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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Woman Says State Won’t Protect Her

(CN) - A San Mateo woman claims in Federal Court that the California attorney general has failed for 2 years to protect her from her abusive ex-husband, whom she says threw a wrench at her while she was pregnant, shot cats in front of their children and bashed their daughter's head into a dashboard.

Michele Fotinos sued John Fotinos, Attorney General Kamala Harris, the State Bar of California's Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim (in her official capacity), and three other women: Dawn Grover, "either the wife of J. Fotinos or his live-in partner;" Renee La Farge, "a former reunification therapist for M. Fotinos and the two children;" and Bonnie Miller, a former "minors' counsel" for the Fotinos' two minor children.

Michele Fotinos claims in San Francisco Federal Court that John Fotinos bullied, beat and intimidated her and the children, and took issue with anyone who tried to intervene.

"John Fotinos is seriously disturbed and has a history of instability, loss of control, of making threats, and has committed violence against M. Fotinos and the two children," the complaint states. "He so frightened two visitation center therapists they got off the case. He ran a witness for M. Fotinos off the road with his truck. He intimidated and frightened the children's pediatrician, and she refused to treat the children any longer. He has had blowups at work at least since 1993 which should have never been tolerated because he was a firefighter."

Michele Fotinos says she sued for divorce in 2003, and that her ex was awarded custody of their children through a falsified ex parte application.

She says that in 2010 she filed an order to show cause seeking change of custody "based on years of interference with visitation and alienation of the children as well as for child and spousal support."

The case was assigned to San Mateo Judge Don Franchi, the complaint states.

In November 2011, Franchi - who had removed the minors' counsel and "said that the legal system had made a lot of mistakes resulting in harm to mother and children" - recused himself on the day that he was scheduled to hear the case, Michele Fotinos says. She says the San Mateo Court has since refused to set a hearing on the order to show cause.

The complaint states: "For eight and a half years years, the San Mateo judges let him [John Fotinos] get away with harassment of court-connected professionals, with not obeying orders, with letting him retain custody, all the while finding him repeatedly guilty of alienation of the children and interfering with the custody or visitation of M. Fotinos, with not paying his share for all the evaluators and therapists and other professional involved in the case, of using the minors' counsel as his own attorney at county expense, and so on."

Michele claims John Fotinos threw a wrench at her head while she pregnant, "assaulted a high school babysitter because she had dropped uncooked rice on the ground," shot neighbors' cats in front of his children, and, in 2011, "bashed" their child R.F.'s head against a truck dashboard, among other violent outbursts.

"While the California courts are trying to do damage control in dismantling all of J. Franchi's finding and orders, neither San Mateo Court nor the First Appellate District Court of Appeal nor the California Supreme Court are doing a proper assessment of J. Fotinos' potential for deadly violence, not just against M. Fotinos and his children but against J. Franchi. Why are they allowing this man who could blow up at any moment walk around without a restraining order?," the complaint states.

It adds: "J. Fotinos would not be the first self-entitled narcissist to try murdering a family law judge. It happened in Las Vegas and luckily, Judge Weller survived the attack, but the man's wife did not. Darren Mack, the killer, went on trial and was convicted of the murder of his wife and of attempted murder of J. Weller. To the very end, he claimed that the judge was totally to blame and even accused his attorneys of malpractice. He took no responsibility nor showed any remorse."

The complaint then cites, and quotes, a Las Vegas Review-Journal story, from 2006, about the incident in Las Vegas.

Michele Fotinos claims that her son is "too terrified to disclose the abuse" because he lives with his father.

"If J. Fotinos loses it, no one connected to this case can deny they did not see it coming ..." the complaint states. "We must rise about court politics and get protection for all of us."

Michele Fotinos seeks punitive damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment, gender violence, defamation, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. She also wants the professional defendants investigated to see whether they violated professional rules of conduct.

She is represented by Patricia Barry of Los Angeles.

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