ERIE, Pennsylvania, May 10, 2017 – A former Army Ranger, subjected in his thirties to a guardianship procedure that effectively rendered him a slave to his parents, is now free. Martin Patterson, 37, was officially released from his guardianship after a forensic examination conducted by Dr. Joseph A. Buzogany found he was not incapacitated. Dr. Buzogany bluntly concluded:
“It is the opinion of this examiner to reasonable degree of medical certainty that Mr. Patterson no longer meets requisite criteria for incapacitated persons.”
Patterson was placed into guardianship at the behest of his parents, aided by the Veterans Administration (VA) Fiduciary Hub in Indianapolis, Indiana; and by Laura Eaton, who was made his guardian, along with MECA, the non-profit she also ran.
CDN has tracked Patterson’s story since the summer of 2016, and has found a series of problems with his guardianship. Patterson was initially placed into temporary guardianship after a hearing in which he wasn’t allowed to speak; approximately $75,000 of his money has since been misspent; and Eaton, his parents and the court all subsequently ignored a VA examination which found Patterson to be of sound mind.
While in guardianship, Martin Patterson was also ordered to work regularly, without pay, on his parents’ farm.
Although it was the VA Fiduciary Hub in Indianapolis that handled Patterson’s case because Patterson is a veteran (serving an Army Ranger from 1998-2006); and although their own examination of Patterson found him of sound mine, the VA Fiduciary Hub the office ultimately refused to step in when its findings were ignored.
Lisa Goebel, public affairs officer for the VA Fiduciary Hub in Indianapolis, declined to comment. But previously, she had told this CDN reporter:
“Mr. Patterson was rated competent to handle his VA finances in January 2014. The issue of competency for the VA fiduciary program and the issue of state court guardianship are separate and distinct. The Department of Veterans Affairs is not involved in, nor is a party to, the state guardianship issue you referenced.”
Dr. Buzogany’s examination found there may have been even more problems with Patterson’s guardianship. According to that examination, the court determined Patterson was incapacitated before an initial examination was complete:
“An incapacity petition occurred in 2013. The hearing occurred December 19, 2013. This followed an independent evaluation by Ted Urban Ed.D who evaluated Mr. Patterson on November 20 and November 25, 2013. Of note, the copy of the actual report provided by Dr. Urban’s office is dated May 28, 2014 with an addendum July 15, 2014. This is an inconsistency that was not able to be resolved at that time of this report.”
The chambers of Judge Stephanie Domitrovich, who was the presiding judge during this period, declined to comment. Judge Domitrovich has since been removed from the case. She was replaced by Judge Elizabeth Kelly, who handled the latest hearing. Judge Domitrovich had already been disciplined for her behavior in another case.
Emails sent by this reporter to Patterson’s parents, Roger and Gail, were left unreturned. An email to Laura Eaton’s attorney, Mary Alfieri Richmond was also left unreturned.
Shortly after CDN’s investigation of this case commenced, Eaton asked to be removed from the case, citing an unnamed conflict of interest.
Kristen Patterson, Martin Patterson’s wife, told this CDN reporter she recently learned Eaton has been removed from MECA, the non-profit she ran. MECA, which specializes in handling guardianship cases for veterans, had been handling Patterson’s guardianship until her removal.
Martin Patterson issued the following statement:
“I am very pleased with the court’s decision today. This has been a long, hard fought battle to regain my freedom after years of oppression at the hands of my parents. My mother’s only concerns were the management of my finances and fear that the court’s decision would come back on them. Not to mention the desperate attempts to smear my reputation to sway the judge’s opinion. My brother even went as far as to question the authenticity of the battery of neuropsychological testing performed by a licensed Neuropsychologist and a licensed Forensic Psychiatrist.
“Testing that was quite in depth and included a full review of all medical records in my case to arrive at the decision in the seven page report. A decision that validates what I have been stating all along. There were no concerns voiced for my wellbeing or quality of life. No concerns or remorse for the damage they have done to me over the years. Judge Elizabeth Kelly had an opportunity to review the medical evidence in my case and her decision to release me from guardianship was consistent with the final report. There is a long road ahead to rebuild the life that was taken from me, but for the first time since my injury, I am free to walk the path I choose. Thank you to all who supported me in this fight.”