Circuit Court Judge Joan Ryon recently delivered a shocking decision in a Montgomery County custody case that appears to ignore credible evidence of physical and sexual child abuse and domestic violence.

This case is receiving national attention due to the irregularities in the military’s handling of the original abuse case and ex parte communications between Judge Ryon and a Maj. General involved in the case which were not shared with all parties.  Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass) and two other members of Congress have asked Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to review the case, citing serious concern for the children’s well-being.

Over the last several years, two six year old boys made separate disclosures of physical and sexual abuse by their father to five different non-parental caregivers, medical authorities and child welfare authorities. Despite an abundance of additional evidence including medical records and photographs, Judge Ryon found that the mother had brainwashed her sons into making false allegations. The judge reversed a previous court decision that granted the mother sole custody for the last five years, and gave immediate sole custody to the father, Air Force Col. Holt. The mother (a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist) is now allowed to see her sons every two weeks in a supervised setting.

Col. Holt was injured in an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan. A member of his team there reported that Col. Holt now has a hair trigger temper, a lack of impulse control and behaves violently as a result of a traumatic brain injury.

The judge’s decision appeared to:

  • rely on a highly questionable theory about mothers “brainwashing” children to allege abuse by their father;
  • completely discount serious domestic violence allegations involving firearms;
  • show complete disregard for the strong and important bond between a mother, who had primary custody for five years, and her sons by providing no transitional period & limiting the mother’s visitation to supervised visitation once every two weeks; and
  • blithely erase $100,000 in child support owed by Col. Holt to the mother, Dr. Holt, despite a previous court order.

In Court Watch Montgomery’s 2014 study we noted that judges “sometimes appeared to second guess the mother’s description of risk to herself and her children… At times, the manner of these judges appeared highly skeptical, incredulous, even trivializing of the petitioner’s claims.” Sadly, Court Watch volunteers who collect data in domestic violence courtrooms see evidence of these behaviors by both male and female judges.

Two articles in Forbes provide quotes about the case from experts in the areas of child and domestic abuse and review the role of the best interest attorney for the Holt children.