Judge Orders Children into Troubled Father’s Custody in Benoit Case


YoloCourt-10By Sophie Marconi and David Greenwald

Vanguard efforts to open the courtroom were dismissed by Judge Arvid Johnson on Thursday, although eventually the courtroom was opened.  Claiming that he had no other recourse, Judge Johnson ruled that Mr. Gilson would have full custody, nominally but not physically, of the children in an attempt to force Ms. Benoit to return from where she has been in Europe with the children since the fall of 2015.

The primary cause of Ms. Benoit’s “disappearance” was due to a ruling made by Judge Kathleen White, which awarded Mr. Gilson unsupervised visits on November 2, 2015, despite his history of violence. Following this ruling Ms. Benoit left for Europe, being perhaps in various locations including France, Netherlands and Rome, in an apparent effort to protect the children from Mr. Gilson.

Ms. Benoit has explained to the court that Mr. Gilson is a convicted felon with a history of severe mental illness and is not capable of properly caring for the children. She has also stated that, because of her experiences with domestic violence with Mr. Gilson, she considers him a serious threat to the physical and emotional health of the children. Ms. Benoit has also expressed that she will not return to the United States until “that man” leaves her alone and has only supervised visits with the children indefinitely.

At this point, Ms. Benoit is in violation of court orders as she has failed to appear in court. While Ms. Benoit has been in contact with the US Embassy in Rome, she has not provided the Embassy with proof of current residence.

There is a CPS investigation pending against Ms. Benoit, as the court considers her removal of the children from the country to be harmful for the children. Ms. Benoit is also in violation of anti-abduction orders, which further complicates the issue.

As of now, the court has not decided whether Mr. Gilson will have the opportunity to have supervised visits with his children when or if they return. The court has decided that, in the circumstance that Ms. Benoit and her children do return, she will be provided compensation for flight costs and will be provided with safe shelter.

Judge Johnson has told the DA to take all steps to ensure the return of the children, and has stated that he feels as though Ms. Benoit is manipulating the court system to benefit herself, while simultaneously putting her children’s welfare at risk.

John Meyers, a professor at McGeorge School of Law, has been appointed as counsel for the children and will be doing the case pro bono.

Paul Boylan, representing the Vanguard on the open court issue, filed a brief with the court, arguing that the closure and expulsion of the Vanguard from the August 2 hearing are in violation of open court laws.  Johnson did not review the brief and closed the hearing for three minutes to discuss something with CPS.

Mr. Boylan implored Judge Johnson to make a finding, but he said, “I did: I find closing this is in the best interests of the children.”  The Vanguard intends to take the matter to the appellate court, arguing that this is not a juvenile case and that the judge did not go through proper process required before closing the hearing to the public.

The appellate court summarily denied the writ by attorney Kim Robinson, representing Claire Benoit in attempting to recuse Judge Johnson for bias. Ms. Robinson will now file a petition with the California Supreme Court, which is due on August 19.

During the hearing, the judge expressed frustration with Ms. Benoit’s refusal to return to the US and allow the court to appropriately decide the matter. However, in so doing, he summarily undid Judge White’s orders, which would have allowed for Skype depositions and a court hearing on the fitness of Eric Gilson.

While he has ordered Ms. Benoit’s return and allowed the DA’s office to proceed with criminal proceedings, the October trial date remains in effect.


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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31 thoughts on “Judge Orders Children into Troubled Father’s Custody in Benoit Case”

  1. Marina Kalugin

    OMG…  Claire, please reach out to me, if you need any assistance..

    I always use my own name and thus am easy to locate…

    If you send an email or leave a voice message at work please note that info is not secure….

    Others on this DV have my home, cell and personal emails, and may share with you if you ask them.   I no longer post my private numbers and such on open forums…too much spam.   🙂

    Marina Kalugin (formerly Marina Rumiansev)

    1. MamaBear

      Google: Aaden Moreno.

      Thank you Marina, I appreciate that. I was literally shaking when I got this news. I was warned early on that our system is so broken that even the best attorney, which I do believe I have, cannot win in the best interest of the children. Although the DA and the court had given me reason to heed that warning, I guess I still had a little hope it was exaggerated… When the trial was set for October with a skype appearance as an option, I truly looked forward to this being resolved as my children and I rebuilt our lives.

      The safe shelter offer keeps blowing my mind. I am a mother; why would I care for my own safety when my children are being placed in danger? Anyway it is what it is. I don’t envy the “winning” advocates in this. To do what they have done guarantees that they either don’t care about anybody in their own lives or else have not learned the reach of karma. Anyone who believes life is unfair just hasn’t lived long enough.

      I appreciate DV covering my case and I love that this article made a very clear effort to be impartial. Although all the articles previously published have truly only stated facts.

      After the ruling I checked Eric (Aka “Rico Rossi)’s facebook to see that he posted “My baby daddy aint $hit sounds a lot like I let losers c#m in me.” Clearly he is delighted by his “win”, which is all this was about for him. As his own voluntary absence showed long before my petition, he has never cared about these babies.

      For the record, I always avoided talking about Eric (until this case) because there was little good I could say and that did sadden me since my children share some of his dna. And I do blame myself for his presence in our lives; I was hurt after my divorce – Eric had been my 1st love and was very charismatic for a while. I did ignore a lot. But I will not take blame for my rape; it is only that my son is such a gift that I don’t regret it happened.

      Anyway I have never recreationally disparaged Eric. In fact I tried to perceive him with true compassion as he does battle a demon most of us are lucky to live without (serious mental illness). I actually cared about him in a very distant 3/4th position to my children and myself and other priorities. Not sure I do any longer with all the trouble that the DA has enabled him to create for my children. This really is the back-breaking straw. It is unfortunate that the actions of this court/DA have made a difficult circumstance so much harder.

      Clearly no one in this is prioritizing my kids, except me.

      No Judge Jonhson, living in Europe for a year is not damaging to my children’s health, most certainly not more than a foster home ran by strangers and crowded with several very (unfortunately) abused (hopefully healing) children or exposure to a chronically suicidal abusive marijuana/steroid loving criminal. Sheesh.

      What is also discouraging is the position of legitimately good attorneys… My attorney knows the laws well. She is legally blind and knows these books in/out… For her to work so hard and have all her efforts dismissed without explanation is insanity.

      1. Biddlin

        I trust that your current living situation and immigration status are not an imminent issue with your European host(s.) I know that your attorney’s and many supporters’ efforts will continue.

        You and your children are in our thoughts.

  2. Marina Kalugin

    As I often say these days, all things happen for a reason.   Because you chose to speak out, many others will be helped.   The system is horrific and the stories go on for days.  If we get a truly good person into the State Senate (Mariko Yamada), the laws will be changed to prevent such a thing to happen to many others.

    Do not worry about having spoken out, your ex obviously doesn’t care…..

    Your children will understand when the time comes just how much courage it took for you to do what you needed to do to protect them.

    They will be protected for now, because they are far enough away to not be in the noise of any media coverage, and it is highly unlikely that your ex will have the funds and/or the inclination to go after you or the children.

    He may only even want the custody, to force you to pay him child support….no kidding…and to then waste those funds on his “entertainment and/or drug abuse”….

    Stay safe and , truly, do not hesitate to contact me, if there is anything I can do to help out…


  3. MamaBear

    Thank you for the support. I truly have no idea what is motivating Eric to be so ruthless in his pursuit. He had no interest in these kids before I petitioned the court. I know initially it was proprietary but I think now it is mostly revenge for my speaking the truth. Something I only did because I felt it was my only way to get the support I needed to keep my kids safe. I am sure he will get all the money he can from government or otherwise for the babies if given the chance. He does care about money.

    I had been nothing but kind and forgiving of that man prior to all this drama. I just wanted to move on with my life and give my children the best childhood I can and nurture their greatest potential.

    Anyway, I have received an email from a social worker. Eric has sole custody of my babies and they’d initially go into a foster home upon any return to the US. Judge Johnson has identified our stay in Europe as an emotional abuse of my children. I can’t reconcile the logic of that with placing them in a foster home and granting custody to someone like Eric. It almost seems like the court wants my mold my kids into little mental cases, :-/. Aye.

    The weirdest thing is the state/county is going to pay to fly the social workers out to Europe to meet with my children. It’s the least of my worries but I am dumbfounded that the county would waste so much money on travel plans of social workers in a case like this. Good lord, no wonder people say California is a sinking ship. Altogether crazy.

    I just wish I had never ever asked this court to establish paternity of my son. Truly. My efforts to get that small financial relief has now placed the quality of my children’s lives (and possibly their lives literally) in total jeopardy under this jurisdiction that I find impossible to understand the reasoning of.

  4. Marina Kalugin

    how old are the children?    do you have to allow the social workers access to the children?

    why is the Yolo courts even doing that?   does their jurisdiction extend to the country you are now in?

    does the country you are in have any ability to protect you and the children from harm?  or, can or will they protect you?

    there may be “agreements” or “precedents between the US and the other country”…   may be important to find out

    to me this sounds either vindictive by the Yolo courts,  or they will try to snatch the children or some such nonsense… to “ensure” the court order is followed ….yikes…

    true tales are often way stranger than fiction…. one cannot truly make this stuff up….jeez…



      1. Marina Kalugin

        as far as anything you were sharing where you felt bad for anything you did, truly, you did the correct thing….a MamaBear must always put her cubs ahead of anything else….do not waste time or worry that you could have or should have done something different…not worth your time nor stress…..just enjoy the day and your kids  🙂   it will all work out…

      2. Miwok

        My few years touched every office in the Sac DA’s office, when they started a separate division for State Grants on child Abduction, which went after children when they were taken out of country or state. They usually arrested the Abductor first. Before that the other departments had that task, but since this was funded by the State, they had to have all new offices and desks and pens and pencils, etc, at least in Sac County.

        Not sure if that sheds any light for you.

        1. Marina Kalugin

          Miwok, this definitely sheds light for me….I was aware of such and this puts the name of the division which abducts children in the name of the state and the law….and why I shared what I did earlier

          Fortunately, there are some really good, caring and compassionate attorneys who are taking an interest and helping MamaBear.

          I just hope they all have enough of the knowledge which you share here, and which I was already alluding to….as this is truly the most horrific type of thing going on in the USA at the moment…….

          and, worse than that, it is part of the current judicial system…

          and one needs to fully understand the laws and extradition “agreements’ with the USA  of the country where MamaBear is taking refuge at the moment…..

          That is beyond my expertise and my ability to research at the moment, however, if one doesn’t heed this advice, it may be critical…..


  5. Napoleon Pig IV

    Now we know that this “court” cannot be trusted and should not be respected. I hope the Vanguard has the will and resources to take its own issue with this “court” to a higher and wiser (and likely more honest) place of appeal – for the good of Yolo County and respect for its citizens. But, I also understand such things are ridiculously expensive and time-consuming.

    Given the role of the DA and his office in this, I now longer trust him and his staff any further than I could through a government-issued MRAP.

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      Pig’s are often bad proof readers. Perhaps I should clarify that I cannot trust the DA and his office, whether through an MRAP or not, and I certainly cannot throw an MRAP, at least not alone – and, therefore, had my proof reading skills been better, I would have more clearly made the point that I cannot trust the DA and his office, nor should anyone else.

      If “they” expect “us” to respect the law, then “they” have to be more diligent in aligning the “law” with justice rather than simply with power, especially power wielded by idiots. Oink!

      1. Marina Kalugin

        jeez   as I have been warned repeatedly to stop using that horrible word, it appears there is not a soul on here who willl not agree that is a proper usage of that word….LOL

  6. Davis Progressive

    this is a mess.  a lawyer will tell you submit to the system – as a human being, i’m not sure how you can trust the system not to make a mistake.  the judge is making this worse, he should have allowed judge white’s plan to stand.

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      I agree with you, Davis Progressive. It’s interesting that you choose the word “submit.” The fact that lawyers consider submission to the system to be wise or safe implies they trust the system, which of course they have largely created.

      Each individual must decide whom and what to trust – and when, to whom, and to what extent to submit. There is a lot of “official” very bad advice on this topic, both from government sources and from religious sources, all of which I view with great skepticism and in some cases contempt – given that the powerful always prefer the non-powerful, who greatly outnumber them, to peacefully submit.

      I think in this particular case, MamaBear’s kids will not have the luxury of a “do over” if things don’t work out. She is quite aware of the risks. The system, so far, has failed her completely. With a little redirection, I suggest the advice of Dylan Thomas is appropriate in this case, “Do not go gently into that good night.”

      There is a time to submit and there is a time to fight. In the face of incompetence, ignorance, possibly corruption, and certainly danger, the stakes are too high for submitting to be an option when other options remain viable.

      Is there an option to set up a GoFundMe account to assist someone in evading minions of “the law” when the law is wrong??


  7. skeptical

    It is not the law that is the problem, it is the law’s fraudulent practitioners.  They have created an industry to enrich themselves regardless of the consequences to others or to the legal system.  The entire legal system needs to be scrapped and replaced with a justice system.  A justice system would not encourage or shelter corruption, and it would provide swift and severe accountability to anyone that does.

  8. MamaBear

    It is all very strange. I appreciate the supportive feedback as I can understand how people in my circumstance could really doubt themselves. I think Americans live in a comfortable naivete, trusting that our system is immune to these sort of failings – until we are the failed. I have heard other people’s stories of injustice and usually thought they were leaving something out. Haha! Now I know…

    Judge Jonhson said that he thinks I am “manipulating the court for (my) personal interests”. Uh… ya, my kids. My kids that I have cared for alone since their births. They are my interest. Haha! It’s just all totally cuckoo (and troubling).

    Thank you for that line Napolean. It is a great inspiring and fortifying poem. A gift right now.

  9. MamaBear

    Haha, I can feel the personal gratification Tiffany Susz got from sending me this email. She has always communicated directly with my attorney until now. I guess since this devastating blow – using my children as “leverage” – she feels vindicated for my daring to stand up to her shoddy work…

    This is one sick chickenhead.

    It is truly a shame that a title gives someone license to harass in this way. This is truly criminality protected by a badge… See below:

    ——– Original Message ——–

    Assistance from CAU

    Fri, 12 Aug 2016 22:21:43 +0000

    Tiffany Susz <Tiffany.Susz@yolocounty.org>

    kmrfamilylaw@gmail.com <kmrfamilylaw@gmail.com>

    Claire Benoit <blessedbenoits@gmail.com>

    Dear Ms. Robinson,
    I am contacting you, and I have cc’d Ms. Benoit to this email, pursuant to the Court’s orders set forth in court yesterday, August 11, 2016.  I have attached a copy of the Court’s minute order from yesterday for your convenience as well.
    Yesterday, as you know, the Court made changes to the custody order in Benoit vs. Gilson SF 15-804. Specifically, the Court ordered sole legal and physical custody of the minor children to Mr. Gilson with the condition that the children be place with Child Welfare Services upon the children’s return to the United States and not to the physical custody of Mr. Gilson.
    Additionally, the Court ordered that our unit take all necessary steps to obtain the return of the children.  The anti-abduction orders and orders for Ms. Benoit to return the children to the United States remain in effect. Therefore, I am reaching out to you so that you can inform and discuss with Ms. Benoit of our unit’s willingness to assist Ms. Benoit and the children with their return to the United States. As we previously discussed with Ms. Benoit in November 2015 and also in January and February 2016, our unit is willing to pay for all four children’s return tickets to the United States, along with Ms. Benoit’s ticket, to assist Ms. Benoit with complying with the Court’s orders to return to the United States, Yolo County jurisdiction. I want to be clear there is no other motive today in offering Ms. Benoit our assistance to facilitate the return of the children. At this time, there is not a felony arrest warrant for Ms. Benoit. Our unit is acting pursuant to the Court’s order to assist in securing the return of the children to the United States.   As you know from the Court’s order, upon the children’s return, the children will not be given to the physical custody of Mr. Gilson.
    We would like to assist Ms. Benoit with returning to the United States with the children. Will you, or Ms. Benoit, please contact me no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 so that we can move forward with making the travel arrangements for Ms. Benoit and the children’s return to the United States?
    Thank you in advance Ms. Robinson for your assistance in this matter. I would ask if you could please forward this information to Ms. Benoit and discuss with her.
    I look forward to hearing from you or Ms. Benoit.
    Tiffany J. Susz
    Deputy District Attorney
    Child Abduction Unit
    Yolo County District Attorney’s Office
    301 Second Street
    Woodland, California 95695
    (530) 666-8400 (phone)
    (530) 666-8399 (fax)

  10. MamaBear

    Not sure anyone here will have insights but I am in communication with CPS now on account of Judge Arvid Johnson’s reporting me for “emotional abuse” of my kids by taking them to Europe.

    I just want to make sure I fully understand what is happening so I have asked the assigned CPS agent to clarify exactly what is being constituted as emotional abuse. She has been very patient and polite in answering me.

    She answered:
    o   The reporting parties do not have to identify the type of abuse or neglect that they think applies.  They describe the situation and we apply the legal standard.  In this referral, the allegation (which is merely means ‘claim’ or ‘assertion’, but does not in and of itself delineate it something is true or fact), is that the children have been kept from their other parent (parental alienation, have been taken against the law (child abduction),
    I replied with this, and am posting this mostly wondering whether anyone on here has further insights. It does seem an unusual case.

    Question: As the reporting party is Judge Arvid Johnson of Yolo family court; is the standard different as a mandated reporter?

    Relevant Facts:
    Eric has never had any custody nor access rights to my two youngest children. He was at neither birth, is on neither of their birth records, and had no involvement in their lives.

    My leaving the USA with them is not and was not illegal; which is why I have not been charged with child abduction and did not require Gilson’s permission to procure passports for my children. Eric had not even exercised his newly established supervised visitation rights at the time of my departure. (Rights that resulted from my petition to the court to establish paternity). Attached are the birth records of my children. Eric and I have never lived together. My two children that are biologically related to him have never been in his care overnight.

    Any insight would be appreciated. Thank you.

  11. Napoleon Pig IV

    W. Arvid Johnson (the name of the guy who convinced the powers-that-be to make him a visiting judge) is the name of a judge in the novel entitled “The Second Chair” by Davis’ own prolific novelist, John Lescroart. In the novel, he seems to be in full command of his cognitive abilities. But, fiction is not reality.

    1. Don Shor

      Just because you don’t agree with his ruling, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Judge Johnson’s cognitive abilities. This is very over the top. Unless you have some direct evidence and the credentials to present them, I suggest you stop speculating about this.

  12. skeptical


    France has doctors and social workers who could vouch for the welfare of the children.  Sending somone from Yolo is a waste of resources and that is a clear lapse of cognitive ability.  Now, if the CPS visit is a ruse to entrap and arrest the mother, that’s just despicable.  I’m not interested in having either characteristic in the court.

    As for the other “judges”, the files are overflowing with far more egregious examples than this one:  outright theft, child abuse by the courts, over litigating to enrich lawyers and evaluators, the list is endless.  Tatiana Garcia is dead because of Samuel McAdams, and baby Justice, and the teenage girl he condemned to live with her mother and be raped by her boyfriend?  A gay teenager committed suicide rather than comply with Kathleen White’s custody order, and her repeated abuse compelled one father to drive his car in front of an oncoming train.  I know a family that suffered one death and two close calls because of these two monsters.



    1. Napoleon Pig IV


      Excellent post. Thanks for the historical facts and the astute observations about cognitive ability and evidence.


      If you read carefully, you’ll note that I was not “speculating about this.” Rather, I was commenting on a work of fiction. On the other hand, invocation of “credentials” and “direct evidence” is an excellent way to attempt to divert the sheep from common sense conclusions or to discredit direct observation. Drawing meaningful conclusions about this case requires no credentials other than cognitive competence.

  13. MamaBear

    Again I greatly appreciate the information and support…

    Something I feel really compelled to comment on is this form I am looking at from CPS… The “emotional abuse” allegation by virtue of living in Europe is  absurd on it’s own; especially when it is positioned to look like parental alienation from Eric is detrimental to anyone’s well being.

    But what is really seriously disturbing is the way this form is written and the questions asked. I imagine a lot of good decent parents have lost custody to highly enabled abusers or else “the system”.

    So many background childhood and parentage details (of the parents) seems to be weighed equally with the actual living behaviors of the parents being investigated/compared. The way this form is written; it is likely that Oprah Winfrey would lose a custody battle with Jeffrey Dahmer.

    It’s especially slanted against DV survivors as many DV survivors have sustained some sort of childhood adversities that would make them vulnerable to an abuser. Likewise, many abusers have been coddled their whole lives by enabling parents such that their childhood background may sound good on paper when they leave out their hobby of torturing animals… 😛

    Race is not such a factor in this case as Eric and I are both biracial. But I can say many/most African Americans would be especially disadvantaged with a form like this as well… And again, someone like Eric (a biracial black man) raised by his white mother – would also have the upper hand. Not based on who he is, but based on the people who have protected (and enabled him). Not my problem right now, but this form has some serious prejudices and needs changing. It is incredibly discriminatory. WOW.

  14. MamaBear

    Anyone from an underprivileged background; whether by race or class alone – will have a tough battle against someone from a middle class/white background… Just because of the social imbalances that are still being evened out… It is really a terrible form. Very hard to respect it’s merits. I have a high school education and can see the major deficiencies in this. What credentials are required by the people making these surveys? Good grief.

  15. Marina Kalugin

    dear Mamabear,   please follow skeptical’s advice…

    I also alluded to the same thing…but you also need to be careful as none of us here know the laws and precedent’s in the country you are in..  ( or I don’t know them)

    if you contact someone there, will they be compelled to “report you”….I doubt it, but one better be careful right now….truly….I hope someone here will know and help you..

    some countries will extradite immediately if the US “asks”….and so on

    Just be careful, please, as this may otherwise get even worse…..


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