The banality of denial

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Mrs. Leslie Cavanaugh Bird winks at a deposition when asked to identify a photograph of her oldest daughter, Savannah Warren

“Man, I was just in a little store where they had a pumpkin carving contest…and it suddenly occurred to me. They stole my kids!” – Stephen Warren in a phone interview

Rockwall, TX – You have heard it all before, just not in this stark and clinical context, the conference room of a local law firm where depositions are taken under the unblinking stare of the camera’s lens. It’s a world few people have ever seen, a ceremony that is part of ongoing proceedings of the Court, but held at a remote location where evidence and testimony is examined in the presence of the parties to litigation and their attorneys – on the record, within the presence of a Court Reporter.

The dialogue is like the perfect country and western song, but dialed up, played on a massive suroundsound jukebox from a venue in a 3D nightmare world, complete with the big house, the glittering corporate names – and allegations of evil, ritual murder, insurance fraud…

It’s totally obvious, as the narrative unfolds in a multitude of questions, each answered with a nearly robotic declination to testify due to a constitutional right, or a claim of spousal privilege, that this couple is in a heap of trouble.

Leslie Cavanaugh Bird is facing a contempt of court citation of more than 100 counts, each of which is possibly punishable by six months behind the bars of the County Jail, violations of a possession order allowing visits which stretch back for seven and a half years, an extensive period during which she has denied her ex-husband Stephen Warren his court-ordered right to see and be with his two little girls.

Litigation that stretches back 12 years, this long ago became something far less than a fair fight – if indeed, it ever was. By his account, Warren calculates it has cost him $1 million.

During the October 1 depositions, questions asked of the couple show that she and her husband Daryl Bird are being probed for a suspicion of their being part of a cabalistic crew of nefarious players and hangers-on from the fringes of the goody grabbing, greedy world of political privilege, in which the players walk unscathed through a bruising landscape in which their actions leave ordinary people penniless, powerless – completely bereft of any leverage or a pry pole with which to get their wagons out of the ditch. Their antagonists, whose very footsteps from the office and trading floor canyons of Manhattan to the towering hulk of the sham that was Enron, leave footprints encircled with yellow crime scene tape, striding away to their next pyramid-toppling, money-stuffing swindle by way of their offshore hidey holes, where they stash the money.

Some of the questions Ms. Clack asked were researched by ex-federal prosecutor John S. Klassen, a Midland attorney.

The resulting video is a rogue’s gallery of impressions captured as the couple repeated the same mindless phrase, over and over, complete with smirks, sarcastic smiles and other muggery, gurning, and grins, perfect for viewing on the odd cell phone, tablet, or laptop.

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To Not Testify1

Odessa attorney Cynthia Clack, a trouble shooter in family law cases that are sticky, complex, and difficult to litigate, stops and clears her throat after asking the first question in the deposition of Leslie Bird. She asked if the man who is with her in the room is her husband, Daryl Bird.

I hereby invoke my constitutional right to not testify,” Ms. Bird replies.

There is an uncomfortable moment of silence, then, in an incredulous tone, the attorney replies, after a pause, that Ms. Bird’s attorney is with her, and asks, after pointedly clearing her throat, if either would like to explain “the legal basis” for her answer. After all, she’s married to the dude. Come on.

I invoke my constitutional right to not testify.” It was a continual and grating repetition of the split infinitive. She read it off a scap of paper she pulled from her purse, looking down at the paper each time to get her phrasing exactly right.

Does she have a gun? Does her husband have a Concealed Carry permit?

Same answer. She checked her watch.

In fact, she answers the same way to every question, except the first, the request to state her name for the record, including a request to identify pictures of her three daughters, the youngest of whom, Emma Rose, died at the age of three at a “gathering” of her mother’s closest friends. Was it not an event, the attorney asks her point blank, that was really more of a ritual sacrifice killing than a send-off to eternity?

Did she or anyone else present at the event inject her daughter with drugs that caused her to pass? Say what? Is this real? Ms. Bird showed no discernible physical reaction.

She gives the same obdurate, implacable answer, “I hereby invoke my constitutioal right to not testify,” asserting her Fifth Amendment guarantee of freedom from being compelled to testify against herself and risking self incrimination.

Is it true she obtained 25 copies of the child’s death certificate from the County Clerk’s office?

The woman’s only reaction is to look down and away, as she answers, “I hereby invoke my constitutional right to not testify.” You could have asked if she’s really a 12 handicap from the ladies tees.

There are questions about the Aspasians Craft Fair, a Rockwall civic organization of matrons who fund scholarships through holding craft fairs on the equinoctial cycles, autumnal and vernal.

Again, with a look of disdain, Leslie Bird invokes her constitutional right to – whatever.

In a bright moment, she breaks into a broad smile, gazing across the table at her spouse, ending in a broad wink, as she refuses to testify if in a news article her daughter is identified as Savannah Bird, insead of using the last name of her legal name, Warren.

To do so is a violation of her decree of divorce. Isn’t it true she is involved in a scheme to train her children to use the name of her new husband, Bird, and not that of their biological father?

I hereby invoke my constitutional right to not testify.”

There are many other such infractions – 121 in all – the most recent of which are the refusal of three supervised visits at a professional visitation center in Dallas. The kids on two occasions read a statement telling Warren they did not wish to see him. On the third, they were nowhere to be seen as a staff member of FLP Family Place informed him there would be no visit, as scheduled. The visits were orginally scheduled to last two hours. The longest lasted 4 minutes.

That organization is facing criminal perjury charges for allegedly lying about whether Warren completed and turned in an “intake packet” with a full background check as required for supervised visits. On a subsequent visit to their staff, it was learned the required information had been on file, all along.

Daryl Bird is a smirking presence embedded in the extra large frame of a pro football player, alternately clutching a water glass in a meaty fist, digging in his lapel pockets and donning half-frame reading glasses that make his massive face and head look twice as big. Between answers, his features harden into a piercing glare, a mask of malice directed at his questioner that only succeeds in making him look more like Oliver Hardy regarding a cowering Stan Laurel in their well-known, black and white movie oldies flick schtick.

He refuses to answer all questions as to his employment, his income – which by all legitimate records, the attorneys imply through their questions, are non-existent – or his connection to various offshore investment and banking concerns, a corporation headquartered in Jamaica, his ownership of certain now-defunct bars, taverns and clubs turned up in a background investigation during what turned out to be an unfounded investigation and abortive prosecution of Warren for the rape of his ex-wife. That rape charge was determined to be untrue, thus receiving the Scotch verdict of “not proven,” and thence dismissed, as was another charge at a later date of the aggravated sexual assault of his oldest daughter.

Both offenses were neatly timed to keep Warren from getting a day in court to obtain possession of his kids for the standard alternating Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, summer vacations – and the like.

Is he, Daryl Bird, a drug dealer? Does he launder money?

I hereby assert the marital privilege to not testify against my spouse.”

All such questions are answered with the same, metallic tone and the unwavering, machine-like affect, in which, “I hereby assert…” etc.

Perhaps the most egregious count of the contempt citation is the allegation that Ms. Bird lied to the Court, as did her attorney David Rohlf, that Stephen Warren was under indictment for aggravated sexual assault of his daughter when the truth was, the Special Prosecutor appointed following the indictment of the District Attorney for theft, and the Assistant DA’s suicide when he learned he was about to be arrested for having kiddie porn on his computer, dropped the charge “in the interest of justice.” He had determined there was no basis to the allegation – other than Ms. Bird’s affidavit.

She is accused in the contempt citation of lying about that, too. As part of the motion for contempt of court, Warren is asking for his ex-wife to reimburse him the $25,000 bond fee he paid an agent to secure his $250,000 bail.

And then there is the outcry made by Warren’s daughter, that “Poppy,” her maternal grandfather, made improper advances and touched her inappropriately – something the little girl said in a video shot by Warren in 2005. She said it was “a bad thing,” something Warren is still waiting for someone, somehow, to investigate in his vindication, and the child’s protection.

In an intense moment, Ms. Clack asks Ms. Bird if it’s not true that her own father, “Poppy,” molested her when she was a little girl.

I hereby invoke my constitutional right to not testify.”

Fleeting looks of fearful intensity fly across her countenance, her mouth, lips and brows churning out a body language so rich in content no words are necessary. Such drama!

Warren’s attorneys, Cynthia Clack and Lane Haygood of Odessa, have filed a massive amended motion for contempt following a September 11 ruling by Visiting Judge Joe Leonard of Greenville that their original motion lacked “specificity,” as suggested by Chuck Miller, whose letterhead notes he is board certified by the Texas Board of “special legalization” in Family law, and is acting as her criminal defense counsel, and her family law attorney, David Rohlf.

Rohlf is facing allegations of perjury for allegedly lying about the indictment for the sexual asault of Warren’s little girl. It is the allegation of Warren’s lawyers that there is documentary proof Rohlf knew the indictment had been dismissed. They are calling for professional sanctions and a hefty fine in Warren’s prayer for relief.

When school district officials turned over records on September 11, 2015, the lawyers learned that Ms. Bird knew all along of Warren’s whereabouts during the civil action to modify her ex-husband’s possession of the kids and deny him any other than supervised visits. Because Ms. Bird and her attorney alleged they could not locate him, as did his court-appointed Attorney ad Litem, the judgment to modify his possession order and require only supervised visits was handed down in his absence.

In the file the school district officials turned over to his lawyer, Cynthia Clack, a memo was there, big as Dallas, from Warren to the school authorities. A diligent search would have revealed he could have been located at his business address in Midland.

Ms. Bird is cited for a failure to keep Warren informed of all details of the health, education and welfare of his children by concealing their medical and school records.

The Court conducted an in-camera interview with the children on September 11. According to the contempt motion, the kids’ version is different than what Ms. Bird swore in an affidavit.

The result is a massive motion in excess of 300 pages of material to cure the lack of specificity pointed out by the Birds’ attorneys on September 11. Most of the infractions stem from violations of the divorce decree and possession order handed down on March 1, 2011.

Ms. Bird and her attorneys called the tune.

Now, they want the Court to order the orchestra not to play it – in the interests of the kids’ privacy.

So it goes.

When Court convenes on Friday, October 23 at 10 a.m., the issue under discussion will be a motion to seal the records in the interest of the privacy of Warren’s two daughters.

So mote it be.

Previous articles published in these columns about the Warren case include the following:

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