Today I begin to reclaim my life, and my beloved only child, from the alcoholic Boulder judge, Morris Sandstead, who I have some reason to believe took money to sell my only daughter Sofia, who had been in my sole custody for years for very good reasons, to another family. My health is imperiled, so today I’m going to tell you that story.
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 to estrange 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 him and that story in the New York Times and other papers.
My ex-wife made what our therapist, a wizard of 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, 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. 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: 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 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 but legal custody was still joint). Valerie did this, characteristically, with zero belief in what she was alleging, at the drop of a hat, and without the slightest twinge of conscience.
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 — the nature of which I will leave unaddressed here — were not until they were revealed to me and my mother by Sofia, and then to the police and social services, over the course of these sixteen months in court.
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, but I’d likely be prosecuted and imprisoned for doing it.)
For several years after Judge Daniel Hale — 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,” something like peace reigned. Then my daughter renewed her friendship with her nearly lifelong best friend, one which was interrupted when I was given sole custody.
Her friend’s mother, Tess Englund — some of these people have blocked me on Facebook, but you can likely view their pages — 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, and after I got sole custody of Sofia, she prohibited her daughter from continuing their daily friendship of a dozen years.
You can well imagine the the strain on an eleven and twelve year old child of going through such a heinous process — 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 the other girl’s mother — I forgave her mother’s barking insanity once 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 Alisha and Alisha’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, he realized how silly it looked to place my daughter in the custody of her abusive mother, so 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 insane. It’s also categorically illegal: you can’t place a child in the custody of a non-parent in Colorado (or most anywhere else) unless both parents have been found unfit in a court of law. People would be buying and selling one another’s children at a high rate if that weren’t so. 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 (a bowl of sticky green buds available on the kitchen counter to all teenagers around the clock, and who knows what else) by her acquiring “family”, 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. 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 and didn’t come back. 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, all 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 had been persuaded, most likely by Tess Englund and her mother, to sign an affidavit 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, I believe, 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, my good fellow.)
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 that day that led me to believe that what I’d long suspected: that Morris Sandstead may have taken a bribe to do what he did.
From my point of view, Sofia had an 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 her since. I can not tell you one thing about her life now: where she lives, what she does, what her email address or phone number are, what in this world she cares about.
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 I believe sold my daughter, Morris Sandstead, had begun attending that meeting, compelled by 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. 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. 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’m at risk now of using the use of my legs to the neurological disorder I’ve discussed here for some time. I have not much interest in living that life, the life of the body is everything to me, or close, my prayer, my meditation, what keeps me within shouting distance of sanity. I might rather exit this plane and see a new horizon — I’ve visited them, they’re there, they’re awaiting us all.
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 you can see, and they have lived the last eleven and a half years without a most beloved granddaughter.
They did so because a moral cretin sold her, or at least it appears that way, 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, 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 fucked his unappealing wife, like many closeted gay men do, and had children, hiding all the time that what he really wanted was to be down at whatever gay bathhouse in Denver, deep throating beefy young cocks, or getting his ass pounded by them, or whatever he happens to like — all things I robustly support, to be clear, there’s not one whit of fag- bashing going on here, I’m just being graphic.
Actually, he probably was down at those places, just on the sly. Time will tell, no doubt. I would be surprised, as this story becomes public, if I did not hear from male escorts or other gay men who knew Mo during his sodden years on the Boulder bench.
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 someone couldn’t come to terms with his sexuality for decades and turned to the bottle, that happens. 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.
All this may be actionable. The 20th Judicial District allowed him to remain on the bench for decades when they knew he was drinking like a fish, I have knowledge of that from judges on the bench alongside Sandstead at the time. I may find a path — if issues of sovereign immunity and statutes of limitation do not bar me from so doing — to sue him, the fellow judges who protected him, Tess Englund and her scumfuck husband Joel Klink who likely paid him the bribe if such a bribe was paid, the Boulder Police Department who made next to no effort to locate my daughter for 13 days when she was in my legal custody and it was as simple as triangulating the cell phones of the people who abducted her, a simple art in 2005, then as now.
Beginning today, I’m going to have my reputation restored, perhaps, a tad anyway, in the town where I lived for twenty years, and where for the last six I spent there, people that I used to eat Thanksgiving dinner with were putting their arms around their children and moving to the next aisle when they encountered me in Whole Foods. If I can find a way to sue the afore-mentioned folks, I’ll have their savings and pensions, a brief replacement for all the money I didn’t make during all these years because I was so consumed with grief, sorrow, rage, disgust, and sometimes alcohol to keep a gun out of my mouth, that I wasn’t fit to work. (The alcohol is well and truly over, you’ll be glad to hear, again, more on that another day.)
Morris Sandstead and a couple of other people destroyed some of the most important years of my life, completely alienated me from my only and dearly beloved child, savaged the golden years of my parents, who are as good a pair of humans as there are. When I croak, which may not be too terribly long from now, I’d like to be known for what I am — a goofy fellow, I couldn’t be prouder of that, but also a person of integrity who did his very best, under the most hideous conditions, to care for a child with integrity.
And they will be known for what they are before they die. If they want to cop to it and say “We’re sorry, that was wrong, here are our purses and wallets to leave to your daughter”, cool, I’ll accept that. If they want to hide from and deny it, which I think is far likelier, I will, in time, eviscerate them in full view of the Boulder community and the world. I expect that Morris Sandstead and Tess Englund and a few other people will begin divesting themselves today of their money and other valuable possessions, placing them in the hands of children, relatives, trusts, so on. There will be time and date stamped records of when all that began, of course, and the money will be clawed back if it can be clawed back.
What can’t be clawed back is the last eleven and a half years of my life. I spent 99% of that time alone, because of what was being said about me behind my back. I lost virtually every friend I had in the world, many of whom are still not back to this day. I 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 sleeping 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 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, insane, 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 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 have at this juncture 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 exactly 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 gorgeous and wonderful sister Laurie never wavered. My immaculate dog Sasha was true.
For years, they were more or less my only real friends on Earth. A 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.
It’s not all stench and torment, my life. I live in the most exquisite place in the world, on the island of Maui. With what’s left of my body, I play in the ocean at least twice a day. I have a few friends who are dear to me, and I’ve even been over to Willie’s to play poker, pardon my sloppy selfie —
Willie is, I’m happy to report to you, as marvelous a human being in person as you might expect. Every word that comes out of his mouth is either smart, funny, wise, or all three at once. He’s long had an interest in taoism, so I took him one of my books one day —
— and he told me about the Akashic record, an idea I’d not encountered until that time. We’re not intimate friends, I’m not suggesting anything like that, he prolly found me a tad daffy, most do, I am. You may understand why. I’m just letting on that every waking minute of my existence is not unabated suffering, as it was for years and years after my daughter went out for breakfast and never returned.
There are other delights. It’s a bit too early to talk about today, but I have an inkling that if I’m alive in April 2017, you’re going to see my shining smile on your television when the Academy Awards are shown, and you’re going to very likely see me with one of those in my hand:
Story for another day. Today’s story is that 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. I hope to see her again one day. I forgive her now, always, as I did on the last day I saw her in person, eight summers ago, for her coerced, drugged, manipulated participation in all this. No one has ever loved a child more than I loved Sofia, and love her today, wherever she is.
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 is 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 well, my ex-wife’s bottomless deprivations against me. She was a deeply disturbed human being in a state of psychological transference, and plainly for the most awful of reasons. When Sofia was just a year old and we had just moved to Boulder, she 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. Somehow the crimes of these two miserable fucks have gotten attached to my life. Today I begin un-attaching them.
Good day, Morris Sandstead. Good day, Tess Englund. Let’s talk.
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sight of your cities
pains the eyes of the red man.
But perhaps it is because the red man is
a savage and does not understand. There is no quiet
place in the white man’s cities, no place to hear the leaves
of spring or the rustle of insects’ wings. Perhaps it is
because I am a savage and do not understand,
but the clatter only seems
to insult the
Indian prefers the
soft sound of the wind darting
over the face of the pond, the smell of
the wind itself cleansed by a midday rain,
or scented with pinon pine. The air is precious
to the red man, for all things share the same
breath — the animals, the trees, the man.
Like a man who has been dying for
many days, a man in your
city is numb to the
Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie
Dust unto dust
The calm earth mothers all who die
As all men must
Mourn not your captive comrades who must dwell
Too strong to strive
Within each steel-bound coffin of a cell,
But rather mourn the apathetic throng
The cowed and the meek
Who see earth’s great languish and its wrong
And dare not speak.
(an activist in the
International Workers of the World,
who was jailed four years for
hindering the draft in
is an absolute necessity
for anybody today. You must have a room,
or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know
what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know
who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody,
you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where
you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and
what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation.
At first you may find that nothing happens there.
But if you have a sacred place and use it,
something eventually will
is interested in
what happens, while awareness
is interested in the mind itself. The child
is after the toy, but the mother
watches the child,
not the toy.