“... because if there had been cameras, then we could have researched those cameras and we'd already know the answers right now.”
Tell me, as best you recall—I am not asking verbatim, but when Mr. McMahan came to your office, tell me what he said to you and you said to him.
He wanted to know if I could… if we had any activity for a certain date and time on the detention DVR system. And I logged into the DVR and confirmed that there was activity for the time frame and date that he asked.
It had video recordings. You know, you could see all of the video recordings, dates, and time stamps of various cameras.
Next I was about to review some of the film, and Betsy Adgent came down the hall and asked what we were doing. And we told her that we were trying to look at, trying to find video to look at for the incident that they were asking me to access. And she informed then that, both of us, Steve and I, that she didn't think it was a good idea… or something to that effect. And Steve confirmed. He said, “Yeah, I probably shouldn't review any videos. Then, so, at that point he left, Betsy left, and I logged out of the system.
“Mrs. Adgent told me that “protocol” had been enacted, per Judge Guffee… I told her that CID had been contacted and we would still be investigating. I felt she was evasive and surprised at my appearance.”
Our family moved from Paducah, KY to Franklin, TN in 2001 to establish a second location of Body Enhancement Center, LLC. Our first office was next door to that of Dr. Knudsen on Cool Springs Blvd. It wasn't long before we outgrew the space and moved into an office condo in Lincoln Square on Aspen Grove Drive. We were so proud as we as a family did a lot of the build out on our own.
The business continued to grow, and our lives were richly blessed. The children were settling in very nicely and loved their neighborhood and schools. Family picnics, the Hoot Scoot & Boogie, softball games, and neighborhood get-togethers were the places you could typically find us.
In 2008, the recession took a toll, followed by the flood, and then, my son started having strange symptoms due to an illness we finally identified as PANDAS, an autoimmune disease of the brain. Many know this as autoimmune encephalitis today, but back in 2013, most people didn't know of it at all. Our family was struggling. Out of concern, I reached out for help from the Juvenile Courts. At that time, I naïvely believed that all adults wanted to help children, and I was told that the Juvenile Court System could connect me with some medical resources, to a doctor that could help us get to the root of my son's illness. Things were getting harder and harder.
The first time I went into the courtroom with Judge Guffee presiding, my spirit was hopeful. In my due diligence, I had learned that Judge Guffee had a nursing background. Nurses pledge not to harm patients, to elevate the standards of their profession through the way they treat patients, and to devote themselves to the welfare of those committed to their care. As a judge, Guffee did the polar opposite of what she had pledged to as a nurse. Instead of helping, she made our lives a living hell.
When my son's PANDAS would flare, he would sometimes escape from our home and wreak havoc. So, I researched what would be the best ankle monitor for our situation. I requested the court to issue the monitor so I could hear if my son left the house and I could retrieve him. Rather than issue the ankle monitor I had requested, the juvenile courts ordered that I pay hundreds of dollars a month to the court for one of their ankle monitors. It immediately failed and would continue to fail. After reporting these failures to the court, I was treated as a criminal.
The months that followed would become practically unbearable as I not only had to fight for the medical treatment my son needed, I also had to defend myself in Guffee's courtroom. Not a single time did Judge Guffee ask me what my child needed. Not even once. I asked for meetings with her and was told I had to speak to her in motions or with an attorney. You want me to learn to write motions when I am in this place with my son? Guffee also continued to criminalize my child who still had received no proper treatment for his PANDAS.
This judge had an ego, and it had no room to provide clients with support. Once I found a neurological rehabilitation center where my son could be tested, Guffee allowed me to take him for an appointment but said, "If you're not back by 9 p.m., you will be in contempt of court." I picked him up from the detention center, and we rushed to the out-of-state facility, a three-hour drive, to make it to the 3 p.m. appointment on a Friday afternoon.
The interview lasted three hours, and my son was accepted into the rehab program, a huge breakthrough for us. They even agreed to work with my son's school so he could keep up his education from a distance, and they agreed to follow the recommendations of his neurologist. Thinking he would be admitted the next day, we were having a celebratory dinner when I received an email from the center learning that he would need to be back Monday morning at 8am.
My heart sank. Rather than be admitted that night, which would be an acceptable reason for him not to be back in Franklin, we had to wait for insurance approval. I had no choice, we would certainly miss the 9pm deadline and I would be held in contempt.
As a mother intent on doing what is best for her child, I chose my child's survival over Judge Guffee's court order. I would even be willing to go to jail as long as my son was safe and he would be getting the medical treatment that he needed.
On Monday, the neurologist submitted the recommendation letter for insurance to pay, but within hours, they came back saying the treatment was denied as the neurologist was from a different state than the facility. According to them, she was not fit to recommend that facility.
The pressure was immense. I worked night and day doing appeals, writing letters, and making calls. The treatment center finally agreed to take TennCare. This meant we had a new hurdle to clear: We would need the court's help for my son to get TennCare. When Judge Guffee learned that my son had not yet been admitted for treatment and wasn't back in Franklin, she called me. She was enraged. I'll spare you the things that she said, but I can assure you that offering to help us get TennCare was not one of them. And from that point forward, I would be accused of absconding with my child.
My son cried all the way back to the youth detention center, as did I. He did not want to go into solitary confinement again, something he had been subjected to in a prior stint. Judge Guffee calls them "single cells", but no matter what you call them, they were torture for him. I begged the warden not to put my son in solitary confinement again, but within two days, that's exactly where he was as some older boys in the dorm had reported to an intake officer that my son threatened them. Later during depositions, those boys would recant.
Was there a hearing? No. Did anyone pull the video? No. Was my son taken out of solitary confinement when those boys left? No.
To make things worse, I was arrested. The warden told me that my child was out of medication, but rather than let me know a few days ahead so I could get a new prescription, he notified me on the day my son ran out of his medication. At the recommendation of his doctor, I substituted the medication with what she told me to, and I drove it to the detention center. I explained what had happened, and I provided a letter before settling in for a visit with my child. On the way out, I was illegally arrested.
Though I was released soon after, I was now only allowed to visit my son for 30 minutes a day despite me using the visits to tutor him so he could keep up with his schoolwork. "We will have to educate this child,"" Judge Guffee said. But she didn't, and even the teacher who went to tutor my son was sent away. He fell behind the entire first semester of his freshman year.
My son was in solitary confinement for 54 days in a 7 x 11 cell over Thanksgiving and until December 19, 2013. During this time, he would be assaulted by a guard and then called a liar by Judge Guffee when he reported the incident. He was cut off from both myself and his father completely; no phone calls, no letters, no visits. The staff were instructed to not even speak to him - all while video of his cell was recording him slowly decompensate. He was finally released and just when I thought things couldn't possibly be worse—in the process of trying to solve my son's mystery illness, we had lost our family home, had to move several times, and now we are not only dealing with PANDAS but also with PTSD as a result of the chronic abuse along with the assault.
Over the months that followed, Judge Guffee would do everything in her power to remove parental custody from me so that I could not sue the county. A guardian ad litem was appointed, which I would later learn had been directed by Judge Guffee in writing on the appointment order I had not been allowed to see. Although its content was untrue, when I refused to sign her dependent and neglected petition, she told me she would make it “nastier”. At the hearing on January 31, 2014, where she had every intention of finding me guilty of neglecting my child, she became enraged when she realized the attorney I had on record had been a decoy. In actuality I had been working with another attorney to file my responses and also had my criminal court date moved up to January 28, 2014 and the charges had been dismissed. In the midst of the fight of my life, Judge Guffee turned to her assistant and made an audible statement that I will never be able to get out of my head: "I thought she was indigent."
She treated me the way she did because she thought I was poor—extremely poor. Both disgusted and enraged, I vowed that day to fight and continue fighting—not only on behalf of my son, but also on behalf of those who may not be able to afford to take on someone in Judge Guffee's position. I would fight for those she clearly had taken advantage of before.
Judge Guffee had moved onto her next hit job by ordering me to take a forensic psychiatric evaluation with collateral corroboration from eight different doctors. That's not even a real thing! Guffee almost succeeded, but just as I was days away from being thrown in jail God heard my cries and sent Connie Reguli to help. When I walked into her office, she immediately recognized the pain of our family and the legal challenges we faced.
It's been eight years now, and the county has vigorously defended Judge Guffee, Betsy Adjent, Steve McMahon, and the guard. Evidence was intentionally concealed, Kim Helper, the DA, would charge the perpetrator wrong, Judge Woodruff would dismiss the three additional counts of sexual assault returned by a superseding indictment a week before the trial and the jury was not allowed to consider the DNA evidence of the crime. Tennessee Victims' rights had been ignored entirely and I finally understood why victims don't speak up.
Facing seven or eight Williamson County tax-payer-funded attorneys, we really didn't stand a chance. With that many county-funded attorneys, Connie got buried in paperwork and things slipped into filings that simply were not true, but that was the intention. We got nothing, my son got nothing but still, I am very proud that we took a moral stand.
We took a moral stand against corruption, and I stood up for my child who had no voice. He also had no video evidence of the events which occurred on December 7, 2013. But as each of those adults whom we trust to care for our children knows full well, there was video of the events in the detention center. Yet not a single one spoke up. None of them would say to Detective Beard, "Hey, let's check the videos. Let's see what happened." In fact, Detective Beard would later testify that someone had told him they were "live feed only".
If the surveillance video does not exonerate the guard (and by extension the system), they would do all they could to conceal it. Even under oath, they would deny that the video existed.
I started my business in Williamson County over twenty years and was living out the American Dream. We made it through 9/11, a recession, staff turnover, COVID, and many other obstacles. But the business could not withstand the devastation of the Juvenile Court. I will be liquidating my property to pay for my son's PTSD treatment. We have lost everything—again.
Even though our fight continues today, we have seen a small victory from the federal court recognizing the excessive punishment of my child.
Please stand with me and vote for Connie Reguli for Juvenile Court Judge. Her fight against the injustices in our courts is unparalleled. We can not let this happen to another family.