

          The “merits” of all the above are known verifiable publicly accessible FACTS.

          My appearance is not required to prove those things. They are already known. I think all of the above are cause enough to understand my position as a mother.

          Milder KNOWN facts:

          He was present at the birth of NEITHER of the children involved in this case
          He has provided zero financial support for them since their births
          He has a ten year restraining order against him that prohibits him from seeing two of his other children who also live in another state
          The ex involved in a custody case with him in another county also requests to appear telephonically

          No location requirement is specified on the form to request an alternative appearance. Still, I not only checked the box but have a private attorney that I am paying for… as a single mother… with ZERO child support. He needs no attorney because he’s got the DA. Says he has no money but lives expense free and collects a livable tax free income for his mental illness.

          He does not care enough to spend money on this. Thanks to the DA, he does not have to.

          The merits of the case of “rape” can be questioned I suppose outside the medical documentation. But don’t you think an innocent man would have rushed to depo a woman falsely accusing him? Instead he has delayed and evaded. But okay, question that away. What cannot be questioned is reason enough to warrant my protecting my children. You leave YOUR kids with him for a week.

          The other thing you can question is my belief that he is using my kids as a means to inflict harm and exercise control over me. That’s darn scary considering the man’s suicidal history. Doubt me, doubt his ex wife, but your doubt wont shield our kids from what we KNOW to be true. And I don’t think you’ll shed any tears over a tragedy that proves either of us to be right.

          Doubt this:

          If this man ended up being a child homicide-suicide tragedy, there is not ONE person in his life who would be surprised. Not even his own mother who I am sure would make excuses for him. I KNOW this. His ex-wife KNOWS this. And everyone in his life KNOWS this.

          So my knowing that, weighs heavier on my shoulders than your doubt of all you do NOT know.

          And “hiding out” is a stretch when I have checked in with local police departments and reached out to the local embassy directly.

          Excuse the long explanation. It is more than you deserve. But your lack of sensitivity is an offense of my kids, and I take that personal.

        5. quielo

          MamaBear,

          As I said above I have no ideas of the merits of this case and will not form a conclusion based an article in the Vanguard or listening to opinion from one side. Other people are clearly feel differently. Not that it really matters, I’m OK with whatever the court decides.

           

          My comments were strictly process based. I do believe that we need to maintain a fair and consistent process.

           

          Good luck,

           

          Quielo

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “I’m OK with whatever the court decides.”

            Why? You don’t think a court can make mistakes?

        6. quielo

          “Why? You don’t think a court can make mistakes?”

           

          Of course courts can and do make mistakes. My point is that I don’t make decisions about a persons guilt or innocence based on news articles.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Especially since this is a custody case and the DA is criminilizing it.

  1. Tia Will

    Is there a standard procedure for how to proceed when one judge has made an arrangement and then for some reason will be absent for a limited period of time ?  How does this differ from what would occur say for instance if a judge were to die or become permanently unavailable ?

    1. Davis Progressive

      its permissible.  and of course it happens all the time. this is a bit more unusual in that he made a change to the judge’s orders AND is going to hear about the da’s desire to seek an arrest warrant.

  2. Davis Progressive

    the biggest problem is that the da here is acting as quasi-counsel to one of the parties and she seems to be favoring a guy who is a convicted abuser of two women and potentially a rapist.  that’s quite disturbing.

  3. ryankelly

    Given the description of the repeated convictions, the Assistant DA has allowed herself to become a tool in the man’s quest to control and dominate his wife.

  4. Tia Will

    MamaBear

    I am writing as a doctor who has heard stories of many women who are survivors of domestic abuse and as an individual who has as one of her greatest regrets in life the fact that I did not act strongly enough and definitively enough to prevent my children from sustaining significant psychological harm.

    I do not write to judge the actions of anyone, not you, not your former spouse, not the judges nor the lawyers. I write for the sole purpose of supporting you and assuring you that you are not alone.

    Some laws are just. Others are not. I believe that there is a moral imperative which is more important than any law that has been or can be devised by man. For me, the primary imperative for a parent is the protection of their children. I wish that I had been more successful in upholding this imperative. i wish you success in your quest to protect your children.

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      Well said, Tia. And, best of luck to you, MamaBear. You’ve got brains and guts, a useful combination.

      As for the DA’s minion, Tiffany Susz, it would be fun to write a novel exploring her motivation for choosing the predator over the victim(s). The content of such a novel (and the writing talents of a pig) would undoubtedly result in a best-seller, but further detail would have to be moderated out of the Vanguard as off-topic.

      Tia is absolutely right when she observes that some laws are just and others are not. We should all take that moral imperative she mentions seriously.

      1. MamaBear

        Ya, I find your comparison of me to Roman Polanski to be hysterically ironic given the guy you’ve given a GENEROUS benefit of doubt to. Cheers.

    1. Miwok

      think they mean South Korea, a country known for being a country that preys on young Military men and women, having babies to get back to the states, and the rampant ID theft and fun and games that go with that.

  5. MamaBear

    Quielo, google his name. You’ll find 80% of what I am referencing online.

    He was on the FBIs most wanted at one point. That too can be found via google. But it may be more work than a spectator needs to do.

    That said, the DA has all of the above information and its all been adjudicated.

    Peace.

    1. Miwok

      MamaBear:

      Since I worked at the Sac DA for a few years, I wondered when you state “no child support” does the DA’s Family Support division get you anything from the State? If you had judgements against him, then the Disability would be garnisheed for them as well?

      1. MamaBear

        Miwok, since he is permanently disabled (for mental illness) his income is non-garnishable. He bragged about this and his ability to live expense free in his mother’s vacant home in our first hearing. All of his 6-8+ kids receive a survivors benefit paid out directly by the state. The total amount is around $1000 to be divided among all of his children. Each time he has another child, the amount given to each child decreases.

        Anyway I petitioned Yolo court to establish paternity so that my son by him could receive his share of the ever dwindling benefit. (A choice I regret more than any mistake Ive ever made in this lifetime). That’s what started this case. Eric was absentee beforehand, didn’t even have a phone number for him. Not even a happy birthday call from him for my son’s first bday. I digress…

        Here’s one of the many LOLs of my case; as soon as Judge White gave him temporary custody of my kids. He went to the Social security administration THAT day and had himself designated as the beneficiary for their benefits. So…. he got the settlement for the first 18-24 months of my son’s life. A life he has not contributed one diaper to. Judge White trusted him to “hold the funds in kind” (HAHAHAHA). Clearly she has no idea what sort of person he is.

        I am sure the money was spent on a handful of Gucci items for him to wear in his car that he drives and hides from the repo man. Yuck.

        So since then, neither of my kids get zip.

        I work remotely and am keeping afloat with all my children whilst praying every month that I’ll be able to pay my attorney.

        He lives expense free, quite well, gets 3-4k month tax free, pays zero child support for his growing number of kids, and claims he cannot afford an attorney while the deputy DA breaks a sweat just for him 40 hours per week.

        You understand this point of aggravation for me???

        Still it is the LEAST of my worries in this grand ridiculous picture.

        Long story short: this is a man who was totally absentee for several months at a time and never troubled himself with paperwork to procure access or rights…

        But he was faster than a butterfly to take their social security benefits.

  6. MamaBear

    He was on the FBIs most wanted at one point. That too can be found via google. But it may be more work than a spectator needs to do.

    That said, the DA has all of the above information and its all been adjudicated.

  7. MamaBear

    Yes and a fair process means considering reasonable fear of DV victims and our children. Especially in cases where there are verifiable merits such as mine.

    A blanket judicial philosophy is anything but fair. We have handicapped ramps for people in wheelchairs and translators for those whose English is weak. Fair means appropriate considerations when certain FACTS are without question.

    I have complied with everything asked of me. It is a stretch to accuse me of otherwise. And it is deplorable that an officer of justice would make this effort to.

    I am angry truthfully. But my anger with the DA does not negate my fear for my children.

    I think people have their narrow ideas of how a victim is supposed to behave. It’s unfair and ignorant means of judgment. It is possible to be scared and strong at the same time. Especially when your children are being threatened.

  8. MamaBear

    **Regarding the social security benefit

    I did eventually report him for fraud as the custody order was stayed and I remain the sol custodian. But the settlement for my son had already been paid out to him. Along with a few months benefits for both my kids.

    Since my report, I am of the impression that the past few months are being held by the state until I return to America to claim it. Haha! Another clever blackball tactic that was likely thought up by the DA. Unfortunately keeping my kids healthy and alive is more important to me than a couple hundred bux per month.

    Nevertheless, it is ridiculous. Who thinks you win a DV survivor and mothers trust by using her children an “leverage” to force her to face her abuser and place her children at the naked mercy of a court that has already made dangerous orders.

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