Lawyer pleads to adoption deception
By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau
A Franklin lawyer pleaded guilty Monday to filing a false petition with the Delaware County Family Court to adopt a baby girl.
Sarah M. Braen-Scott, 34, of 201 Center St. in Franklin, was arrested Monday on a misdemeanor charge of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, Delaware County Social Services Investigator Mark Hamilton said Tuesday.
Delhi Town Justice Joseph Skovira accepted Braen-Scott's guilty plea and scheduled her sentencing for 10 a.m. April 16, the court clerk said Tuesday.
Delaware County Judge Carl Becker appointed attorney Michael L. Breen, of Middleburgh, as special prosecutor on the case, Hamilton said.
Breen said he is planning to ask the court to sentence Braen-Scott to 60 days in jail and three years' probation.
Breen said Tuesday that Hamilton gathered sworn statements while he was conducting a routine investigation required by law when there is a private adoption.
Breen said Braen-Scott heard that there was a pregnant woman in the Delaware County jail who wanted to put her child up for adoption.
"Sarah met with the woman at the jail," Breen said.
The age of the mother and the reason she was in jail were not available.
Braen-Scott then made arrangements with her secretary to have the secretary's brother sign papers acknowledging that he was the father of the child, Breen said.
The man agreed to pose as the father if Braen-Scott would pay off a loan that he owed to his sister, Braen-Scott's secretary, Breen said.
"Sarah arranged for a meeting between the guy and the mother-to-be in November 2006," Breen said. "They said later that they had never met before."
On March 13, 2007, the baby girl was born at Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown. The next day, Breen said, Braen-Scott showed up at the hospital with the alleged father.
The mother and "so-called father" both signed consent forms swearing they were the parents, and the baby girl went home with Braen-Scott and her husband, Breen said.
Braen-Scott allegedly filed the adoption petition on or about July 12, which launched the Social Services investigation, Breen said.
"Mark Hamilton determined that there might not be something accurate with the paternity claim," Breen said. "He got statements from the mother, Braen-Scott's secretary and the secretary's brother."
Lawyer James Hartmann was appointed legal guardian for the child, based on the paternity question, which also included a declaration of paternity by the real father, a teenager who had come forward, Breen said.
Supreme Court Judge Michael Coccoma ordered paternity testing.
Breen said the tests indicated a more-than 99 percent chance that the teenage boy was the father and ruled out the "so-called father."
The child was removed from Sarah's home about a week before Christmas," Breen said.
The facts of the case led to the decision to charge her with a misdemeanor rather than a felony, he said.
Breen said he is preparing information about the charge for the Appellate Division Third Department Committee of Professional Standards, which will determine Braen-Scott's status as a lawyer.
Breen said the child is in foster care, but there are indications the actual father will be granted custody.
The mother and the man who posed as the father are not being charged, Breen said.
Braen-Scott did not return two messages left on her office answering machine Tuesday, and her home voice mailbox was full and was not accepting messages Tuesday morning and afternoon.