Guest Commentary: Unmasking Injustice – A Personal Odyssey through Colorado’s Corrupt Family Court

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By Judi-Beth Atwood 

Colorado Corruption—California, brace yourself for a chilling exposé unveiling the dark underbelly of the family court system. In 2011, I made a seismic move from Fremont, California, to Longmont, Colorado, with my two young daughters, aged 2 and 3, leaving behind a flourishing career in Silicon Valley to embrace the role of a stay-at-home mother.

Little did I foresee that this decision would plunge me into a decade-long battle against corruption and ethical breaches within Colorado’s family court system.

The narrative took a dark turn in 2013 when my ex-husband enlisted Rebecca Pepin, an attorney from Jorgenson Brownell and Pepin.

The unsettling saga began with an attempted email blackmail, urging me to engage one of Pepin’s close associates in our ongoing divorce case. Shockingly, that same associate now represents the man who subjected me to theft, break-ins, and the theft of my car.

Pepin’s affinity for a book titled Screw the Bitch: Divorce Tactics for Men foreshadowed a series of betrayals that shattered trust. The blows were severe—a prenuptial agreement signed days before our wedding, an irrevocable trust manipulatively securing control, and coerced collaboration with Mark Kilmer as a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator.

The latter collusion involved my then-attorney, Cynthia Ciancio, a former Adams County prosecutor with a troubling past, including a guilty plea to selling cocaine to an undercover police officer less than a decade before she became an attorney.

California boasts Val Kilmer, the celebrated actor, while Colorado harbors the infamous Mark Kilmer, Val’s brother, ejected from the state for unethical practices. Despite a year of dedicated efforts to pass HB23-1178 and active participation in a class-action lawsuit against Kilmer, the endeavor proved futile due to quasi-immunity granted by the judiciary. Mark Kilmer walked away unscathed, while my children now require weekly psychiatric care.

Currently, I volunteer for the Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation, having completed mandatory Domestic Violence Training for all PRE and CFI professionals in Colorado. My advocacy extends to pushing for judicial officers’ training under HB23-1178, fueled by an unwavering belief in justice. Despite the challenges, I maintain that Colorado has exceptional judges.

This week unfolded a crucial chapter in my enduring Family Court Nightmare—a Colorado Court of Appeals ruled against Boulder County Judge Thomas Mulvahil. This development unveils a decade-long battle characterized by insufficient interventions that exposed my daughter to escalating violence.

Once an engineer, I now dedicate my entire focus to serving as my own legal advocate, laboring tirelessly to correct judicial decisions, notably Mulvahil’s misapplication of Rule 702. It’s not a matter of choice; rather, it’s a necessity, and regrettably, there’s no compensation for my efforts.

In my situation, Mulvahil invoked Rule 702 to designate Mark Kilmer as an expert in Neuropsychology—a discipline that blends basic and clinical research to delve into brain-behavior relationships and enhance clinical practices. However, a significant flaw came to light. Despite the pivotal nature of this expertise, Mark Kilmer, lacking any formal training in Neuropsychology, was permitted to testify. This lapse in judgment led to the unjust removal of my parental rights, a consequence deeply rooted in perjury.

Notably, Mark Kilmer, aided by Rebecca Pepin, persuaded Judge Thomas Mulvahil that I suffered from Munchhausen by Proxy, with no evidence beyond Kilmer’s perjured testimony being considered. Within 30 minutes I was no longer a mother that could make medical decisions for my own children.

Regrettably, during the initial proceedings, I lacked the knowledge to formulate a proper appeal—a challenging and painful learning process, unfolding as I witnessed the heartbreaking consequences of losing my children and observing their needless suffering.

Despite a rejected class-action lawsuit against Kilmer, my plea to the Boulder DA fell on deaf ears. Now, I face jail time for exposing my daughter’s abuse—a testament to a broken system prioritizing punishment over protection.

My triumph in the Colorado Court of Appeals unfolds as a David-and-Goliath tale, chronicling a mother’s journey through deceit, deception, and domestic violence. The experiences of the past decade find expression in Dancing in the Dark, a forthcoming book laying bare the gaslighting, deception, and indifference to justice that I’ve endured.

Like countless others, I was forced to become my own legal advocate, triumphing against courtroom manipulation. The recent appeal success against Judge Mulvahil is a sobering commentary on the ethical void within the Family Court system. As I dream of reuniting with my children for Thanksgiving after eight years of missed holidays and emotional torment, the victory rings hollow, exposing the grim state of our Family Court system.

This year my children will be spending Thanksgiving in California listening to the opining of their father that I suffer from a mental illness one that developed after I filed for divorce—much like my Munchhausen by Proxy diagnosis designed to keep Rebecca Pepin in income and to prevent my ex from paying child support.

BTW currently I am doing my daughter’s laundry so she can have clean clothes for her trip to California.

My next mission involves sharing my story at the 2024 NASW National Conference, seeking to reshape how we treat victims of domestic violence. This week’s win wasn’t just personal; it served as a rallying cry for countless victims in Boulder County Family Court, revealing the profound injustices we’ve endured.

Ironically, the Court of Appeals has urged lower courts to pursue sanctions against my nearly 80-year-old ex-husband, potentially leading to a 30-day jail term. Both of us, with former Silicon Valley careers, now face incarceration in Boulder County Jail, leaving our children parentless and at risk of foster care.

Unbeknownst to him, my ex-husband’s financial statement indicates a mere $1K monthly payment to Rebecca Pepin. Subpoenaed invoices unveiled the actual fees—a staggering $10K. Adding to the complexity, my ex-husband’s attorney, Pepin, maneuvered to file an affidavit in another state using his name, targeting my wealthy boyfriend, a target of harassment for over a decade.

I assert that my ex-husband needs help, but Rebecca Pepin deserves jail. The battle rages on, not just for my children but for all ensnared in a system that prioritizes manipulation over justice.

Judi-Beth Atwood Empowering Voices, Mending Hearts ❤

Speaking Truth to Legislators | Championing Justice for Domestic Violence Victims Advocate for Change in Family Courts

Supporter of Kayden’s Law and National Safe Parents Coalition

MIT Cybersecurity


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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