Cambria County Casualty

Date: 2008-02-12
Source: childlaw.us

Cambria County Casualty

James R. Marsh
February 12, 2008 7:51 PM

Yesterday I learned that the international adoption agency most responsible for Masha Allen's placement with pedophile Matthew Mancuso (originally known as Reaching Out Thru International Adoption [ROTIA] and recently renamed ChildPromise) is discontinuing operations.

A message from CP's executive director Sonia Baxter states that "due to our recent sad announcement regarding ceasing adoption activities, we are receiving many calls. Our goal is to insure that there's a calm and organized process to transferring cases and completing adoptions."

Tragically, this is just one more defendant who will escape civil liability for the criminal acts perpetrated against Masha Allen. Criminal acts which, despite outrage from Congress and pledges from Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and United States Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, have been completely forgotten.

Take Jeannene Smith, the New Jersey baby-broker who gave Masha to Mancuso. According to NJ criminal law, any "person . . . other than an approved agency which pays, seeks to pay, receives, or seeks to receive money or other valuable consideration in connection with the placement of a child for adoption shall be guilty of a crime." Smith was running an unlicensed and unapproved NJ adoption agency when she accepted lots of money from Mancuso for Masha.

The penalty for this crime? Between five and ten years in prison and a $150,000 fine. And yet Jeannene Smith remains at large, an adoption reform advocate who still hasn't paid her debt to either society or Masha.

And what about Pennsylvania, Mancuso's home at the time of the "adoption." In a 1987 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that adoption intermediaries are not allowed to accept ANY PAYMENT for their services. If they do they are "dealing in humanity" which is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.

The Court's lofty words are as true today as they were over 20 years ago:

"The early history of this nation is marred by a practice where human beings were bought and sold like merchandise. Powerful profit motives prompted violent opposition to those who perceived error in the practice, and a traumatic civil war was fought to ensure that no human being be transferred for consideration. By now the practice should be so abhorrent to every American that no one would traffic in human life for profit. Unfortunately, the lessons of the past are already forgotten; and due to the current small supply of babies available for adoption relative to the demand for those infants by prospective parents who are ready to pay, if they must, to get an infant, our society has experienced a degree of principle-shifting."

Sadly the lessons of the even recent past are quickly forgotten, ignored, brushed aside, and subverted, with self-righteous "principle-shifting" serving as the justification for thinly veiled dealing in humanity. As Tom Atwood, president of NCFA, trumpted in response to Masha's adoption "I mean, adoption is a wonderful thing. Think of the children. This is what it's all about."

Which brings me to Cambria County. For much of the past two years I have been imploring judges, politicians, social workers and government officials to act promptly to protect and secure Masha's civil legal rights.

Whether it involved filing an injunction against child pornographers like Peter Sotos or issuing DMCA takedown notices to websites like www.mycandidteens.com which shamelessly sports Masha's picture on its homepage (as a marker indicating that Masha's pornographic images are inside the pay site), those who claim to defend Masha's health and safety must champion her civil legal rights as well.

This is what the State Bar of Georgia told me in December 2006 and again in June 2007 as Masha's last counsel of record. And this is what I told Cambria County Judges Norman Krumenacker and Timothy Creany in December 2007: when an irresolvable conflict of interest exists between parties, a guardian must be appointed to insure the child's own interests.

The Philadelphia Bar Association agrees. In Ethics Opinion 96-3, it found that a lawyer should act with commitment and dedication to the interests of the client and with zeal in advocacy upon the client's behalf. The opinion also notes that this obligation exists despite opposition, obstruction or personal inconvenience to the lawyer. I have certainly experienced plenty of that.

As time passes, Masha's chances of recovering anything from any of the countless individuals and entities which damaged her decreases. Witnesses die or disappear. Companies go bankrupt and reorganize. Funds get dissipated. People forget.

Just this week the adoption agency that traded Masha's humanity ceased operation. Some of the potential defendants in the highly celebrated (but not yet implemented) Masha's Law cases have died or disappeared. Matthew Mancuso has spent some or all of his significant wealth defending himself in criminal actions in Pennsylvania and Florida.

We can not legitimately advocate for the health and safety of innocent victims of crime without acting decisively to safeguard the civil legal rights of children like Masha. Justice delayed is justice denied. Not only criminal justice but civil justice as well. And yet the "denials" continue. Surely Jeannene's prison wages can help pay Masha's bills.

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