Herkimer’s Rogue CPS Workers

Stephen Ames Berry

In March, in flagrant violation of New York law, two rogue Herkimer CPS workers, Sara Riente and Lisa Bates, abused their positions and took a malicious hand in a child custody court battle in another state. They acted so brazenly, so unprofessionally and so illegally under the color of authority that we think this sort of malfeasance has long been tolerated in Herkimer County.  

“Herkimer! Protect My Precious $on!”

In January of this year, we were subjected to false allegations of child abuse by our son-in-law, Somangshu Mukherji, an Indian national, as he tried to gain sole custody of our two-year-old  grandson Avram in lieu of paying child support. 

Our daughter fled to our home with our grandson to escape the abuse and neglect of the two of them by Somangshu, a very glib professor of music at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  Avram’s not his natural son. According to our daughter’s court filings, in which she alleged spousal abuse and neglect, Somangshu never bought the child clothes or toys, and called him as “the little bastard.”  According to our daughter, Somangshu sold everything we ever sent  her and Avram, pocketing the money.  Here’s our grandson Avram in our home last January, with first-ever new clothes and toys:

Somangshu Mukherji son's first toys everHad our grandson remained here with his mother, the good professor might have ended up paying $1,000+ a month in child support until the child was 21. He seems to have done the math, as his feet barely touched the ground on his way to his attorney’s office to file for sole custody. To protect his “son”. 

Our daughter had barely filed her child support payment application before husband Somangshu reported her and us for child neglect and abuse with New York.  Herkimer Child Protection Worker Sara Riente promptly came to our house, spent fifteen minutes investigating our grandson’s safety, offered no criticism and left. She made one even shorter followup visit a month or so later.

In March, we received letters from from New York Child Welfare exonerating us of our son-in-law’s baseless accusations: “Unfounded” was the official finding.  Yet this was not the end of the matter.  Riente and her colleague Lisa Bates then came to son-in-law’s Somangshu’s aid in his Michigan custody case, giving him a document that was as defamatory of our family as it was illegal:

“At this time Avram does not meet the [standards of abuse or neglect]. [However] it does appear that it would be in the child’s best interest to be in the care of the parent who can provide access to regular medical care, a stable and sufficient and living environment and age appropriate supervision and care for a young child. Based on the evidence gathered during this investigation, this Department’s decision would be that [the mother] is not providing the above-mentioned care.”

Herkimer CPS Workers Riente and Bates Go Rogue

Apparently dismayed at finding our grandchild healthy, well-fed, well-clothed and safe with family of whom they seemingly disapproved, Herkimer CPS workers Riente and Bates went rogue, colluding with our son-in-law: at his request, they wrote him an “official”Herkimer County Social Services letter, falsely stating that “it is the opinion of this Department” that our grandchild would be better off with his father. Our daughter only became aware of their poisonous letter when she received a copy of her husband’s public court filing, in which their illegal letter was offered as evidence of our duaghter’s unfitness as a mother and of our home as” [not] stable and  [in]sufficient.”

Bogus Herkimer Social Services’ Letter Key Exhibit

In their venomous and illegal letter supporting our daughter’s husband, Herkimer CPS workers Riente and Bates threw aside any pretense of impartiality and professionalism. They miscast their libelous opinions as “the finding of this Department.”

Seemingly not liking the “Unfounded” decision they were required to render under NY law as child protection workers, they magically morphed into Herkimer county workers to express a different “official” finding,  malfeasantly subverting the law they were supposed to uphold.  Our son-in-law’s attorney cited their letter as key evidence that our daughter was an unfit mother and ours “not a loving home, Your Honor.”  Their treachery and  helped abusive and neglectful “dad” Somangshu Mukherji retain custody of “the little bastard.”

Herkimer CPS Workers’ Defamatory Letter In Support Of Plaintiff Somangshu Mukhjeri

Somangshu Mukherji sneering
Somangshu Mukherji Sneering

Here’s Riente and Bates’ letter to my son-in-law, Somangshu Mukherji. I’ve redacted just about all the confidential information they malfeasantly  revealed, except for their conclusion on page 2, in which they dispute the lawful conclusion New York law compelled them to reach. They falsely present their scurrilous opinion as an official finding of Herkimer County Social Services. 

Despite our daughter’s request that the Michigan court disregard the Herkimer CPS’ workers letter as a violation of New York law, the court did not exclude it.

After several court appearances, our daughter lost custody of her son and he was returned to his father in Michigan–a process that was yet another instance of Herkimer County employees playing fast and loose with the law. 

Reporting Herkimer County Child Protection Workers’ Malfeasance

New York law enforces the right to confidentiality by those investigated by social services workers. It is one of the strongest in the nation. CPS workers Riente and Bates’ letter is a violation  of confidentiality under 18 NYCRR 432.7 and Social Service Law §§422(4)(A) & 427- a(5)(d)], and the New York’s Child Protective Services Manual. It’s a Class A Misdemeanor. The only information that should have been released to the father was whether his complaint was “indicated” or “unfounded”.  Anything beyond that is a breech of confidentiality under New York law. New York has an excellent and concise guide to the procedure.

Filing Complaints About Herkimer CPS Workers’ Illegalities

If we tolerate outrageous and lawless conduct, it will continue.  Complaints about Herkimer Child Protection Workers’ actions should be sent to:

Sara Simon, Director
Syracuse Regional Office
NYS Office of Children and Family 
The Atrium, 100 S. Salina Street, Suite 350
Syracuse, NY 13202

New York Attorney General,  Bureau of Public Integrity

New York Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad St., 19th Fl., New York,
NY 10004. Telephone: 212-607-3300

Sue Them

You can also sue.  In a case like our daughter’s, where the evidence of malfeasance is low-hanging fruit, an attorney might take the case for damages on a contingency fee basis. Herkimer CPS workers are probably not worth suing. New York State is a sovereign entity and can rarely be sued. But Herkimer County can be sued.

This is New York, not Alabama. We have laws to protect us from illegal actions such as those of Herkimer’s rogue CPS workers. Make the law work for you. 

Child protection workers who engage in lawless vendettas against struggling parents and families simply because they disapprove of them should find another vocation. 

A Herkimer Kidnapping

Stephen Ames Berry

“A child is not a dog. No matter whose child. It requires more to lawfully take a child than it does a dog. Even in Herkimer.”  Look no further than Herkimer, New York, USA, to see the illegal taking of a child from his family.  On 4/24/19, Herkimer County sheriff’s deputies entered our home and took our two-year-old grandson Avram from his mother. They didn’t have a warrant. They didn’t have a valid court order. They said they had “verbal permission.” 

A Herkimer Kidnapping – In The Tradition of Schindler’s List

It  was kidnapping under the color of law. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. We’ve seen Herkimer Child Protection Workers violate state law as they go the extra mile to denounce parents and families they don’t approve of. And Herkimer long shrugged off poison gas attacks on us, our pets and our home. So why not, also in the tradition of Schindler’s List, an armed, uniformed squad  taking a child from his bed? They even wore brown. What made it especially heinous was their acting for an out-of-state foreign national seemingly desperate to avoid paying child support. 

Even In Herkimer A Child Is Not A Dog

It requires more to lawfully take a child than it does a dog. Even in Herkimer. No matter how inconvenient. No matter whose child. New York’s Domestic Relations Law  governs the return of  a child to a parent in another state. It incorporates the provisions of the federal Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The law requires registration of an out-of-state custody order with the local family court, due notice and a hearing. Then the custody order can be legally enforced. It only takes a few days. Apparently too cumbersome for scofflaw Herkimer.

Herkimer Family Court Collusion?

The deputies said they had “verbal authorization” [Video, below: 1:56] from Judge John Brennan of the Herkimer Family Court to take our grandson. If so, Brennan played fast and loose with the law. New York’s family courts are notoriously packed and dysfunctional. Scooping up a kid without a warrant for an out-of-state return and whisking him to the waiting parent avoids further clogging the court calendar with the tedium of due process. Especially when  outcome appears predetermined. In an extrajudicial kidnapping like this, speed is of the essence: Not much a parent can do when the kid’s back in the other state. It seems a cynical practice encourage by long success. Had our daughter been known to have an attorney, and lived at a better Herkimer address, the law might have been followed.  

Anonymous Herkimer Sheriff's Officer during extrajudicial kidnapping
4/24/19 “We have verbal authority [to take the child.”] Intentionally anonymous Herkimer Sheriff’s officer during extrajudicial kidnapping. Refused repeated demands to identify himself.

“2:41: Nameless sheriff’s officer waves to unidentified woman in unmarked car down the street to approach closer.”

HERKIMER KIDNAPPING – VIDEO
A Herkimer Kidnapping

A Herkimer Kidnapping

Video Timeline 001-1:05 Herkimer County Sheriff’s deputies, accompanied by Herkimer police officer, arrive at our house. (Police here to protect deputies from us.)
1:06-1:14 I foolishly let them in without examining their order. I’d assumed they were acting lawfully. Never assume this in Herkimer County.
1:15-1:15 One deputy identifies himself as Sgt. George. The other merely says “Herkimer County Sheriff.” (He’s not the sheriff.)
1:20 – 1:55 Sgt. George reads the order to our daughter. It’s quickly apparent it’s a Michigan court order. George states it authorizes them to take our grandson for return to his father in Michigan. It doesn’t. I  object, citing New York law and the procedure necessary to lawfully execute an out-of-state custody order in New York. Sgt. George says they have verbal permission from Herkimer County Family Court to enforce the Michigan court order. I continue to dispute their authority. 2:41 – 2:54 Deputy(?) Nameless tells me to “go argue the order” with Herkimer County Family Court Judge John Brennan if I don’t like it. I point out that I can’t, it’s a Michigan court order. Judge Brennan is a New York judge. He has not issued an order in this matter. Nameless Deputy repeats that they have verbal authority from Judge Brennan to take our grandchild. Seems hostile.
3:14 – 3:20 “Where is the child?” is the demand.
3:21 – 3:45 Little Avram taken. Nameless sheriff’s officer waves to unidentified woman in unmarked car down the street to approach closer. She hesitatingly does so.  May know we’d recently reported Herkimer CPS workers Sara Riente and Lisa Bates to NY authorities for malfeasance.
3:46 – 4:36 Avram passed to unidentified woman wearing unviewable badge driving unmarked car. 
4:37 – 4:56 Grandma gives kindly Herkimer Police Officer Holt clothes and shoes for shoeless Avram, who takes them to the sheriff’s officers. End: Unknown woman in unmarked car makes good her escape with our grandchild. 

“Our grandson now lives in an upscale townhouse in an upscale college town with his Rhodes Scholar professor-“father”. We fear for his safety.”

A Herkimer Kidnapping Finale

Gloating email later that evening from Mukherji to our daughter saying he was at a Herkimer motel and that Avram had been returned to him. He’s refused all attempts at contact by our daughter.  Our grandson now lives in an upscale townhouse in an upscale college town with his Rhodes Scholar professor father. We fear for his safety. Why? Read on.

A Herkimer Kidnapping – Backstory

In late January, our daughter escaped with our grandson from her abusive  and neglectful husband, Somangshu Mukherji, an Indian national. He’d allowed her no contact with us for years and kept her in almost complete social and physical isolation.  Mukherji’s a nontenured assistant professor of Music at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He’s not the child’s birth father. Our daughter believes he signed Avram’s birth certificate to enhance his status with US Immigration.   The trigger for our daughter’s flight to Herkimer was Somangshu’s announcing they were going on a trip with him to Turkey, along with his equally abusive mother. The US State Department advises against travel to Turkey: “terrorism, kidnappings and arbitrary detentions.” Anything could happen, especially to a toddler. Sounded like it might be a one-way trip for the “son” our daughter says Somangshu calls “the little bastard.” Somangshu’s vigilance slipped for a moment and our daughter and grandchild bolted for here. Always kept penniless, she took a cab across several states, paying with the Uber account Somangshu kept on her phone for his convenience.

Somangshu Mukherji – No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Somangshu Mukherji raiding
Somangshu Mukherji sneering at me as he trespasses on our porch.

Somganshu’s Green Card and his good job were made possible by his marriage to our severely bipolar American-born daughter. In 2003, we sponsored him after Harvard dropped their sponsorship of him as  grad student, alleging “academic dishonesty.” We posted a $40k bond for him with the Sate Department, 17% of our total assets. He’s repaid us by abusing our daughter, misusing his medical guardianship of her and denying our grandchild clothes, shoes and toys. “Never a dime,” says our daughter in her custody defense filings:

“Professor Mukherji argued that his wife was psychotic and a threat to his son. He offered as proof of her insanity the fact that she had left him.”

Somangshu Mukherji in Pursuit

Told by us that his missing wife and her two-year old son were safe with us in Herkimer, my son-in-law’s feet barely touched the ground as he raced to his attorney’s office to file for sole custody of the son he’d always allegedly neglected—the son of his wife and another man–and for the child’s immediate return to him in Ann Arbor. Doing the math he may have suddenly realized his love for the boy and wanted him back: child support would cost him over $1,000 a month.
After a long court battle in Ann Arbor, Somangshu was awarded sole custody. (He had a lawyer, our daughter didn’t. Ann Arbor Legal Aid, supported by U. Mich Law School, wouldn’t represent her.) Professor Mukherji argued that his wife was psychotic and a threat to his son. He offered as proof of her insanity the fact that she had left him.

Somangshu Schmoozes the Sheriff

Somangshu apparently established a cordial relationship with Herkimer  County Sheriff’s personnel during his 4/11/19 trip, likely through Herkimer Undersheriff Scott Scherer. His Michigan court approved visitation of that date seemed a transparent attempt to nab our grandson on the cheap. He probably convinced the sheriff’s staff that his “son” was in grave danger from the psychotic mother, loony grandmother and pedophile grandfather. (From his slanderous Child Protection reports, since dismissed.)  The day before the kidnapping, Somangshu won sole custody of Avram in an Ann Arbor court.  Victorious at last, he immediately flew to Herkimer to take possession.

Michigan court order in hand, Somangshu was but one step from having a lawful custody order, one issued by a New York court, which the Herkimer county sheriff could legally enforce. He needed only to register his Michigan order with the Herkimer Family Court, which could, after a hearing for all parties, issue a New York order mandating the return of the child to Michigan.  Of course, it would have cost Somangshu more money. Instead, Herkimer County obligingly skipped past the law and sent its deputies right over to take Avram from his nap. 

Preventing A Herkimer Kidnapping: “Get A Warrant”

I suspect the  Herkimer Family Court and the Herkimer County Sheriff get away with this all the time, possibly by saying that the parent voluntarily consented to accept service of the out-of-state custody.order. As the video shows, our daughter did not. The Herkimer sheriff’s officers presented her with the Michigan court order, which without a New York order had all the validity of a Post-It note. I contested their authority and cited the UCCJEA and applicable New York law. They didn’t care. Told me to “get a lawyer.” [video-2:41] This extrajudicial kidnapping also spared Professor Mukherji the bother and expense of obtaining a legal New York custody order.

Avram Mukherji's first toys everReporting Malfeasance by New York Public Officers 

New York Attorney General, Bureau of Public Integrity

Reporting Civil Rights Violations in New York

New York Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
125 Broad St., 19th Fl.
New York,  NY 10004.
Telephone: 212-607-3300

“Unlawful discrimination that reflects a policy or practice of discrimination:”
The Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office

Is a judge involved? Allegedly involved?

New York – Reporting Judicial Misconduct

New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct Corning Tower, Suite 2301 Empire State Plaza Albany, NY 12223 If you videoed the incident, as we did in A Herkimer Kidnapping, either upload it to the agencies or send it in with your complaint on a thumb-drive.  Publish it on social media. It’s New York.  It’s your right. Use it or lose it.

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