Ferris sued by father in child custody case
By 10/30/2003 00:00:00
The Ellis County Press
FERRIS - Skip Donahue is suing the city after his ex-wife, accompanied by Ferris officer David Vaughn, drove up from Houston Sept. 21 and took his 12-year-old daughter, believed to be a part of a child-custody case gone awry.
The former wife, who has medical and psychological conditions which resulted in Donahue receiving custody originally, had told Ferris police of court documents showing a transfer in custody, but Donahue and his lawyers, Slaton & Slaton out of Waxahachie, maintain the department erred in its decision to order him to pack the girl's belongings 'in 10 minutes' and to 'not call your lawyer.'
Donahue said he felt intimidated by the officer because he had grasped his gun and handcuffs while at the door.
'The lawsuit is based on the incident that occurred on or about Sept. 21 at my client's home in Ferris,' stated James Slaton in a letter to Mayor Jimmie Birdwell and City Secretary Alice Holloway. 'The officer took my client's daughter from her home under no authority from the court or the police department.'
Slaton said the lawsuit would be based on Donahue's civil rights being violated.
Legally, for a child to be handed over in a custody dispute, a court order must state which agency must deliver the documents.
According to documents released by Donahue, no such order exists from the court.
If the documents are not specifically worded, the sheriff's department is the default agency required to hand the court order.
Donahue's wife came in on a Sunday night, but sheriff officials said she should have waited until Monday morning for a sheriff deputy to accompany her.
In 1998, according to court papers, Donahue's wife wanted broader visitation and custody rights, but a Harris County judge ordered her to go under a psychological exam and if completed, the guidelines imposed would be met.
'I tried telling [Vaughn] you don't have the whole story,' Donahue said. 'There's supposed to be a court addendum stating she has [passed the exam] before having custody. It wasn't in the papers she handed me.'
Donahue then said Vaughn instructed him he had 10 minutes to gather the girl's belongings.
He told Donahue, 'stop hiding her, you know the law.'
Vaughn would not return calls seeking comment.