QUICK SUMMARY: During the 2005/2006 Christmas season, Rachel lost all right to contact her son, Kohl, after her ex, Jeff, filed to change a custody agreement that had been settled for five years.
Q: What were the custody arrangements before Christmas Break 2005/2006?
A: Rachel had residential custody of Kohl. They lived in Columbus, Georgia, with Rachel's husband, Steve Bevilacqua. Jeff had regular visitation with Kohl consisting of 6-8 weeks at Summer Break, 1 week at Spring Break, and 2 weeks at Christmas Break. This plan was followed without incident for five years, since May 2000.
Q: Why didn't Kohl go back to Georgia, as planned, after his 2005/2006 Christmas Break?
A: On December 22, 2005, Jeff filed a petition for modification of custody and a petition alleging violation of a court order. The basis of these petitions was Jeff's claim that Rachel had moved from Columbus, GA to the state of Alabama with Kohl without informing him of her new address. He also claimed he had no way to contact Rachel, and that he felt she was a kidnapping risk.
Q: Did Rachel present any evidence to deny these allegations?
A: Rachel was not informed of the allegations until January 9, 2006, two weeks after her son was removed from her custody. The judge ordered Temporary Sole Custody for Jeff on December 23, 2005 on the basis of Jeff's allegations alone, without contacting Rachel to give her a chance to reply to them. After receiving her copies of the allegations, Rachel submitted affidavits from herself, her husband, and a close family friend denying that she had changed addresses. She also submitted phone records proving that Jeff not only had a way to contact her, he was using it frequently.
Q: What about allegations that Rachel and Steve are not providing a good home for Kohl?
A: Rachel submitted medical records proving Kohl has insurance and has a family doctor. Kohl is an unusually small boy, but not abnormally so. Rachel took Kohl to a pediatric endocrinologist to check Kohl's growth, and the specialist's diagnosis was that Kohl is simply genetically small, like his mother. Rachel and Steve are vegetarians, but it shouldn't even be necessary to justify that in this day and age.
Rachel and Steve homeschool Kohl, but after being placed with his father, Kohl tested into the fifth grade at the local public school, demonstrating that he has been adequately educated in the homeschool environment. Kohl participated in numerous socialization activities, such as chess lessons, art lessons, Tae Kwon Do, boxing, and general neighborhood kid activities with the many kids living on his street.
Rachel and Steve do occasionally leave Kohl (age 10) unattended in their home for short periods of time, as Georgia law allows children over 9 to be left home alone for up to two hours, as long as the home is not an unsafe environment. Letting children spend some time alone is not considered a dangerous practice in the quiet Southern neighborhood where the Bevilacquas live. Kohl has his own cellphone and is a green belt in Tae Kwon Do, as well as knowing the neighbors on both sides of the house, and Rachel and Steve were never more than three blocks away from him during these times.
Q: So did the court have some reason to disbelieve the Bevilacqua affidavits and phone records?
A: New evidence was entered at the February 3, 2006 hearing, consisting of 16 exhibits, mostly photographs of the annual SubGenius X-Day Festival in Upstate New York. After the exhibits were entered, Judge James P. Punch announced that the images were "so disturbing" that he had to take a recess to compose himself. When he returned, he heard testimony from Jeff Jary and Rachel Bevilacqua. His Honor interrupted Jeff's lawyer to pose his own questions for Ms. Bevilacqua about the pictures, repeatedly asking "Why a goat?" and demanding that Rachel explain what was humorous in each of the photographs. Judge Punch became visibly angry and ended the hearing with a verbal outburst calling Ms. Bevilacqua a "pervert" and accusing the X-Day festival of being a venue for "sex orgies". He then ordered that Rachel Bevilacqua was to have no contact with her son from that moment on, not even in writing. The last time Rachel saw Kohl was January 20, 2006.
Q: Okay, so what was in these pictures???
A: Obviously, these pictures are considered by some people to be highly offensive. Please do not let minors look at them or look at them yourself if you find you are easily offended.
Official copies of the pictures have not yet been received by Rachel from the court. However, all the pictures were from the internet. Examples of the types of pictures shown can be found at:
Also entered as an exhibit was this Wikipedia entry:
Rachel was asked to state whether, in her opinion, the entry was an accurate description of the Church of the SubGenius. Rachel stated that the only part she could say with any confidence was accurate was the line under "Sense of Humor" about members playing practical jokes on each other.
Also entered was a drawing titled "Map of X-Day".
Another memorable picture was of two people, one of whom is wearing a shirt that says "Christianity is Stupid".
There was at least one photo of the Passion of the Christ parody, in which a woman with a "dildo" is standing in the background.
There were two photographs in which Rachel appeared nude(one of Rachel having a heart drawn on her buttocks to illustrate a point about Roman times, and one of Rachel being body painted), two of her in a Santa Elf outfit, one of her in a yellow superhero outfit, one of her wearing a pirate outfit, and of course the two infamous Goat Head pics.
There was one photo of Steve sitting in a chair with a wreath on his head.
There was one photo of Steve and Rachel embracing, which has coincidentally been chosen by some bloggers as emblematic of the story.
There was one photo of the annual Bobtism in which dozens of SubGeniuses are naked in a pool together, and one of them is holding a baby. Rachel was later told that this picture was included because someone thought the man holding the baby in the picture was Steve. The man in the picture is not Steve, but is probably a SubGenius who shall remain nameless and who looks somewhat like Steve, and who did sometimes take his own baby swimming in the pool with him.
Feel free to trawl through the internet and submit links to pictures you think fit this description, perhaps we can collect them all before the court manages to send out official copies.
Additionally, here is a picture from X-Day of a man wearing a suit made entirely of Cheetos. This photo was not entered into evidence, but people should know such a photo exists before considering what is and is not "normal behavior" for an attendee at X-Day.
Q: Was Kohl ever at X-Day? Did he ever see these pictures?
A: No. Kohl has never attended any SubGenius event. He does have his own computer, but his internet access is filtered and he cannot see the SubGenius website or any websites rated mature.
Q: When will we be able to see a transcript of Judge Punch's outburst?
A: A partial transcript containing the judge's outburst should be available by March 3, while the official transcript may not be available until early April.
Q: What is the ACLU/Americans United/NYCLU/Etc. doing about this?
A: If they were doing something about it, they probably would not want to comment until they finish investigating it.
Q: Is this for real?
A: Yes. Read the documents and google away, it's all for real, and it's really as expensive as you might imagine, with lawyer fees in the hundreds of dollars per hour. And yes, they charge for every minute you're on the phone with them.
Q: Why is the disclaimer on the SubGenius MagHelp page so odd?
A: It was copied from that advocated by Dr. Gene Scott, a very odd man who nevertheless was loved by many and who is widely considered to be the best disclaimer-writer in recent memory.