WASHINGTON, May 13, 2015 – A prominent forensic psychologist once featured on a hit television show is accused of corruption and fraud by four former victims. According to these individuals, the psychologist sold his services in custody matters to the highest bidder, destroying countless lives in the process.
Dr. Stanton Samenow has testified as an expert in criminal and civil trials thousands of times. He is the author of several books including Inside the Criminal Mind, The Myth of out of Character Crime and In the Best Interest of the Child, and his research was referenced in the penultimate episode of the Sopranos entitled the Blue Comet.
However, statements by four individuals involved in cases where Dr. Samenow testified suggest he was not an unbiased expert. Instead, they suggest he ignored the facts and instead testified in favor of the party who paid him a higher fee.
One of those individuals, Chris Mackney, eventually committed suicide as a result of his divorce.
Dr. Samenow declined to comment on any of the four cases.
CDN spoke with Tommy Moffett, Anette Yunker, and Jeff Wine concerning their interaction with Dr. Samenow. CDN also spoke to Chris Mackney prior to his suicide.
The individuals all accuse Dr. Samenow of a similar pattern, whereby he broadens the scope of a narrow evaluation, shows clear bias while claiming to be an independent evaluator, does not speak to all appropriate witnesses, fails to provide documents or private records, and turns one side into heroes with the other side is made villainous.
“He destroys families for money,” said Jeff Wine.
Tommy Moffett said Dr. Samenow was brought into his divorce as an independent expert to evaluate whether his daughter needed counseling. Moffat said what should have been a one page report from Samenow was more than thirty pages.
While at one point Dr. Samenow called Moffett’s daughter’s childhood “idyllic,” Samenow also suggested in the report that his daughter would be better off if custody was cut off from one of her parents entirely. Samenow did not name which parent was the problem, but a friend had warned Moffett that Samenow could try to use the report to end his parental rights.
Moffett had willingly participated in Samenow’s initial assessment. However, he clandestinely taped all his meetings with Samenow as insurance against misrepresentation.
On one audio tape provided to CDN, Dr. Samenow repeated the most extreme of the charges against Moffett. “Either you are a child molester,” Dr. Samenow is heard on the audio tape saying, “or we’ve got a real problem on the mother’s end here.”
Dr. Samenow testified on behalf of Moffett’s ex-wife almost a year after the report was written.
During the trial, Moffett questioned Samenow about statements the doctor made during their sessions. Samenow repeatedly denied making the statements. However, after several more questions, Dr. Samenow angrily asked, ” What, did you have me recorded?”
After the exchange, Dr. Samenow changed his recommendation from full custody for Moffett’s ex-wife and no contact with Moffett to joint custody.
Jeff Wine and his ex-wife divorced in 2004. Wine said he and his ex-wife handled custody issues on their own until he was jailed for fraud for eighteen months in 2009.
Following his release, his ex-wife attempted to remove Wine’s custody. Dr. Samenow was hired to conduct a psychological evaluation on both parents.
A psychological evaluation is narrow in scope, producing a psychological profile of the parties, and the therapist is not allowed to interview any of their children or make custody recommendations.
However, Dr. Samenow exceeded the scope of the task and interviewed the three Wine children. He also recommended giving Wine only supervised visitation with his children, forcing him to drive several hours just to see them.
Dr. Samenow claimed that Wine, who said he has suffered from bi-polar disorder since he was a child, suffered from anti-social personality disorder.
But Wine said that Dr. Samenow never performed the proper tests to make a diagnosis, he ignored Wine’s bi-polar diagnosis from another psychiatrist, and most of the negative feedback about Wine came from his ex-wife rather than from analysis by Samenow.
Wine said he was saved when his family came up with the money to pay for an alternative evaluation from Dr. Thomas Ryan, another well respected forensic psychiatrist in Virginia.
Ryan’s report contradicted Samenow, saying, “This examiner is in direct disagreement with Dr. Samenow’s psychological evaluation report regarding Mr. Wine on several levels. Although third party sources are important when conducting a forensic examination, Dr. Samenow administered only one psychological measure with no tasks to assess possible diminished effort and/or malingering, yet an eighteen page report was generated. Although providing an excellent history, this examiner finds much of Dr. Samenow’s historical information irrelevant to the issue brought before the courts. That is, whether or not Mr. Wine is a safe and emotionally healthy parent, and if so, should the time he spends with his children be increased.”
He also noted, “With the exception of Stanton Samenow Ph.D., there is a consensus regarding clinicians who have evaluated Mr. Wine that he has bi-polar disorder.” Said Dr. Ryan in his report.
Wine said that if he had not produced the report from Dr. Ryan, he might have wound up like Chris Mackney who died penniless, jobless, homeless, and alienated from his children.
Wine added that since Dr. Samenow has been removed from his custody arrangement, he and his ex-wife have shared custody of their children with little to no problems, which he believes is the best proof of Samenow’s corruption.
Anette Yunker said she too might have suffered Chris MAckney’s fate had it not been for the work of her attorney and a diligent judge.
She said Dr. Samenow was hired in 2003 to do psychological evaluation of her and her ex-husband. As he did with Wine, Dr. Samenow turned it into a custody evaluation.
“He was appointed as an INDEPENDENT court-appointed evaluator for my divorce, with the direction to assess the parents psychologically. My spouse attempted to turn this into a custody evaluation, and was rather successful. My spouse had the full ear of Dr. Samenow. He dismissed anything I said that did not reflect well on the father. “ Yunker wrote in an email to Chris Mackney in 2012. “He focused ONLY on negative information about me. He accepted close to $20,000 from my spouse, and admitted in court that he did not know that the costs were to be split between both parents. He was paid for by my spouse and worked for my spouse.”
In November 2003, Dr. Samenow even attempted to forego his written report and simply testify to his findings, saying it would save money. This would have blindsided Yunker and her attorney in court, leaving them virtually no time to prepare..
But it was Yunker’s daughter, Caroline, who offered some of the harshest critiques of Dr. Samenow.
“He tried to trick me into saying something I didn’t want to say,” said Caroline Yunker, now 22, of her recollections of her interviews with Dr. Samenow. “I had this feeling that something was not right.”
Caroline Yunker said she felt Dr. Samenow steered each interview to attempt to get her to speak ill of her mother. She worried that Samenow would use what she told him to end contact with her mother.
The younger Yunker said she was traumatized by the experience.
Anette Yunker said she was saved when her lawyer used a technicality to disqualify Dr. Samenow as an expert witness.
An email to her former attorney, Dorian Hughes, was left unreturned.
Judge Stanley Klein further appeared to dismiss Samenow when he remarked during his decision that the only individual who testified with any credibility was an ear and throat specialist.
The most troubling case is that of Chris Mackney, who committed suicide on December 29, 2013. Mackney, while still alive, told CDN that Dr. Samenow was brought into his divorce proceedings after his they dragged on for almost two years.
Like in the case of Wine and Yunker, Dr. Samenow was initially brought in to do a psychological evaluation in 2009. Mackney’s ex-wife’s legal team then pressured Samenow to change it to a custody evaluation.
Mackney said he agreed to have Dr. Samenow do a psychological evaluation because of his reputation and his belief that his ex-wife and her family suffered from psychopathy.
Mackney said the family hid from him a murder involving her father, Pete Scamardo. In June 1968, Scamardo hired hit man Charles Harrelson to kill his friend and business partner, Sam Degelia. Mackney found out about the murder in June 2008 and confronted his ex-wife, who told Mackney it was none of his business.
Scamardo was convicted in 1970 of accomplice to commit murder and received eight years’ probation but no jail time.
In Dr. Samenow’s evaluation, this murder was minimized and even spun to make Chris Mackney the villain.
“After questioning the Scamardos, this examiner found the situation 40 years ago completely irrelevant to the child custody case and informed Mr. Mackney that this was not to be an issue.” Samenow said in his report. “Mr. Mackney persisted harping on this subject not just in speaking with this examiner but also in approaching people who are not family members.”
Despite proof that Mackney’s wife lied about the murder, Samenow included allegations from Mackney’s ex-wife that Mackney himself was “a pathological liar.”
Samenow provided no comment in the report on that statement.
Dr. Samenow also claimed, “The facts are that Chris Mackney is 40 years old, unemployed and bankrupt. He listed not one person whom he called a close friend for this examiner to speak with.”
CDN spoke with Rich Ware and Mike Harris, both of who Samenow interviewed for the report. They said they had been good friends with Chris Mackney since they were all at the Fiji fraternity at Southern Methodist University in the late 1980s.
Dr. Samenow also branded Chris Mackney as uncooperative, saying, “The fact is that seldom has this examiner found a litigant in either a criminal or civil case more difficult to interview.”
Dr. Samenow’s report played a role in the removal of all of Chris Mackney’s parental rights. Mackney last saw his two children in November 2009 and was even taken off a school email list at the behest of his ex-wife.
Dina Mackney and Pete Scamardo declined to comment for this story.
Her attorney, Jim Cottrell, said, “It’s not true,” to repeated questions related to this case.
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After spending a decade in finance, Michael Volpe has been a freelance investigative journalist since 2009. His work has been published locally in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Crusader, Chicago Heights Patch, and New City. Nationally, Volpe‘s work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, Capital Research Center, Communities Digital News, Crime Magazine, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Newsletter, and Counter Punch. Volpe has been recognized by leading whistleblowers as leading the charge in getting their stories out. Volpe‘s first book Prosecutors Gone Wild was released in 2012 and his second book The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers was released in 2013. His third book tentatively titled Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney’s Family Court Nightmare is scheduled for a summer 2015 release.