Lesley devoe reply to dean crocker maine children's alliance
Lesley Devoe, LCSW 18 Maple Street Rockland, Maine 0484111/10/11Dean Crocker, MSWMaine Children’s AllianceAugusta, MaineDear Dean;I have testified as an expert on domestic abuse for Lori Handrahan and am quitefamiliar with the extensive written and spoken record on her case. I have just readyour report dated 9/22/11 and found it significant for what was not said.Unfortunately, the omissions are familiar. There is a certain momentum in thiscase that appears unstoppable and that is based on the belief that Igor Malenko ismore credible as an informant than Ms. Handrahan. Yet, there is ample evidencethat we know very little about Mr. Malenko’s life because of his changing storiesand omissions in history. What has slipped out about Mr. Malenko’s life shouldalarm the system but, instead, that information is systematically dropped fromview by many of the professionals and the judge in this case. Those patterns andthe risk posed to Mila are lost yet again in your report.Did you know that Mr. Malenko took little responsibility for Mila as an infant andwas unable to sleep in the same room because he could not tolerate her crying?David Prichard worked with them as a couple to help Mr. Malenko become moreactive in parenting and he utilized behaviorally specific contracts. David Prichardapparently also suggested that Mr. Malenko sleep separately behind a closeddoor because he admitted he was triggered by Mila’s crying back to the time healmost killed a teenager as a teen himself. Ridley and Coha of UNE have doneresearch that shows that how people parent before court involvement isindicative of how they will parent after court involvement is over. Mr. Malenko’snoninvolvement was a concern for the GAL Liz Stout but was lost from view aswere the implications of Mila’s crying triggering him to a past episode of serious
violence. You, like many others, seem to be fine with Mr. Malenko havingresponsibility for Mila in spite of these serious concerns.It is also interesting to see how critical many professionals have been of Ms.Handrahan for going to multiple mental health professionals yet no one everasked whether Mr. Malenko’s rages and inaction as a parent and wage earnercontinued in spite of the “help” he was receiving. That would have beenimportant to know and might have shown that Ms. Handrahan was desperate tohelp her husband be more of a partner and to save the marriage and that Mr.Malenko’s behavior did not change. Clearly, what is not asked is often moresignificant than what is.Questions not asked and information dropped along the way always benefitbatterers who start the process of disinformation but then rely on professionalsto continue their strategy. In this case, did you know that Mr. Malenko told theGAL Liz Stout that there was some abuse at the hands of his attorney father buttold the therapist Allie Knowlton that he was in such danger from his father thathis grandmother told him to leave home out of fear that his father might kill him?Did you know that Mr. Malenko then totally denied any experience of abuse as achild to Dr. Carol Kabacoff? I discovered this when I compared the reports of thevarious professionals involved in this case. When confronted with thisdiscrepancy, Dr. Kabacoff essentially said it would not affect her Parental CapacityEvaluation! How could that be? Yet Dr. Kabacoff is seen as the standard-setter inthis case, the person to believe along with Mr. Malenko. She essentially said in adeposition for Michael Waxman that the only person who could pass a liedetector test about any behavior after engaging in that behavior would besomeone who lies as a lifestyle. She didn’t realize how right she was when shemade that statement. Shall we take a look?If you look at my report entitled Igor’s Disinformation Process, you will see manysignificant lies by Mr. Malenko. First there is the series about his childhood abuseor lack thereof. Then he tells vastly different stories about the circumstancessurrounding the injuries to the teen in Macedonia. He told Ms. Handrahan that itwas an accident, that he felt terrible, and that he took the injured boy to thehospital himself, but was blamed for the assault after that. Mr. Malenkoportrayed himself as a victim and Ms. Handrahan felt badly for him. The recordshows no criminal responsibility as you offer but it also shows that Mr. Malenko
was required to undergo counseling and he admitted he did it to “scare” the boy.To go to that extent to “scare” someone becomes significant in a domestic abusecase, especially when sole responsibility of a young child is at issue. Have youseen the tape of the injured man and heard about his injuries? In trying to “scare”him, Mr. Malenko fractured his skull which put him into a temporary coma andcaused permanent brain damage and paralysis. Yet, when Ms. Handrahandescribes threats by Mr. Malenko to break her neck, nobody listens. Do you see aproblem with this?It is common for abusers to admit to a little abuse to appear cooperative and todivert attention from more serious forms of abuse. Mr. Malenko admits to anepisode with a peanut butter jar that was thrown by him in the direction of Ms.Handrahan who had just put Mila in her seat next to her. He pled guilty to this DVassault in 5/8/07 but it was not mentioned in your report. Mr. Malenko told thepolice that he threw a plastic bottle of peanut butter at Ms. Handrahan becausehe was upset that she would not let him watch their daughter. Mr. Malenko thentold the GAL that he swept the jar off the table, the jar hit the wall andrefrigerator, and Ms. Handrahan was “out of her mind”. In the last part of thatstatement, Mr. Malenko introduced his strategy of portraying Ms. Handrahan as“crazy” and he successfully began the process of diverting our attention from hisuse of violence when he is angry. Mr. Malenko then told Dr. Kabacoff that “it wasan empty peanut butter jar…I pushed it away and it went off the table…I truthfullydidn’t think the jar came close to her”. Dr Kabacoff mentioned the discrepancybetween what Mr. Malenko told the police and what he told her but she providedcover for Mr. Malenko by dropping it. Anyone with any knowledge aboutdomestic abuse would have recognized Mr. Malenko’s shift as classic abuserminimization and manipulation. Nobody seemed concerned about a peanutbutter jar bouncing off the head of a mother right next to her child and nobodywondered whether Mr. Malenko could be trusted as an informant in this case.Nobody wondered that if he did this when there were two parents present, whatmight he do with his anger when he was the sole parent of a crying toddler?Nobody but me wondered why Ms. Stout put the episode of Mr. Malenkothrowing a sweater at Ms. Handrahan when she was nursing Mila in a footnote inher report! Mila was inconsolable after that episode but that also was lost fromview.We also see dishonesty by Mr. Malenko regarding his mental health history. Hetold the professionals in this case that he told the Macedonian army that he was
depressed in order to get out of the army. That statement alone should alert us toMr. Malenko’s willingness to lie to the authorities to get what he wants. He toldMs. Handrahan and the True North staff that he was too depressed and anxiousto work. Then he criticized his wife for attempting to get a diagnosis andmedication that might help. Mr. Malenko made Ms. Handrahan the problem andtook the focus off his behavior and nobody picked up on that. And nobodyrequested a release of information from Mr. Malenko to determine the real storyof his military experience. Did you? Will you?Regarding his use of violence, Mr. Malenko has different stories on that as well.He told Dr.Kabacoff and Ms. Stout that his violence was situational and a reactionto Ms. Handrahan’s pressure on him to get a job (victim blame) and to the stressof parenting Mila. He told the True North staff that he slapped Ms. Handrahan’shand hard because he was triggered back to memories of the assault as a teen.The interesting point is that Mr. Malenko was violent as a teen, then with his dog(for which he felt terrible) during their courtship, and again when he threw hotfood at Ms. Handrahan during her pregnancy. Ms. Handrahan was not insistingthat he work at any of these times nor was she seeking a diagnosis for him butthat too was lost in the momentum of this case and in your report.Mr. Malenko also changes stories about his contribution to household duties andabout who spent excessive money and who did not. You can read the details ofthat in Igor’s Disinformation Process which I have attached. I would now like tocall your attention to his relationship to the truth in the recent shopliftingepisode. I was alarmed to see that that episode was barely mentioned in yourreport. I was not surprised, though, because Michael Waxman has effectivelyprevented it from creating even a speed bump in the momentum against Ms.Handrahan in this case. Did you see the police report? Your report suggests youand DHHS totally dropped that ball. We could talk about the risk Mr. Malenkoposed to Mila by breaking the law with her present or we could wonder why hestole two bottles of cough syrup for a child who had no cough. Did you wonderabout that? Did you wonder if there might be a connection to the high level ofmethamphetamine later found in her system?The focus of this discussion, however, is Mr. Malenko’s ease with lying. The reportshows that he lied to the security officer in the store in front of Mila and later liedto the cop at his home, hopefully not in front of Mila. Mr. Malenko acted with
arrogance, outrage, threats, and denial as he was confronted by the authoritieswho caught his shoplifting on tape. Did you know that Mr. Malenko took the twobottles into the men’s bathroom and carefully removed them from theirpackaging before leaving the store? Do you wonder how he explained thatbehavior to Mila? Yet Mr. Malenko is the preferred parent and his rendition of thetruth carries the day. Why is that?The bottom line is that the professionals in this case are comfortable letting Mr.Malenko care for Mila without knowing much about his life. Do you know abouthis other relationships or his current one? Do you believe that his childhoodexperience is relevant to his performance as a parent? Do you believe thatsomeone who is able to lie so easily is a reliable informant? Mr. Malenko’sprocess of disinformation has fit well with Mr. Waxman’s aggressive defense andpersonal involvement in this case. Mr. Waxman’s discourse of threat from thevery beginning has been impressive and matches the use of threat to gaincompliance that is evident with Mr. Malenko. This was particularly effective withthe email from Mr. Waxman to all levels of DHHS that threatened Ms. PollyCampbell with loss of her job. That email signaled to all who read it and wereinvestigating this case that they had better not cross Mr. Waxman. Meanwhile,Mr. Malenko was able to quietly act like the victim of his “crazy” ex-wife Ms.Handrahan while his lawyer threatened anyone who tried to look below thatcharacterization. The strategies of Mr. Malenko’s defense are clear:disinformation, threat, and victim blame. Unfortunately, they are effective. Ms. Handrahan has seemed crazy at times as Mr. Malenko alleges but she is notcrazy. When Mr. Malenko was almost killing the student in Macedonia at age 16,Ms. Handrahan was trying to get her mother to leave her abusive father and wasfinally successful in that regard. There is no question that Ms. Handrahan isintense and her Central Nervous System is likely hard-wired to fight againstinjustice but she is not crazy. In fact, if Dr. Kabacoff had looked at this case froman abuse/trauma perspective, she might have drawn different conclusions aboutMs. Handrahan in terms of possible PTSD. There was no mention of domesticabuse in her report just like there was none in yours. When pushed to diagnoseMs. Handrahan by Mr. Waxman, she offered Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Asyou may know, this diagnosis is full of controversy and may be droppedaltogether from the DSM-V. One could also wonder what any woman would looklike who was attempting to defend herself against the aggressive defense by Mr.
Waxman who described her as a despicable human being, likened her to CharlesManson, bragged he would use his personal fortune to defend Mr. Milenko,admitted this was personal for him and was having Mr. Malenko and Mila forovernights! Because many of Ms. Handrahan’s lawyers quit in the midst of Mr.Waxman’s threats, much of the time Ms. Handrahan was representing herself.Who wouldn’t look crazy after months of this? Desperation and exhaustion arenot pretty.I have been privy to many emails between Ms. Handrahan and Mr. Malenkoduring this period and have found Ms. Handrahan impressive in her restraint inspite of the enormous stress of her defense and attempt to protect Mila. In oneparticular email she suggested to Mr. Malenko that counseling might be a goodidea for Mila given his exposure of Mila to shoplifting. Mr. Malenko went on anattack of Ms. Handrahan that was self-serving, demeaning, lengthy, inaccurate,and familiar. Mr. Malenko’s use of moral outrage was typical of manipulationused by abusers to divert attention from their behavior and was just like hisreaction to the security officer in the store. He took no responsibility for hiscriminal activity with Mila and said Ms. Handrahan was the one who neededcounseling. He accused her of using him as a sperm donor and being incapable ofco-parenting. It struck me as interesting that if she was the inadequate parent,abusive of her daughter as he (and you) are implying, why would she wanttherapy for her daughter? She wasn’t even choosing the therapist. Why wouldMr. Malenko be so resistant? Doesn’t anyone else see these non sequiturs andtheir implications for Mila?I noticed in your report the familiar reference to “friends” which is an easy way todelete years of professional experience, top-notch reputations, and reasoneddecision-making from professionals who help Ms. Handrahan. Mr. Malenko hasreferred to me as Ms. Handrahan’s friend minutes after he heard me testify that,except for the intake session, I have only seen Ms. Handrahan in court and alwaysfor purposes of testimony, not support. Ms. Polly Campbell R.N. has beenmaligned with that reference after her mandated report to DHHS whichsuggested that Mr. Malenko’s computer be checked for child porn. Mr. Malenkoand Mr. Waxman unsuccessfully went after her nursing license and, when thatfailed, they filed a lawsuit against her. The implication echoed in your report isthat such a concern on her part was inappropriate. I think it would have beenunprofessional for Ms. Campbell not to mention the possible presence of child
pornography given the following information of which you may or may not beaware: • Mr. Malenko is advanced in his knowledge of computers. He was always glued to his computer at home and at every court hearing. • Mr. Malenko videotaped a lot at home to the point of some irritation for Ms. Handrahan who was working fulltime and doing the child care. • Mr. Malenko videotaped mother and daughter right after Mila’s birth and sent the video to Ms. Handrahan’s friends. Her friends were disgusted, as was I, by the crotch shot of Ms. Handrahan in bed nursing Mila. • When Ms. Handrahan was exhausted and preoccupied after Mila’s birth, Mr. Malenko had her videotape him lying with Mila who was sleeping. He then moved each of Mila’s fingers in and out of his mouth with his tongue moving slowly around each finger. Even Ms. Stout thought it was “gross” but did not think it created a concern for potential sex abuse. Nobody asked what her credentials were as a lawyer to comment on that. I have had years of experience with victims of child sex abuse and worked with child molesters at the Maine State Prison and I saw it as sexualized affection that was a risk factor. Ms. Handrahan’s friends who were sent the DVD by Mr. Malenko were understandably horrified and wanted nothing more to do with him. Have you seen this DVD? If you haven’t, you need to! • Mr. Malenko took much longer baths with Mila than Ms. Handrahan and one day Mila did not want to take a bath with her father. Mr. Malenko tried to strip his wife in front of a screaming Mila and make her take a bath with Mila while he watched. Mr. Malenko accused Ms. Handrahan of having done something in the tub with Mila. Where have we seen this pattern of moral outrage and blame before? Mr. Malenko was rough in trying to strip Ms. Handrahan but she was able to resist. • Mila made an age-appropriate, spontaneous disclosure to Ms. Campbell of genital touch by her father. It was not one of “multiple interviews” as there were no follow-up questions by Ms. Campbell and the opening question was about her cat. • Checking computers for porn is accepted protocol in the investigation of child sex abuse. I have been involved in cases where discovery of child porn on the computers of the accused has moved cases to a much higher level of culpability, at my suggestion. Yet I’ve never been sued.
Ms. Campbell was well aware of all of these events, standards, and reactionswhen she made her report to DHHS. Given her expertise in domestic abuse andsexual assault, it would have been inconceivable for her not to mention herconcern. These behaviors by Mr. Malenko are serious and build on one another interms of risk to Mila. Given these behaviors and Mr. Malenko’s refusal to discussthe actual facts of his childhood, the professionals in this case should have done ahigher level of due diligence on Mila’s behalf. Unfortunately, they did not and oneof the people who did is now defending herself against a lawsuit. Meanwhile, Mr.Malenko disappears under the radar. The discourse of threat in this case is veryeffective and tells us where to look, where not to look, what to say, what not tosay and who will be punished for trying to hold Mr. Malenko accountable.You have been critical of Ms. Handrahan throughout your report, particularlywhen you suggested that taking Mila to the doctor for tests might be traumaticfor Mila. How many times has Ms. Handrahan taken Mila to the doctor in the pasttwo plus years? Do you know? You talk about how “few parents would subjecttheir children to such relentless recording”. Do you know if Mila even noticed shewas being recorded? You say nothing, though, about how many parents wouldsubmit their children to shoplifting for cough medicine when there is no coughand then lying about it in front of the child. You say nothing about the sexualizedDVD that, when put next to Mila’s disclosure, would be worrisome to mostprofessionals who know about young children’s disclosures and the groomingprocess in child sex abuse. Do you understand how significant your omissions are?Ms. Handrahan is “damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t” in yourparadigm. You reject her photograph of Mila’s head injury and launch into a longdescription of a hematoma but fail to notice that the injury was in the same placeas the injury of the teen in Macedonia. Ms. Handrahan has been told to tapewhenever possible and to take a urine sample for evidence yet that evidence isalso dismissed as not tight enough for DHHS. Even taping in the presence of aformer state trooper (now private investigator) is unacceptable. Yet, Mr. Malenkooffers no evidence and his claims are accepted without question.You also did not mention that Ms. Handrahan was out of work for months untilthis fall and has been denied a hearing by Judge Moskowitz to reassess her childsupport obligation. There were no consequences when Mr. Malenko was out ofwork so long yet there are major consequences for Ms. Handrahan. Do you see
the double standard here? Just as what is not asked or challenged in a report likeyours is significant, what is not decided with a hearing has serious impacts. A non-decision by a judge is a decision and is especially powerful because it cannot beappealed.Judge Moskowitz has relinquished his responsibility by also refusing to hear Ms.Handrahan’s motion for contempt against Mr. Malenko. As a result, Mr. Waxmanis acting as the judge and remains unchallenged in his requirement of supervisedvisits for Ms. Handrahan with Mila. I know of no court order in this case at thistime that allows that kind of discretion by Mr. Malenko who has joint custodywith Ms. Handrahan. Do you? Ms. Handrahan is unable to go to any other judge inMaine because, when she does, her motions are routed to Judge Moskowitz whodoes not respond or simply tells the parties to work it out. Judge Moskowitz mustbe aware that Mr. Malenko took Mila shoplifting and lied about it yet that seemsto mean nothing to him as he increased Mr. Malenko’s responsibility for Mila.Even after viewing the sexualized DVD during his lunch hour and while beingtaken step-by-step through Igor’s Disinformation Process, Judge Moskowitz tookno notes in court and was silent in his decision about any of this evidence andtestimony. In addition to choosing to ignore the Spurwink finding that it was likelyMr. Malenko was abusing Mila and that she should be protected, he also chose toignore the bath incident that apparently concerned Judge Mary Gay Kennedy.This judicial non-response by Judge Moskowitz, coupled with Dan Despard’snarrow legal interpretation of what will be accepted by DHHS in disclosures ofyoung children, makes intervention from any direction impossible. Even when thecase was briefly open, DHHS did not require a full release of information from Mr.Malenko, did not send for his military records, and seemed unconcerned abouthis shifting stories. In fact one supervisor, Dean Staffieri, told me that all peoplelie! Do you believe that? Also, when Mila was coming out of a supervised visitwith her father, she told her mother and caseworker that her father didn’t touchher inappropriately (she used her own words) and the caseworker failed to askany follow-up questions. Again, we see the importance of what isn’t asked, in thiscase, when a child is signaling her readiness to talk. Do you see a pattern yet ofsystemic cover for Mr. Malenko? What do you think the impact of this is on Mila?How is her mother supposed to protect her from this?
If you had listened to the tape of the “out of control” visit (your words) by Ms.Handrahan to her daughter, you would hear Mila crying for her mother and mighthave drawn a different conclusion about her attempts to be with Mila. A differentimpression would also have been possible of the Budapest incident had youconsidered the possibility that Mr. Malenko often changed his mood on a dimeand, in fact, was able to look suddenly sane when help arrived. Instead, you fell inline and concluded that Ms. Handrahan lied about the whole episode. “Turning ona dime” is a classic abuser strategy which effectively leaves everyone looking withrolled eyes at the person who was legitimately trying to get help, in this case Ms.Handrahan.After so many examples of Mr. Malenko playing with the truth about substantialparts of his life and behavior, your criticism of Ms. Handrahan is concerning. Youjudge her motives yet say nothing about why Mr. Malenko shoplifted so muchcough medicine, and refused therapy for his daughter, who, even by his accounthas been devastated by events in this case. What is his motivation for telling somany different stories? What is his motivation for encouraging his lawyer todestroy Mila’s relationship with her mother? What is his motive for moving histongue so slowly around his sleeping daughter’s fingers, for photographing Ms.Handrahan’s crotch, and for sending these images to her friends? You give Mr.Malenko a free pass in your report and hold Ms. Handrahan to a much higherstandard of accountability.There is a way that you also subtly demean the professionals who support Ms.Handrahan. The common thread for all of us is extensive experience withdomestic abuse and trauma. The same cannot be said for the professionals whooffer cover for Mr. Malenko. Fifteen years ago I was told by a domestic abuseadvocate that mental health professionals knew nothing about domestic abuseand were doing a lot of damage. I was stunned silent for a moment, and then said“You know. You’re right.” I have spent the years since then righting that wrong atleast in my practice and hopefully in my feedback to others. I hope you too havethe courage to look at your involvement in this case and to fill in the blanks aboutMr. Malenko that too many people in Maine are willing to ignore. My belief isthat people don’t like Ms. Handrahan but they don’t know Mr. Malenko and thatis more dangerous for Mila.
Many professionals are comforted by simply referring to this case as a “bittercustody battle”. It is much more than that. This is a domestic abuse case withsome red flags that raise concerns for child sex abuse. In order for you to moreaccurately understand the dynamics here I offer the following suggestions: Willyou get a full release of information from Mr. Malenko and send for his militaryrecords? Will you look at the tape of the man he injured in Macedonia, therecording of Mila’s disclosure, the DVD of the sexualized touch, and the tape ofMs. Handrahan’s visit to Mr. Malenko’s home to see Mila? Will you recommendtherapy for Mila? Will you look at the psychological evaluation of Ms. Handrahanthat was recently done out of state? Will you recommend a psychologicalevaluation of Mr. Malenko that rules out a diagnosis of anti-social personalitydisorder (previously described as sociopath/psychopath)? Will you look at Igor’sDisinformation Process and study the important shifts in his story? Will you find away to return Mila to pre-school so finances can no longer be used as the excusefor isolating her? Will you ask DHHS to reopen this case and to hold Mila’spassport? If you won’t, you will continue to be part of the disinformation processthat was started by Mr. Malenko and continued by his lawyer, the guardian, thepsychologist, one therapist, the judge, and DHHS.Sincerely,Lesley Devoe, ACSWLicensed Clinical Social Workercc. Judy Potter, Esq.