Judge Aviva K. Bobb
Police arrests in fragile environments, usually involving seniors, violate everything from moral sense to the UN Human Rights Declaration…
I stood at the Probate clerk’s window at Redlands court, craning my neck to read the top sheet of a thick stack of papers which faced away from me.
The page was stamped in large, bold letters â€œCONFIDENTIAL.â€ That alone was enough to get my attention.
And the clerk was in the back, digging through boxes to find a file I had requested, and had left me alone with the documents, albeit somewhat out of my reach.
As I read upside down, I realized that this was a police notification concerning escaped â€œhuman property,â€ a conservatee. A conservatee is someone with no legal rights, and one had just escaped the confines of his genteel prison and was on the loose.
I read on. The conservatee in question was fifty seven years old, a bit young for dementia, I thought, and was described as wearing a baseball cap, T-shirt and shorts. An APB had been put out on the escapee.
For those who are unaware of the gaping legal loophole in â€œequality and justice for all,â€ a conservatee (in some states referred to as a ward) is someone who has been stripped of all his rights and all his assets through a legal proceeding.
Conservatorships are generally launched through an action in probate court, when there are allegations that a person may be becoming forgetful or otherwise demonstrating that they are lacking capacity. Often these are ex parte hearings and the person under scrutiny may not even be in the courtroom.
Upon the initiation of a conservatorship of estate, all the person’s assets are transferred to the care and protection of the conservator or guardian. A conservatorship of person transfers the personal decisions of the alleged incapacitated person to the conservator.
As many conservators have both powers delegated to them, the potential for financial exploitation becomes of grave concern. In many cases, a capacity hearing never takes place and a conservatorship is established on allegations alone. Conservatorships are very expensive, often requiring the services of multiple lawyers as well as mandating a high rate of recompense for the conservator.
Police intervention in conservatorships is not only restricted to capturing a runaway ward. Increasingly,the police are becoming involved in restraining or incarcerating a family member who is trying to contact or protect a ward. Upping the ante, the police have now involved themselves in jailing someone who was speaking out critically against probate judges.
Robert Gettinger was nearly asleep, he recalls, when a light illuminated his bedroom and he heard a police bullhorn ordering him to come out with his hands up. It was winter in Frazier Park, California and Gettinger, a former police officer himself, came out of his house dressed only in a T-shirt and underwear. It was just before midnight on February 7, 2011.
Gettinger recalls at least ten officers in tactical gear, with guns drawn surrounded his house that night, including Sheriff’s officers and Pasadena Police. He put up no resistance and was taken into custody and transported to the Pasadena Jail, where he was booked.
It was not until he was taken from his cell for the initial interrogation, several hours later, that he discovered what he had done to receive this elevated level of attention.
A few months back, when Katie Couric ran a special report on national television revealing problems in the guardianship system, Robert Gettinger had posted a number of criticisms of local judges on the CBS website.
While a Los Angeles Superior court judge, Terry Smerling, had reviewed the posts made by Gettinger on the internet and had signed a search warrant, the District Attorney did not find that the evidence against Gettinger was sufficient to file criminal charges against him and after a couple of days in jail, Gettinger was released from custody.
He states that he had waived his Miranda rights and was cooperating with the police as he did not believe he had committed any crime. His certificate of release, which was obtained by Salem News, states that he was never arrested, only â€œdetained.â€ The release papers cite California Penal Code 849, stating that the police may release an individual from custody and term his arrest to be a detention when the police are â€œsatisfied that there is no ground for making a criminal complaint against the person arrested.â€
A review of the comments made by Gettinger on the CBS website has left this reporter baffled. An obviously passionate Gettinger was highly critical of a number of local judges, including Candace Beason, Aviva K. Bobb and David Yaffe, and made repeated pleas that they be brought to justice and punished for their crimes against U.S. citizens. The expression of such opinions is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and does not violate the law.
In an attempt to ascertain the cause of action against Gettinger, this reporter obtained the initial police report. No crime or penal code number was indicated, and the report only stated that there were â€œsuspicious circumstances.â€ A section which presumably contained a written complaint about Gettinger was completely blacked out.
According to Gettinger, his mother, Gertrude Gettinger, was placed into a conservatorship without notice to the family and on false statements by his sister, Sylvia Schmidt. Gettinger alleges that Schmidt had been estranged from both of their parents and is solely motivated by greed.
Gertrude had accumulated property and assets in excess of two million dollars which are now under the control of Schmidt, who, according to Robert Gettinger, has hidden numerous bank accounts and stolen property belonging to Gertrude.
He alleges that Sylvia has exaggerated, if not completely confabulated, reports of Gertrude’s â€œmental illnessâ€ and provided evidence to this reporter that Schmidt was coaching doctors as to what kind of letters to produce to substantiate Schmidt’s statements of Gertrude’s diminished capacity. Per records reviewed by this reporter, Gertrude Gettinger has been drugged with powerful mind altering drugs without her agreement.
Bob Gettinger states that his mother’s wishes have been ignored, that she has been removed from her home against her best interests and has been conned out of her property by Schmidt, who now will not allow Robert to see his own mother.
Gettinger has not been shy about voicing his concerns. Last year, when the United Nations received a report maintaining that conservatorships constituted a significant human rights problem inside the United States, Bob Gettinger’s twelve page report on the conservatorship of his mother was included as an example of serious human rights concerns. His statement to the UN included his specific allegations that a number of bank accounts belonging to his mother had gone unaccounted for, thus indicating what could be a powerful motive for the conservator.
Gettinger also states that after achieving conservatorship over Gertrude, Sylvia Schmidt stopped working, as the income from the conservatorship is ample to cover her own needs.
While Gettinger maintains that these abuses were visited on his mother by his sister, he directly posits responsibility with Judge Candace Beason in allowing the abuses to continue. He cites a number of decisions issued by Beason at junctures in which the course of events could have been altered but were not, due to what he sees as malfunction of the court.
He also implicates Judge Aviva K. Bobb, head of Probate in the Los Angeles Superior court system, for creating a judicial culture in which laws are flaunted and ignored and conservator abuse is allowed to run rampant.
In his posts on the CBS news site, he also referred to the case of conservatee Lee Peters, whose death appears to be directly tied to Judge Bobb’s refusal to give weight to the family’s repeated pleas that the conservatee was developing phlebitis and needed appropriate medical intervention. Peters died of a clot that migrated to her heart.
While Robert Gettinger was released from jail on February 10, his computers remain impounded by the Pasadena Police. Numerous requests as to when his equipment(which Gettinger needs for his work in the computer field) will be released have met with delay after delay, as the Pasadena Police have spent now well over a month examining his computer files to see if they could find additional evidence against Gettinger.
In a recent conversation with Lt. Tracey Ibarra of the Pasadena PD, she suggested that Gettinger may need to obtain a court order to have his belongings returned to him.
In another ongoing conservatorship battle in Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills police were recently called and requested to arrest Jeannie Tanaka, whose mother is under a conservatorship with local conservator Linda Cotterman. Jeannie Tanaka, who is herself over sixty five years old, was taken into custody during a visit with her mother after Cotterman called the police and told them that there was a Restraining Order in place against her. Tanaka, who is an attorney with the State of California, was taken to the Beverly Hills police station and subsequently released after the police realized there was no such order in existence.
Cotterman did not return phone calls from this reporter.
Joseph Quattrochi, whose father was successfully released from a conservatorship under Southern California conservator Melodie Z. Scott, was arrested by the Redlands Police while waiting for other activists to show up for a demonstration in front of Scott’s office.
The police arrested Quattrochi after an employee of Melodie Scott’s alleged that he threatened him outside of the office. All charges were subsequently dropped against Quattrochi. The demonstration took place without further incident.
Ricky Ritch, a non-practicing J.D., was cited with contempt of court and ordered into custody by Judge Aviva K. Bobb for failing to file an accounting which was physically in the file before her at the time she ruled that he had failed to do so. Ritch was the son in law of conservatee Marshall Stern, who had nominated Ritch to be his conservator. Instead, Bobb overrode Stern’s wishes and appointed a “professional conservator” who, according to Ritch, misappropriated considerable sums of money.
In Ritch’s own words: â€œOn January 23, 2006 I paid the $1000 fine and submitted myself for incarceration. On that date Sheriff Astorga hit my head against the car that he was using to transporting me to the jail while I was handcuffed. Sheriff Astorga stated as he was battering me, â€œThat was a message from the Judge.â€ Or words to that effect. He then kicked me into the car wrenching my broken back in the process. During the next day and a half I was denied my medication for my broken back or the concussion I received from Sheriff Astorga’s attack on me. I was told, â€œThat’s what you get for messing with a Judge.â€ That message was repeated several times during my incarceration.â€
In a written statement by his lawyer, Albert Sterwerf, he affirms the following: â€œWhen Mr. Ritch was released, I personally saw the bump on his head. I drove him directly to a hospital where he was reunited with his wife. I remained with him at the hospital until the initial diagnosis was finished by the doctor. They said that Mr. Ritch had a concussion.â€ He also confirms that the accounting in question was filed and in the court file when Bobb ordered Ritch into custody.
Robert Gettinger wonders why the police are so eager to step in. He recalls being told by one of the arresting officers Detective Kevin Okamoto, that there is a special squad of officers whose job it is to protect the judges. As he wrote on the CBS website:
“We need to tell anyone and everyone. We need all victims to come forward, even for cases from years ago as this crime has been going on for many years. If the police or government won’t help us then we need to take justice into our own hands. IF THE POLICE WON’T INVESTIGATE then we have a right to justice.
“Those who protect these judges and lawyers need to be informed about what kind of monsters these people are. They’re just like Adolph Hitler, they’re putting our seniors in prison, stripping them of their rights, stealing their belongings, drugging them and sending them to a legal GAS CHAMBER. The Holocaust is back, right under your nose…..Please email your friends, share this story which is just an example, the woman in this story lost everything, at least she has her life as many victims are dead. Post the names of the lawyers, judges and names of the agencies you contacted who did nothing. Put their names in public light.”
Since being released from jail, Gettinger has been networking with other court victims on a Facebook site.
Sylvia Schmidt did not respond to phone calls or emails from this reporter.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She currently resides abroad.
You may browse through her articles (and poetry) at janetphelan.com