Who was Thomas Doheny? Like many victims of family law, he was a divorced father. Incarcerated for failure to keep up with a support payment of over $19,000 monthly after taxes, he chose to end his life, seeing no way out from the corruption in the court room. Thomas wrote letters to his family and children before committing suicide in 2017, 3 years after the initiation of a divorce while he was a relatively high earner. But we don’t know much else, because of the scant amount of media coverage surrounding yet another murder by family courts. Here’s what we do know thanks to court records:
- Tom, from Illinois, had a relatively high paying job ($300k/annual) in the family business that ended several years prior to his incarceration.
- He was made to appear at over 260 court hearings in a course of two years to fight an impossible $19,000 a month (after taxes) imputed obligation.
- The business he worked for was forced to battle the constant flood of subpoenas.
- Jailed for an “indeterminate” amount of time at the discretion of Judge Michael Coppedge. That’s right, an indeterminate amount of time for civil contempt, while Tom was unemployed.
While criminal penalties are are scrutinized (though there are many problems there as well) in civil cases you are often denied due process. This is because the framework of the US legal system is set in a way that civil cases should have never been given enough teeth to deprive you of your basic civil rights, thus lack many protections. By assigning a incarceration penalty to “contempt of court” (an arbitrary civil charge with no standards) a judge has the power to bypass civil liberties and order such draconian orders such as incarceration for an “indeterminate” amount of time where no crime was committed. Just imagine, a single person (who indirectly profits from child support/alimony payments via Title IV-D) has the ability to sentence you to jail for as long as they wish simply for disobeying them, regardless of whether you have the ability to obey their order or not.
What is peculiarly ironic in this case is that the wife, who had all the power to stop the proceedings and simply come to a reasonable agreement, is the one then playing the victim in the IL superior court. She filed (and using the children’s names as well) suit against the jail, alleging wrongful death in their hands. Which not unexpectedly failed to go her way. Now doubly disappointed that she could not fleece the tax payers as she did her husband (for a time). Perhaps she should have filed suit against the judge who issued the ruling that directly caused his suicide. Or perhaps herself, the person who easily could have stopped everything, but for whatever motives, continued to push the father of her children to a point where death was the better option.
No doubt some might rush in and say “but what about the sewage family business.” While technically illegal for someone to be fired for family status, an employer with an employee who is this engrossed in litigation would be foolish to not fire them. In most states if an employer is not withholding an amount set by law, they can actually be liable for daily penalties that have no caps. Though most payroll companies are pretty good about taking care of the liabilities accurately, a simple mistake can ruin the business and bankrupt the owners. Small business also cannot afford the litigation that is often associated with it, and are too keen on the corrupt nature of the family law industry and know that they too will be guilty until proven innocent. At the end of the day even on a $300,000 annual salary, $19,000 monthly is over 100% of the take home income. There is no excuse for Tom’s death. No one to blame–except those who pushed him there. But that did not stop his wife, she was not done with the legal system. Now she wants the public to pay her for his death, despite driving him there. In 2017 she sued the prison.
- https://www.facebook.com/vacuumtrucks – Tom’s FB profile. Looks like that of many other divorced fathers, what you won’t find is complaints about the divorce.