Table of Contents:
- A Mother's Cry From The Grave (06/24/1993)
- Three Deaths: A Mother, a Daughter, the Truth (06/26/1993)
- 'No Choice,' She Kills Self And Daughter (07/26/1993)
- N.Y. Family Court Judge William Warren -- Should He Be Re-elected? (Aug/Sept. 1998)
- Kenneth Gribetz, Rockland County District Attorney
by Carole Agus
Marisa Rimland 19, went down to the garage of her home last week and found, inside the family car, her mother sitting dead in the back seat, and her little sister, Abigail, lying dead beside her.
She reached for her sister, and though she knew she was already dead, she carried her in her arms to the house. When the police arrived, or the ambulance people, or one of the many official people who would step through the door of the kitchen and who now seem only a blur, the police didn't know the little girl was dead because of the way Marisa carried her. She looked like she was cuddling her, or hugging her.
Only gradually did the full horror of what had happened dawn on the people in that kitchen, at 14 Jockey Lane, New City.
Abigail had just turned 4. The birthday decorations still hung in the kitchen. She had adorned herself that day with stickers of Barney the dinosaur. "She had Barney stickers on, and her lips were blue," said Marisa, in tears, on Monday.
She called her brother Jason, 23, and he rushed back to the house.
In the car was a note their mother left just before she took her own life and the life of her child. It was written on one of those pads imprinted on the top with the words, "Things to Do":
Dear Jason and Marisa
Please forgive me for any paid I have caused or will cause in the future. You are my children & I love you more than myself. Abigail is also my child. I cannot knowingly allow her to be sexually abused. I have no choice. I hope you can understand.
Be kind to each other. I'm sorry I had to leave you alone.
The funeral was Sunday. When the casket was lowered into the ground and dirt was shoveled onto it, "the son let out a groan, then a wail. It was an elementary cry of pure pain," said Peg Hammond, one of Marcia Rimland's friends.
"It was the worst sound I ever heard in my life."
The morning the bodies were found, the police attempted to notify Abigail's father, Arie Adler, of his wife and daughter's deaths. He had been cleared, by a Family Court judge's decision on Monday, of the charges of sex abuse. He denies through his attorney any inappropriate behavior whatsoever with respect to his daughter.
Police called the offices of Kantor and Goldhamer in Spring Valley, N.Y., and spoke to Adler's lawyer, Howard Gurock.
"Do I know where Arie Adler is? Yes. He's in my office."
"We need to discuss a murder that occurred."
"I'm the attorney. Speak to me."
"We reported to 14 Jockey Lane. Marcia Rimland and Abigail Adler were dead. It appeared to be a murder-suicide."
Gurock ushered Adler into his waiting room to wait for the police, telling him nothing. Then the police arrived and told him what they found.
"He was absolutely hysterically crying. He cried for a half hour straight. It was one of the saddest things I ever saw."
Memo to Chief Administrative Judge Judith Kaye:
The following is from court papers supplied by the Coalition for Family Justice headed by Monica Getz and from interviews with lawyers. Perhaps you may wish to investigate this case.
Its general outlines are all too common. A bitter divorce. A charge of sex abuse against the father by the mother. Dismissal of the charges by a Family Court judge. A finding the child is not credible. Custody to the mother. Unsupervised visitation to the father.
There the common aspects end.
Why was court-appointed guardian, Jacqueline Sands, permitted to function as the husband's attorney, rather than the child's?
Why did she not litigate for the child support that the father owed?
Why, when Arie Adler was jailed for 31 days for failing to support his daughter, did Sands go to court to get visitation for the father -- in jail?
Why did Sands move that the court take the child from her mother and be placed in foster care? How is this protecting, rather than permanently damaging the child?
Why didn't the court take into consideration the findings of its own expert, clinical social worker Virginia Strand, who wrote that, "Abigail's presentation is entirely consistent with that of a sexually abused child." This may not mean the father is guilty, but it means it is dealing with a mother who has reason to believe he is. Should she be expected to surrender the child without supervision?
Why did the Appellate Division find it necessary -- three times -- to overrule Family Court Judge William Warren? How many times has this judge been overruled? The areas in which he was overruled are these:Approving a petition to remove the child from the mother and place her in foster care. The child was removed without notice to the mother that any such proceedings were pending. The Appellate Division had the child returned within 24 hours.
Awarding the father unsupervised visitation. Within 24 hours of this decision the Appellate Division ruled the visitations should be supervised.
Approving a gag order against the mother. The Appellate Division lifted the gag order for all purposes but communication with the press.
In a terrible, tragic decision, a mother took her life and the life of her child, believing it was her only way to protect her daughter from further dishonor. It was a decision made under extreme stress. What is the court system's excuse?
by Joseph Berger. Special to The New York Times
The New York Times 6/26/93 Page A21
NEW CITY, N.Y., June 21 - Marcia Rimland and her 4-year-old daughter, Abigail, died together last week, but they were buried far apart in a final act that seemed to epitomize the family's stormy and tattered existence.
Ms. Rimland, a 45-year old matrimonial lawyer, took her own life and that of her daughter around midnight on June 15 by running the car engine from the tailpipe into the car windows. In a note she left behind she said she could no longer abide her husband's sexual abuse of her daughter, even though a court had found no substance to that charge.
Groping for Answers
Ms. Rimland's awful act has left those who knew her groping for an explanation. Her husband's friends paint her as an unstable, ruthless woman who would stop at nothing to keep him from their daughter. But her many champions describe her as a loving mother who despaired of any other means of protecting her child.
The mother was buried by a Reform rabbi under a searing sun in a cemetery in Elmont, L.I. Her two children from an earlier marriage, Jason Rimland, 23, and Marisa Rimland, 19 leaned against each other sobbing inconsolably. An outpouring of mourners proclaimed her death another injustice of a family court system that had permitted the father, Arie Adler, to resume unsupervised visits.
Abigail, a bubbly girl who loved to sing and dance to Disney songs, was laid to rest after sundown in a small cemetery in Monsey, N.Y., that belongs to a largely Hasidic community to which her father had begun to cleave. Car headlights had to illuminate the grave so that mourners could aim their fistfuls of dirt. Jason and Marisa were there, even though Mr. Adler had won the battle to bury Abigail in a cemetery of his choosing.
The separate funerals were the culmination of a two-year custody fight that has not died even with Abigail's death. It shows how fierce and irrational battles over children can get, and how difficult it is for Family Courts to sort out the truth.
The case has galvanized several groups that feel Family Court judges are biased against women, insensitive to sexual abuse and overly secretive and insular. However, the father's defenders see it as another example of a national hysteria over child abuse that has led to the fabrication of destructive charges in a blind fury over other grievances.
But overriding any ideological issues were the consuming passions of the parents, whose bitterness lives on in the survivors. Jason and Marisa have already cleaned out Abigail's toys and dolls from her room in a large ranch house to keep them from the father.
"The family doesn't let the living live in peace and it doesn't let the dead die in peace," said Anne Selinger, who put Mr. Adler up in her family's home.
The story of Abigail's parents, like that of many custody fights, is woven of extreme visions. Her family and supporters see Marcia Rimland as a strong, devoted mother who snuffed out her daughter's life when she felt she had no other way to protect her. As a lawyer, Marisa said, her mother knew that appealing the Family Court decision could take a year, during which visits she considered inadequately supervised would continue.
"She would rather Abigail not be there than to have Abigail hurt," Marisa said. "She loved her more than life."
"She felt cornered," said her sister-in-law, Deanna Rimland. "She felt she had no more options."
But Mrs. Selinger and leaders of the Orthodox community around Monsey see her as an unstable, calculating and litigious woman who was so obsessed with excluding her husband that she was willing tobrainwash Abigail into believing that she was molested.
According to Mrs. Selinger, Ms. Rimland has always kept her children apart from her estranged husbands. For many years, Mrs. Selinger said, Ms. Rimland had influenced Marisa and Jason to shun their father, Leonard Cohen, who died in January. Similarly, Mrs. Selinger said, she made sure Arie Adler would never see Abigail.
"She couldn't do it through the court system so she did it by taking her daughter's life," Mrs. Selinger said.
Views of the 38-year-old Mr. Adler are similarly stark. Mrs. Selinger sees only an affectionate father who tried to protect a daughter who cherished him against a ruthless wife. But the Rimland supporters condemn him as a cold, selfish man who inspired tantrums of fear in his helpless daughter and took advantage of her.
Mr. Adler's lawyer, Howard M. Gurock, denies that his client ever abused Abigail and accuses the mother of brainwashing the child into making the charges.
The final act was played out swiftly. On June 14, Judge William P. Warren of Family Court in Rockland ruled that preponderance of evidence did not indicate that Mr. Adler had abused his daughter. A court appointed social worker had testified that Abigail's "presentation is entirely consistent with that of a sexually abused child." But other witnesses found significant inconsistencies and Mr. Adler's Lubavitcher hosts, Mrs. Selinger and her husband, Craig, said they had only seen a warm relationship whenever father and daughter stayed over.
The judge, concluding that the tales of abuse by were the result of prompting by the mother, ordered a resumption of unsupervised visits in two days. Desperate, Mr. Adler drove to the Appellate Division in Brooklyn on Tuesday and won what some felt was a concession. The Selingers would supervise the visits. But Ms. Rimland felt that the Selingers were too close to her estranged husband.
That night she wrote a note to her older children on a piece of memo paper and led her daughter to her red Toyota.
"You are my children and I love you more than myself," said the note that Jason found in the car. "Abigail is also my child. I cannot knowingly allow her to be sexually abused. I have no choice. I hope you understand. Be kind to each other. I'm sorry I have to leave you alone. Love forever Mom."
Met Six Years Ago
Marcia and Arie met at a party six years ago. He was a broad shouldered Israeli immigrant with gold-rimmed glasses who was studying electrical engineering. She was a small, slender woman with intense eyes who had been raised as a furrier's daughter in the Bronx. She had two teen age children from an unhappy first marriage and was fashioning a career as a lawyer.
The married in September 1988 but quarreled regularly, particularly with the arrival of Abigail on June 3, 1989. The disputes turned so violent that the police were called more than half a dozen times. By August 1991, Mr. Adler moved out, eventually living as boarder in Hasidic homes, and Ms. Rimland sued for divorce.
One issue dividing them was Abigail's religious upbringing. Ms. Rimland disregarded most Jewish observance, but Mr. Adler who had once been willing to work on Yom Kippur, began following the Orthodox path of colleagues at International Business Machines who gave him rides to work, though he did not hear to any particular sect.
He wanted his daughter, who called him Abba, the Hebrew word for father, to eat kosher food and he forbade any phone calls on the Sabbath.
"He fills her head with religious dogma," Ms. Rimland wrote in one of several briefs that she filed as her own lawyer.
Sole Custody to the Mother
Judge Warren awarded Ms. Rimland sole custody in April 1992. He did not give credence to Ms. Rimland's warnings that Mr. Adler was planning to abduct Abigail to Israel and he permitted Abigail to stay with Mr. Adler every other weekend. Mr. Adler never fled to Israel, but he did fail to make support payments and was jailed for 31 days last year.
Mrs. Selinger blamed his incarceration on Ms. Rimland's excessive demands for money, which she said had impoverished Mr. Adler.
In September 1992, Ms. Rimland filed a brief that described what she charged was a pattern of sexual abuse. She said she began to notice that her daughter became hysterical whenever she was dropped off for an overnight visit.
She would scream and hold on so tight that literally would have to pry her arms and legs from me.", Ms. Rimland wrote, adding that she always encouraged Abigail to go with her father.
She said that she also noticed that her daughter's toilet training began to regress and that she often masturbated. Ms. Rimland called this to the attention of officials at the county's Child Protective Services, who wonder whether Abigail was being abused.
That was the first time she suspected the possibility, Ms. Rimland said. So she asked Abigail what her father wore when she slept over. She said Abigail told her he wore nothing but an undershirt and repeatedly touched her genital area.
About the same time, Cherri Varvaro, who ran a home day care center that Abigail attended, took a workshop on abused children and decided that Abigail exhibited the classic behaviors of abuse. She asked Abigail and was told that her father sometimes "tickled" her genitals.
Ms. Varvaro alerted Ms. Rimland and Child Protective Services in August. Their complaints led to an investigation by the County Attorney. During the nine months until his decision, the judge insisted that Abigail's visits with Mr. Adler be supervised.
The judge appointed Dr. Virginia C. Strand, a clinical social worker, to interview Abigail and decide whether abuse had occurred. Dr. Strand reported in November that Abigail "demonstrated a hypervigilant attitude commonly seen in abused children and/or children who witness domestic violence." She said Abigail, with no coaxing, volunteered that her father had penetrated her with his fingers and penis.
But Judge Warren, who has been on the bench for five years, said in an interview that he discounted much of Dr. Strand's report because "Strand never considered the possibility of prompting by the mother." Indeed, he said, one of several social workers monitoring the case had asked Abigail whether anyone had told her to say such things about her father and Abigail had replied, "Mommy told me to say this."
"I did not find the mother credible", Judge Warren said.
More convincing to Judge Warren was Mrs. Selinger, the mother of four young daughters and a son, who testified in hearings in February and March that Abigail and Mr. Adler slept in separate beds in a basement playroom and that she saw only affectionate relations. It was the mother whom Abigail did not want to see, Mrs. Selinger testified, describing how Abigail became hysterical when Ms. Rimland phoned.
"Do you think I as a mother with small children would allow something like this to happen in my house?" Mrs. Selinger said of the abuse charges.
By the time of the hearings the custody cases had so consumed Ms. Rimland and Mr. Adler that both lost their jobs.
By Rorie Sherman
National Law Journal - July 26, 1993
EXHIBIT A; Custody Tragedy; Pg. 8
NEW CITY, N.Y. Marcia Rimland said she was convinced the courts were forcing her to place her 4-year-old daughter Abigail in the hands of a father who repeatedly raped and sodomized the little girl.
So on June 14, Ms. Rimland hooked a rubber hose from her car's exhaust pipe to its interior, gave her daughter a tranquilizer, and sat with her in an enclosed garage with the motor running until they both were dead.
Ms. Rimland's 19-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Marisa, found the bodies in the red 1993 Toyota the next morning. "I have no choice," Ms. Rimland's suicide note said, "I hope you understand."
But there are many different interpretations of these deaths in Rockland County, about 40 minutes north of New York.
After a family court trial on the allegations, Judge William P. Warren of the Rockland County Family Court said in a June 11 decision that sexual abuse was not proved by a preponderance of the evidence. He ordered that overnight, unsupervised visitation be immediately restored. To do any less, he explained, would have told Abigail that there was something wrong with her father, Arie Adler. And, the judge said later: "I never considered suicide or homicide in connection with that situation."
The father's supporters understood Ms. Rimland to be an unstable, angry and controlling woman determined to excise Mr. Adler from her and her child's lives, just as they claim she'd done with her previous husband and two other children, both of whom are now adults.
But about a week after the deaths, at a sidewalk rally in the midst of downtown Manhattan's court-house district, feminist activist Gloria Steinem, actress Lee Grant, Phyllis Chesler (author of the book "Mothers on Trial") and two men campaigning for New York's public advocate gathered in front of microphones and television cameras.
The Rimland death, they declared, served as an indictment of a legal system that too often finds it more comfortable to deny the horror of child sex abuse. The activists called for a special investigation to examine judicial abuses of discretion when allegations of child sexual molestation are made.
"The court system," said Ms. Steinem, "is the real abuser of children." And because Ms. Rimland was a lawyer -- and a family lawyer at that -- her supporters say she was particularly devastated by what she saw as the courts' failure to safeguard her child. She also was acutely aware of how bad her options had become.
Ms. Rimland couldn't run away with the child because she lacked the necessary money and because there is nowhere safe for her to go in the United States, says Ms. Chesler. Ms. Rimland was unemployed; she lost her job at White Plains, N.Y.'s Kurzman and Eisenberg, apparently the result of too many days in court. Also, the FBI has destroyed any underground railroad such mothers might once have relied upon, Ms. Chesler says.
Moreover, unlike Dr. Elizabeth Morgan of Washington, D.C., Ms. Rimland couldn't send her child into hiding while she stayed behind to battle the courts, Ms. Chesler says, noting that Dr. Morgan's father was an ex-CIA agent who had the know-how and possibly the connections to hide with his grandchild in New Zealand.
Ms. Rimland also reportedly told people she couldn't bear to do as her friend Amy Neustein of Brooklyn had Ms. Neustein tried to document what she believed was her husband's sexual abuse of their child; she eventually lost custody, then visitation rights, and all legal appeals. Ms. Neustein continues to agitate politically and sends reporters letters from physicians stating that her 12-year-old now suffers from life-threatening anorexia nervosa, which was likely triggered by sexual abuse.
Marcia did the right thing because she spared her child from a fate worse than death," Ms. Neustein says. But, as an Orthodox Jew, Ms. Neustein says, she never could do the same. "I can't take life."
The first hint that Abigail might have been sexually molested came from a day-care worker who'd just taken a one-day workshop on abused children, according to court papers. The worker noticed that Abigail "masturbated" excessively on Mondays and that this conduct decreased during the week. Ms. Rimland reported the same behavior. Abigail generally "masturbated," the judge explained, by sitting on the floor in a frog-like position and rocking to pressure her genital area.
According to experts there are two likely explanations for excessive masturbation in a 4-year-old: general stress or sexual overstimulation.
Judge Warren concluded that Abigail's behaviour was a result of her parent's nasty divorce.
Criminal charges of child sex abuse were never filed against Mr. Adler because, Rockland County District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz said, there was insufficient evidence. A civil trial in family court was pursued by the attorney for the county's child protective services. But Judge Warren found none of the witnesses reporting sex abuse to be credible.
Ms. Rimland claimed that Abigail had regressed in her toilet training, grew hysterical when it was time to visit her father and banged her head on the ground saying her father hurt her and she wanted to be dead. But Judge Warren said he found serious inconsistencies in Ms. Rimland's testimony. For example, he said Ms. Rimland claimed Abigail's vagina was red and irritated when the child returned home Saturday, Oct. 3, after a supervised, daytime visit with her father in the home of his friends, Craig and Ann Selinger. On Sunday, Ms. Rimland took the girl first to the police to make a report and later to an already-scheduled doctor's appointment.
Ms. Rimland testified in court that she didn't tell the doctor about the possible sexual abuse and have the child's genitals examined because a policeman had told her not to; child protective services would do it later. The policeman in question testified that he made no such recommendation.
No physical evidence of sexual abuse ever was found in this case. But experts say that such evidence often is lacking even when abuse is ongoing.
(During the two years of her divorce proceedings and the sex abuse litigation, Ms. Rimland had many attorney but also acted pro se. There were financial constraints, but mostly, her daughter Marisa explained, "My Mom wanted to make sure it was done right." Later in the sex abuse proceedings, when Judge Warren imposed a gag order on her, Ms. Rimland turned to attorneys at New York's Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, who took her case pro bono.)
Judge Warren also did not give credence to the only court-ordered sex abuse validation conducted in the case.
Virginia Strand, a clinical social worker, made a finding after four play-and-talk sessions with Abigail in October that the child's presentations were consistent with sexual abuse. Ms. Strand also testified that, while it is possible to train a child to say a parent abused them sexually, that did not occur in this case.
But the guardian ad litem suggested, and Judge Warren agreed, to have another sex abuse validator evaluate Ms. Strand's work. This psychologist never met with Abigail but concluded there were significant problems with Ms. Strand's validation. Including a failure to explore adequately the possibility Ms. Rimland had coached her daughter.
During the interview, Abigail told Ms. Strand that her father had touched her with a red bat on her "gina," the little girl's word for vagina. And, pointing to an anatomically correct picture of a male, Abigail indicated that the red bat was a penis. Abigail also took anatomically correct dolls and, to show what happened, put the female doll on her side and the male doll behind with the penis touching the rear end. She told Ms. Strand her father didn't want me to tell Mommy."
However, says Judge Warren, the next month Abigail spontaneously spoke about the "red bat" to another social worker, one employed by the guardian ad litem to supervise visits. That social worker asked Abigail whether the bat was attached to her father's body; Abigail said no. When asked to show how her father held the bat, the girl pantomimed the swing of a regular baseball bat. And when asked what the bat looked like, the girl pointed to a regular bat in a Sports Illustrated magazine. The social worker asked Abigail whether anyone told her to say these things.
And, the judge recalled, Abigail answered: "Yes, Mommy told me to say that Daddy put a baseball bat in my vagina."
Judge Warren's decision ordering the resumption of unsupervised, overnight visits with her father was signed on Friday, June 11, and communicated to Ms. Rimland the following Monday.
Robert Kurzman, name partner in Ms. Rimland's former firm, said he spoke to her that day and she "sounded desperate. . . I just did not believe that she was being treated fairly by the family court. . . I believed Marcia's story [and] I urged her to stay claim." Mr. Kurzman added: "I had a reasonable expectation that she would take off to Canada or Mexico."
Instead, Ms. Rimland and one of her lawyers rushed to the appellate court in Brooklyn and Judge Vincent R. Balletta issued a temporary modification of the order. Overnight visitation could occur, said Judge Balletta, but only in the Selingers' home -- which is exactly where Ms. Rimland alleged her daughter previously had been molested.
William Rome, one of Ms. Rimland's attorneys at Stroock, said he told Ms. Rimland of Judge Balletta's decision about 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, and explained that the full appellate court would reconsider the issue June 30. That meant Abigail was scheduled to spend the next night plus two additional Wednesday overnights and a full weekend with her father at the Selingers' until all the appellate judges would have their say.
Sometime before midnight that Tuesday Ms. Rimland climbed into the back seat of the Toyota with Abigail. "I cannot knowingly allow her to be sexually abused," said the note her 23-year-old son Jason found in the car.
About a week later, Judge Warren sat stiffly in his chambers while women's rights activists outside his courthouse brandished placards condemning him. The suicide/homicide was "an irrational act," said Judge Warren. "I cannot explain irrational acts."
GRAPHIC: Picture, SYMBOL: Services are held for lawyer Marcia Rimland. Some considered her a victim of an insensitive justice system, while others said she was obsessed with control, and unstable. Nancy Siessel
The Justice Seekrs News Letter
Karen Winner, Editor
200 E. 10 th St. #618, New York, NY 10003 August/September, 1998 Vol. 2, Issues 3-4
In Rockland County, about 40 minutes northwest of New York City, Judge William Warren is on the ballot for re-election to the bench in Family Court. But disturbing questions remain over Judge Warren's rulings in a case five year ago that culminated in the suicide/infanticide of Marcia Rimland and her 4-year-old daughter, who were litigants in Warren's court.
On June 15, 1993, Rimland killed her child, Abigail, and took her own life the day after learning of Judge Warren's decision to grant overnight unsupervised visits of Abigail with her father, Ari Adler, whom Marcia Rimland had divorced and believed was sexually abusing their child.
In the suicide note Marcia left, she wrote "Please forgive me," to her two grown children by another marriage. "1 cannot knowingly allow her to be sexually abused. I have no choice. I hope you understand."
Marcia's detractors say she was unstable- that taking the life of her child proved it. Her supporters,though, have another explanation. They point out that Marcia Rimland, then age 45, was a lawyer- a family lawyer- and that she was devastated to find out that in Warren's court there would be no chance at protecting her child from ongoing sexual abuse.
"The court system is the real abuser of children," said Gloria Steinera at a vigil for Marcia Rimland about a week after her death.
The facts of the case were similar to many in which there is no hard, physical evidence that the child was being abused, but plenty of behavioral signs consistent with abuse. After a day care worker repeatedly noticed the child masturbating excessively after weekend, overnight visits with the father, the day care worker reported the suspected abuse to authorities.
But criminal charges of child sex abuse were never filed against Ari Adler because Rockland County District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz said there was insufficient evidence. (Gribetz later resigned unceremoniously from office on the heels of a major FBI investigation alleging corruption).
The Rimland case was transferred to Judge Warren in Family court. He ordered an evaluation of Abigail. After interviewing the child, the validator, as they are called, confirmed the abuse. But Judge Warren was not satisfied with the results of his own court- ordered evaluation, giving it no credence.
Warren subsequently ordered a review of the original evaluation. The psychologist who performed the review of the evaluation never clinically interviewed Abigail but nonetheless concluded there were problems with the way the evaluation was conducted because the validator never explored the possibility that Marcia Rimland could have coached her daughter, according to the National Law Journal, which covered the story after Marcia's death. But Marcia hadn't a clue in the beginning, she told me, that her child was possibly being sexually abused.
I barely knew Marcia Rimland, but am still haunted by the initial conversation I had with her about eight months before her suicide. She had called me after hearing of the 1992 report l wrote for the New York City Consumer Affairs Department, "Women in Divorce: Lawyers, Ethics, Fees, and Fairness."
Marcia told me she had no one to turn to and felt like the court system was crushing her. She sounded level-headed but very concerned about her daughter. "She came back from her father and told her older sister it happened again," Marcia said, in exasperated tones. She would never have believed the possibility that her ex-husband could be sexually abusing their daughter, she said, until Abigail's day care worker contacted her. She said that after the allegations were presented in Warren's Family court, the officials, rather than take her seriously, began to question Marcia's fitness as a mother.
On one occasion Judge Warren authorized putting Abigail into foster care until the custody dispute was resolved. Marcia told me that if the law firm she worked for hadn't filed an emergency appeal on her behalf, Judge Warren would have taken Abigail from her on the spot. Marcia told me she didn't know how a removal could take place without a hearing, since that would be illegal under NY laws. I referred Marcia to the self-help group, the National Coalition of Family Justice, 'in Westchester, and hoped the best for her. About a month following my conversation with Marcia, I learned that Judge Warren imposed a gag order on her. Under Warren's ruling, if she talked to any reporters about the case, Warren could jail her on a contempt charge.
Gagged and stifled.
On June I 1, 1993, Friday, Judge Warren signed his order resuming overnight visits between Ari Adler and Abigail. Marcia found out the following Monday. She became desperate and contacted several people whom she thought could possibly help her, according to several of those people I interviewed. They included State Senator David Paterson who felt Rimland was not getting justice in Warren's court. Paterson office, however, was not able to intervene in the judge's decision, Marcia Rimland then rushed 40 miles south to the Appellate Division in Brooklyn with one of her lawyers to try and get Warren's order overturned.
The next night, Tuesday on June 15, Marcia learned from her lawyer that Appellate Justice Vincent Balletta issued a temporary modification. He said the visitation could occur in the home of Ari Adler's friends- exactly where the abuse was alleged to have to occurred. That meant the visitation would occur on Wednesday, the very next night.
But at some time Tuesday night, Marcia smothered her child with a pillow, according to the Rockland Coroner's office, and then climbed into her red Toyota, placing her child next to her. She ran the engine in the closed garage adjoining their suburban home. Gagged and exhausted... and driven crazy?
The Rimland case wasn't the first one in which Judge Warren handed over children to suspected abusers, according to advocates tracking him. it certainly won't be the last he presides over, given the current statistics on the magnitude of child sexual abuse in our nation.
Following the murder/suicide, child advocates in New York called for an independent investigation of Judge Warren's actions on the Rimland case, but somehow the investigation never got off the ground.
Now, if Warren wins his re-election - and it looks like he will- he'll be sitting on the family court bench for another ten years.
While nothing can excuse murder, can we re-elect a judge who has not yet been held accountable for serious irregularities in the Rimland case? The Justice Seekers will be making available a copy of Abigail's original validation report that can be viewed on our website, to help the public make up their own minds about Judge Warren's ability to rule fairly in cases involving child sexual abuse.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE ASSESSMENT
Name: Abigail Adler
Date of Birth: 6/3/89
Dates of interviews: 10/1/92, 10/13/92, 10/23/92, 10/30/9211/5/92, 11/11/92
Abigail Adler was referred by Justine Christakos of Rockland County Child Protective Services. Al1 that was known at the time of the initial interview was the name and age of the child and the fact that there were allegations of child sexual abuse. The nature of the allegations and the identity of the alleged perpetrator were not known at the time of the first session with Abigail.
Abigail was seen on four occasions. Following that both her father, Aria Adler, and mother, Marcia Rimland, were interviewed individually. The case was discussed with the caseworker, and her case notes and the medical report from Dr. Fried were reviewed.
MENTAL STATUS AND DEVELOPMENTAL HISTORY
Abigail presented as a slim, white, three-and-one half year-old of average height and build. She had dark eyes and asomber, frightened expression. Over the course of the interviews she presented with age-appropriate language and cognitive development and while no marked deviation in social skills, she demonstrated a hyper-vigilant attitude commonly seen in abused children and/or children who witness domestic violence.
Her mood vacillated between one in which strong affect waslacking to one in which she seemed alternatively anxious and depressed. The latter two affects were most noticeable whenasked to think and talk about her family.
In terms of developmental history, Mrs.Adler reported that Abigail's was a planned pregnancy, while Mr. Adler reports that his wife did not at first want the child when she learned she was pregnant. Walking, talking and toilet-training were all within normal limits. Both parents report that Abigail has regressed in this regard and can no longer be considered to be toilet trained. Abigail has had no major illnesses or injuries.
In terms of dally routine, Mrs. Adler reported that she did not go back to work full time until September, 1991, when Abigail was a little over two. Both Mr. and Mrs. Adler report that Abigail eats well. Mrs. Adler also reported that she slept well, sleeping through the night, until the separation. She noted that Abigail began to wake up during the night after overnight. visitation with her father started, and that she also became constipated after each week-end visit. Mr. Adler says he has noticed no sleep disturbances.
Mrs. Adler reported that Abigail exhibited a lot of anger after the visits with her father. She also said that Abigail was masturbating excessively starting in about June, 1992, and that the baby-sitter had called this to her attention. Mr.Adler says he had never seen his daughter get angry and that he has never seen any sexualized behavior.
At the time that Mr. and Mrs. Adler married, Mrs. Adler had two older children from a first marriage. Both Mr. and Mrs.Adler report tension and conflict in the marriage going back to at least the time that Mrs. Adler was pregnant with Abigail. According to both, the erupted at times into physical altercations, in which Mrs. Adler claims Mr. Adler was the protagonist, and vice versa. The separation has been marked by hostility, disagreements and disputes over visitation and custody of Abigail, as well as over other matters.
Abigail's play revealed themes of being angry at her father and wanting to be with her mother. This was particularly poignant in a vignette in a the last session, where she repeatedly wanted to act out a situation with a toy "family" in which the mother is telling the father not to hurt the little girl again and the little girl is saying she wants to be with her mother and not her father.
There was no evidence of any major mental disorder and cognitive development was within normal limits, signifying that Abigail would have no more difficulty than any child her age in distinguishing reality from fantasy. Abigail was able to classify good from bad touch and to give an account of sexual interaction in age-appropriate terms including both central and peripheral detail (see below). Her account to me was also consistent with what she had revealed to others.
INFORMATION REGARDING THE SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATION
Also in the first session, Abigail described her father hitting her with a "red bat" that he had in his hand. She repeated this in the second session as well, and in the third session identified his penis as the "red bat". In the third session she said that he had put his penis in her rectum, that it hurt and that she felt bad. She also described him lying on the bed behind her, and his penis going in to her rectum.
In terms of keeping this a secret, in the third session Abigail said that her father did not want her to talk about this, and specifically that "Abba (her name for her father) did not want me to tell Mommy". In the fourth session I told her that I would be seeing her father. I asked her if she thought that he would tell me the truth about what had happened or if he would lie, and she said "He would lie".
Abigail reportedly made the first disclosure to her baby- sitter, and subsequently to her mother, a counselor and myself. Evidence of suppression was evident in Abigail's disjoined, fragmented report, and in her attempt to avoid and dissociate herse1f from any discussion of details.
SUMMARY AND RECOMENDATIONS
Abigail presented as a distressed, somewhat anxious three- and-a half year-old whose behavior suggests the experience of unprocessed and unresolved trauma. None-with-standing the fact that a certain amount of her disturbance is due to the environment engendered by the conflicted marital relationship, Abigail's presentation was entirely consistent, with that of a sexually abused child.
It is recommended that she be engaged in therapy if that has not already been done, and that any unsupervised visitation take place only upon the recommendation of that therapist, in conjunction with other objective parties who have information about Abigail's daily functioning.
Virginia C. Strand, D.S.W. - Clinical Social Worker
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