Today I begin to reclaim my life, and my beloved only child, from the alcoholic Boulder judge, Morris Sandstead, who took money to sell my only daughter Sofia, who had been in my sole custody for years for very good reasons, to another family.
Once upon a time ago I met an astute person, psychic by trade, who said the minute she greeted me, “Oh my, you’ve spent your entire life with one foot in life and one in death, haven’t you?” Truer words, never spoken. I got run over and parked on by a car at two and spent months in a body cast.
In high school I was severely bullied for years by someone who ended up being murdered for his bullying. At 21, I got off a BMW motorcycle at 120 mph and cartwheeled from face to feet, smacking my head on the asphalt about eight times in a row as I flailed to a halt.
When I was 29, I had a mountain bike accident in which I severely injured my neck and skull and sustained a traumatic brain injury. The sequelae from that event would take pages to list. The most momentous was that like many head-injured folks, I began making unusual and frequently terrible life decisions.
I managed, with time, to break up with my near-perfect fiancee —
— and married, on the shortest kind of notice, the survivor of an epic sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuser.
My ex-wife’s father had murdered his wife and two teenage daughters when his sexual abuse of his daughters was about to emerge, was found criminally responsible, got off on a mistrial, married my ex-wife’s mother, had my ex-wife, and repeated all but the murdering part with her.
You can find articles about this fumarole of evil and his life works in the New York Times, Montreal Gazette, and other papers.
My ex-wife made what our therapist, a person of substance and some 25 years experience, described as “the most complete transference of father relationship onto a spouse I’ve ever seen”. We conceived a child on our wedding day, I’d had a sorrow-drenched experience of having an abortion in my previous relationship, and I wasn’t having another or abandoning my child.
I made a commitment to stand in the fire and raise Sofia, and what a fire it was: daily insanity, my cash-flush and multi-passported wife disappearing with our daughter before and after birth, constant encouragements to suicide when I was depressed, a loaded and cocked .44 Magnum pointed at Sofia and me by her mother in our cabin in Alaska, more cops in my life on a near-weekly basis than I’d seen in my previous thirty-one years on the streets of New York City and other places I lived. Every day was a new adventure, and none of them that involved Valerie Haumont were fun.
Sofia was conceived on our wedding day, October 1, 1989. I introduced Valerie to my family that Thanksgiving with the news we were having a baby. This was the first time she had ever met my parents, and she thanked them for their hospitality by telling them at the very beginning of our Thanksgiving dinner, “You will never know this child. I will disappear with this baby and you will never know your grandchild.”
Had my senses not been so skewed by Sofia’s embryonic presence, I would’ve gone to our bedroom, packed her suitcase, placed it outside my parents’ front door, and told her to join it immediately. But they were. This devotion to Sofi cost me, and cost my family, no end.
I’ve dealt with major depression off and on through my life, which is not uncommon for someone who’s suffered a lot of physical and other trauma, especially head injuries. During our marriage, whenever I was especially depressed, Valerie was fond of encouraging me, quietly, lovingly almost, to commit suicide. “You’ll have peace then,” she would say.
It got in, as you can see: six days in a coma, 1994, family told I would not return. People go to prison for this. She admitted doing it under oath in court years later — at the same time she admitted to practicing witchcraft and to placing hexes on my life during and after our marriage. I wish I were making this up; it’s all in the transcripts.
A single story is emblematic: when Sofia was about six months old, we were living near Glacier Bay, Alaska, in a little two story cabin. One night in the dead of winter, the two of us were sitting on a nice rug in front of our stereo, our daughter between us. We were talking about our relationship a year and a half into it — a time that was beyond disturbing to every friend and family member I had — and I told Valerie with the most profound dejection, “You are really destroying my life.”
Valerie exploded into uncontrollable laughter. Knowing how inappropriate this was, she covered her mouth with both hands, but she could not stop shrieking with laughter into her hands. Her eyes were wild with glee, and it took her minutes to contain herself. I had told her the thing in the world she most longed to know.
The other side of the coin was Sofia.
Sofia was the smartest, funniest, most thoughtful, most soulful child not just I but anyone else who encountered had ever known. Our relationship fired on all cylinders: daughter and father, deep friendship, shucking and jiving partners, she was my spiritual teacher and I hers. There was virtually no discord between us ever, as if we’d silently agreed that we had so much trouble with the third party in our triangle that it would be foolish to give one another any more.
I was an imperfect father — every single one is — but I was a dedicated and deeply loving one. Virtually every day when Sofia, a child who loved books more than food or air, came home from school, there was a fresh new volume, carefully chosen by me, on the corner of her bed. She went to the very best schools in Boulder, and always the one chosen by her and her alone after I had taken her to visit all possible choices, to shadow a child for a day at each, and so on. My family, a true family, were involved in her life intimately and always. My mother was one of her best friends in the world, and vice versa, from the very beginning.
When my daughter was eleven, Valerie, reflecting her own life history, made vague, false allegations of sexual impropriety to keep Sofia and me from traveling to France in anticipation of our potentially moving there. Sofia was living with me almost full-time at this point because of abuse from her mom, but legal custody was still joint. Valerie did this with zero belief in what she was alleging, at the drop of a hat, and without the slightest twinge of conscience. Characteristically, in other words.
We spent sixteen months in court, eighteen hearings in all, many more appointments with child advocates and therapists and cops and social services folks, every corner of our lives being crawled over with fine instruments as happens when someone alleges a sexual relationship between a parent and a child.
Valerie was caught in lie after lie, each increasing in significance, until it was clear that her allegations were false and that she had in fact been the one to abuse our daughter in myriad ways. Some were already known to me, in the form of emotional and psychological abuse, and some — like her fondness for French-kissing our daughter — were not until they were revealed to me and my mother by Sofia, and then to the police and social services and the judge, over the course of these sixteen months in court.
When confronted by the police about this last, Valerie denied it vehemently. Two weeks later, at our next hearing in court, the story changed. Her attorney, understanding that if she didn’t admit this, Sofia would take the stand and tell the truth, drew her confession out of her. She admitted that she did it, and she testified that it was a signal experience in their relationship, that she knew how wrong it was, and that it had to stop and stop forever.
I stood up to cross-examine her, and I said, “Two weeks ago you told the police this never occurred. Today you say it was burned into your memory forever, so vividly did you understand its wrongness. Which time were you lying?” She was mute in response, and I sat back down.
When all was said and done, all of Valerie Haumont’s parental rights were removed, not just the right to make medical or educational decisions but also to even see Sofia, and I was given sole custody of my daughter. The case number is 93DR2093 in the 20th Judicial District of Colorado in Boulder if you can find a way to get into it and have a taste for psychopathological family gore. (Access is unlikely, for obvious reasons, child custody case records are customarily sealed. I could provide ample documentation from those files and my own, but I’d be prosecuted and imprisoned for doing it.)
Something like peace reigned for several years after Judge Daniel Hale (use 12ft.io if paywalled)— a man of career-long integrity and conscientiousness, unlike the man who sold my daughter while inebriated — made his decision and turned to my ex-wife and said, “You need to apologize, and I know that you do not even know what I mean,”. Then my daughter renewed her friendship with her nearly lifelong best friend, one which was interrupted by Alicia’s demonic loon of a mother when I was given sole custody.
Her friend’s mother, Tess Englund, was a deeply unbalanced person, a friend of my ex-wife who had tried to involve herself in court proceedings when we divorced when Sofia was 4 and again when she was 11 and Sofi’s mom told her tales.
On both occasions she was summarily banished by the judge. After I got sole custody of Sofia by Judge Hale’s order, she prohibited her daughter from continuing their daily friendship of a dozen years.
Tess was not a person I ever knew well. When Sofia was tiny, Tess was a trollish little hippie, bristly hairs sprouting from her mustache and chin, driving beat up vehicles and living in the cheapest apartments in Boulder. When our kids were in elementary school, because of what I do, she asked me to edit something important she’d written, a document of ten or twelve pages. I took it, pored over it for half an hour, quite literally could not figure out what it was about, and returned it. It’s disturbing to encounter a mind like that — if “mind” can be used to describe what is being encountered.
Some years later a wealthy friend of hers died, and Tess glommed on to her elderly widower, Joel Klink. She married him and moved into a McMansion north of Boulder, got her beard waxed off, and as newly rich folks can do, developed some unusual ideas about what millions of dollars might make possible.
You can well imagine the the strain on an eleven and twelve year old child of going through the heinous process in court that Sofi and I did — because it is not just the parent, but the child, who is being accused of concealing a depraved relationship — and then losing her best friend at the culmination of it. When Sofia and her friend finally begin meeting in secret over two years later — not hiding that from me, but from Alicia’s mom — I forgave Tess’s bottomless insanity yet again in order to facilitate the relationship between my daughter and her friend.
A few months later, my daughter went out for breakfast one day with her friend Alicia and Alicia’s mother Tess and never came back. For thirteen days the police and FBI searched for them. On the thirteenth day, I came home to find an envelope in my mailbox from the 20th Judicial District of Colorado. It contained a one line order from a completely different judge stating that the custody of Sofia was remanded to her mother — an untreated serial abuser of a child about whom there was a file in the courthouse a foot and a half thick. No hearing, no evidence of any kind, a child hidden from the police and FBI for weeks.
I’m going to leave out mounds and years of detail, but it has since been alleged to me that the judge, Morris Sandstead — he’s on Facebook, at least for a few more minutes — was bribed to sell my daughter. Three weeks after his initial order, having been challenged by me in court, he realized how insane it looked to place my daughter in the custody of her abusive mother — so in his wisdom, he placed her in the custody of the woman who abducted her and hid her from the police and FBI for thirteen days.
Yes, that’s lunacy. It’s also categorically illegal: you can’t place a child in the custody of a non-parent in Colorado (or anywhere else in the US) unless both parents have been found unfit in a court of law. These laws exist for a reason: people would be buying and selling one another’s children more often if they did not. He also refused to recuse himself, which no one can make a judge do, he has to have the integrity to do it himself. Morris Sandstead and integrity are unacquainted, as time demonstrated. More on that as we go.
To get appellate review of any family law decision in Colorado took nearly two years at that time, in my understanding (I’ve been to law school but do not practice). They essentially state twice in the family law code, “Not much point in coming here, the trial judge was there and we weren’t, and we tend to presume he or she got it right.” Sofia was already in high school.
So for two and a half years, while she was being first psychiatrically drugged at the order of Morris Sandstead — my daughter who was a straight A student, employed at one of the finest independent bookstores in the world since her middle school years, was placed on three psychiatric drugs by his order three weeks after being abducted — and drugged in other ways by Tess (a bowl of sticky green buds available on the kitchen counter to all teenagers around the clock, and who knows what else), I didn’t once see the child I diapered, fed, chose schools with and for, and poured as much love and humor and intelligence as I had to pour for a decade and a half.
When someone makes allegations of a sexual nature about you and your child, your friends hope to god you’re telling the truth. In the back of their minds, though, they understand that if you’re lying, you’re going to be giving it a very good effort, given the consequences. So when a thorough and principled judge like Dan Hale involves them, you, your daughter, her teachers, doctors, friends, grandparents, and all but the dog in a year and a half long process and declares that everything said about you both was false, and then places the most emphatic punishments and barriers available under law onto her mother, your friends breathe a huge sigh of relief.
But when your daughter disappears a few years later, and never comes back, that little voice in the back of their minds speaks: “Perhaps there was something to that.” And you become, instantly, as lonely as a person can be. Virtually very friend I had in the world disappeared from my life in the space of weeks when Sofia vanished, all without a word. One of my sisters did. I spent six years without a romantic relationship. Attached to my reputation, which was worldwide for making beautiful books of spiritual teachings that have been translated into over a dozen languages, were the most sordid kinds of stories, utterly false.
I spent every night wide awake for several years, vibrating, thinking of removing some people’s heads from their bodies. That’s a hard way to spend time, but an unavoidable one if you love a child as I loved Sofia. I had shingles three times in the first year. In one instance the left side of my face was paralyzed for several weeks and I went blind in that eye for three days.
My daughter came to my home at age 18, just after her first year at Smith, which she attended on a full scholarship. Her blonde hair was dyed to her mother’s hue —
— and she said to me, “I did a terrible thing to you, and I need to know that you forgive me so I can begin to forgive myself.” Sofia was acutely aware of what kind of stories were circulating about me in Boulder because of her abrupt and complete departure from my life and the lies told by Valerie years before. Everyone was.
In the process of being purchased, Sofia had been persuaded, most likely by Tess Englund and Valerie, to sign an affidavit for Morris Sandstead when the court chaos began alleging various weirdnesses: that I chose all her clothes for her, an absurdly false notion; that I made her go the gym every day at 5 am; more. It was provably perjured. For example, at our gym at that time, we checked in with a bar-code. Their computers recorded the time and date of our every visit to the gym — 85 times in two and a half years, all in the afternoon, none at 5 a.m.
I obtained those records, brought them to court, and put them in Mo Sandstead’s hands. When any item in a witness’s testimony or affidavit is proven true, the rest is — logically — immediately suspect. I made this point to Morris Sandstead. He refused to bring Sofia to court, to question her in open court, to order therapy or visitation, any of the things ordinarily and always done when families are fractured. He appointed a child advocate, Robert Smith, in another city, Ft. Collins, who never met me in person and filed a report plainly tailored by Sandstead to justify his outrageous rulings. (Robert, you and I have some things to discuss.)
I told Sofia that of course I forgave her, that she had been a child surrounded by insane and manipulative people. But I also heard things from her that day that further confirmed what I’d long since come to know: that Morris Sandstead had taken a bribe to do what he did.
I told Sofia that she had a legal and ethical obligation as a citizen to everyone else in Boulder — every family walking into that courthouse, where Sandstead still sat drinking, still slicing and dicing families, still sending people to prison (I once met one of those, a story for another day) — to recount what she’d just told me to the district attorney. She left my home that day in the summer of 2009 and I have never seen or heard from her since. Evidently her ethics were lightly held, and her heartfelt “please forgive me for destroying your life at every imaginable level” actually meant “forgive me, but don’t be so silly as to imagine I’ll lift a finger to correct any of it, now or ever.”
A year later a close friend long active in AA in Boulder called and told me I should start coming to his Tuesday night meeting at the Presbyterian church. “Why?,” I asked. “Judge Sandstead has been coming. I think you’ll be interested in what he’s saying when he speaks.”
The judge who sold my daughter, Morris Sandstead, had begun attending that meeting, compelled by an ultimatum from his colleagues to get decades of alcoholism on the bench under control or leave without his pension. I sat eight feet from him half a dozen times and listened to him clap himself on the back, just in time to save his own financial bacon, for going to AA and ending years of sending people to prison and deciding the lives of families while a full-blown alcoholic.
He had no idea who I was, in spite of the depth of our connection and the number of times we’d stared at each other in a courtroom. I didn’t wonder why, when he described the level of his drinking when he was selling some peoples’ children and sentencing others to prison. I have recordings of these self-congratulatory soliloquies, made on my iPhone, if he’d like to challenge this narrative in court. I would very much like to share them, and feel free to friend me on Facebook, Mo, I see you’re there:
I surmise you’re queer:
And that’s no one’s business but your own (and your wife’s and children’s, ahem). But the proper response to discovering yourself drunk in judge’s robes with a gavel in your hand — whatever the psychological or emotional impetus — is not to go on knocking down your $200K+ salary, soaking up your stellar state government benefits, and accepting the contributions to your 401K and your lifelong pension. It’s to turn in the robe and gavel and on the days you can find your way to the office take on an extremely lucrative private practice defending drunken drivers — like yourself, I have little doubt — and actual, guilty child molesters.
I’ve lived the last eleven and a half years entirely without my child, and essentially as a social pariah because my public reputation was destroyed in Boulder (and then around the world because of how the internet works, my public life, taoist forums on the web, all that) because people mistakenly believed — because of what Morris W. Sandstead did — that my child left my life because I was sexually abusing her.
My parents are 91 and will be dead soon. My father is in hospice care now for pancreatic cancer. He has lived a life of utmost integrity, service to humanity, and steady friendship to me and everyone else who knows him.
He is shot through with cancer, on morphine, and lucid as can be. Smarter than me, funnier than me, nobler than me, as honest and true as a human has ever been.
The same can be said of my mother, that bit about honest and true. This is a bit dated, but it shows her character:
The photo below is of them 15 years ago around their 50th wedding anniversary:
My mother and father are the salt of the earth, as is plain to see, and they have lived the last eleven and a half years without a most beloved granddaughter.
They did so because a moral cretin literally sold her to another family. If you didn’t, Mo, friend me on Facebook, I won’t turn you down. Enter the discussion. Defend your honor. Set the record straight. Tell me, Sofia, my friends, yours, the world, why you did what you did: why you issued a no-contact order against me on zero evidence. Why Sofia’s perjured affidavit, plainly drafted by insane adults manipulating a 14 year old child, was never cross- examined or questioned in your court. Why my child spent her high school years in another family’s home, drugged by your court and drugged by them.
Explain what you once said to Duke University Alumni magazine in an interview: “I thought it was a profession of public service and ethical decision making, a savior of the poor and downtrodden. I was naive.”
Morris Sandstead’s judgement was clouded because he lived inside a vodka bottle for decades. As I say, I surmise that was because he was gay, closeted, a theoretically upstanding public figure, a judge, who, I guess, held his nose and twice a year fucked his unappealing wife, as some closeted gay men do.
As I say, I have no issue with his sexuality, whatever it is, at all. I don’t care what people like or do for sex, I celebrate it all as long as they’re not preying on someone. I have my own peccadilloes, of course, as does every one of you. I discuss mine more openly than most. And I’m not amazed that a person couldn’t come to terms with his sexuality for decades and turned to the bottle, that happens all day every day. I am more than a little offended that he felt it was okay to remain on the bench, sending people to prison and cutting up families, when his judgement was what every alcoholic’s judgement is: pure shit.
I lost virtually every friend I had in the world, many of whom are still not back to this day, on exactly zero evidence of wrongdoing on my part. I’ve had to tell this story to every woman I’ve gone to dinner with in eleven and a half years. I’m 57 — if you’re a woman thinking of dating or sharing pillows with me, you’re naturally going to ask me, “So, every been married? Have any kids? Where are they now? Are you close?”
I’m not going to lie and say no. I’ve dedicated multiple books to Sofia. A photo of us is to this day the author photograph on my Tao te Ching:
So I have three choices: I can lie and say I never had children. Untrue, twisted, and a week later, the woman on the other side of the table is going to pick up my books in my home or her bookstore and see a dedication and/or that photograph and say, “What the fuck, over?!”
I can reply, “I have a daughter, but we’re not close right now.” And she will ask, because of who I am and what I do and the kind of person I date, “You don’t really seem like the kind of guy who wouldn’t be close to his own child. What’s up with that?” And then she will draw the story out of me piece by piece, question after question. (As you may understand, I’ve been through this hundreds of times.) Or I can just cough up the whole bloody thing on my own, knowing it’s coming out no matter what anyway.
This has had the kind of effect on my romantic and friendship lives you might expect. I have learned to live as a largely solitary individual. My parents never wavered. My immaculate dog Sasha was true.
For years, they were more or less my only real friends on Earth. A very few people stayed in touch, mostly at a quiet remove. Today some who were close to me in the years before Sofia went out for breakfast one day and never returned are back in my life, to a degree. But mine is not now, and never has been for eleven and a half years, a remotely normal life. My daughter understands every bit of this.
I, an imperfect but generally decent man, cannot tell you one thing about my daughter Sofia today. She may live in France, she may live in Cameroon, she may be in the circus or a budding novelist or a pastry chef. I hope that she is well. No one has ever loved a child more than I loved Sofia. I pray that by some miracle she evolves from where she has lived for nearly two decades now into an ethical and decent human being.
I told Sofia many times when she was growing up, “There may come times in your life when you don’t want to be in touch with one or the other or both of your parents. If they come, listen to no one’s counsel then but your own. Certainly not mine or hers.”
It may be that Sofi took that to heart, and, having been raised in a crucible more fiery than any of us can imagine, went far, far away to forge herself according to her own lights. If that’s so, I celebrate it, never mind the cost to me. What I want for the person who used to wander the West with me during summertimes, and sleep on our balcony at Esalen —
— is for her to be well, first and always. And then, hopefully, to return to my life before I expire. Who wouldn’t want that? Who would not want this person to talk to, laugh with, mull over the events of the day and the cares of the world:
I forgive, as I forgave Sofia that day, my ex-wife’s bottomless deprivations against me. She was and remains a profoundly disturbed human being, and for the most awful of reasons. When Sofia was just a year old and we had just moved to Boulder, Valerie asked me one day to listen in on an extension as she called her father and attempted to confront him about what he had done to her throughout her childhood. Her exact words were, “I need to speak to you about what happened when I was young. No one else needs to know anything about it, but I need some closure.”
Roland Haumont immediately began shouting to his wife, at their house in Montreal, in his thick French accent, “Valerie is accusing me of sexual abuse! Valerie is accusing me of sexual abuse!” She hadn’t referred to abuse, and she hadn’t referred to sex. Make what you will of this. I have.
They never spoke again. He died a year or two later, never incarcerated for what appears to have been a lifetime of sticking his nasty dick into his own children. Sort of like Mo Sandstead, free to this day after a career on the bench with a vodka bottle in his chambers, or Tess Smith / Scherliss / Englund, who feloniously conveyed him cash in a paper bag to purchase someone else’s child.
As you can see,
I wrote this a long time ago.
Nothing has changed. Not one word of
explanation has ever been given to me by Sofia for
this cannon shot to the heart. For nearly two decades,
she jills off around the clock on the same malignant energy
that liberated her mother’s bottomless delight that winter
night in the cabin at Glacier Bay: the willful causation
of indescribable pain. Never mind that I am her
target — I am ashamed to have brought a
being like this unto Earth, though
I had nothing to do with
training her in
I left Sofi alone almost always,
for years at a time, on the theory that
she had a right to her own existence and knew
how to reach me. I never heard her from her, not
through the death of Sasha, with whom she
slept every night for years —
— nor that of my father,
who was as true and generous to her
as a human could be —
— nor through the long
end of the grandmother to end all
grandmothers and friend to end all
friends, which is what Sofi
knows this person
In the spring of 2019,
I reached out to her, gently, in London.
More than once. She didn’t
In the winter of 2022-23, I thought
of Sofia’s friend Alicia, the daughter of Tess
Englund, who purchased my daughter in a felony.
Here’s Sofia on Alicia’s wedding website, which as far as
I can see is the lone place she exists on all the internet. That’s
quite unusual for a person in her early thirties. Perhaps she’s just
so ashamed of having sold herself into sociopathy for loose joints
and a room in a McMansion that she’s going to live out her life in a hole.
Maybe she’s an escort to politicians in need of anonymity. Who that would
sell her own grandmother, grandfather, father, dog — her soul, in a word —
— as cheaply as Sofia did would blanche at renting out her body,
her mouth, her feigned moans for another hatful of cash?
She left Smith College and the Sorbonne fluent in many
languages, so maybe she’s a whore of a different
stripe, an agent or analyst for an intel agency.
I’ve known spooks and they love youngsters
like her, especially the ones whose principles
are quicksilver. They never instruct them on
this critical point: what goes around,
comes around. Nor on what to
plead the day they stand
naked and their souls