Jack He's daughter Anna Mae, aka He Mei, is being stolen by her foster parents, the Bakers of Memphis, and he desperately needs your help, wrote Guy M. Wong on March 11. Wong gives a summary of the latest development on He Mei's case.
Many of you may have heard a great deal about the child-custody battle between a Chinese couple and an American couple in Memphis, Tennessee, but few of you may have been informed of the latest development due to the previous "gag order", which prohibited parties of interest from
talking about the case (by the way, the gag order was lifted in October 2002 except that parties of interest shall not make reference to the legal name of this debated Chinese girl). For this reason, this four-year-old girl is referred to as He Mei. The Chinese couple is Mr. and Mrs. He, who are the biological parents and the American couple is Mr. and Mrs. Baker, who are the fosterparents trying to terminate the Hes' parental rights.
On January 28, 2001 the biological parents were visiting their child at the Bakers' house as usual. During their visitation, the Chinese couple requested to take their child to a nearby studio to have a picture taken of their entire family because that day was He Mei's two-year birthday, a very special day for them. The Bakers denied their request, being concerned they might take their child back to China. When the Hes insisted, the Bakers called the local police, accusing them of trespassing private property and causing disturbance. The police came and warned the Hes not to come back again without their invitation to avoid being arrested. The Chinese couple dare not go back to visit their child because they had severe legal problems in criminal court and their immigration status. In 1998 Mr. He was falsely charged with a felony crime and was in 1999 expelled from the University of Memphis before even being convicted. The university's punishment of Mr. He cost the Chinese couple their legal immigration status in the U.S., their lawful employment, and the potential loss of their child. The Bakers knew all the problems the Hes were facing and did everything they could to deteriorate the Hes' problems. It is worth noting that the Hes had legal visitation rights from the outset and the Bakers illegally and forcibly deprived them of their rights since January 28, 2001.
Between February and April of 2001, the Chinese couple called the Bakers a few times, trying to re-establish communications with the Bakers. However, the Bakers neither answered nor returned their phone calls. On April 9, 2001 the Chinese couple filed their second petition with Juvenile Court, a legal action to compel the return of their child. The judge in charge was Harold W. Horne. The hearing date was scheduled for June 6, 2001. On June 6, 2001, all parties of interest were present before Judge Horne. The Bakers suddenly requested that the hearing be continued to June 22, 2001 because their attorney could not appear in court on June 6. When asked to explain, the Bakers said that June 6 conflicted with their attorney's schedule and the absence of their attorney could jeopardize their chances. Judge Horne believed them and granted their request. Incredibly, the Bakers' attorney had the case moved from juvenile court to a higher court, i.e. Chancery Court, on June 20, just two days before the ruling by Judge Horne.
On June 20, 2001 the Bakers filed a motion with Chancery Court to terminate the Chinese couple's parental rights and to adopt their child. In their motion, the Bakers accused the Hes of willfully and deliberately abandoning their child because they failed to visit and support their child for over four months (i.e. between January 28, 2001 and June 20, 2001). Note: four months of no visitation is defined by Tennessee Constitution as abandonment. In the eyes of the Chinese couple, what the Bakers did was nothing but kidnaping their child by lawfully and unlawfully manipulating the legal system and what Chancery Court (Judge Alissandratos) did was nothing but siding with the kidnappers, protecting and consolidating their kidnaping activities. Ever since Judge Alissandratos accepted the Bakers' motion in June 2001, he appointed Kimbrough B. Mullins as Guardian ad Litem, who required the Chinese couple to take and pass DNA aternity test before she could consider their visitation request. In November 2001, the couple passed the paternity test in a local hospital. Did Chancery Court grant them their deserved visitation rights? Absolutely no! The court required them to pass another test, i.e. psychological evaluation, to prove their emotional and mental health. In February 2002, the judge appointed a psychiatrist, Dr. Goldstein, to evaluate the Hes. Unfortunately, the outcome has been kept unknown to the Hes, the so-called patients thus far. Likewise, taking the required psychological evaluation did not bring them visitation rights. After that, the Bakers moved to court that the Hes' present and previous employers be subpoenaed to check their employability in the United States. The judge immediately granted the Bakers motion. Between January and April of 2002, the Bakers subpoenaed about 30 local Chinese restaurants, trying to intimidate the owners not to hire the illegal couple or to face the consequences. The 30 subpoenas worked well: Mrs. He shortly lost her waitress job and Mr. He's work hours were reduced. Shortly after they hurt the Hes' financial ability, the Bakers filed a new motion with the court, requiring the Hes to deposit a huge sum of money. Judge Alissandratos sided with the Bakers and issued a court order requiring the Hes to deposit $15,000 to cover future court costs, including the DNA fees and the psychological fees. Additionally, the judge limited the order to be satisfied by the Hes within one week to avoid being charged with "contempt of court orders." In court, Mr. He asked the judge to consider the fact that his wife recently lost her job and they requested more time to borrow so much money, but the judge flatly denied his request.
Here is an original quote from Judge Alissandratos: "At this time I do find that there is no reason to believe that the Bakers will not meet their responsibility ultimately to this court. They have been straight with this court, so to speak. I do have some serious concerns about Mr. He in light of the fact that his representations apparently at one time are substantially different than his testimony. And therefore given that, I am not concerned about the Bakers because there's no reason in this record to be concerned about. When one is straight with the Court, when one is truthful all the way through, then the court believes that that should be recognized and dealt with. And by the same token, if one has not been, then certainly that cannot be ignored either. In other words, down the road if Mr. He is to be reimbursed, I have every confidence that the Bakers will fully reimburse him because they will adhere to any order of this court. I do believe that " Judge Alissandratos based his opinions solely upon what Mr. Parrish presented to him. The Bakers themselves even had not testified in court as of his rulings, nor had a deposition been taken of the Bakers. 15,000 was an astronomical figure for the Chinese couple. But they were so eager to visit their child that they did come up with that amount of money by borrowing from different people. Again, did the court grant them their visitation rights? Surely not! The judge said in court, "since the Hes can come up with so much money easily, why didn't they deposit the money much sooner?". Then the Bakers reminded the judge of a pending felony charge: Mr. He was charged with an aggravated sexual assault, there was every possibility that he could be convicted and jailed. It's not in the best interest of the said child for the Hes to be granted visitation rights. or over four years, the Memphis criminal court had denied Mr. He's speedy trial and offered him a few good deals: such as one-year probation and even non-guilty "AG Diversion" if Mr. He agreed to give up jury trial. And for over four years, Mr. He had flatly refused all court offers and insisted on a jury trial to prove his innocence. The long-waited jury trial finally came in February 2003 and of course the jurors unanimously found Mr. He not guilty. Did that prompt the court to consider the return of their child? By no means! Currently the Bakers are accusing the Hes of their illegal immigration status in the U. S. In the most recent motion, the Bakers move that the said child be not returned to a couple who are in the process of deportation. Currently, Chancery Court refuses to vacate its "no contact" court order, which was issued in February 2002 to prohibit the Hes from visiting their child. This "no contact" order essentially tells the world that the Bakers were right when they called the police to kick the Hes out of their house during visitation and the Chinese couple does not deserve visitation rights granted by the Juvenile Court. In addition, the court took a further step by granting the Bakers "legal guardianship" of this Chinese girl. In response to the challenges made by the Hes, the court is reasoning that the Chinese couple shall not visit their child because they have not seen their child for two years and this said child may not even recognize them at all. Thus, any visitation may confuse this girl as to who her parents are and damage her psychological well being.
Here are opinions from third-party legal experts: the Chinese couple cannot be too optimistic even after adjustment of their immigration status because the Bakers may create more hurdles, some of which may never be overcome. Time works against blood parents: the longer the custody battle continues, the more difficult it will be for the Chinese couple to regain their child.