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Wrongly accused Chinese fights for daughter

Letter from Michael G. Ryan

Michael G. Ryan is a professional writer living in Seattle, WA. His interest in the He case sprang from a USA TODAY article in January 0f 2002, which made evident the injustice being dealt to the couple, and he's been involved in the case ever since. In that time, he and his wife have had their own child, a son, which reinforced his desire to see the Hes reunited with their child. Ryan and his wife are both adopted.

May 10, 2002

To Whom It May Concern:

I continue to be horrified and outraged by a situation going on in Memphis, Tennessee, that might be better set in Melrose Place or Beverly Hills, 90210. ItĄZĄZĄZs a ridiculous affront to decency as I watch an immigrant couple constantly manipulated by a legal system meant to protect them and psychologically abused by an alleged ĄZĄZĄZwell-meaningĄZĄZĄZ Christian couple and their overly aggressive lawyer who have, for all intents and purposes, kidnapped the immigrant coupleĄZĄZĄZs child.

I first learned about the custody battle over a little Chinese girl through a newspaper article in the daily USA Today newspaper. The reporter, Bob Davis, took a fairly neutral stance, but he didnĄZĄZĄZt need to editorialize to outline the injustice he had uncovered: Jack He and Casey Luo, a Chinese couple living in Memphis, had found themselves under great financial hardship after the birth of their daughter, Anna Mae, in January of 1999. They sought out a local Christian aid agency for help, and the agency linked them up with Jerry and Louise Baker, an upper-middle-class couple from Memphis. The Bakers agreed to take care of Anna Mae for Jack and Casey until the Chinese couple was able to get back on their feet.

When Jack and Casey were ready to bring Anna Mae home again one year later, the Bakers refused to give her back. And by then, they had sucker-punched the Hes by convincing them that the Hes needed to sign over legal custody to Anna Mae in order for the Bakers to cover her with their health insurance.

Bob DavisĄZĄZĄZs article was the tip of the iceberg for meĄZĄZĄZmy wife and I were both outraged to realize that the Bakers had no moral right to the child they had offered to care for. It was painfully obvious that the Chinese couple had been willing to own up to their side of the story for the newspaper, yet the Bakers hid behind their lawyer, Parrish, and refused to justify their actions. Instead, they introduced stealth tactics to maintain their false claim to Anna Mae: they used the INS like attack dogs on the Chinese couple (turning up nothing of substance), they used scare tactics to intimidate the HesĄZĄZĄZ employers into firing the Hes and severing the hamstrings of the HesĄZĄZĄZ finances, and they redirected the moral finger-pointing from themselves to the Hes by demanding a paternity test from Mr. He (a grave insult to the HesĄZĄZĄZ fidelity) and proof that the Hes were even married in the first place.

I could hardly believe the circumstances I was reading about, but when I decided to become involved and see if I could help the HesĄZĄZĄZfinancially or emotionallyĄZĄZĄZI discovered I knew almost nothing. I heard the rest of the story, a soap opera of injustice that has yet to be resolved. I spoke to Mr. He who, for a man justifiably at the end of his rope, is extremely polite and patient. He enlightened me to what Paul Harvey called ĄZĄZĄZthe rest of the story.ĄZĄZĄZ

And the rest is a maddening kaleidoscope of double-crossings, legal maneuvering, and staggering impropriety. The Bakers showed much less Christ and much more Judas in their subsequent tactics to keep a grip on Anna Mae He. They lied to the Hes even after the biggest lie (that they would give the child back) had become apparentĄZĄZĄZthey suggested that the child would be returned upon the birth of the Bakers own child, which didnĄZĄZĄZt happen. Mr. Baker made a backroom offer to Mr. He to buy the child, which didnĄZĄZĄZt happen.

The Bakers have been equally merciless in their efforts to control the circumstances surrounding Anna MaeĄZĄZĄZs future. Some of their actions border on insanity:

  1. TheyĄZĄZĄZve called the police to keep the Hes away from their child,
  2. TheyĄZĄZĄZve repeatedly sought to have the Hes deported, and when that hasnĄZĄZĄZt worked, they set in motion their own plans to move away from the area
  3. When it became apparent that they might lose the custody case in juvenile court, the Bakers filed a petition in chancery court to terminate the HesĄZĄZĄZ parental rights, thus avoiding the original judgment
  4. To further compound the confusion swirling around the case, the Bakers argued that the Hes had abandoned their child, as evidenced by their absence in the childĄZĄZĄZs life for four consecutive months (a legal guideline in Tennessee to establish abandonment). But the Bakers themselves established that status by informing the Hes they would be arrested if they attempted to make contact with Anna Mae, essentially holding them at bay until the obligatory four months had passed
  5. As an additional roadblock, the Bakers first cut the HesĄZĄZĄZ financial resources out from under them by subpoenaing their employers and arguing that said employers were hiring illegal immigrants, and then filing a motion with the chancery court to have the Hes deposit $15,000 with the court. When the Hes were unable to meet this new obligation, the Bakers argued that this was further evidence of the Hes woeful financial state and their inability to care for Anna Mae
  6. When it became apparent that bad press (like the USA Today article) might hold sway in the court of public opinion, the Bakers soughtĄZĄZĄZand were grantedĄZĄZĄZa gag order on the case, ensuring that few would know just how horribly they were treating the Hes
And all of these horrors are just the overviewĄZĄZĄZthe nuts-and-bolts of this debacle are not only terrible; theyĄZĄZĄZre infuriating.

In a country in which birth parents are allowed to crawl out of rehabilitation clinics to lay claims to children they abandoned to the foster-care system years earlierĄZĄZĄZand win these children back from adoptive parents desperate to love these abandoned childrenĄZĄZĄZit is amazing to me that the Hes donĄZĄZĄZt yet have their child back. This is viciously lopsided battle: citizens versus immigrants, rich versus poor, system-savvy versus trusting naivete. The Bakers have pulled out no stops to take advantage of their money, their connections, and their status as American citizens to effectively kidnap another coupleĄZĄZĄZs child.

I am so repulsed by this obvious travesty of justice that IĄZĄZĄZve elected to involve myself, though I donĄZĄZĄZt personally know any of the participants. IĄZĄZĄZve spoken with Mr. He, his attorney, and various media representatives to be sure I knew the story fully before passing judgmentĄZĄZĄZafter all, I would not wish to become emotionally invested in seeing the Hes reunited with their daughter only to discover that theyĄZĄZĄZre not the victims I thought they were. But at every turn, I discover more and more than the Hes are, indeed, victims. TheyĄZĄZĄZre helpless in the face of a court that is, in turns, indifferent and then dismissive. The current judge in the case has zeroed in on the Hes as scapegoats in this case, going so far as to confiscate their passports, demand the deposit of their marriage license, insist on the $15,000 deposit, issue a no-contact order with their daughter, order a psychological evaluation for Mr. He (on no grounds other than a motion from the BakersĄZĄZĄZ attorney), and demand the impoverished Chinese couple pay for a variety of fees associated with secondary distractions brought forth by the Bakers, like the DNA test to prove paternity and the psych fees. And the Bakers? TheyĄZĄZĄZve been held accountable for nothing. TheyĄZĄZĄZve resisted depositions (even offering to ĄZĄZĄZinfluenceĄZĄZĄZ the courtĄZĄZĄZs mandates in exchange for avoiding said depositions), and when Mrs. Baker was finally interviewed for said deposition, their lawyer took the line of inquiry out into left field by ridiculously implying that Mrs. He was somehow associated with terrorists.

This whole fiasco would border on comical, like a bad late-night made-for-TV movie, if it werenĄZĄZĄZt for the fact that a little girlĄZĄZĄZs future hangs in the balance here. The Hes want their child back; theyĄZĄZĄZve wanted her all along. And while I understand that the Bakers want her, too, they are not entitled to her. They are withholding her from her natural parents who are being railroaded by the system and those who know how to tweak the system for their own benefit.

In a simple sentence: WhatĄZĄZĄZs happening to the Hes is horribly unfair and unjust.

I hope that this letter will provide you a basis for beginning to look into this matter. These people need help, from anyone who can provide it. I am trying to do my part with this brief overview of what IĄZĄZĄZve been witnessing for the last four months and what has been going on for the last two years. IĄZĄZĄZve written letters, donated money, and worked as best I can with the He family to provide them comfort as they live in the eye of the storm raging around them.

IĄZĄZĄZve included a sheet of contact information for some of those involved. DonĄZĄZĄZt hesitate to contact me; IĄZĄZĄZm glad to share what documents IĄZĄZĄZve obtained and what other information I have. I am not bound by the gag order in any way.

Please get involvedĄZĄZĄZ if not for the sake of the adult Hes, then for sake of the three-year-old little girl who, deceptively taught by the Bakers, was abandoned by her parents.


Michael G. Ryan
Seattle, WA

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