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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Disciplinary Counsel seeks Supreme Court action against Attorney William Holt

Disciplinary counsel accuses R.I. lawyer of misconduct in divorce cases

PROVIDENCE — The Supreme Court disciplinary counsel accuses well-known Family Court lawyer William F. Holt of professional misconduct over his handling of four divorce cases.
Chief Disciplinary Counsel David D. Curtin last week petitioned the Supreme Court disciplinary board to consider taking action against Holt. He asks that the disciplinary board hear testimony on the allegations.
The petition outlines instances in which Holt is accused of misleading Family Court judges by submitting orders that had not been agreed to by the parties. In one case, Holt is alleged to have removed a divorce filing from the clerk’s office, thus delaying his client from being served and allowing the client the opportunity to remove items from the home.
Holt’s lawyer, John A. Tarantino, said Holt “is going to contest each of the allegations and present his side of the story.”
If the board finds Holt committed violations, it could recommend that sanctions ranging from censure to disbarment be imposed. It could also dismiss the complaint.
In the case of Brian and Lynn Auclair, Holt is alleged in June to have presented Magistrate John J. O’Brien with a proposed “consent order” to sign that authorized Brian to enter their home and remove any items he chose. Holt represented Brian, who had filed for divorce a year earlier after Lynn obtained an order granting her exclusive use of the home and barring Brian from contacting her. Brian was given a date, in July 2012, to retrieve his belongings.
The petition states that Holt failed to notify Lynn’s lawyer about the proposed order allowing Brian access to the home. Lynn became aware of the order when Brian was found in her house.
In the case of Michelle and Dennis Bonnollo, Holt is accused of removing Michelle’s divorce filing from the clerk’s office, and, as a result, disrupting the distribution of the couple’s assets.
Michelle’s lawyer, Lois Iannone, filed for divorce on her client’s behalf in late June. On July 8, Michelle told Iannone that Dennis had assaulted her and removed 95 percent of the belongings from their house.
Iannone obtained a protective order on Michelle’s behalf, the petition states. Iannone learned from Holt, Dennis’ lawyer, at the courthouse that he had taken the divorce filings from the clerk’s office. That meant that Dennis was not served with the papers. As a result, Michelle was denied court protections with regard to their possessions, the petition says.
In Melissa and Anthony Pallini’s divorce, Holt is accused of presenting Judge Laureen A. D’Ambra in September 2012 with an order to sign that was significantly different from the divorce terms finalized 11 years earlier.
Holt, Melissa’s lawyer, did not notify Anthony about any proposed changes, the petition states. Anthony learned of the revisions when the Town of Johnston altered the pension he had been receiving as a retired assistant fire chief.
Holt then, according to the petition, failed to inform Melissa about court action Anthony took to have that order vacated. Judge John E. McCann III vacated the order after finding that Holt had committed fraud upon the court.
The final case involves Gregory and Jessyca Colembowski’s divorce. Holt is alleged to have misrepresented D’Ambra’s June ruling that Jessyca “may stay” with her parents in Florida pending a hearing once school for her three children let out. Instead, Holt is accused of preparing an order that his client, Jessyca, “shall be allowed to relocate to the state of Florida” with the three minor children.
D’Ambra in July reaffirmed that she had not authorized the relocation of the children after Gregory’s lawyer, Arthur Read, raised objections. D’Ambra found that Holt had misrepresented her earlier bench decision.

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

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Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: