Child custody cases are so common and vicious these days that almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by them. These cases are not tried by juries. We trust juries to decide whether someone lives or dies, whether someone is sentenced to life or parole, but when it comes to the most helpless members of our society, our children, our justice system relies on decisions made by individual judges.
HISTORY OF THE CASE
This case began in 1997 when Rachel Knight and her son, Kohl Jary moved to Texas to be with her fiancé, Steve Bevilacqua. Jeff Jary, Kohl’s birth father, remained in rural Upstate New York, living off the dole in the same bedroom he grew up in at his father’s house. Judge James P. Punch entered into the records a custody agreement Rachel and Jeff worked out between themselves. After a series of very emotionally-charged court battles, Kohl’s custody seemed finally settled in May, 2000.
December 18, 2005, Rachel put Kohl on a flight to Rochester, New York to be picked up by Jeff for his Christmas visitation. This year Jeff was finally required to share half the transportation expenses. The visitation plan was for Kohl to be returned by Jeff to Rachel’s mother on January 2, 2006, so Kohl could spend time with his mother’s relatives before returning to Georgia on January 7, 2006.
Rachel would not see Kohl again until January 20, 2006, when she was allowed one brief overnight visit with Kohl at her mother’s house. Kohl was visibly changed, appearing closed and withdrawn and becoming emotional when the subject of his living arrangements was approached, even very gently, from any direction. He seemed afraid to talk about what was going on in his father’s house, or whether or not he wanted to live there.
On December 22, 2005, without informing Rachel, Jeff went to the Orleans County Courthouse and presented Judge Punch with a series of allegations about not being able to contact Rachel and needing an order of Temporary Sole Custody in order to prevent Kohl from being kidnapped. Judge Punch issued Jeff a Temporary Sole Custody order and allowed him to keep Kohl after his scheduled Christmas visitation. This was done without making any attempt to contact Rachel and discover whether Jeff’s allegations were true. Rachel did not even receive any paperwork from the court until January 9, 2006 — 17 days after Judge Punch entered the order of Temporary Sole Custody for Jeff.
On February 3, 2006, Judge Punch heard testimony in the case. Jeff entered into evidence 16 exhibits taken from the Internet, 12 of which are photographs of the SubGenius event, X-Day. Kohl has never attended X-Day and is not in any of the pictures. Rachel is depicted in many of these photos, often wearing skimpy costumes or completely nude, while participating in X-Day and Detroit Devival events.
The judge, allegedly a very strict Catholic, became outraged at the photos of the X-Day parody of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ — especially the photo where Jesus [Steve Bevilacqua] is wearing clown makeup and carrying a crucifix with a pool-noodle dollar sign on it while being beaten by a crowd of SubGenii, including a topless woman with a “dildo”.
His Honor also strongly disapproved of the photos of Mary Magdalen [Rachel Bevilacqua] in a bondage dress and papier maché goat’s head. The judge repeatedly asked, “Why a goat? What’s so significant about a goat’s head?” When Rachel replied, “I just thought the word ‘goat’ was funny,” Judge Punch lost his temper completely, and began to shout abuse at Rachel, calling her a “pervert,” “mentally ill,” “lying,” and a participant in “sex orgies.” The judge ordered that Rachel is to have absolutely no contact with her son, not even in writing, because he felt the pictures of X-Day performance art were evidence enough to suspect “severe mental illness”. Rachel has had no contact with Kohl since that day, February 3, 2006.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The ACLU and other watchdog groups have been contacted, but the wheels of justice turn slowly, especially in matters of judicial oversight. It is likely that the Bevilacqua family will need to raise approximately $50,000 to pursue their case through to an appeals court that will hopefully restore their son to them. Please help by donating whatever you can, or at least spreading the word to others who may be able to help. Any media exposure is welcome as well. Please PayPal all donations to Magdalen@subgenius.com, or send a check directly to:
Rachel Bevilacqua c/o
Christopher S. Mattingly
Lipsitz Green LLP
42 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14202-3857
This case has the potential to set a precedent that could affect all moms who have ever attended X-day. If any county court judge can deem attending X-day sufficient reason to take away a child, and get away with it, no one’s children are safe. Please help the ‘Moms for “Bob”’ legal fund with a donation if you can, because the last thing anyone wants is for women to be afraid to come to X-Day or to express themselves artistically however they choose.