By Dr. Leon Koziol
Parenting Rights Institute
It’s hard for me to write this post. I’ve written many over the past 10 years since this family court blog site was started, but this dad I knew well as a former client, campaign worker and reform assistant.
Michael Brancaccio, age 46, died on October 11, 2020. I learned of it recently, and after contacting family members confirmed what I suspected as a primary cause for his death. So I decided to report what I knew about his shocking ordeal at the hands of a corrupt family court system with a goal of starting a donor fund for his little girl Bella.
Yes I’ve reported on stories about children who died needlessly, veterans committing suicide at a rate of 22 per day, many as a result of needless custody battles, and unsuspecting parents converted into pure evil, all because of an antiquated, adversarial and lucrative system that covers up the daily carnage in communities across America.
It’s an epidemic that no presidential candidate has touched as of Election Day 2020 (today). This is explained by the old adage “follow the money,” service fees and federal funds generated by the number and size of child support orders issued and satisfied on an annual basis. The kick-backs to these courts under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act amount to billions of dollars each year. It’s a well kept secret that I have been exposing which resulted in retributions to my professional career and family life beyond anything I could have imagined.
So it should be no surprise that another dad has succumbed to this corrupt system. I hadn’t heard from Michael in years until one day in 2014 when he called me in a frenzy over a six month jail term he was facing before Family Judge Daniel King in Lewis County, New York (we have exposed this sadistic judge in many blog posts between 2013 and 2016). His volatile threat to throw a human being into an animal cage was based on Mike’s support arrears inflated by an evidentiary fiction known as “imputed income.”
Judges have created this fiction (support orders based on prior employment levels) to maximize federal performance grants under Title IV-D. In Mike’s case the amounts varied between a few thousand to as much as $12,000 depending on the jobs that he could hold. I was in Paris at the time seeking assistance from international organizations to shed light on this epidemic in America that was causing untold human rights violations. I was unable to assist Mike as his former attorney due to those retributions but would never have allowed this system to persecute him as it did.
He was eventually arrested on a child support warrant issued by Judge Daniel King and committed to the maximum term of six months. Mike toughed it out, believing that he could somehow help expose the corruption by example. However as he explained it, the time in his cage was aggravated by violent criminals who were being released with less time served. He also believed strongly that he was being targeted adversely as an outsider based on his religion and ethnic origin. On his release he fell into immense despair. Jobless, hopeless and facing more family court petitions by the mother of his child, he was hospitalized for organ failure and nearly died in 2015.
During the next support violation proceeding, he was threatened with a year in Lewis County Jail. Although six months is the legal maximum, Judge King and the support magistrate were able to treat two petitions separately to rationalize such an extreme punishment. This occurred despite his near death experience.
Faced with a never ending series of jail terms, Mike reluctantly gave in to a settlement that had him surrendering all parenting rights regarding his daughter Bella, age seven at the time, to the “custodial parent.” Ashley was her name and she quickly changed the last name of the child to match that of her husband. This was undoubtedly her objective all along using child support as the vehicle. It is also a common occurrence in family courts across America, substitute parent by extortion.
Having overheard many phone chats between daddy and his little girl, I knew that Mike’s decision was heart-wrenching, but family members urged it as a matter of life or death. That is the way family court ends lives and parent-child relationships without logic or remorse of any kind. The value of life: a few thousand dollars or a hundred thousand dollars. It did not matter as long as these judges could advance their careers through support performance evaluations (Title IV-D).
I lost contact with Mike after that, lamenting that I could not do more for him, but when I learned of his premature death, I confirmed with is mother that he had nothing left to live for. He died of natural causes aggravated by the many years of stress he endured in child support court. When his funeral services got underway, Bella’s mother (“custodial parent”) brought Mike’s little girl to her dad’s “visitation,” not the family court kind, but the final one. As I heard it told, upon seeing her dad unresponsive, she cried uncontrollably, at one point asking aloud: “was this because of all the court stuff mom?”
I cannot imagine the horrific experience of this little girl whose upbeat voice I heard many times during excited phone chats with her one and only dad. I cannot imagine the pain of Mike’s other children and their moms that he adored despite the conflicts that all families endure. I cannot imagine what kind of evil enters into the souls of these money seeking parents bent on revenge or ulterior motive. It begs the question: what is a human life worth anymore? What kind of society will Bella and her siblings be facing?
In my own tortured world, the “custodial parent” Kelly Hawse-Koziol has succeeded in her never ending quest to permanently remove me from my daughters’ lives. She even managed to brainwash them into hating me despite so many wonderful father-daughter experiences and not a single child abuse report: their first trips to Disney World, campaign parades, weekends on our boat at Lake George, carriage rides through Times Square, dancing to spontaneous entertainment in Central Park and, of course, the Macy’s Day parade. These are only some of our experiences that most children can only dream of especially with a never-ending pandemic underway. Is that pandemic a punishment from a higher power upset with all this?
Of the 40 trial jurists forced to step off my 14-year family court ordeal, Judge Daniel King was among the most disgraceful I have ever seen during my 30-plus years litigating as an attorney and parent. Fathers and “non-custodial” mothers are not invincible. Those of us committed to our God-given rights awake every morning with our children as the first thing on our minds. You can kill a person with a gun or simply pummel them relentless to obtain the same result.
Is there still time to choose a better outcome?
Rest in Peace Mike. You are not forgotten!